I will now consider a difficult subject; a subject that has been debated for years on the left. I want to share my thoughts on how I think the transition from today?s society to a free and democratic society could and should look like. Now, I don't think that what I present here will reveal some revolutionary new ways of looking at this issue, rather it's only my contribution to the debate based on my own thoughts. I also want to point out that I do not present this on behalf of anyone. I only speak for myself. I'm just presenting my own personal views hoping that it will in some way be a useful and helpful contribution to further discussion. I would also like to hear your opinions on this topic. Do you disagree with something, did I leave something out etc. It's very important that we help each other in finding good solutions to our challenges. Please leave comments expressing your opinion. If you think the ideas I express in my article (or in my blog in general for that matter) are reasonable, also feel free to copy and share what you want and/or link to my blog in order to "spread the word".
I will divide this mainly into 4 parts, even though many things mentioned in these parts or stages if you will, probably will blend into each other in real life. I do so because I think there are some important stages in this transition that also need to be recognized and dealt with and discussed separately. How long the transition phase, and each stage will take, is in my view impossible to predict. We do know one thing though: the struggle for freedom will be long. How long it will take is up to the people participating.
Stage I: The beginning of the road to freedom - Building a movement: organization and growth.
In this stage organizing and growth are keywords. In this stage we would have to focus on protesting, marching, making ourselves heard, organizing, educating, convincing, enlightening others, educating others, educating ourselves, getting more people to join etc. In other words, lots of different non-violent actions in order to get attention and gain support. Everyone should do this. Unions, environmental groups, students, workers, seniors, idealists; really all who are concerned, engaged, and who want a better society must start getting seriously involved in working for change.
It´s important that the organizing includes having a goal of getting people to join for common causes, a common platform if you will, but without it leading to hierarchical structures of leaders etc. Instead the different people and organizations should communicate, cooperate, arrange events, meetings etc - using different arenas to discuss and work for consensus, not necessarily on all topics but so that a constructive common platform and plan could evolve. Communities and local areas should of course have self determination; each community have their own issues that need to be addressed, discussed and handled based on their unique situation, but in order for a big growing movement to become successful there has to be some common ground worked out. We need to find a good healthy combination of self determination within communities and local areas, and at the same time, in solidarity with each other, work out common strategies and tactics.
Now in this growth phase there will be variations in terms of support for local movements and their common platform in different communities. In one town or community there will be lots of support, in another less. The people working in the different communities must take the amount of support into consideration and find the best way of organizing in their local communities. There is in other words no magic absolute formula. It depends on the circumstances. There should of course be a general fight in terms of bargaining/collective bargaining everywhere, but in a community with lots of support people could for example organize sit-down strikes at different workplaces, and even local general strikes in order to get attention, gain support and of course gain more rights. In a local community with little support one should probably focus more on bargaining, protesting, convincing, and educating others. But the way I see it, a general rule of thumb when it comes to these issues is that the more support that is gained in the community and nationwide, the more direct non-violent action like sit-down strikes, general strikes etc. could be carried out.
We must also always remember, thruout this transition phase that we have to look in long term perspective. Changes aren't going to come over night. It will be a long hard struggle, but in the end it will be worth it. In this stage I we must be a little patient when it comes to huge radical changes. The important thing in the beginning is to focus on growth; working for gaining support within the different communities, but also in the general population. In other words, building up an established force that will lead to serious changes.
We should also bear in mind that in any stage of this struggle for a free democratic society we have to expect lots of opposition from the elites and their supporters and servants. Not only do we have to expect and prepare ourselves for media-propaganda, we also have to expect more police brutality. It's a natural reaction of the financial elite who will become more and more scared of the movement(s) as they grow. The state and government are often very servile to the wealthy financial elite, especially in the US where the wealthy more or less control policies. The police is a tool of the business-run, or business-influenced state to try to crush the ones who want to take back from the wealthy what has been stolen thru bailouts, exploitation and speculation at the stock exchange. The elites are starting to feel threatened, they want to keep all that they have stolen, so naturally they want to stop The Occupy Movement and anyone else involved in the struggle with police force. These tendencies are however an indication that we're on the right track: The elites are getting scared, and react by increasing their effort in trying to crush movements. The financial elite will however fail. Police brutality is counter-productive, it just leads to more support and sympathy for people engaged in the struggle among the general population.
