May 23, 2011

Basic Movement Strategy

I want to continue combining ideas toward the development of a basic strategy. Here’s some suggestions for the arrangement of many of the things we’ve discussed at this blog. I place them within the strategic framework laid out in this post. The emphasis throughout is on action, on things we can do.
1. ***Engage in “apolitical” economic relocalization as much as possible.***
For food relocalization, this includes setting up farmers’ markets, community gardens, regional food distribution networks, seed libraries, trying to close energy and waste loops, develop localized biodiesel generation for use on-site and for local distribution; on an individual level, encourage the Victory Garden and Freedom Seed movement. Set up Garden Share programs, tool banks, anything else which can assist people whose spirit is willing but wallet or schedule is weak.
Those are food examples, and the same principle can be extended to many other sectors – energy, transportation, education, health care. In all sectors we should be trying to exchange skills and in general learning as much as we can about living without fossil fuels and without centralized government (and perhaps facing the hostility of the latter).
Time banking and other alternative currency schemes can help coordinate these. Just yesterday I added an offer to help with seed saving as part of my profile on our new Time Bank.
Alternative currency programs are also part of our effort to free ourselves of the tyranny of the dollar. The banks and government want to use taxation to forcibly keep us within the dollar economy, while at the same time they want to abolish physical cash and force all our dollar transactions through electronic toll booths. All this is taking place within the context of the ongoing liquidation of the real economy, where it will be more and more difficult to earn dollars at all. This is the debt indenture trap they’ve laid for us. The way to escape is to escape the dollar itself as much as possible.
So relocalization has to mean organization of the informal economy. Cooperatives, gift exchanges, some kinds of alternative currencies, time banks – all these can help. Barter itself is in theory taxable, and we can expect the kleptocracy to seek out any attempts to organize it. So at least legally the key to the position is organizing, not barter, but reciprocal gifting.
But the political battlefield, not the legal, which is the real battlefield.
2. ***Among committed citizens, form a nucleus for political relocalization. Systematic political education goes on among this group. This group must also formulate a politically and spiritually inspiring philosophy and mindset to accompany the toolkit of actions.***
This nucleus will develop the political philosophy of the economic relocalization. It will also contribute to developing a general philosophy for the entire movement.
Some aspects will be to articulate the necessity for Food Sovereignty, as a physical (Peak Oil) and political imperative; the basic nature of the kleptocracy; develop something like the Bridge strategy; develop political declarations (like No Taxes on the Non-Rich; Total Austerity for the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People); the philosophy of positive freedom and direct democracy; an American Revolutionary mythology.
We’ll develop a full awareness of the Land Scandal.
We’ll articulate the real nature of money and how to Take Back Our Money.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we should each take responsibility for reporting on a topic.

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.

Some commenters weren’t so thrilled at this idea when it sounded like the same old discussion of corporate and government crimes. So how about a more practical emphasis: We should, where it comes to each and every issue, compile a log of what people are doing about it. We should strive to be aware of all actions, what’s working and what fails, and why. And we should report on what we personally are doing, and how well it’s working.
This nucleus also should assiduously practice political skills of polemical writing, public speaking, debate, etc. Last year I offered a suggestion for how to organize this.

Here’s one possibility for idea coordination, which could also have many other benefits. Are readers familiar with Toastmasters? It’s an organization for the practice of public speaking. I’ve never been to a meeting myself (the times I checked there was no chapter within a convenient distance), but I’ve read about it. I guess the members are mostly careerists looking to hone their business and backslapping skills. But we could use these skills as well.

So my idea was that people who share a dedication to a political cause could form their own such groups. Nominally it would be a public speaking/book discussion group. But it could also serve as the vehicle for coordination of ideas and messaging, including people taking on particular tasks.

The way I just described that involves meeting in real life, wherever there were enough people within driving distance of one another. But something similar (of course without the public speaking component) could be done online as well. FireDogLake has its regular book salons, to give one example.

