60s/grass roots

Fri, 14 Jun 1996 09:57:34 -0400

Re: Ted Morgan's post---
I think Ted raises some interesting points. The problem
w/grass roots movments (ie. militia of 90's) is that, eventually,
they throw out all claims to legitimacy by saying, 'not simply
will we change what we don't like we will destroy everything else
since our superior logic connects everything together; and here
are the dupes, here are the conspirators, here are the intellectual
theories that proves it can be no other way. etc.' At that point
your 'grass roots' wither and die. The old organizer Alinsky
knew this and use to shake his head at the new left. Once a group
says, 'well, liberal democratic technocratic, capitalist society
is a sham, a fabrication so it must be destroyed- and we will
destroy it since we see through its fabrication, its sham.' And you
commit yourself in this fashion you, ipso facto, make about 99.5%
of the people trying to make a living, raise kids, etc. your
enemy. And so your group is marginalized.
The most successful grass roots movement from the 60's was
the environmental one. Even though a good deal of it has
disintegrated the values it wanted embodied in the culture have
taken root. A very signficant portion of the culture will fight
for the environment as against 'corporate greed'- they will do so
very gladly since most of America lives in and among nature- it is
a form very tactile to the lives of people. When the consciousness
of people changed, gee, the marketplace changed. The left is jealous
of success like that but that's because they do not trust the
people themselves. What kind of grass roots movement are you
going to have if you don't trust the people, their judgements,
their dreams, their freedoms? Hm? Why will the experience of
nature change consciousness but all the books by Chomsky change not
a thing except the field wherein he is an expert?
The left was descredited since, after the 60's, it could not
prove to anyone w/experience and knowledge that it knew how to
put anything together and sustain it. My suggestion to left/progressive
types is to dive back down into the real culture, among real men/
women, learn it all over again from top to bottom, view it w/respect
(ah, there is a magical word), and if/when you re-emerge w/great
ideas to change it all for the better I guarantee you will have
an audience. But if you try to patch together some movement from
Marx, Marcuse, Mao etal forget it.
'democracy- equality, empowerment, self-actualization, community
etc' are available on a massive scale in this culture. Most, not all,
people can 'empower' and 'self-actualize' themselves in ways that
are stunning when you compare it w/history. The variety produced
in this culture is overwhelming to a mind alert, alive w/consciousness
of history in it.
The 'technocracy/capitalism' of this culture is one of its
organizing principles. It is certainly subject to and deserving of
critique. But from the point of view of freedom/oppression it is the
best way yet to allow human beings to manifest their potential. If
you want to be a cohert in its advancement the path is set up to
do so. Just as signficantly if you want to go write poetry in
run down rooms next to Columbia University or join communist
cults or live off the land and scorn technology/capitalism you are
free to do it. And if you find a form of self-actualizing superior
to the organizing principle of the culture, viola! A big boon
for everyone who loves life. The people will grasp your boon and
make it their own. Not the bureacratic/academic/statist power
mongers but the people who make the goddamn thing WORK.
I won't even touch the exhausted 'class war' argument- I
think I smell the dead corpse of Mr. Marx. In the late 60's
I met a group of people who fervently believed in the flat earth.
This was around the moon landing. 'The moon landing is a fake!'
That's what they tried convincing me. And, people can gather
around and convince themselves of anything and more power to them.
If they try to make it public policy then they would have a problem.
And I would think the 'class war' that was at the center of the
new left in the 60's is in that class. And substituting blacks
and females for working class didn't work out either.
If Ted is convinced that the system is 'still careening
toward the cliff' please flesh out and articulate what the
cliff is- describe it- make an argument that the sky is falling,
here, in mid-96 in the last years of the 20th c. Certainly,
we know disaster strikes. But where does Ted see it coming from?
Well, I don't want to say the same things over and over again.
Ted mentions the desire for a continuation of the 'pro-democracy
movement of the 60's. Well, you can't be 'pro-democracy' by
pointing to a very little group of people and saying, we are the
real democrats' and then pointing to the vast majority and saying,
'they are the oppressors.' We are leaving the 20th c. not
re-entering it! I hope.
Ted points to things in his last paragraph that need redress.
Every pain and suffering in this culture is translated into
political thought/policy. The real question is what role will
the left play in the redress of problems. If it is not revolution,
then what is it? If it is the establishment of an independent
political party, fine- don't expect great success but have the
strength of conviction to to it. If it is the establishment
of an intellectual cult ferociously hanging onto its world view
then good luck in marginal land. If it is the development of
some rational, conscientious critique that understands the necessity
for technology/capitalism and respects it; a movement able to
communicate w/working people then that is something else.
Good luck

ps. please understand the subtle laughter of the media- it is not
the 60's movement they criticize it is the baby-boomers who carried
these movements in their youth and who have moved into the mainstream.
'So, this is where it all ended up,' the media scoffs. In that sense
the media plays the role of collective conscience and can't be
taken seriously. Chomsky's view of media comes right out of old
Marcuse- that was the attitude that said, 'well, if someone comes
into the college and speaks from a point of view we dislike we
can shout him down' The phrase, 'repressive tolerance' seems
relevent. In the 60's papers, mags, books flourished carrying
the left view- I wrote for a few. There was a market for it!
Again, if the left wants audience they better start competing
for it. Good luck.