On May 3, I gave this as Keynote Conversation at York University in Toronto http://ppw.info.yorku.ca
Acting Up, Not Out: Facing the Perils and Possibilities of Radical Practice
Kieran Allen, Chair, Co-Animators: Ifrah Ali, John Clarke, Sandy Hudson, David McNally, Petra Molnar, Justin Podur, and Sheila Regehr
RADICAL QUESTIONS FOR A RADICAL MOVEMENT PRACTICE TODAY
1. What can we learn from the history of radical movements, and where do we fit into this history?
2. What constitutes a Radical Practice for us today?
3. Who are we up against, and how do we face the implications of their assumptions and goals?
4. How do we respond to internal disagreements within our movements and still Keep on Keeping on?
5. How can we continue to move and act with radical vision and skills — in the face of these Very Bad times with all their accompanying pressures to settle for “realistic” options?
6. What are Some Radical Specifics for Radical Policy Changes? —–A Working List: Modify and Add to it…
See Ann’s website for more context https://radicalreentry.com
QUESTION ONE: What can we learn from the history of radical movements, and where do we fit into this history?
• We can’t learn without history, AND we must not romanticize it. We do so with real stories, with real people in them. Remember those times when identification with “The Movement” brought out the best in us.
• The Abolitionist Movement was the “touchstone movement” that set the model of bedrock commitment to radical equality. At its best, it exposed white supremacy as profoundly toxic –even if most white Americans didn’t all learn this lesson deeply enough.
• The Abolitionist Movement was inspired and led by people who experienced slavery personally, and who taught others to engage in “the movement” in myriad ways, setting an example for broad-based movements that has not been equaled.
QUESTION TWO: What constitutes Radical Practice for us today
• What is radically wrong must be examined carefully, and collective means for achieving change must be presented openly, without downplaying costs, or denying consequences. Otherwise our Movement should not be trusted.
• Inclusiveness and Openness about methods and standards for Radical Movement Practice are essential, as is a self-aware, committed base. Written expectations are good: “What is to Be Done and How do we know we are doing it?” — but folks must avoid danger of “the form remaining while the spirit passes away.”
• Assumptions of Radical Reformism (Gorz) are essential — failures MUST suggest the next radical change — not de-legitimate radical goals, even as they are subject to constant self-criticism
QUESTION THREE Who and What are we up against? and how do we face the implications of their assumptions and goals?
• The Opposition is composed of real people with fundamentally reactionary values and goals. Acknowledge, don’t dismiss, nor demean their commitment and the seriousness of their cause. Read their literature. Be prepared to expose the dangers, without fear of being “rigid.”
• Trump is NOT a joke, neither are his sycophants, followers and enablers — they knowingly hurt real people every day, and frighten those already in jeopardy.
• We cannot see individual Right-wingers as just “mistaken” or “misled”. Until they publicly apologize, it’s not worth the effort to try to change closed minds. BUT, we must gather evidence and prepare sharp counter arguments.
• White Supremacy blocks people from considering other explanations for what hurts them. We cannot forget this, and must figure out how to talk about and fight it everywhere, all the time
QUESTION FOUR; How do we respond to internal disagreements within our movements and still Keep on Keeping on?
• Don’t deny our disagreements. They are reasonable and should be examined — even if they finally lead to rearrangement of relationships. We can disagree respectfully and part without acrimony or making all “choose sides.”
• Constantly seek new alliances, and forge collaborative relationships, built on explorations of differences and openness about past tensions. The message: we don’t all have to agree but we can’t deny the implications of our arguments
• Remind ourselves of original goals, and specifically ask ourselves if they need rethinking — because of changing circumstances and new members. Anticipate internal change.
QUESTION FIVE: Nothing to IT, but to Do it — How do we continue to move and act with radical vision and skills — in the face of these Very Bad times, with all their accompanying pressures to settle for “realistic” options?
• Know what has changed. Don’t be fooled — keep seeking a wider net of potential comrades. Get to know each other as fellow human beings.
• Assume that leadership and demographics of power within our movement will, and MUST change over time. White people, especially men, must stand aside and assume supporting roles. LBGT presence is a Positive asset, as it lots of variety of cultural inclusion. Accept that this is not temporary, and is substantively essential. Respect and early questioning of past assumptions are our only hope.
• Keep track of ourselves, our tensions, our changes. Create the primary material for future history. Keep on Keeping On
RADICAL POLICY GOALS: Radical SPECIFICS
Don’t shy away from proposing because they seem “impossible;” or it is not clear how to fund them. Of course, we will need more Public money — So What? AND be open for Critical Questioning from within. KEEP CORRECTING, AND ADDING TO THE LIST, BUT STAY THINKING BIG
- Universal non-categorical Basic Income for All
- Free Higher Education and a Student Loan Debt Jubilee
- National Service for All — beyond military service, all non-profit community, educational and social service — with equivalent national benefits for two years before or after high school equivalency
- Health Care for All — keep expanding the vision of “public”, and lowering regard for “private”
- Open Immigration — why boundaries?
- End Mass Incarceration, the criminalization of poverty and the Prison Industrial Complex
- End Disability exceptionalism which relegates people with disabilities to a side issue
- Gender Parity in leadership — Exceptions are not Allowed, otherwise we never get there
- Universal environmental protections
Freedom is always, and exclusively, freedom for the ones who think differently.”―Rosa Luxemburg
“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”
― Raymond Williams
“Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth.
And that is not speaking.”— Audre Lorde
One thought on “Acting Up, Not Out”
Thoughtful, important questions that you posed.