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New Albert book: Practical Utopia

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A new book by Michael Albert is out: Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society

According to the Acknowledgements section, “The material in this book comes largely from a prior collection of three short volumes called Fanfare for the Future.” So it will not offer much new insight to readers familiar with the Fanfare trilogy. For others it may be a good introduction to ways of thinking about how a desirable society can be reached and shaped, although no time is spent on other ideas that are out there, like in Bregman's Utopia for Realists.

From the publisher‘s page:

Michael Albert’s latest work, Practical Utopia is a succinct and thoughtful discussion of ambitious goals and practical principles for creating a desirable society. It presents concepts and their connections to current society; visions of what can be in a preferred, participatory future; and an examination of the ends and means required for developing a just society. Neither shying away from the complexity of human issues, nor reeking of dogmatism, Practical Utopia presupposes only concern for humanity.

Part one offers conceptual tools for understanding society and history, for discerning the nature of the oppressions people suffer and the potentials they harbor. Part two promotes a vision for a better way of organizing economy, polity, kinship, culture, ecology, and international relations. It is not a blueprint, of course, but does address the key institutions needed if people are to be free to determine their own circumstances. Part three investigates the means of seeking change using a variety of tactics and programs.

The book is published by PM Press and available on their site – and also via Amazon.

Discussion 35 Comments

  • reader 23rd Jul 2017

    Good to know, thanks for sharing!

  • Christine Louise 26th Jul 2017

    This is great---thanks so much. Got to get this show on the road, I'm looking forward to reading this.

  • Bat Chainpuller 2nd Aug 2017

    Albert wants his books discussed and debated, not just read. I've read it, but mainly the first and third sections because the Parecon section I kind of already get.

    The theory section is familiar too. I'm never sure how such things would go down with ordinary people outside the choir. Not sure whether sociology, or anthropology or whatever heading the theory of complimentary holism falls under, is something ordinary people, the people we should be talking to etcetera, really care about when it comes to ideas about making the world a better place in which to live. Perhaps they should, I don't know. I suppose it isn't that difficult to understand, this conceptual toolbox, but still, never certain whether people I know, with left leanings but outside the radical choir, would get past a couple of pages before they put the book down.

    For me the vision and strategy sections are the most useful while the strategy section always leaves me feeling a little weird. I can't really describe it. It's so all encompassing as if Albert is trying to cover every single detail or thing, or possibility, that could jeopardise a movement, that could go wrong, and outlining not just the best type of movement but the right kind of mental state or consciousness to accompany it. Yet, nothing in the real world seems to prove that what Albert outlines is actually possible leaving the word practical in the title of his book moot. I'm not describing well my feelings that arise while reading this section or parts of it because it's hard. I'm also not just trying to be a contrary dick, I'm really trying to understand it all clearly so I can discuss it clearly with others. My experience here at IOPS (was IOPS meant yo be a kind of "bloc") has rendered me sceptical to a degree about Albert's approach.

    To me, if the strategy section is correct, and I have no way to conclude otherwise nor the experience to prove otherwise, then it is a kind of manual for the left and should or would be, I assume, something taken up by many others or discussed more greatly by others, particularly those with similar activist experience to Albert. But I don't see it. I kind of don't or can't see myself for instance, really being able to discuss anything in the book other than just that Albert says x and y on pages x and y and it all seems perfectly reasonable, "in theory"...but?????

    I also don't know where to discuss it really or who to discuss it with. You can't just randomly bring it up in conversation with 64 yr old plumbers at cafes, who you talk to about football because you barrack for the same team. Nor with friends or family outside the radical ideas choir because I have tried and they aren't interested. Yeah, they nod for a while but soon nod off!

    Discuss it here? With who? Who is going to have a prolonged conversation about the ideas in this book with me? Fucking no one I suggest. And why anyway would anyone think discussing the ideas with me would be helpful? Truly? Who's gonna read the discussion here? What, you think the dude from OFS is interested in chiming in with someone like myself?

    I hold to the view, erroneous as it may be, that unless other activists, like those who share Albert's views and with equal experience in organising and activism, like those who felt IOPS a great idea, share their own thoughts and enter into discussion with outside the choir ordinaries, then any conversation will be effectively useless...so minimal and lonely as to be a waste of time. Maybe not for myself, I get shit from them, but ultimately no one else is reading the discussion.

    Albert says it is the discussing and spreading of the ideas in a book that makes the reading of the book worthwhile. I agree. But I still have no idea through what mechanism the ideas get spread if there are no real forums where concentrated numbers of like minded people can hang out and do so.

    It's a bit like Albert's notion of the "bloc". I am still uncertain, even after reading about it numerous times in Fanfare and this new book, what it actually is. Is it an actually constructed movement/org/project/banner that embraces all or most already existing movements that agree on a set of ideas, values and principles, in the same way the NSP, is an actual project set up by actual people? Or is the "bloc" something just embraced by already existing movements, kind of in their minds, intuitively, rather than anything that requires an actual website or space to meet. A kind of left intuitive sense of collectivism? I don't really know. But it does feel like, to me at least, that for the "bloc" to be meaningful, it requires regular communication between already existing movements. Is that happening and I just don't know about it? Or can someone please explain unequivocally what the the "bloc" actually is and if it is actually possible and even possibly why the radical left with ideas like Albert's, those with great experience with rational, logical and reasonable ways of going about things aren't working towards it now, visibly?

    Or am I just wasting people's time writing all this shite? I mean should I really just disappear from here, being the mouthy arse I am, and join some real worthy organisation that is largely invisible to most like OFS or some tiny anarchist group with hardly any impact on anything or whatever?

    • Lambert Meertens 5th Aug 2017

      Hi Bat, good to hear from you. We seem to be in hibernation mode or suspended animation or whatever, but not yet fully comatose. And new members keep trickling in. I wonder, how do they find their way to this place?

      If humanity somehow manages to find a way to a better world, instead of ending up in a global catastrophe as seems to be the course we are on now, some fundamental change has to occur in the way society is organized. And when I try to imagine the process of such a change unfolding, I end up with scenarios that are rather similar to the “paths ahead” of Chapter 16. And success requires that the change is carried by a mass movement that enjoys broad support. This seems rather obvious to me. The key question is, How do we build this mass movement? While I agree with almost everything Albert writes, I have the feeling that in all its detail it remains mainly stuck in generalities. The notion of “building a bloc” (on which more below) seems to me to be the most concrete specific strategic idea.

      Not that I know the answer to the key question, I wish I did, but I don’t find it in this book either. Already during the history lessons in high school I was wondering why sometimes the people would rise up but not in other equally dire times. What made the difference? Was the powder in the keg wet, or was there just no spark? I still don’t have a clue why some things take off like a mania and other equally interesting things don’t. Precisely because these things seem so unpredictable, I haven’t given up on IOPS.

      The IOPS website is the right place for having prolonged conversations about the issues and ideas in books and such that are germane to our revolutionary aspirations. In fact, that is what the (as of yet still empty) forum The Book Shelf was set up for. The point of such conversations may be, first, to help to separate the chaff from the wheat and bring out the most valuable ideas. There is too much potentially interesting material for anyone to read everything, so together we can make each other more informed than we could be if just on our own. It can also help to bring people on the same page, or at least to the point of having a shared set of concepts and vocabulary that make the discussion more fruitful. The forum format means that the interaction does not need to be real-time. Years later the comments will still be as valuable.

      Of course we need to interact with “normal” people, but even then it will help if we can exchange experiences about what works and what doesn’t. Does it help to dress up as a penguin? Has anyone tried that yet?

      Before I heard about IOPS I wrote a little document entitled “Our Movement”. The first two pages are like a cover letter; the real text starts on page 3. I have the feeling that Albert’s bloc is essentially the same as what I describe there. I’d appreciate hearing what you think of my writings.

      When I joined IOPS, I imagined it could be the seed of this movement, but I was quickly corrected by some of the founding members pointing out that IOPS was not a movement and was not supposed to be a movement. And neither was it an umbrella. So, inasmuch as it is clear that Albert’s “bloc” is a movement umbrella, I don’t think his conception of IOPS was as such a bloc.

    • Bat Chainpuller 5th Aug 2017

      Thanks Lambert...was beginning to think even you had been beamed up until you posted this!

      I too cannot disagree with Albert...but then perhaps it's the generality or all encompassing nature of his book that makes it hard to discuss...you kind of just have to agree and that's it...it seems to me that if the book is pretty much on the money then all that needs doing is practice...where and how does that take place?