Stage II: Continued growth, frequent striking, and fight for reform.
Stage II begins when the movement has grown substantially, moving steadily towards soon organizing and/or having the support from the majority of the population in a nation. Stage II should be a continuation of all the things in stage I, but there should now be an increased focus on organizing strikes. As many strikes as possible, in any form, whether it's sit-down strikes, local general strikes etc. This should be planed organized and conducted in any place that has a certain amount of community support. Striking is an important and effective way of fighting the wealthy owners and achieving rights. Fighting for rights in the workplace should be one of the main goals at this point. That would include fighting for better work conditions, more pay, increased democratization of workplaces etc. The unions will naturally play a central role in striking, but It's important that all the other organizations involved and engaged in the struggle for freedom will back, support and help the workers and unions in their important contribution to eventually stripping the wealthy of their undemocratic power. As we grow solidarity amongst the different local movements is increasingly important. Solidarity and cooperation among the different participants must be a very important factor in the struggle for democracy and freedom.
As I mentioned the strike frequency should increase as support increases. Now, if the support in a community is very high, than one could go further than striking and bargaining/collective bargaining etc. There might arise situations in which a huge majority of a relatively big geographic area within a nation supports even further action, like workers' takover of economic institutions, even though the majority of the nation is against it. These situations could get tricky as to what should be done, and I don't think there are any magic formulas or general answers to this. It would depend on the specific situation; how strong is the nationwide opposition to this, how free and democratic is the nation state, how much is the general population affected by the acts, and so on. I think though, that in most cases areas that have a lot of community support - the overwhelming majority - for making the institutions in their local society democratic they should take steps beyond just striking and take over production even though we're just in stage II.
An increasing number of politicians will, as the movement grows try to get on the movement's good side. The people involved in the movement should not be fooled. Some of the politicians may be sincere and honest, but that's really irrelevant. They can agree with the movement all they want, the thing is, they're not needed. The people can do this work themselves, by more direct action, constructive work and cooperation and solidarity amongst the people and organizations involved, operating within a relatively flat non-hierarchical structure. What should be done in terms of dealing with politicians is pushing for short term reform like increased taxation of the wealthy, and avoiding cuts in welfare programs. We should avoid any type of direct participation in established government and state institutions including getting mixed up with party politics. Instead the movement should work by itself organizing constructive non-violent action (like protesting, educating, convincing, striking democratization of workplaces etc, everything I mentioned earlier) in the different local areas and communities, carried out by the people living there; working actively, without the use of government, to gradually shift power from government and state to increasingly engaged, enlightened and determined communities and workplaces.
Stage III: Majority support - Direct action, responsibility and awareness of threats.
Stage III starts when the majority of a nation either supports and or have actively joined the struggle for freedom. Now, I want to point out that stage III is also a growing stage, our goal should be to convince as many people as possible to support and/or join the struggle. However, by being the majority one can focus on lots of other things as well: Increased direct action; getting major things done! One important factor in this stage is in my view worker's takeover of the economic institutions, but I want to again stress that the right time for specific actions might vary from community to community. The frequency of worker's takeover of institutions and any other direct act in local areas may vary from place to place depending on community support. If the vast majority in a community and the nation in general, supports these initiatives, then there?s no doubt as to what should be done: take action! Carry the owners and CEOs out of their offices if necessary.
Now, as I mentioned earlier violent opposition is very likely to increase more and more as the movement grows, and in stage I and II brutality and violence from state and the establishment must be fought with non-violent means in most cases (maybe some exceptions can be made at the end of phase II though). However, in stage III, the movement and its supporters can now start fighting back with violence if necessary. There's really nothing controversial about that - It's only self defense. It's just defending democracy. There will most certainly be owners and wealthy people who desperately want to fight violently in an attemt to maintain their wealth and power. It will then be necessary to use force, and if necessary violent self defense in order to maintain the course that the majority wants. The use of violent self defense agianst the ones who violently want to fight the will of the people, the vast majority, must be as humane as possible on the movement's behalf. Absolute prevention of disruption with as less rough treatment and violence as possible should be the norm.