This could either be one way for the nucleus to organize its activities. Or conversely, forming a public speaking/book club could be the initial form which then evolves into a political nucleus.  
3. ***To whatever extent possible, this nucleus becomes involved in local politics. But this may not be an initial priority everywhere.***
One conventional activity which is being embraced by communities is the passage of model ordinances on subjects like local food sovereignty and rejection of corporate personhood. These are not only vigorous declarations of local power, but they’re great exercises in participatory democracy. We should always be seeking to initiate actions which are worthwhile in themselves and which extend this political participation.
There’s also getting worthwhile initiatives on local ballots, and running for office where feasible. There’s also the ways in which politically conscious relocalizers can get the word out to the community at large.
One example is the kind of community lecturing program I described for the Land Scandal.
Another is the idea of placing all this political consciousness-raising within the framework of a new Constitutional Convention. Or, we could declare ourselves an alternative community council, Continental Congress, Citizen Congress.
One promising development is the recently passed Local Community Radio Act. (I’m still not sure how this got passed, given how atypical it is. I know somebody who’s gung-ho about it, so I asked him. He said it was the result of years of citizen pressure. I hope that’s true, although that kind of pressure doesn’t seem to work in other places these days.) Where possible we have to get on the local radio.
4. ***To whatever extent government and corporate power hinder the activities of (1), the political activists take any opportunity for broader political education of various producers and perhaps the public.***
Government and corporate oppressions will provide opportunities to use the occasion to publicize the full philosophy and program.
We also need to figure out how to organize civil disobedience, both open (preferred, where willingness and/or a critical mass makes this desirable) and covert. One example is refusal to purchase the health racket Stamp. Another, even more critical, will be resisting any attempts to deploy the new powers granted by the Food Control bill in totalitarian ways.
We should also think about how to fight back, at the local governmental and if necessary at the street level, against private thugs.
5. ***Wherever necessary and possible, the locally involved political activists take on responsibilities of local and regional government, gradually achieving objective legitimacy. But actual assertion of authority against parasitic “official” structures would have to wait for later.***
Many community volunteering efforts already take up the slack where, according to the civics textbooks, government should be doing its job. This will only accelerate as the Depression sets in, need increases, and governments are further starved of the federal funds they’ve come to rely upon.
While economic relocalizers may go about their business unaware of, or complacent about, the way they’re performing quasi-governmental functions, our political nucleus should always be looking for ways to increase recognition of these functions by the community. As we become acclaimed as reliable service providers and political educators, the goal becomes to gradually become an alternative government which would then be in a position to make policy and where necessary challenge the abdicated authority of the de jure government.
6. ***To whatever extent possible, these organizations, at whatever level of development, would come together to consult in a kind of federation. To whatever extent possible, they could coordinate and assist one another.***
Here’s where online organizing can help with all the things I just described. All the physical localities, no matter how geographically far-flung, can become neighbors online. They can share information and results, confederate their local councils and Conventions, function as Committees of Correspondence.
One particular need is coordination among rural, suburban, and urban regions. Some of the problems here were described well in this thread.
The goal would eventually be a federated movement encompassing all of America and becoming international as well. 
7. ***This structure would then gradually make its presence known to the public, mostly through “apolitical” education about the economy and relocalization, but also political education, wherever it seems that would be fruitful.***
In the same way that each local nucleus works to build political awareness in its own region, so the confederation tries to do the same thing on a broader level. These processes may be simultaneous, and on particular issues progress is likely to be faster on some fronts (some regions advance faster than others; some regions advance faster than the national consciousness which is faster than other regions).
8. ***Then, once the next, terminal crash comes, and/or the general deterioration into permanent depression accelerates, the movement will be prepared to offer a home, a means of self-help, and a realm of action, to any size mass of people ardent and desperate for a solution.***
Every advocate of an alternative to a powerful, entrenched status quo seeks to make the people as a whole conscious of this alternative. We want to get the ideas out there. Then, as the saying goes, when the crisis comes, people grab something from the ideas which are laying around. Our goal is to get the people to grab our idea. If we skillfully and aggressively argue our case and provide exemplary instruction in the way we live our lives and carry out our actions, we have an excellent chance.
Because our ideas are the right ones.