      I still think IOPS at the very least could provide a place for discussion of these ideas from within the choir hopefully expanding beyond to those outside...but it appears that even Albert doesn't agreee...certainly Z foesn't foster good discussion.

      I see the bloc as a movement umbrella and see Lakey's article as a practical appendage to Albert's ideas...I see Bill Fletcher as having a direct line to unions and as a fruend of Albert's someone who could influence in that sense...I see Tom Wetzl, as a parecon sipporter, I think, with union connection as similar...imagine Albert, Lakey, Bill Fletcher, Wetzl, Street, I don't know, anyone fucking else, setting up a real genuine kind of thing, forum, symposium, website, that they regularly manned and attended to get these strategic ideas on the go, include the NSP, DiEm25 or whatever it's called...or perhaps it's up to us ordinary people to do it...shit I don't know.

      I only say these things because if a bloc or movement of movements is needed and at least 33% of those in the choir to influence the 33% sitting on the fence or with left sympathies, then reading and books are ok, but I kind of figure those writing them and at the coal face of activism are the ones who should be driving this agenda by coming together themselves...but it doesn't seem that way...Albert's book and Lakey's essay seem to be at the heart of the problem, about what's really needed but are just two bits of writing in a sea of almost, not quite, unnecessary shite that occupies most.

      IOPS may have not been intended to be an umbrella but was intended to be an international org. It would be nice to see people like Albert, Evans and even those who thought IOPS a necessary thing and showed no real interest, to reappear and talk with people here and maybe inspire more involvement...but it appears IOPS's initial failure means one just moves on...lets it all go...oh well...proof this shit doesn't work...so what does?

      It's interesting that Albert says we need to talk to the right people to get them involved...those outside the choir...but all those I talk to don't want to talk about that stuff at all...they want to talk about "real" or "normal" stuff...leaves me wondering what union organisors talk about...when I read Southern Insurgency, essentially about independent unions in China, India and South Africa, it was evident that among most were not demands for structural change in any real substantial way, but merely the usual. Understandable, and the authors pointed this out...so how does one inculcate structural change ideas or appendage them to the more reformist demands of even independent unions that have necessarily grown out of the fact that mainstream corporate unions no longer do their bidding? If Albert's strategy chapter is on the money surely work needs to done there to get in the ear of workers ideas that go beyond wage claims and work safety? I don't know.

      Just writing off the top of my dome here Lambert and hope yourself and others may chime in. Will read you thing...seems that's all I do anyway...read and annoy to the point of pissing people right off, including Albert himself...

      Thanks again Lambert for replying...

  • Bat Chainpuller 4th Aug 2017

    Organizing for Structural Change

    By George Lakey
    Source: Waging Nonviolence
    August 4, 2017

    Movement manuals can be useful. Marty Oppenheimer and I found that out in 1964 when civil rights leaders were too busy to write a manual but wanted one. We wrote “A Manual for Direct Action” just in time for Mississippi Freedom Summer. Bayard Rustin wrote the forward. Some organizers in the South told me jokingly that it was their “first aid handbook — what to do until Dr. King comes.” It was also picked up by the growing movement against the Vietnam War.

    For the past year I’ve been book touring to over 60 cities and towns across the United States and have been asked repeatedly for a direct action manual that addresses challenges we face now. The requests come from people concerned about a variety of issues. While each situation is in some ways unique, organizers in multiple movements face some similar problems in both organization and action.

    What follows is a different manual from the one we put out over 50 years ago. Then, movements operated in a robust empire that was used to winning its wars. The government was fairly stable and held great legitimacy in the eyes of the majority.

    Most organizers chose not to address deeper questions of class conflict and the role of the major parties in doing the will of the 1 percent. Racial and economic injustice and even the war could be presented mainly as problems to be solved by a government that was willing to solve problems.

    Now, the U.S. empire is faltering and the legitimacy of governing structures is shredding. Economic inequality skyrockets and both major parties are caught in their own versions of society-wide polarization.

    Organizers need movement-building approaches that don’t ignore what animated many of the supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: a demand for major rather than incrementalist change. On the other hand, movements will also need the many who still hope against hope that the middle school civics textbooks are right: The American way to change is through movements for very limited reform.

    Today’s believers in limited reform can be tomorrow’s cheerleaders for major change if we craft a relationship with them while the empire continues to unravel and politicians’ credibility declines. All this means that to build a movement that seeks to force change requires fancier dancing than “back in the day.”

    One thing is easier now: to create virtually instant mass protests, as was done by the admirable Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration. If one-off protests could produce major changes in society we would simply focus on that, but I know of no country that has undergone major change (including ours) through one-off protests. Contesting with opponents to win major demands requires more staying power than protests provide. One-off protests do not comprise a strategy, they are simply a repetitive tactic.

    Fortunately, we can learn something about strategy from the U.S. civil rights movement. What did work for them in facing an almost overwhelming array of forces was a particular technique known as the escalating nonviolent direct action campaign. Some might call the technique an art form instead, because effective campaigning is more than mechanical.

    Since that 1955-65 decade we’ve learned much more about how powerful campaigns build powerful movements leading to major change. Some of those lessons are here.

    Name this political moment. Acknowledge that the United States has not seen this degree of political polarization in half a century. Polarization shakes things up. Shake-up means increased opportunity for positive change, as demonstrated in many historical situations. Starting an initiative while running scared of polarization will lead to many strategic and organizational mistakes, because fear ignores the opportunity given by polarization. One way to correct such fear is by encouraging those you’re talking with to see your initiative in a larger strategic framework. That’s what Swedes and Norwegians did a century ago, when they decided to abandon an economy that was failing them in favor of one that now stands as one of the most successful models for delivering equality. What kind of strategic framework might Americans follow? Here is one example.

    Clarify with your co-initiators specifically why you’ve chosen to build a direct action campaign. Even veteran activists may not see the difference between protests and campaigns; neither schools nor mass media bother to enlighten Americans about the craft of direct action campaigning. This article explains advantages of campaigns.

    Assemble the core members of your campaigning group. The people you draw together to start your campaign hugely influence your chance of success. Simply putting out a call and assuming that whoever shows up is the winning combination is a recipe for disappointment. It’s fine to make the general call, but ahead of time make sure that you have the ingredients for a strong group that is up for the task. This article explains how to do that.

    Some people might want to join because of pre-existing friendships, but direct action campaigning isn’t actually their best contribution to the cause. To sort that out and prevent later disappointment, it helps to study Bill Moyer’s “Four Roles of Social Activism.” Here are some additional tips you can use initially and later, as well.

    Be aware of the need for a larger vision. There is debate about how important it is to “front-load” the vision, beginning with an educational process that gains unity. I’ve seen groups derail themselves by becoming study groups, forgetting that we also “learn by doing.” So, depending on the group, it may make sense to discuss vision one-on-one and in more gradual ways.

    Consider the people you are reaching to and what they need most urgently: to launch their campaign and make progress, experiencing political discussion along the way while they are countering their despair through action, or to do educational work ahead of the first action. Either way, a new and valuable resource for vision work is the “Vision for Black Lives,” a product of the Movement for Black Lives.

    Choose your issue. The issue needs to be one that people care a lot about and has something about it you can win on. Winning matters in the current context because so many people feel hopeless and helpless these days. That psychological ambivalence limits our ability to make a difference. Most people therefore need a win to develop self-confidence and be able to access fully their own power.

    Historically, movements that have pulled off macro-level major change have usually started with campaigns with more short-run goals, such as black students demanding a cup of coffee.

    My analysis of the U.S. peace movement is sobering, but offers a valuable lesson about how to choose the issue. Many people care deeply about peace – the cumulative suffering associated with war is enormous, not to mention the use of militarism to tax working- and middle-class people to benefit the owners of the military-industrial complex. A majority of Americans, after the initial hype dies down, usually opposes whatever war the United States is fighting, but the peace movement rarely knows how to use that fact for mobilizing.

    So how to mobilize people to build the movement? Larry Scott successfully confronted that question in the 1950s when the nuclear arms race was spiraling out of control. Some of his peace activist friends wanted to campaign against nuclear weapons, but Scott knew such a campaign would not only lose but also, in the long run, discourage peace advocates. He therefore initiated a campaign against atmospheric nuclear testing, which, highlighted by nonviolent direct action, gained enough traction to force President Kennedy to the negotiating table with Soviet Premier Khrushchev.