We also know from past attempts to achieve changes that not just police, but also military force has been used by the powerful to crush movements wanting change. A Coup d'état for example, is something many people have experienced and had to suffer the consequences from. We must have that in mind all thru this transition from today's society to freedom and democracy. The movement should discuss and consider thoroughly how it can avoid attempts like this. There might come attempts like this from powerful people in the future and we must watch out for them and do anything within our power to avoid this. What the movement has to do if a situation like this would accrue, I think is hard to sketch out in detail here, but I would hope, and strongly believe, that the entire population would rise up together with the movement in order to stop it. After all, the people have the potential to successfully fight any type of tyranny and oppression.
But how should we handle the established state and government institutions in general in the IIIrd stage? Well, remember that in stage I and II changes would have accrued gradually in these government and state structures like parliament, congress etc. As the movement grew the attitudes of the people would change. The awful politicians running things today would be replaced with less awful ones. The organization of these institutions would be changed for the better, from focus on working for the rich and powerful to more focus on what's best for the population. Central government decision making would be weakened as the movement would reject taking direct part in established state and government institutions, and instead working by itself. Power would gradually have spread more and more to communities, unions, workplaces etc. There will of course be some tasks that just have to do be done centrally. I think in general that this should be handled by the movement organizing a system of representation based on the movement's common platform where instead of politicians and bureaucrats doing this work, recallable delegates would be elected by the different organizations and people participating in the movement. I don't think it's necessary to work out all the details on how this would be executed; it should be up to the movement to decide the exact organization based on its principles and consensus building.
In stage III the movement should focus a lot on how police and military should be handled and run. I have now just described how we should handle central institutions and tasks in general. Central tasks would of course also include handling military, and to a certain degree, police. I feel however that I have to address this specific issue more thoroughly. The people and organizations now in majority must take special responsibility on handling these institutions correctly. We can't take these issues lightly, if we do than powerful and wealthy people could find ways to take over, and we'd be an easy target for the people, both domestic and from abroad who want to crush our struggle for democracy and freedom. It is very important that the movement and its supporters just before entering stage III and after entering it, establish arenas for thoroughly, well organized constructive discussions on how this institutions should be handled. As I mentioned we've seen lots of coups in the past, so we need to have a well thought out plan to prevent this from happening again. We also know that there have been examples of individuals within movements wanting change who have gained power in the state and military apparatus and by that gained increasing, often despotic power dragging society back into tyranny, hierarchy and oppression. Now, the chances of this happening to a movement with well established principles and structures of the flat non-hierarchical type, with frequent use of consensus-building, and recallable delegates etc, is very slim, but It's important to not take this lightly. Police and military institutions are used to conduct legal force and violence, they're power centers in nature; it's therefore important that these institutions are handled in a correct and safe matter. I think that by using the same methods described above on how to handle the central tasks in general with the use of recallable delegates and consensus etc within the framework of an egalitarian flat organized movement structure it would be pretty safe. Police institutions will also be handled more locally, so the danger of things getting out of hand in regards to police is much smaller than military institutions, but both should be handled safely based on a well thought out plan.
Now let's look at stage III more broadly. As I mentioned, worker's takeover of economic institutions should be one of the main factors and should be carried out as much as possible depending on community support. This should of course be done alongside of in general building strong, engaged, enlightened, solidaric, just and democratic communities working together with other communities. As these tendencies are becoming increasingly established thruout a large geographic area, like a nation, we will gradually enter stage IV.
Stage IV: Completing the transition phase: Entering a sustainable free democratic society
In this stage the sky's the limit for the areas who have made the important achievements of creating a more just free and democratic society. Important tasks for these geographic areas in this stage would be working in solidarity with people around the world who have not yet reached the same achievements, and at the same time, not being naive, nor paranoid, watching out for external destructive forces and taking necessary precautions. I don't want to say much more about this stage here. It would be up to the people living in the different areas to decide details and exact organization in their society/community. I have given my personal opinions on how the society should be organized from here in the article The Society We Should Stive for. And with that I'll end this article by thanking the ones taking the time to read this, and also wishing everybody the best of luck in their struggle for freedom.
Noam Chomsky at Occupy Boston
Noam Chomsky clip on workers takeover of workplaces
The Corporation (documentary)
The Take (documentary)