RevolutionZ

Ep 262 DeGrowth and Building A Movement of Movements

December 30, 2023 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 262
RevolutionZ
Ep 262 DeGrowth and Building A Movement of Movements
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ep 262 of RevolutionZ argues the the potential of the 20 Theses for Liberation project to inspire and sustain  a movement of movements by examining its relevance for Degrowth and vice versa as a generalizable case study. 

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Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast that's titled Revolution Z. This is our 260 second consecutive episode, and the title for today is Degrowth and More for Liberation Part 1. Last episode, alexandria O'Shainer and I did an audio and video version. This episode is just me and just audio, still getting used to the video aspect, and it isn't working at the moment. Wherever you might be, can I suggest that you visit Znet, znetworkorg, and then the archive page linked from there. The prior episodes are all available and the great majority are not time bound, but instead they're still relevant. You may find others to listen to. Also, once on Patreon, you can donate to help out the project, and another way to do that is to make it known to others. You remember the query Tree Falls in a Forest? Does it make a sound? Well, of course it does, depending on what we mean by a sound. So, if an episode of Revolution Z is online, does it have any impact? Well, not if no one knows it. Is there? Not if no one accesses it. So another way you can help is to make known the podcast and its characteristics to your friends and contacts, people you work with, people you organize with. Okay, that stuff said, let's get on with this episode.

Speaker 1:

Degrowth and more for Liberation Part 1. We who desire a better world act within countless organizations, projects, campaigns and movements, each siloed from and often even competing with the rest. Unless this immense array of actors achieves substantial overlapping unity, it will rarely win even partial victories, much less a new world. In place of thousands of activist entities, each with its own largely isolated banner and agenda, we should have one big movement of movements within which each member retains its own agenda and banner, but all members together have one big encompassing agenda and one big overarching banner wherein each component aids the rest and the rest aids, each Facing the need for this kind of mutual aid and joint activity. Six host organizations and about 300 individuals and four individual organizations have so far cosigned the 20 Theses for Liberation, which is at the site for Liberationorg. Each signer hopes the 20 Theses can help unite an international movement of movements. Are the host organizations and signers delusional dreamers, or do the 20 Theses propose good enough vision and strategy to elicit a conversation among countless projects, movements and organizations? Should you laugh at the author's naivete hoping for such a conversation, or should you sign on to try to take part in and promote such a conversation.

Speaker 1:

A recent article I read pointed out that just the US has nearly 30,000 environmental groups. Can you imagine that 30,000, and how many are linked with learning from aiding, turning out in support of the rest? Add to those 30,000 environmental groups labor, economic, feminist, gender, internationalist, anti-war, cultural, anti-racist, electoral and judicial social change groups, and we clearly have a truly vast mosaic of activist intent at work, even in any one country, much less worldwide. But don't we all know that when each component fails to aid the rest, the mosaic becomes loose strands? Without cohesion, the strands flap this way, and that the mosaic loses when it could win? Why can't we all find a way to have our energies augment one another rather than existing mainly in parallel and often even at odds with one another? There are many reasons Actual, serious disagreement, different priorities, different methods. More so again, are the 20 theses signers delusional to think proposals for shared vision and strategy could propel and even provide means for most of our multitudinous strands to each help and be helped by the rest? Is this dream time-worn and naive? Or is this dream a dream whose time has come? I doubt.

Speaker 1:

Many who have signed the 20 theses for liberation carefully thought through the above question for all different advocacy and activist efforts, or even for just those of any one kind of effort, like, say, environmental, or even for just one large existing and growing approach within one focus, like, say, for degrowth within environmental. Instead, I bet current signers have thought that if we can't develop sufficient unity to become more than so many separate parts, we will remain too atomized to win much. I bet current signers have thought, therefore, that we have no choice. We can't let this hope be mere delusion. Would we have signed if we had instead asked if unity is actually attainable? If we had asked can 20 proposed theses about vision and strategy provoke a cross-border, cross-issue conversation sufficient to sustain a massive movement of movements? Do non-signers not sign due to answering that question? No, if developing greater activist unity is pivotal, doesn't it make sense to spend some time on assessing the prospects of answering that question? Yes, degrowth is a rapidly growing international environmental orientation with diverse tendencies.

