November 21, 2013

GMO Labeling and Movement Strategy 4 of 6: The Organizations We Need


Parts one, two, three.
I’ve been saying we need to form permanent grassroots anti-GMO organizations, wherever we are or (for starters) to run parallel to GMO labeling campaigns. Here’s a basic rundown on why we need these.
In the context of the labeling effort, we must always keep in mind two facts which are proven by history.
1. Concentrated power always inertially encroaches on liberty and democracy, and often aggressively seeks to destroy them. This was one of the basic elements of the political philosophy of the American Revolution. The only solution, short of not allowing power to concentrate in the first place, is vigilance on the part of an active, responsible citizenry.
2. Wherever corporatism runs up against regulatory limits (the few that still exist), it will relentlessly, at every moment, seek to destroy them. The war of attrition is a constant wherever corporations exist, and wherever they find any limit whatsoever to the infinitude of their aggressive prerogatives. Corporatism is totalitarian.
Assuming that a labeling initiative is voted up, or a labeling bill passed, it will next need to be instituted and enforced by a government which is probably hostile to the policy. Whatever this government tries to do will face the constant hostility and counteraction of the corporations with which the government naturally identifies and sides.
(Here I’m talking about state governments. The FDA, of course, is aggressively pro-GMO in principle, and will never try to undertake any policy other than with the approval of the GM cartel. Any FDA labeling policy would focus primarily on preempting lower-level, stronger measures. For these reasons, it’s stupid and malign to want the FDA to take any part in this. No, anyone who truly wants GMO labeling seeks it only at the state and local levels, and completely rejects the notion of putting the FDA in charge.)
We can never trust any government on its own to do the right thing by the people. Similarly, we can’t trust system NGOs. These have a long history of collaborating with corporations, seeking top-down central government intervention, selling out democracy, wanting only to look to their own funding and insider influence. Sure enough, many of the outfits involved in the labeling movement openly say they want the FDA to take over from us. Others advertise their goal of finding a “solution” acceptable to the big corporations. Almost all of the “food safety” and “consumer advocate” groups have already worshipped at the feet of Monsanto and the FDA, as they supported the Food Control Act, supported increasing the FDA’s power to assault the community food sector and small farms on behalf of its Big Ag clients, and even pressured the FDA to move faster in imposing its “rules” when it was procrastinating.
We know what we can expect from NGO types once an initiative passes. They’ll say, “We won! Now we professionals will hold a conclave with the other stakeholders, government and corporate, and work out the details and look after the deployment. You peasants can go back to sleep. You’ve completed your role. We’ll keep you informed on behalf of the system.” Their agenda is clearly not to help we the people Take Back Our Food. We’re supposed to remain basically passive “consumers”. We’re just supposed to be a little better educated about it.
The first purpose of forming permanent grassroots organizations is to ensure that we the people don’t go back to sleep, and that we don’t leave oversight and reporting to “professionals”, but that we continue the job we started. Anything short of this degrades the labeling movement to a temporary interruption of the usual passive consumerist pattern instead of the beginning of active participatory democracy it needs to be.
A democratic movement needs its own democratic organizations. If in the course of the labeling movement we build these, we’ll come out stronger even if we lose at the ballot box. The real work toward the real goals of the future will have begun.
Forming a permanent organization means permanent action beyond the initial electoral or legislative campaign. In the first place, if the initiative or bill passes we must continue the campaign by turning it into a vigilance campaign. The people’s organization must monitor the rule-making, deployment, and enforcement. It must pressure the government where the government is dragging its feet or being derelict. It must keep its constituency informed and organize the direct pressure of the people on the system to ensure that our right to know is honored and we get our rightful information from the system.
But the nature of these organizations as vigilance/pressure groups is only their proximate action. The real goal is the abolition of GMOs. These organizations must explain the need for abolition and propagate the abolitionist idea in reformist contexts. The three basics: Reforms are not sufficient, co-existence is impossible, total abolition is the necessary end goal. In this way the grassroots organizations will serve as a bridge from reformism to fully developed abolitionism.
For starters, these organizations can be formed in parallel with various reform campaigns, campaigns led by system NGOs, etc. We can collaborate, join these reform groups and their campaigns, help win the reforms, all the while maintaining the integrity of our own groups, propagating the abolition idea, encouraging reformers to become abolitionists. 