    The campaign won its demand, propelling into action a whole new generation of activists and putting the arms race on the larger public agenda. Other peace organizers went back to tackling the unwinnable, and the peace movement went into decline. Fortunately, some organizers “got” the strategy lesson of winning the atmospheric nuclear testing treaty and went on to win victories for other winnable demands.

    Sometimes it pays to frame the issue as defense of a widely-shared value, like fresh water (as in the case of Standing Rock), but it’s important to remember the folk wisdom that “the best defense is an offense.” To walk your group through the complexity of a framing that is different from your strategy, read this article.

    Double-check to see if this issue is really viable. Sometimes the power-holders try to stop campaigns before they start by claiming that something is a “done deal” – when the deal could actually be reversed. In this article you’ll find both a local and a national example where the power-holders’ claim was wrong, and the campaigners gained a victory.

    At other times you might conclude that you might win but are more likely to lose. You might still want to initiate the campaign because of the larger strategic context. An example of this can be found in the fight against nuclear power plants in the United States. While a number of local campaigns failed to prevent their reactor from being built, enough other campaigns did win, thereby enabling the movement, as a whole, to force a moratorium on nuclear power. The nuclear industry’s goal of a thousand nuclear plants was foiled, thanks to the grassroots movement.

    Analyze the target carefully. The “target” is the decider who can yield to your demand, for example a bank’s CEO and board executive committee that decides whether to stop financing a pipeline. Who is the decider when it comes to police shooting unarmed suspects with impunity? What will your campaigners need to do to get change? To answer these questions it is helpful to understand the different pathways to success: conversion, coercion, accommodation and disintegration. You’ll also want to know how small groups can become bigger than the sum of their parts.

    Track your key allies, opponents and “neutrals.” Here’s a participatory tool — called the “Spectrum of Allies” — that your growing group can use at six-month intervals. Knowing where your allies, opponents and neutrals stand will help you choose tactics that appeal to the various interests, needs and cultural inclinations of the groups you need to shift to your side.

    As your campaign implements its series of actions, make strategic choices that move you forward. The strategy debates you have in your group may be helped by bringing in a friendly outsider with facilitation skills, and exposing your group to concrete examples of strategic turning points in other campaigns. Mark and Paul Engler offer such examples in their book “This Is An Uprising,” which forwards a new approach to organizing called “momentum.” In short, they propose a craft that makes the best of two great traditions — mass protest and community/labor organizing.

    Since nonviolence is sometimes used as ritual or conflict-avoidance, shouldn’t we be open to “diversity of tactics?” This question continues to be debated in some American groups. One consideration is whether you believe your campaign needs to include larger numbers. For a deeper analysis of this question, read this article comparing two different choices on property destruction made by the same movement in two different countries.

    What if you get attacked? I expect polarization to get worse in the United States, so even if violent attack on your group might be unlikely, preparation might be useful. This article offers five things you can do about violence. Some Americans worry about a larger trend toward fascism – even a dictatorship on a national level. This article, based on empirical historical research, responds to that worry.

    Training and leadership development can make your campaign more effective. In addition to the brief trainings useful in preparing for each of your campaign’s actions, empowerment happens through these methods. And because people learn by doing, a method known as core teams can help with leadership development. Your group’s decision-making also gets easier if your members learn the practices of joining and differentiating.

    Your organizational culture matters for your short-run success and for the movement’s wider goals. Handling rank and privilege can influence solidarity. This article abandons one-size-fits-all anti-oppression rules, and suggests more subtle guidance to behaviors that work.

    Evidence is also accumulating that professional middle-class activists often bring baggage to their groups that is better left at the door. Consider “direct education” trainings that are conflict-friendly.

    The big picture will continue to influence your chances for success. Two ways you can improve those chances are by making your campaign or movement more militant and by creating greater local-national synergy.

    Additional resources

    Daniel Hunter’s action manual “Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow” is a fine resource for tactics. It is a companion to Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow.”

    The Global Nonviolent Action Database includes over 1,400 direct action campaigns drawn from almost 200 countries, covering a wide variety of issues. By using the “advanced search” function you can find other campaigns that have fought on a similar issue or faced a similar opponent, or campaigns that used methods of action you are considering, or campaigns that won or lost while dealing with similar opponents. Each case includes a narrative that shows the ebb and flow of the conflict, as well as the data points you want to check out.

  • Bat Chainpuller 4th Aug 2017

    For all the links read from here, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/organizing-for-structural-change/

  • Bat Chainpuller 4th Aug 2017

    Reading through the Lakey essay opens a labyrinth of info pertaining to practical action. Should be appengaged to Albert's book. Is Lakey's movement of movements the same as Albert's bloc?

    "4. Link campaigns to build movements.
    Standing Rock is a current example of the synergistic and expanding effect of linking campaigns. Pipeline fights, indigenous rights, and even the role of Veterans for Peace — in raising questions about the U.S. empire — were all amplified through linking to the ongoing campaign in North Dakota.

    The classic American example of campaign linkage grew from the simple act of four college students in North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1960, starting their campaign to desegregate a lunch counter. Students in other towns followed the example, and the wave of sit-ins became a movement. The movement helped grow existing organizations — for example, the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, which then started a new kind of campaign, the Freedom Rides. Multiple freedom rides were linked and further built the strength of the civil rights movement.

    These campaigns did not have the American majority on their side, nor did they win all their demands, but their cumulative value forced major changes and eventually changed public opinion as well. The civil rights movement illustrates the crucial difference in mode of operation between direct action campaigns and political parties’ campaigns.

    Democrats, for example, are hugely about polls and focus groups. Their power rests on current public opinion and its manipulation through electioneering and political maneuver. Even for progressive-inclined Democrats, the ability to act is tightly limited by the narrow range of current opinion (not to mention by what the economic elite is willing to allow).

    Social movements, by contrast, can take stands that go beyond current opinion and wage campaigns that have transformative impact, such as women’s right to vote, gay rights and stopping pipelines. This difference helps explain why progressive Democrats habitually fight defensively, while movements are free to stay on the offensive and win. Bernie Sanders, for example, is now defensively fighting to save Medicare. By contrast, a social movement is free to launch a fight for single-payer health care. Such a struggle could threaten to split off part of Trump’s working class base and — even if it failed to fully achieve its goal – save more of Medicare.

    5. Link movements to create a movement of movements.

    When times are out of joint, a successful movement around one issue inspires campaigns on other issues to link and become new movements. That’s what happened the last time the U.S. took major steps toward justice. The civil rights movement begat the Berkeley Free Speech campaign and the national student movement for university reform, the draft resistance campaign and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and so on — energizing seniors, people with disabilities, mental health consumers, women, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, auto workers and many more.

    With so many movements developing, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin catalyzed the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, hoping to start linking movements into a movement of movements. They glimpsed an opportunity to amass so much power independent of the major parties that the United States could develop a counter-force to the economic elite and bring about democratic socialism. Creating an independent movement of movements was the successful path taken by the Scandinavians, and both Randolph and Rustin wanted it for the United States.

    Substantial linkage, however, was not available at that time. For one thing, the U.S. economy was booming, and there wasn’t enough discontent in the white working class — let alone the burgeoning middle class — to create an opening. What’s more, racism was still too intense, although the United Auto Workers had successfully found a way forward by uniting black and white workers to fight employers in the auto industry. In the past half century, much has changed on both those dimensions.

    My point is that multiple campaigns on the same or similar issues generates a movement, and that multiple movements provide the opportunity for a movement of movements. The closer we come to that point, the more pressure there is on the Democrats to co-opt us. The Republicans’ historic role is usually repression, while the Democrats’ job is to limit and control grassroots movements by pulling them into the party.

    We saw that happen to the later stage of the civil rights movement and again with the Democrat-embraced health reform movement of 2007-9, when the single-payer option — and even the public option — was dropped to pass the medical industrial complex-friendly Affordable Care Act.

    When a social movement is independent, it can force the Democrats to become allies instead of controllers. The civil rights movement did exactly that before 1965; we see what it can look like in the excellent film “Selma.” On a more micro level, Daniel Hunter — in his book “Strategy and Soul” — reveals how a neighborhood-based movement forced politicians to come to the campaigners, instead of the campaigners seeking help from the politicians.