  1. Good outline. I especially like points 1, 4 and 5.

    One quibble:

    This nucleus will develop the political philosophy of the economic relocalization. It will also contribute to developing a general philosophy for the entire movement.

    At this stage (and perhaps at any stage), it may be premature to talk about the political philosophy. Let many flowers bloom. After all, it’s local. Some may flourish. Others may wither. We’re learning. And there’s no necessity that we all need to be operating from the same philosophy in the end. There might be certain principles that are essential or foundational, but if there’s something akin to natural law operating here, that should appear on its own without interminable arguments over its content having to precede action.

    Let it flow out of praxis. Let it be diverse. Let it really be local.

    Comment by Goin' South — May 23, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

    • Hello Goin’ South,

      Are you suggesting that there is not a proper natural philosophy to the life and society of man? Or just that we have not found it yet? Or that there is one, but it is better that we allow each locality a degree of self-determination?

      Comment by Strieb Roman — May 23, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

      • These local efforts are an exercise in prefigurement, and let’s admit it, we don’t really know all the answers yet.

        One of the beauties of anarchism is that there is no necessity that one size fits all. Let things develop out of praxis. If there is an underlying “natural law,” then it should emerge out of those practical experiments.

        Trying to find the philosophy up front is likely to divert us from doing with endless theoretical debates that are based on little to no data/experience.

        Comment by Goin' South — May 23, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

      • Well from my experience of life, I know what is proper to man’s live through introspection. I know that deep down we all do. But we may be confused about it at times. Discussions, and philosophy that seeks to make things simpler rather than more complex, to enhance clarity, are one of our best tools to reinvigorate the spirit of our fellows who may have become lost in a maze of contradictory believes and the appropriate cognitive dissonance that follows. While I would submit to you that we don’t need to agree on -the philosophy to end all philosophy-, we should recognize that all good philosophy points us towards our true nature and fills our cores. Different perspectives can all do this if they are done with the spirit appropriate to seeking truth.

        I would agree with Russ that it is both important to get the ideas right, and to get the action right, and to do one without the other is to be incomplete.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — May 23, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

      • I agree that we don’t know “the” full philosophy ahead of time but will discover much of it, especially the details, through practice. I guess my use of that article (the) was too exuberant.

        On the other hand, I do think we start already knowing some basic principles:

        That the people are sovereign;

        That the people’s constitution is directly democratic;

        That the only legitimate and practical economy is worker-controlled, and the only legitimate polity is citizen-controlled;

        That in both economy and polity participation is the basic human value;

        That the goal of a democratic movement is, economically, producer-centric, and politically, participator-centric;

        That a movement worthy of the name strives toward realizing these.

        All that is what I call positive democracy. It’s also called anarchism, although some of the terminology may be different.

        There are vast possibilities for how to put these principles into practice, and there’s where I agree we’ll discover things through practice itself.

        But those principles are, for me, non-negotiable. They’re the purpose of my being.

        (In practice I don’t say I’d demand everyone in every situation agree with those upfront. I can be gradual, but that’s always what I’d be working toward. And I’d never agree to anything which ran counter to them.)

        Comment by Russ — May 23, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

      • Let me give an example of open questions:

        1) What kind of decision-making? Consensus, majority or majority with minority protections?

        2) You say this Russ:

        That the only legitimate and practical economy is worker-controlled, and the only legitimate polity is citizen-controlled

        That sounds good, but isn’t it really more complex? A broader principle like “most affected has the most say” sounds good, but how will that actually work in practice? For example, workers may be all excited about expanding a plant, but the neighbors may not think the added pollution is so great. Who is part of the decision-making process?

        3) Markets–should they have a role or not?