Speaker 1:

Is there any reason to think to use degrowth just as a case study that the 20 theses can fruitfully engage even just degrowth? Much less fruitfully engage every approach we might consider Much less help get them all to converse not just separately but with one another to pursue growing unity. Imagine a giant meeting venues. Can we get most of the activist efforts around the world dealing with any topic into it To think through means of being mutually supportive, and can a conversation about sharing a vision and strategy help with that? Can we even get just all who deal with ecological concerns in there? How about just those who align with what they call degrowth? Let's consider engaging with degrowth in the hope that if the 20 theses could inspire degrowth, it might also inspire other approaches as well. So imagine you could meet for an extended informal conversation with one degrowth advocate after another from Europe, the US, South America, africa and Asia. What common aspirations that would recur so persistently in such conversations, such that you could justifiably deem them significant parts of degrowth.

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Our question becomes can the 20 theses speak to those common degrowth aspirations? For that matter, can the 20 theses do likewise for solidarity, economy, for feminism, internationalism, for ecology, equity and so much more? It is an undeniably tall order. At its root, degrowth asserts that society's well-being and even its survival requires that we aggressively solve global climate, resource depletion, water shortage and even broader unsustainability crises. But while degrowth began ecologically focused, and despite degrowth being known mostly for that ecological focus.

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Wooden conversations with its advocates reveal much broader commonality. For example, don't degrowthers reject inequitable differences in income and wealth within and also between countries? More, don't degrowthers reject working people's near total lack of control over the circumstances of their lives and beyond economy? Don't degrowthers also typically reject sex, gender, religious, ethnic, racial and political hierarchies? Put more positively, don't degrowthers celebrate mutual respect and material and qualitative fulfillment for all? Doesn't degrowth want all facets of life to generate just circumstances, human solidarity and material equity? Don't degrowth abhor all things that aggrandize a few owners over many workers, north over south, white over black and male over female?

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Assuming the answer would turn out to be yes for all those questions, some other questions arise about degrowth as about all other movement efforts. First, what vision for society's institutions would fully jettison what degrowth rejects and permanently elevate what degrowth advocates? Second, by what strategic steps might we attain such new institutions? And third, and particularly for our purposes here, if sufficiently propelled and augmented, could the 20 theses for liberation provide useful motivation for degrowth and, by extension, for other social change efforts, to converse deeply about these matters among themselves and also with projects and movements that have other primary social change focuses? Could the 20 theses usefully unify actors to favor institutions with intrinsic features that don't allow for, and that even make nonsensical, continued injustices?

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As an indicative case to consider, degrowth wants economic activity and social practices to end global climate and other ecological crises forever into the future. For this systemic correction, degrowth, to my reading, favors that new economic institutions should account for ecological costs so as to eliminate the corporate drive to accumulate without regard for ecological and social consequences. Degrowth says we must not have disconnected competitive actors who each seek their own advance without concern for impacts on others. We shouldn't have a system that ignores how exchanges affect those not directly engaged in the exchange. We shouldn't have a system that ignores those who breathe the pollution that cars or workplaces generate, but who neither bought nor sold the cars or had a say in the workplace's decisions. We therefore shouldn't have markets that orient buyers and sellers to ignore ecological and even most social implications of their production and consumption. Again, in my reading, degrowth also rejects inequitable differences in income and wealth. It desires for our actors appropriate decision making influence, equitable incomes and proper awareness of the ecological and social costs of economic choices.

Speaker 1:

The 20 Theses propose that future economies should ensure that no individuals or classes dominate others and that all economic actors are able to fully participate in determining their own economic lives. The 20 Theses urge that future economies should structurally preclude anyone owning natural resources and factories, so that such ownership plays no role in hugely elevating owners' decision making influence and owners' share of income at the expense of non-owners. The 20 Theses urge that workplaces, resources, ideas and technology should become part of a productive commons that all can benefit from. Individuals should not own the sky, oceans, forests, resources, knowledge or technologies. The ongoing benefits of nature and of past human innovation should be collectively enjoyed More.