    Whatever our partisan sympathies, a quick look at political trends in the United States shows why movement independence is more crucial now than at any time in the last half-century.

    Public alienation from the major parties – Republican or Democratic – has gone off the charts. Voters stay away from the polls, as if afraid of catching germs. The Tea Party gains more cred when it trashes the Republican Party. Donald Trump reassures his voter base by verbally attacking Congress – both parties, no less — in his inaugural address. Much of his voter base had long since left the Democratic Party because of its own betrayal of working-class interests. Black working-class voters also signaled their alienation by failing to give full support to Hillary Clinton, despite Barack and Michelle Obama’s entreaties.

    Such a period of alienation is just the time for direct action campaigns that fight for progressive demands — like $15 per hour and Medicare for all — to signal independence from the politicians who bear so much responsibility for U.S. decline. Such independence appeals to the vast majority, including many Trump voters. A self-respecting movement of movements knows that the Democrats will then come to them and offer to be allies."

    So much to read and reading takes inordinate amounts of time and then there's the practical action which one needs to plunge into..."even if the issue is not your favorite."

    "6. Avoid one-off demonstrations.

    This political moment adds force to the sizable advantage of direct action campaigns over single demonstrations, however large. Protests are by their nature reactive. In these next years, predictably, Trump will act and progressives will react, then Trump will act again and progressives will react again. Trump, an accomplished fighter, knows that staying on the offensive is what enables him to win. Progressives, often led by people with a track record of loss, take the bait and react, over and over.

    Simple protests, no matter what the issue, essentially signal to Trump that he is winning — he has manipulated us into reacting.

    I realize that reactivity is a habit among many activists, and may take heroic self-discipline to avoid. An alternative is to organize a campaign, or join a campaign near you, even if the issue is not your favorite, and plunge in with full talent and energy."

    God it's overwhelming really...imagine all this for those outside the choir whom "we" or the "left" that Albert and Lakey represent, needs to talk to? How do those "we" need to talk to, to get that 33 % support from those on the fence, see a unified movement of movements, a bloc, with good alternative vision easy to understand, rather than a bunch or plethora of disconnected issue focused movements or campaigns that may or may not be full of people who aren't thoroughly in agreement with one another on bigger more general ideas?

    And do they have to read all this stuff or do they just listen for some reason to those who have?

    Why isn't Farcebook working in this department?

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2017

      One of the central theses of Inventing the Future by Srnicek and Williams is that direct action, useful as it may be, will generally not yield longstanding gains. They propose a strategy whose essence is a battle for the minds of the people, entailing “a project to overturn the dominant neoliberal common sense and rejuvenate the collective imagination”. This should re-establish a space of radical hope that another world is possible. A progressive movement that is not fueled by such hope is bound to remain stuck in defensive actions.

      This is a strategic aspect that I miss in both Albert’s and Lakey’s writings. Their activism stems from a period in which the “space of radical hope” was very much alive. Now, the prevailing mood is more one of weary cynicism. People will not seek radical change if they don’t believe a dramatic improvement is possible.

      I’m actually taken a bit aback by Lakey writing such things as, “Choose your issue. The issue needs to be one that people care a lot about and has something about it you can win on.” The issue is that we need to transcend issue-based action, or we’ll never effect structural change. He criticizes US peace organizers for “tackling the unwinnable”. Whatever happened to the “Demand the impossible” of May ’68?

      What I also miss is a worldwide perspective. OK, maybe people in the US can get rid of Trump, but then what? Then they will have Pence. Lakey’s 1972 Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution emphasizes the need for a transnational movement, but I don’t see the issue addressed here.

      What remains unclear to me, both with Albert’s “bloc” and Lakey’s “movement of movements”, what it means in practical terms that movements are “linked”. I believe that what we need is that people struggling for another world have a sense that they are all part of one fluid movement that spans the globe. To install that sense should also be part of the battle for the minds of the people.

    • Bat Chainpuller 6th Aug 2017

      I think I am thinking much the same as you Lambert. Finishing Alberts book, particularly the strategy bit leaves me kind of uncertain what next...just put it back on the shelf and wait. Weird even. Albert is over there, Lakey is here and the NSP is somewhere else. Yes, what is the bloc and movement of movements in practical terms and how is it to hold together. That old school notion is also very physical space driven it seems which in this day and age is very restrictive, at least to me, something the authors of Infenting the Future also point out, I think. And was it in Inventing the Future that they suggested a similar type of thing like the Mont Pelerin Society but of the left is needed? Or was that another book.

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2017

      Yes, it’s from that book. Chapter 3: Why Are They Winning? The Making of Neoliberal Hegemony, describes the leading role of the Mont Pelerin Society in the rise of neoliberalism and ends with a section entitled “A Mont Pelerin of the Left?”.

      Quote: “The call for a Mont Pelerin of the left should therefore not be taken as an argument to simply copy its mode of operation. The argument is rather that the left can learn from the long-term vision, the methods of global expansion, the pragmatic flexibility and the counter-hegemonic strategy that united an ecology of organisations with a diversity of interests. The demand for a Mont Pelerin of the left is ultimately a call to build anew the hegemony of the left.”

      Clearly, Gramsci is one of their sources of inspiration.

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 6th Aug 2017

    Maybe humans are approaching that break from gradualness and heading for the LEAP!!?

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2017

      LEAP into the abyss?

    • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 7th Aug 2017

      Ha...looking that way...but hopefully not...

      I was referring to Ben Watson's book and Hegel's argument that 'gradualness explains nothing without leaps'....
      And the polarization that Lakey speaks of being the catalyst for a leap...

      With so many people globally going against neoliberalism because they simply have no choice, not to mention global warming, maybe humanity will just make the leap regardless of our best laid plans and strategies to facilitate it...?
      It's how humans reorganize that concerns me and agree that uniting all those separate issues, and passions into a connected fluid movement is something to focus on...

    • Bat Chainpuller 10th Aug 2017

      Hi Kristi,

      ...a connected fluid movement...the more I read, and that's all I do actually because that's all I have time and energy for, is that the gradual as expressed by something like the NSP, is as radical as one can hope for. The NSP is like a think tank really...working-papers galore...reforms and regulations to ease inequalities and injustices with possible structural change on the horizon but nothing definitive. So most ideas are gradual based.

      Parecon is an outrider. A lone wolf that gets some recognition from the Alperovitz types, but generally ignored for its definitive stance on markets and planning (not feasible to Alperovitz...funny how the recent paper Reversing Inequality published by the NSP and posted at Z, mentions that some of the deas presented in it may be seen as not feasible by some and it reads like a mainstream kind of policy paper of sorts!)

      The main thrust in the world is going t be the NSP type and even that is radical perhaps compared to say what a Sanders and Corbyn may have to offer. Any strategy that leads towards a Parecon end goal is going to be far more radical...a greater leap...the problem being no-one trusts something like Parecon somany kind of connected fluid movement between say Albert abd the NSP or Lakey seems unlikely or I don'r see it happening...and by that I mean finding reforms/changes to society, and strategies that somehow work for both...those ideas that cross over and agreejent can be found.

      It seems to me the NSP is "doing" now while Pareconistas are waiting. The NSP recognises things like Parecon and the possible insights it brings but largely ignores it when thinking about practical ways forward. There just doesn't seem to be much valuable dialogue between the two at all.

      In some sense Kristi I wonder what the hell we are supposed to even discuss after reading Practical Utopia and with who? It is almost impossible to talk to those unfamiliar with this stuff...plus I don't have a large number of friends and would no doubt lose most if I discussed this shit...no-one can be bothered here except the usual and I reckon Albert would see this as just kind of chatting, mostly off topic (he's a stickler for staying on topic) and not that valuable...there is nothing happening on his blog at Z where he suggested people drop a line...shit Paulo Rodriguez just posted a comment there that was merely saying hello to Albert and that even he has no time to read?

      Is Practical Utopia really even practical at all? Do Albert's ideas fly in the face of what is actually happening in the world (the NSP, DiiEm25, Our Rev, etc.) and how things actually work? I ask this innocently and sincerely because I see Albert as an outrider in some sense to much of what is going on...a supporter of it in some sense but remaining outside it in another. Just my feeling.

    • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 11th Aug 2017

      yeah...for the most part alberts an outrider...yet as you well know, many radicals consider him too structured...
      seems a case of everyone just wants to be "the man with the plan..."

      to me, there doesn't seem to be much anyone can do till the shit hits the fan and everyone's looking for answers...

      whether folks will be rational and receptive to equitable/alternative ways of organizing ourselves then, is the bigger problem as i see it...

      it would be so much better if people would study parecon (or whatever system works best in their particular area) and figure out ways to implement it before the shit hits the fan...using established institutions, networks, etc...but what are the odds...

      so i spend my time reading too...mainly trying to understand human nature and why we are our own worst enemy...

    • Bat Chainpuller 6th Aug 2017

      I spoke to my sister and brother in law about thos stuff yesterday. For anout three hours, I was unstoppable. My brother in law saw the logic in what I said and basically agreed with what I was saying re structural change and shite. But he basically sees no way forward. He's what you might say outside the choir, not by a heap, but outside...yet he just won't put in time to something that he feels has no strength or momentum in a large sense...small moves and disconnected stops and starts aren't going to do it. So how do you give people a sense that there is a bloc or movement of movements that doesn't bury them in reading and meetings, with no real time for themselves to smile, yet offers up real serious hope with serious cogent vision and connected strategy and in a way that says to the Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grid, we're here, getting larger and mot going away if tye people writi the books and essays aren't making efforts to do exactly what they think is needed when they have the connections, the organising experience and activist knowledge both practical and theoretical? Huh? Do I have to do it? How? That's why I highlghted the paragraph of Lakey's you cite Lambert...I felt much the same way.

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2017

      On a much smaller scale we saw that with IOPS. The initial momentum got lost when the big names kept silent and we got stuck in a senseless protracted discussion of preconditions. In a sense, it is a chicken-and-egg problem. You need something to kickstart it to a level where it will keep itself going.

      The WSF could have been the MPS of the left, but the process was hijacked by professionals from well-endowed NGOs, driving out the grassroots groups.

    • Bat Chainpuller 7th Aug 2017

      Sorry for the length Lamber, but shit you know me by now...

      Is that what happened...I woudn't know...I just kind of notice that all these writings re structural change seem to be so isolated from each other...I'm now reading yet another essay, or is it working paper, on inequality and how to fix it from the NSP. Each time I read Albert, Lakey or anything from the NSP, or maybe anything else like something from DiEM25 or Black Lives Matter, it's as if nothing else exists. I just find it all weird and in fact overwhelming. No sense of connection with other movements really, other ideas.

      Albert wants people to discuss his book and spread ideas, the NSP wants the same, Lakey probably wants people to read all his stuff and Viking Economics, which I am stuck on half way through due to a plethora of distractions...where to start and who to do it with, seriously...

      How can anyone outside the choir or even inside know which way to turn or what to devote time to...Lakey reckons join a local campaign even if it isn't one's fav! Just pick a campaign and jump right in there...really...any?...sounds a bit like Joe Toscano here, a local anarchist activist with nearly half a century of experience who constantly says stop whinging and get out and organise...like anyone can do it...my brother in law? The guy I work with, my employer? My daughter who's trying to find regular work and move out? My other daughter who is trying to make a career out of dance, in the arts, where one bad injury and you're fucked? If not them who then first up? Me? With all my fuckedupness? So any campaign will do?

      If NGO's undermined the possibility of the WSF being more, what are the odds similar things would happen to any bloc or movement of movements?

      There is something overwhelmingly frustrating about all these books and essays and pleas for things like blocs, movements of movements, right consciousness, right activist education, right strategy, right balance between reform and revolution etc..there's all the knowledge and ideas, refined by reflection on past failures and successes and yet nothing really happens....

      Albert actually told me the NSP kind of ignore his offers to help. I asked the NSP why they won't promote his book and get ignored even though you are allowed to contact them. Lakey has written a plethora of stuff on campaigning, activism and getting arrested...a how to go about it activist guide and a book about a social democratic vision but nothing about the existence of say Parecon and Albert's ideas or the NSP. Why? Don't they like each other or something? Live too far away from one another? Don't read what each other writes? Why? Why don't they form a coalition? Oh that's right, coalitions aren't as good as blocs!

      This place, IOPS, is open for discussion about Albert's book but I know, not just think or believe, I fucking know, hardly anyone will join in on this...probably because I'm here and writing bullshit...Albert could join in here but I know he won't, so could Evans and anyone else, but they won't. Maybe it's an American thing and they're talking to each other through face to face meetings and through some kind of secret communication network I know nothing about. I should start my own little discussion group here and expand...do people know how hard it s to get two, three, four people into a room together to discuss anything let alone something like Albert's book? Of course they do, the experienced ones...surely...so...what?

      I was recently asked about DiEm25 and downloaded all the manifestos and looked at the members...fuck...a lot of stuff...then I think about Corbyn and Sanders because DiEM25 has that ring about it...a party like Sanders' Our Revolution...Syriza's bastard child or something...something really controlled by coordinators, experts, clever smart rational caring activists, from on high...NSP has that feel too but perhaps less so. I don't cry to hard about that, it's a start, but then all these things don't seem to build like Albert suggests or try to connect with other grassroot groups in a bloc sense. Or are they and I and my brother in law just have no idea this is hapoening?

      How does one even handle all this information, this knowledge, these theories and visions and divergent strategies based on diverse views and beliefs about where to head and what's best...no wonder someone like my brother in law would just throw his hands in the air!

      I mean, what exactly in Albert's book are we meant to discuss and debate? And who are we to do so? What do we, or I have to offer in this regard? And if I joined a local campaign here where would I find the time to discuss Albert's book and if the campaign was already established, who am I to dictate what should be discussed? And why would anyone, including my brother in law listen to anything I have to say?

      I could ring Jason Chaplin and go sit for four hours and discuss shit with him and then go home, but so what? Vincent Emmanuelle is setting something up in Michigan, a discussion group...great. Wonder what they will be discussing and how many will be doing it? I mean if Albert's number crunching is right, eventually we heed a lot of people on board about this stuff...400 out of ten thousand is a lot to meet and talk...how you even do that would be an organisational coup to keep it participatory...but you need 3000 eventually...does that just happen at the university cafe or what...osmosis.

      Sorry, I'm at a complete loss...also considering most people will not even read any of this stuff anyway, not the least because they may just not like Albert's ideas or whatever...like I can't see him and Takis Fotopoulos getting on, and him and market socialists like Schweickart don't like each other...

      Sorry Lambert, but shit, I'm discussing things stimulated by the reading (no doubt in ways that Albert himself would see as irrelevant to the book and a waste of time) and open to it going elsewhere, but no one else will enter here, nor at Z, and I feel anywhere else in fact...so who gives a fuck...

    • Lambert Meertens 17th Aug 2017

      It is hard to say if the WSF would have fared much better in the long run without NGOs getting involved. Many people had the expectation that the WSF would be a catalyst for a “movement of movements”, but perhaps that was unrealistic wishful thinking. Also, I am sure that some NGOs worked in a careful way and had a mainly positive impact. And I guess most others were well intentioned, with the WSF organizers probably even welcoming their involvement. I have witnessed myself too often, though, NGO people operating as if only they understand the right way to do things. So I find it quite plausible that some NGOs tried to run the WSF and in doing so ruined the spirit of the undertaking. There is an article about the phenomenon of NGOs taking over on Wikipedia, which is a much more widespread phenomenon than in connection to the WSF: NGO-ization.

      Any successful movement has the risk of attracting parasites. Bringing in career professionals will be deadly for any grassroots movement. The simplest recipe for making sure that won’t happen is to ensure that everything is run by unpaid volunteers. If some things can only be done by paid professionals, hire them for a temporary job only, and don’t give them power over strategic or policy issues.

      I share some of your frustration. Activists of the world, unite! What is holding you back? An invisible hand?

      There is always the distraction of the immediate political process. DiEM25 pays lots of attention to national elections and has no revolutionary aspirations. Like them, I welcome the idea of a democratic Europe, but I don’t see this happening without a mass movement aimed at a much farther-going transformation.

      Ultimately, the issue is that we need to win over many more people, which requires their gaining the insight and conviction that another world is possible. People everywhere are constantly exchanging ideas and opinions. They can’t help it. I believe we are genetically programmed to exchange information, much like ants are. Two ants encountering each other on a trail will briefly stop and touch their antennae. (The nature of the information transmitted this way is still unknown.)

      But I think only a relatively small number of intellectuals needs to have an oversight over the diverse theories of change. Instead, we need informed opinion leaders who people can trust.