        4) What principle applies to consumption–to each according to need or to each according to contribution?

        I don’t see a single answer to any of those at this point. A central principle is that these are voluntary associations that are being created. Let people gather, discuss, try out some things, make changes if necessary.

        I tend to think that whatever can be universally agreed upon at this stage–provided people are basically egalitarian and libertarian in philosophy–is likely to be so vague as to provide limited guidance. On the other hand, things at a more specific level will require some experimentation and working out. Discussion is premature.

        One thing I’m not clear about, and I know you’ve explained it in response to some earlier questions, but this whole “constitution” thing doesn’t presuppose some kind of overarching federal structure does it?

        Comment by Goin' South — May 23, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

      • Good questions, GS, and those are the kinds of things I meant by stuff that’s still to be hashed out through trial and error.

        I’ll give brief, prospective answers to those, but I’m not saying these are the answers. Rather, they’re what I’d consider the most desirable, if they worked.

        1. I doubt consensus can always work even with reasonably sized democratic councils. The effect would often be deadlock or subtle coercion. So I think where the issue is significantly contested, it has to be majority vote, with any necessary protections for the minority. (At our last Farmers’ Market Committee meeting, seven people failed to reach consensus on an issue, so we had to go with majority vote. That would happen even more often in larger bodies.)

        2. You’re right about how some issues seem to set up a conflicted jurisdiction. If there are three factories, does worker control mean three coequal worker councils, none having authority over the others, or does it mean one council comprising all three as well as the rest of the citizen-producers of the area? If the former, how to adjudicate disputes?

        I haven’t thought that one out yet. I’d always want to apply the principle that your right to do whatever you want stops where it would harm others. In that case we’d have to define “harm”.

        I’ll have to think more about it.

        3. Anarchists can never support capitalist markets, of course. As for other kinds of markets, I have no real prejudices, and I support economic freedom. But I think the main character of the best system would be socialist, at least for necessities, and then perhaps with some market appendages. I need to think more about that one too.

        4. That one’s easier. All members of the community who are able must work, and the community has to provide necessities based on need.

        From there, if the community is well-functioning with everyone contributing, any surplus consumption also ought to be roughly equal.

        I’m not sure what significant difference in contributions there would be. I reject all assessments of particular professions as being “elite” and deserving of munificent pay. (And I think the attitude that such-and-such a job is so much “better” than another and deserves to be paid so much more is part of our pernicious brainwashing. In a human community, such attitudes would be rare.)

        If you mean simply that one person works far more hours than another, that’s either because the former is exceptionally dedicated (and therefore his work is its own reward), or the latter is loafing, in which case he’d have to step it up or be kicked out.

        Like I said, those answers aren’t carved in stone.

        Regarding the constitution, I suppose my use of that terminology (along with sovereignty) is on account of my wish and plan to emphasize the continuity of the American Revolution, today with the 1760s-70s, both as a matter of political philosophy and for more practical political effect.

        But if you read my prior posts on it, you’ll see that:

        1. I don’t envision maintaining any sort of overarching “federal” structure; on the contrary, I want to degrade the Articles of the main body in favor of the 9th and 10th Amendments and other centrifugal aspects among the Amendments.

        2. I’m actually not fetishizing the written document (as opposed to the sovereign essence), and I’d like to gradually dispel this fetish. I view constitutionalizing over the written document as a democratic exercise, as morally exemplary rather than seeking to formally bind ourselves in a different way.

        If you look at Via Campesina’s Food Sovereignty principles, which comprise a kind of constitution, you’ll see that they’re not a systematic constraint but a set of guiding principles and aspirations. A democratic community would consult such principles in times of dissension, but it wouldn’t be to find some directive which decrees and obviates a vote. It would be to remind ourselves what the community is supposed to be about, as a supplement to the democratic vote.

        3. I think this invitation to a democratic experiment would also have broad appeal to many who wouldn’t otherwise be lured into “radical” discussions. But the nimbus of the Constitution can be an initial gathering point (or wedge, as the case may be).