(Many such groups won’t fully exemplify all these ideas from the outset. But as events develop, and as we see how the cartel counterattacks, how flimsy system institutions of “democracy” are, how impossible it is to co-exist (politically or physically) with GMOs or the corporations which force them upon us, how there’s no alternative to total abolition, the real fighters for freedom and democracy will become abolitionists, and the real groups will evolve to this position.)
What will these abolition organizations do? They’ll need to sustain themselves, and recruit writers/analysts, organizers, speakers, activists. The first task is to publicize the abolition idea relentlessly, in a focused, disciplined way, as broadly as possible so that this idea becomes part of the public consciousness.
1. So that GMOs are known for all their evils. In particular, that they’re recognized as a tremendous economic bottleneck, and as poisons.
2. Their abolition is linked with every kind of health, economic, political, social goal. They’re at the core of the general anti-poison and anti-corporatist movement.
3. The cartel’s position is weak, it can be toppled, GMOs can be abolished.
At first, this doesn’t have to mean convincing the public. The first task is to make the abolition idea something people think of on a regular basis, an idea that’s available, doable, worthwhile for all sorts of reasons.
Why wait for the corporate state to label the corporate product? We can label the whole system ourselves. We can label the brands, we can label the retailers, we can label the manufacturers, we can label the government bureaucracies (FDA and USDA) which serve as pro-GMO propagandists and thugs, we can label the NGOs who run interference for Monsanto, we can label GMOs in general, we can label corporate and industrial ag as a whole.
We can label these as unwanted, worthless, pointless, inefficient, anti-innovation, uneconomic, bad for our health, bad for our crops, bad for our food, bad for our water, bad for our soil, bad for our environment, bad for our politics, bad for our economies, bad for our societies, impossible to sustain in their fossil fuel use, impossible to sustain in their water use, impossible to sustain in their destruction of the soil, guaranteed to lead to famine and debt indenture for us all.
So the organization will provide day-to-day reportage, synthetic reports, analysis, philosophy. It will encourage consumers to shun GMO products, individuals to purge them from their diets, and for citizens to then spread the word about how they did this, that it wasn’t so difficult, and all the benefits that ensued. We’ll spread the word about GMOs on a personal level, foster public discussions, and undertake public presentations about them. The organizations will provide guidance on doing this and on how to get community discussion groups going.
Beyond this we’ll undertake whatever actions are promising, for their own sakes and to further the goals of recruitment and publicity. I’ll write more about these in Part Five. For now I’ll just say that although I’ve been writing about these permanent grassroots organizations as forming amid the context of the labeling movement, as the main form of anti-GMO activism right now, and to some extent in response to the need for vigilance/pressure groups which this movement generates, labeling is in fact just one of an array of anti-GMO actions and campaigns. It should be undertaken, not exclusively, but as one part of a broad strategy.
We must place all this in the context of a general critique of corporate industrial agriculture as agronomically and environmentally destructive, politically and economically inefficient, anti-innovation, stifling, and malign, unsustainable on a practical level, unable to cope with any of humanity’s needs, from providing food to providing prosperity, self-fulfillment, and happiness.
The war of ideas must contrast this malign system with the great affirmative solution, decentralized organic farming and agroecology as the basic agricultural solution, Food Sovereignty as the basic political and socioeconomic form of society.
These ideas, too, must be developed and systematically, relentlessly publicized through writing, public speaking, and interpersonal discussion.
Meanwhile the ground is ready for a true Community Food movement to cohere, and this political/social movement is already being built, parallel to its spontaneous rise as a new and distinct economic sector. The GMO abolitionist movement, as a vector of anti-corporate, pro-democracy ideas, is separate from but complements this Community Food movement.
All this is in the best participatory spirit and practice. The point is to be our own activists and have our own organization. As Lawrence Goodwyn analyzed in his great book on the 19th century Populist movement, its triumphs and the reasons for its eventual failure, this kind of movement building is the way to build the necessary individual self-respect and political self-confidence which make organization so potent. We must build the will to organize, to act cooperatively, have the fortitude and patience to build a true movement, which is the only possible foundation of all democratic politics and economic practice.
(As I’ll write about in Part Six, one of the problems with labeling campaigns as they’ve existed so far is that they’re typical examples of putting the political cart before the movement horse. That’s part of why so far the initiatives have been failing.)



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