      In a movement that aspires to an open, inclusive, deliberative democracy, of course people would want to listen to what you have to say. But if they think that we already live in the best of all possible worlds, then you are, to them, nothing but a curmudgeon, a sourpuss, a whiner. They may still like your music, though.

      There is such thing as a collective opinion, which is not a single sharp opinion but more a fuzzy cloud of angry wasps buzzing around. Unless you live in a very narrow opinion bubble, only a few things are rather sharp, like “pedophilia bad” and “democracy good”. Now this cloud is not constant; it changes over time. Everyone’s opinions are, to a certain extent, informed by the opinions of people around them. There can be relatively quick and dramatic changes in what is the majority opinion, like we saw in the US, going from “Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a women like God ordained” to “Of course gay people should be able to marry the one they love”. In any case, all human exchanges of ideas and opinions contribute to this process. At some point in the future the majority opinion may flip over from “Revolution is not only dangerous but also pointless” to “Of course we need a revolution and we need it now!” And the ultimately decisive trigger may have been something you said more than a year earlier to Tess, which led to her objecting a week later to a callous and stupid remark by someone else, which a fourth person overheard and talked about at a family reunion, ...

  • Sarah Owens 14th Aug 2017

    Bat and Lambert, or anyone, where is Michael A. these days? Is he still at TeleSUR? Is he kind of happy or content or whatever?


    • Lambert Meertens 14th Aug 2017

      As far as I know teleSUR was always a side gig for Albert as publicist and ZMag/ZCom the main thing. I think he’s happy his new book is finished and out, but I can’t imagine he is happy with the state of the world. I also think he may be worried because Z is increasingly in a financially difficult position. For the rest I don’t know.

      What with the anti-Chavist propaganda war, I find it difficult to discern what is going on in the fog of disinformation. I don’t know the governance structure of teleSUR, but it is not a purely Venezuelan undertaking; it is sponsored by the governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Uruguayan political coalition in power, Frente Amplio, is rather moderately leaning to the left and is not a fan of Chavism. Wouldn’t they stage some intervention if teleSUR was turned into a propaganda tool?

      To me, the Venezuelan crisis underscores the need of fundamental social change not being imposed by the State but realized by a mass movement of the people. But however you view the conflict, I believe we must oppose all meddling efforts by the Empire.

    • Bat Chainpuller 15th Aug 2017

      Here's an interesting set of links. Telesur to Venezuela to Bolivarian Revolution to the Pink Tide to whatever else to P2P and Michel Bauwens....


      To FLOK, Free, Libre, Open, Knowledge, working with or within or somewhere in Ecuador in some capacity towards a commons based economy or something. The P2P article is long and at times technical and hard to follow but you can glean something from it...practical that is.


      Attempts at bridging the difference between the now and what is possible, between top down left governments and attempts at introducing bottom up participatory processes like FLOK or Commons Transition Plan or the community local council participatory decision making processes introduced in areas of Venezuela during Chavez's reign.

      As far as Practical Utopia being practical...it is only in the sense that it describes in fairly reasonable rational language what is needed in an overall general sense...but in this sense as well, it appears somewhat idealistic and less practical, considering the more than likely truth that most humans are perhaps a little less rational most of the time than Albert perhaps wishes...which may, and it appears it does at times, make him upset, or a little less happy.

      I go to a cafe 1&1/2 hours before work six days a week...and that is so I can read...just read and educate myself...I have been doing so for over fifteen years now in some capacity...I have recently befriended a 64 yr old plumber who varracks for the same footy team. We talk...a lot...but trying to move the conversation to serious issues like perhaps Albert feels would be necessary to move those outside the choir closer to revolutionary thinking is almost impossible...but I tried somewhat this morning...even usung the phrase indtitutional change, structural change...not something tye plumber had really heard before...conceptual toolbox just wouldn't register...

      But then perhaps I shouldn't do this...but you see this is the only time I have...to read...which takes real time...and when my one day off rocks around I'm fucked and need to rest to get ready for the next week to start...twenty years of this takes a toll...where are the union dudes who are in agreement with Albert and say the ideas IOPS represents...are they talking about Practical Utopia to there members...do thry buy vopies and leave them on tables for members to stumble acrosss...are pamplets like the Commons Transition Plan made available to workers...

      I don't fucking know do I...but how practical is Practical Utopia in comparison to FLOK or the NSP's attempts at pragmatic moves in the now?

      Anyone ekse want to discuss this shit with me or should I just join some small invisible group like OFS and disappear from the world or write endless bullshit about what tye "Left" should be...essays that are read by hardly anyway inside the choir let alone outside it...

      Why are not more people actually duscussing this book and whatever other ideas they have, here if they actually think this place, which is nothing more than a website really, one that offers reasonable space to offload thoughts, is worthwhile maintaining.

      What's the point of the language faculty...really...internal language only?

    • Bat Chainpuller 15th Aug 2017

      Their members...lots of typos

    • Bat Chainpuller 15th Aug 2017

      Read by hardly ANYONE...

      I often hit wring letters next to the ones I should be hitting because I type with one finger on an iPad...sirry!

    • Lambert Meertens 17th Aug 2017

      Interesting indeed. Ample food for thought about the tension between State-sponsored top-down imposition of social change versus grassroots initiatives.

      I was not aware of this link between the Ecuadorian “citizen revolution” and Michel Bauwens. Much as I love free, libre, and open knowledge, I am not convinced of its importance in the context of transition strategies. The knowledge sector of the total economy is smaller than the service sector even in the US and the EU, and much smaller if you look at the number of workers. I am sure that also in Ecuador it is dwarved by the service sector. The total economic impact of any transition confined to this sector will not be overwhelming.

      Even the most rational and best informed human beings cannot sharply foresee the consequences of their actions, and even less so the consequences of mass action in which they participate. In the end, not only do you need a utopia as a guiding light, but also a leap of faith and of trust in the people who struggle by your side. I don’t see that the “practicality” of the utopia is a major issue for that, as long as it is both inspiring and believable. I think the word “practical” in the title reflects more the idea of a practically reachable utopia.

      As I’ve argued before, to get out of the mess the world is in we need a global mass movement. I consider all issues, be they pragmatic or strategic, the NSP’s attempts at “pragmatic moves in the now” or Albert’s book, in light of the question whether it will help to build one. I’ll be happy to work side by side with p2p’ers, pareconistas, whoever, as long as we agree that we aim for a world in which care for each other guides the collective decisions.


      “Why are not more people actually discussing this book and whatever other ideas they have, here if they actually think this place, which is nothing more than a website really, one that offers reasonable space to offload thoughts, is worthwhile maintaining.”

      I wish I knew the answer to that question. Do you by any chance hear a fat lady sing?

    • Bat Chainpuller 17th Aug 2017

      Fat ladies all over the place! It s hard not to be overtaken by Zapparian cynicism re human nature at times...that is the argument as to the most abundant element in the universe...hydrogen or stupidity? Once this place dies I'll just disappear into the ether along with it. No doubt much to the relief of Albert and no doubt others.

      I try to wean off this stuff but it is hard to do. When you read so much shite you need to talk about it in order to really digest it and understand it. I don't much care if 90% of what I say is crap, I need an outlet and in amongst the shit may be something of value...I always thought that discussion is an on going process, one that morphs according to whichever way the wind blows for whoever is involved at anytime...a jump in approach...go hard, go soft, be stupid, be clever, get confused, ask dumb questions, get whacked over the head, spell poorly, think poorly, think purely, piss people off, fuck...

      There are so majy groups starting up constantly, so many ideas, transition plans etc., all from very concerned smart people...I have no idea who or what to believe half the time...but I do know "Left" activists write a lot of stuff...a lot of stuff! I know many are actively involved in stuff...doing stuff...good stuff. I know there is a split between doing and say web presence...I know there are calls for a mass movement and George Lakey has been arrested a lot...

      "But I think only a relatively small number of intellectuals needs to have an oversight over the diverse theories of change. Instead, we need informed opinion leaders who people can trust."

      Think you are right here, if I have understood you correctly Lambert...where are they all? Do they talk to one another, which they could have done here by the way (but what a silly idea that is...part of the 90% of crap notions I come up with)?

      Sometimes I think activism or radicalism is no different to a career...a place you eventualiy find in which you become comfortable and which accomodates your interests and social concern...no different to anything else really, like being a plumber perhaps...then you just do what you do.

