We have been having some great discussions at the last few meetings ( this is subversive activity in itself!) about some aspects of the IWW program and the classic question keeps cropping up. To what degee can we work within the current system for change and to what degree should we totally reject the systems processes and mechanisms? After all, we are plenty aware of capitalisms ability to devise ways to reproduce itself and co-opt attempts at radical change. Control of popular culture, the media, education ,religion, even the boundaries and limits placed on permissible debate or discourse in civil society , all these things subtly align a dominant narrative which sustains capitalism. Can we change things through electoral politics? Should we work for social justice through non-profit organizations? Will incremental change do any good? Can we build a popular movement or just a dedicated vanguard?
Better minds than mine have wrestled with these questions for two centuries but I believe modern times require what is now called "multi-tasking". We should work to build a "popular front" on many levels with allies all along the political spectrum but I believe the most necessary, critical ,and presently lacking political identity in such a front is the left-Left and those with the courage should strive to re-fill this niche. By staking out a radical position, uncompromisingly anti-capitalist, we create political space for everyone, the very thing capitalism hates. If you wish to vote and it helps build trust with allies, fine, but be ready to argue in every conversation that direct action is the only real way individuals become agents of change and that the economic system is the thing that must be replaced.
I say we reject the either-or constraints and work for both reform and revolution, dividing our precious time among those tasks which will bear the greatest fruit. Reform is easy and many choose that road of quick results. Lets get food to poor people. Lets get health care for all. But building the foundation for deep, structural, long term change requires patience and energy for which regrettably few have either the stamina or courage. This is where we are most needed. Let this be our primary task.
The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies: Opening the Dialogue - Presented at an Open Forum for the Interim Director of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. March 11, 2011. Also available as a PDF and as slides...
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