        I sure don’t want to leave this propaganda battlefield uncontested to the tea partiers. So there’s that more down-to-earth political reason as well.

        So there’s a basic rundown on my interest in constitutionalism.

        But I also don’t insist that everyone has to go along with that interest.

        Comment by Russ — May 23, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

      • And that trial and error is necessary. The best examples of anarchist societies are either very short-lived like Catalonia or very low-tech cultures like those studied by Graeber. There’s a lot we don’t know. And there’s no reason that there’s only one answer to any of those questions. Different groups in different places may have different answers to them.

        Comment by Goin' South — May 23, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  2. Hello, Good afternoon!!!

    I recently picked up “Property is Theft” and I’m enjoying learning about the down to earth reasonableness of Proudhon. Thank you for recommending it.

    I also read that article about a Anarchist’s Anthropology that someone linked, so thank you to that person as well!

    I think the new economy ideas are very interested and I spend a lot of time thinking about them. I’m currently working on a piece to excise the tumors in our business ethics that guide our transactions. I will also laying out the proper function of the marketplace. My goal here is to raise awareness of our moral default in many of the businesses we participate in and to offer a way out for people, so that they may reclaim their integrity.

    You talk about not wanting to engage in barter because of the legal concerns, which is probably true for now, but I could see a situation where enough people’s values start changing, and the courts, reflecting that, decide that alternative economies are more in line with justice than centralized taxation.

    Once again, I appreciate the visionary work you doing. Best of luck,

    Comment by Strieb Roman — May 23, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    • Thanks, Strieb. I look forward to reading your piece, and have fun with the Proudhon. That’s an exciting book.

      I didn’t mean I don’t want people to engage in barter. On the contrary, I think they should, as much as possible.

      I just meant that on account of possible legal entanglements, people ought to be careful about publicizing it. It’s the kind of civil disobedience where for starters people might be better off keeping it under the radar, like pot smoking.

      But I agree, if we could achieve critical mass such that we could openly practice large-scale barter, like a kind of Salt March, that could become an anti-system fait accompli.

      Comment by Russ — May 23, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    • Strieb,

      If you enjoyed Graeber’s Anarchist Anthropology, you might enjoy this interview of Graeber by Charlie Rose. Rose thinks he’s quite the open-minded gent for having Graeber on, but he ends up totally befuddled by Graeber’s distinction between “protest” and direct action. For Rose, the boldest form of political action he can imagine for us proles is writing our Congressman (Charlie has lunch with them, of course.)

      It’s here: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/473

      Comment by Goin' South — May 23, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

      • I did enjoy that video, thanks.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — May 23, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

      • Hey, thanks for the links to Graeber’s stuff. I’m reading this:
        as a result, and it’s quite interesting as well.

        Comment by paper mac — May 24, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

      • I just skimmed the piece on debt and it looks interesting so I bookmarked it.

        The part I glanced over made me think of Essay 2 of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, which commences with a discussion of debt, and how man was “an animal which was bred to make and keep promises.”

        I wrote 2 posts on the early sections of that essay.



        Those were originally intended to be part of a longer series, but so far I only wrote the two.

        I thought I’d link to them here because they may be relevant to the discussion in this thread about primal principles. Perhaps in many ways we’re expecting to have to start over from scratch, and that’s what I wrote about in those posts.

        Also, I was meaning to mention this piece to you earlier, paper mac.


        It’s about microfarming, and it includes an aquaculture operation, Clear Water Aqua Farm.


        I thought you’d be interested in it. (I couldn’t find the same story link I originally had, which included some good photographs.)

        Comment by Russ — May 24, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

      • Thanks, paper mac.

        Graeber has no problem tackling the big problems or taking the big picture perspective. LOL.

        So either the duration of these alternating periods of “metalism” or “debtism” has shrunk greatly or the gold and silver bugs are all wrong. Or Graeber is wrong about this.

        Comment by Goin' South — May 24, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

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