      I always thought this place was to be a coming together of many diverse radical minds in some sort of symbiotic relationship in order to facilitate an international movement...I never at any timed thought physical chapters were going to really work or happen and be the driving force of it...even the Wobblies couldn't get one big union up for that long and they at least were all drawn from a similar working class background. I always thought this place would be slow going but I did think I would see a more diversely experienced presence of radicals publishing shit and discussing shit here...helping people in informal ways as much as formal...allowing the presence of irrationality to be informed by rationality or perhaps even vice versa.

      I still think of those testimonials, in particular Cynthia Peters, and lament...leads me to feel that calls for any kind of bloc or mass movement are just empty words spoken or written from the comfortable separate disconnected offices/environs of those who have built their lives around activism yet cannnot do themselves what they want people like me to do. Or perhaps they have no idea at all...

      That's how I read your quote. If these people are so experienced in organising and have so much knowledge along with connections, then show the way to all us "ordinaries"...that should not undermine participation as long as there are means or mechanism for punters to participate.

      At least we're talking to one another Lambert and from some distance across land and sea.

    • Bat Chainpuller 18th Aug 2017

      Bauwens does admit to this however...

      "However, such changes at the level of the micro-economy would not survive a hostile capitalist market and state without necessary changes at the macro-economic level; hence the need for transition proposals, carried by a resurgent social movement that embraces the new value creation through the commons, and becomes the popular and political expression of the emerging social class of peer producers and commoners - allied with the forces representing both waged and cooperative labor, independent commons-friendly entrepreneurs, and agricultural and service workers."

      Although the document gets pretty heady and intellectual...I cant see many outside the choir sticking with it for long or not even understanding it!

    • Lambert Meertens 18th Aug 2017

      You may be interested in this keynote address by Heather Marsh at RMLL 2017:


      You can find a transcript here:


    • Bat Chainpuller 18th Aug 2017

      Yeah, was interesting. These p2p people sure think a little differently than others when it comes to web presence. Will have to read it again I reckon. What are your thoughts on it? How do youunderstand what she is saying?

    • Lambert Meertens 31st Aug 2017

      Her message about what is important for the success of mass movements meshes perfectly with the ideas I’ve developed in the past few years. If enough people believe that another world is possible and reachable, then it will be reached. That is the key issue, that people believe this. All the other stuff is secondary. I’ve expressed this idea before by saying, I may be a dreamer, but I believe in the power of dreams. I believe that by dreaming we can dream a new world into existence – if only we dream together. If only enough people believe in it.

      So I find it encouraging that Heather Marsh is saying essentially the same. And she is clearly not dumb. I wish though I could have the same certainty as she seems to have. Yes, I believe what I said, but nevertheless, I’m not sure I’m right.

      What I also find encouraging is that (if she is right) the mass movement needs no leaders who give marching orders. I also wrote about that, just I week after I joined. Of course, someone has to take the first step, and some people have a deserved moral authority, but that is not what I mean by “leader” in this context. What is needed is a decentralized communication network like I mentioned above, of people everywhere constantly exchanging ideas and opinions. In fact, doing some Googling on that was what led me to this talk by Heather Marsh, who I had not heard of before.

      I have not fully absorbed the more information-technological aspects of the project she proposes. She has obviously given it quite some thought, and it sounds basically sane and sound to me, but can we realize it in such a way that it does not widen existing gaps in information savviness?

      Mr. Bat, you have not reacted to my request above to let me know what you think of my little document entitled “Our Movement”. I’d honestly appreciate your critical reaction.

    • Bat Chainpuller 31st Aug 2017

      Sorry Sir Meertens, I forgot about that. Will read again and check back, but your links sent me off in the Marsh direction and Peter Lach sent me off towards Biehl/Bookchin bio...

      The thing about "leaders" is confusing. I still believe in some sense that to achieve a mass movement moves need to be taken by those who are seen as leaders or at least people others look to, like a Chomsky for instance. Marsh is one of those in a sense. Bauwens, Siefkes and the NSP etc....

      When others outside the choir see "no way forward", I'm not even sure they know what they mean by that. But nevertheless and regardless of what they thnk they may mean by it, there is nowhere for them to go to find out...

      Marsh's Binding Chaos is good...and syevis quite assertive which I enjoy...but it is a lot to absorb and think about...but wat she and other p2pers bring is a trust in the internet and it is needed...the old school left had its time and those ways are definitely needed, but the net is essential...we can't be waiting for anarchists to be exiled and for their ship to dock in our country to spread the word....

      But I am starting to see the importance of self organisation, however I am still of the thought that groups like the NSP, along with well known left writers and thinkers, have to be more proactive in "getting" together, in the way that Paul Street suggested...don't just write about it, do it, and "lead" the way as "expert elites" in radicalism with connections, and start user groups and build knowledge bridges and epistemic communities, so when my brother in law says there is no way forward, or my "boss", a friend since I was twelve, looks at me with blankness as I rant on about the need for systemic change, I can point to something real and worthy...a book or essay isn't good enough...

    • Bat Chainpuller 23rd Sep 2017


      Sorry for the late response Lambert. I respect that you think my thoughts are worthy.

      I have read it all at least twice, but I do forget stuff and sometimes just run with my thoughts without checking back on detail. Sorry if it's all just mouthy of the point shit.

      As a general outline of a movement I think it is good. There can be a tendency in these things to come across a little "wet" or romantic/idealistic themselves. I see it as much like this place anyway, but without so much of the detail.

      As I read Lambert, I find myself reluctant to say anything. My run in with Albert has kind of taken any wind that was there out of my sails. As I say to Jason often, all I've got is Parecon. Why? Because, as I have read and read on vision, and I've read a fucking lot, I find myself more and more realising there really isn't one. People keep, even now, calling for real alternative vision, but never never ever ever presenting one or working on one themselves as if perpetually waiting for one to materialise. Parecon, as far as I can tell is it. Everything else is either some hodge podge of stuff, some old anarchist shit going back centuries, unfinished and somewhat open ended or some kind of mix based on democratic workplace arrangements and community "economics" (which are ideas that have been around for centuries, and is an aspect of but not really a general economy) existing inside an economy that remains devoted to markets (one of the real and present dangers of this present economy) or that tries to tie them down (markets that is), the bad bits, so they don't get out of hand without realising markets are essentially anti-social to begin with. But I see this as a continued fear of defining minimally and maximally, a new set of institutions due to held irrational beliefs about "blueprints" (and their connection with authoritarianism), of which there are very very few if any at all and a complete misunderstanding of how ideas arise and spread. The notion that something can unfold out of present practical moves, such as described by Alperovitz constantly and the "anti-blueprint" solidarity economics movement, through everybody's input or collective action, in my opinion is so ridiculously misguided, it's almost beyond belief. You may get pockets of economic happiness here and there but that ain't an new economy, nor are they collectively nor will you find among the adherents, necessarily, unified and coherent viewpoints as to where what they are all doing will lead. Mainly because they don't have a clue, other than some vague notion of betterness.

      Bookchin was of this belief in that he didn't present an economic alternative to capitalism, which he saw as the real institutional oppressor, but offered up an alternative polity instead, leaving the economy alone. A mistake. And his Institute of Social Ecology fell incredibly short, and even it was not product of a mass movement heading in some common direction, but rather a relatively small bunch of ideologically similar thinking and committed people wanting to live a certain way. And even they couldn't always hold shit together, nor totally agree, nor so many of the other groups Bookchin became involved with...

      One reason, there was no economic vision at all, Bookchin's was mainly a polity coupled with a kind of lifestyle and moralism. He thought participatory democracy could fix it. They had no idea how to deal with markets at all. Never thought about the wider economy (funnily enough, Bookchin's earlier mentor Joseph Weber, I think that was his name, did think structurally about the economy and tried to get Bookchin to do boring research, in the 50s, re current economic production that bored Bookchin who felt Weber was on the wrong track) and its oppressive nature that would work to undermine any change in polity for the better, because, as Albert points out, the spheres have to work together to be stabile. If one gets out of kilter, then it either forces the other spheres to move in its direction or more likely, the other three spheres, in particular the economic one, will force the one that's changed somewhat to shift back. Sorry for the long-windedness but you know me by now. Hope this labyrinth of shite is understandable.

      Your outline of a movement reminds me of Albert's bloc, that is if I even understand Albert's bloc...is it an actual movement or some kind of description, recognition or understanding among likeminded activists, of some kind of unity without being an actual movement, you know, with a website and stuff like the NSP, with some sort of structure. I essentially agree with what you write but am now of the belief that without serious representation from what Paul Street may call hard left leadership, any mass movement, movement of movements or bloc will never ever happen and I am uncertain whether Heather Marsh's ideas could result in such a thing...it is too open in an improvisatory way, a way I believe NOT conducive to unity of collective action or likely to deliver or close in on some kind of real workable economic alternative...more likely to end up in mess. That's ok for music creation but not for creation a society of billions of people trying to get shit right.

      I agree with inclusiveness, but I also am of the belief now that pluralism and diversity is having an adverse effect on any real chance for unity. I do not believe or am unconvinced that there are many alternatives for a new economy that delivers on the sorts of values IOPS champions. I think there is likely to be perhaps a few ways or even only one way to arrange a new economy that fosters and MAINTAINS these values. But even if I am wrong, the point is not that say Parecon is it, the point is Parecon, so far, in my opinion, is the only revolutionary visionary economy existing that outlines, as much as it can without overstepping, new institutional structure, without being open ended, vague, or unfinished and is definitive regarding markets, not wishy washy. The latter kinds, do not in my opinion, build confidence in the possibility of an alternative but rather the opposite...they create confusion and uncertainty, a lack of confidence in those outside the choir. They have no idea who or what to believe. In this regard, the NSP is doing a disservice in the name of pluralism and diversity and, I'll say this controversially, it empowers those doing the pluralist and diverse economic advocating, who could be counted as belonging to a new-kind-of-left-sort-of-conservative-kind-of-middle-of-the-road coordinator class, dressed in nice pleated pants with tucked in shirts. The well mannered polite revolutionary. And by the way, most of these "visions" are not thought up by hundreds, thousands, or millions of people together, collectively, but one or two researchers who think about shit, write it down, andvpresent it to others and which may get published, somewhere by someone, as a nook or small pamphlet.

      For me, and I could be wrong because I am a deluded twit, who thinks fucked up thoughts and plays fucked up music, without a complete, coherent, cogent and clear economic vision (the other spheres of culture and kinship are too amorphous for such things in my opinion, so it is ridiculous to wait for such to be constructed) the revolutionary left will remain, in the eyes of those outside the choir, pathetic and a bunch of disconnected rogues.

      Having said that, I think sectarianism is alive and well and that, what I call the nitty gritty, those aspects of humans one finds deep within the entangled threads of our psyches, will always get in the way of building these perfect movements full of these almost perfect-always-learning-rationally-and-reasonably-and-improving-ourselves people, that Albert describes, that make up his bloc or RPS. This is a flaw of the rationalist, like Chomsky and Albert, in my opinion (depressing aren't I?). Bertrand Russell pointed to the irrational as a quality that cannot be reined in. No matter how smart some of us are, no matter how most admire the exceptionally talented few, the romantic, the sentimental, the emotional more often than not, overrides the supposed rational and, I'll say this controversially, possibly due to an innate limitation of the language faculty to deal with or reconcile the non-linear nature of thought/dreams/emotions with the linear nature of the externalisation of language, which then has to be reinterpreted by a listener, makes for really fucked up communication. That's just my theory. I've actually emailed Chomsky on this and haven't received any reply that confirms my idiocy. But he may have just been being nice or I may have even misunderstood him. See, I constantly doubt myself and always will.

      For me the IOPS website could quite easily be a site to help build what you describe. That was its original intention, but due to a failure to achieve a set of goals, and a few arguments, it seems what you are meant to do is jump off and go somewhere else but not really to do something completely different, no, to do the pretty much the same fucking thing. And further, most of the hard left leadership who testified for the need for something like IOPS, never even showed up for the party. What does that tell you? I suppose, just move on, and keep on keeping on, and stop being depressing or venting publicly, as Albert would say. Keep on truckin' like Wile E Coyote...same salad different salad dressing.

      Is all this merely public venting. Ben says I'm angry, so maybe that's all it is. So be it.

      And what is most frustrating is that the hard left leadership keep saying we need a mass movement or some form of eco-socialism (which is completely and utterly meaningless to most with lefty leanings outside the choir...completely useless) as if they expect all those on the periphery, or minor activist players, and normals, some with little or no organising or going-to-meeting experience (old school leftism) to achieve the impossible. And i have reached the point where I hate that phrase, "to achieve the impossible". And I hate all the left cliches that keep being pulled out and I hate essays written by experienced activists, say from Germany, but it matters not where they are from, who say we need to build unity, to all get along, to set our differences aside, to work together, to build places where "we" can come together, coffee houses and the like, lefty communities, to talk, build friendships and solidarity, but without being wishy washy in our demands etc etc etc, blah, blah, blah..... Doesn't work when it comes to mass movements. Never has and never will. Good for small issues and local fights but not much else. Like I wonder how the London IOPS chapter who split from the international, is going. Gangbusters no doubt!

      We need coherent clear complete and cogently delivered vision and we need all the hard left leadership to use their experience, networks and organising skill to build the beginnings of a truly mass movement, a bloc, something much much more than some tiny and unlikely-to-succeed-in-the-long-run discussion group in Michigan as Vincent Immanuel told me he is doing.

      It Reminds me of Albert bemoaning all those leaving a Chomsky talk going home yet doing nothing towards achieving a better world even though they agreed with everything he said. Well, it's probably because he didn't deliver on vision at all. Probably said something like it's all up to you as if everyone knew each other and should get together to change everything...as if they all know how to do that and if not, should learn...as if they have plenty of time to do so...as if they all would naturally agree with everyone else on direction...as if they were all anti-capitalists...as if they were all anti-market...as if hierarchical divisions can be easily overcome...as if they were all equally confident in their intellectual abilities...as if the nitty gritty could easily be set aside in favour of a rational and reasonable approach (see every community meeting there ever was re some problem to be solved!). See, Chomsky may point to Parecon here and there at times, briefly, or the NSP, here and there, but rarely testifies to the necessity of a coherent, cogent, clear and complete alternative economic vision, mainly due to some hold to old anarchist principles which says we all must decide or be involved in deciding, but the truth is, most of us would not have the slightest clue where to start, so need the Alberts and Hahnels of the world to get the ball rolling. That is why Parecon is of the most importance. It is what it purports to be, regardless of whether important people like Alperovitz, who others listen to (and it is not for him to decide alone, nor even his colleagues at the Democracy Collaborative), think it feasible, while many other "visions" are not really that, let alone complete or revolutionary.

      No, we need to bite the bullet, collapse the visionary wave function, promote actual revolutionary economic alternatives, like Parecon, regularly and fearlessly (something Richard Smith needs to do when he suggests we need a planned economy and not sit on the fence and remain mute in this regard when there is Parecon staring him in his face, already worked out...it's the starting point), regardless of whether one totally agrees with it and do it with real force and definitiveness. A website is completely necessary and it has to have an open participatory forum capacity. If Parecon isn't the vision, it will come out in the wash and other visions, less complete, may be completed and preferred, through hardcore debate and discussion among those with the skills to do so, which will be put out there transparently, maybe in ways like Heather Marsh describes, for every and anyone to peruse, be involved in if they wish, and decide on. But a project like the NSP, while on the right track, falls short. And the plethora of economic ideas under the misleading guise they are all "visions", is completely unhelpful. My fucking brother in law is not going to read them all or even one, nor listen to me fumble my way through trying yo explain them all, or even one, which I cannot do anyway. It's fucking impossible, which leaves people like Alperovitz and those from all these institutes and the Democracy Collaborative, writing all these "working papers" standing on the coordinator podium. To me, it is a wrong direction based on a misguided pluralist liberal ideology.

      I will stop here Lambert. If I am off topic, I apologise, but I am open to being pulled back onto it and for this pile of personal poot to prod a conversation of sorts or be torn to shreds.

      But it is honest, however I am losing interest in pretty much anything out there now yet I do try, as much as I can, within the limits of my fucked up psyche genetically determined, to remain interested or involved in some remote capacity.

      Long live the whatever it is!

    • Bat Chainpuller 20th Aug 2017

      I've started reading her book Binding Chaos...she's pretty definitive in her views! She takes no prisoners it seems.

  • Sarah Owens 14th Aug 2017

    By way of news, Robin Hahnel's coming to Willamette University for a semester, maybe two.