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To attain appropriate participation by all within and between countries as degrowth, labor, economic, feminist, gender, internationalist, anti-war, cultural, anti-racist, electoral and judicial social change groups and more certainly desire, the 20 Theses propose that new economic institutions should ensure that all workers and consumers should, to the extent possible, have a say in decisions proportionate to effects on them. The 20 Theses call this collective self-management. And the Theses propose that to attain such self-management will in turn entail that new economic institutions have venues for deliberation, including worker and consumers councils or assemblies, and that to have appropriate say, people not only need free space to congregate, but also need accurate information to assess and personal preparedness and means by which to pursue their desires. Likewise, the 20 Theses propose that, to ensure that self-management is well informed and carefully enacted, a worthy economy should eliminate corporate divisions of labor that give a domineering one-fifth of employees empowering tasks, while relegating to a subordinate four-fifths of employees mainly rote, repetitive and obedient tasks that make them ill-equipped to participate in effective decision-making. To facilitate informed and confident participation from all employees, the 20 Theses propose that economies should not only no longer have owners above all other employees, but should also end class division based on differential empowerment, wherein empowered employees rule over about four times as many disempowered employees. And to that end, the 20 Theses propose that economic institutions should ensure that each worker enjoys a comparable share of empowering tasks via new designs of work that convey to all workers sufficient confidence, skills, information and access to participate effectively in informed, self-managed decision-making, with no group systematically subordinate to the rest. The 20 Theses call this new division of labor balanced jobs.

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So is it reasonable or delusional to think a conversation about the 20 Theses could further degrowth aspirations and simultaneously further solidarity, feminist, anti-racist and more aspirations for the economy? Put differently, is it plausible that the 20 Theses for liberation could help inspire and aid a degrowth discussion of its theses to augment, refine, improve and help share degrowth insights and those of the 20 Theses so as to sustain a movement of movements. So far, perhaps, it is plausible, but what about access to goods and services? The kind of material equity degrowth seeks will require economic institutions that ensure that workers who do socially valued labor longer or harder or under more onerous conditions earn a proportionately greater share of the social product than those who choose to work less long, less hard or under better conditions. Degrowth desires for equitable income for all also entail that no one earns for property, for bargaining power or for the value of their personal output, and that all who are unable to work nonetheless receive society's average income and that, of course, everyone receives many services and products free, including, for example, medical care, daycare, transportation and education. The 20 Theses call these aims equitable remuneration. Once refined by future experience, the 20 Theses suggest that this equitable remuneration would transcend deprivations that degrowth rejects and implement equity that degrowth seeks.

Speaker 1:

The 20 Theses also propose that economic relations should avoid both market competition and authoritarian planning, since each of these produce oppressive class rule, inhumane alienation and suicidal ecological degradation, which failings, degrowth and indeed virtually all left activism rejects. So the 20 Theses urge a conversation about how economic relations should seek ways to conduct decentralized, cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs via workers and consumers' councils and federations of councils. These Theses call that participatory planning and add it to a productive commons, workers and consumers' self-managing councils, balanced jobs and equitable remuneration as tentative proposals to discuss to advance degrowth's highest economic aspirations and, by extension, also the highest economic aspirations of many other projects, organizations and movements. Is that a plausible or a delusional agenda? But degrowth is no more about only economics than it is about only ecology. Just like feminism is not about only gender and kinship, racism is not about only racism and labor is not about only economy. Every main focus of activist attention has aspirations that overlap the rest. Every main focus has an interest in all being able to work together. That is the 20 Theses main message.

Speaker 1:

Returning to our degrowth case study, imagine you interview a few hundred or a few thousand degrowth activists. You find that nearly all reject sex, gender, religious, ethnic and racial hierarchies, as well as political disenfranchisement and authoritarianism. Can we then have a reasonable hope that degrowth adds its voice, desires and capacities to feminists, for example, and anti-racists and anti-tharitarians and anti-colonialists in efforts that the latter propose and propel. Can we then have a reasonable hope that feminists, for example, and anti-racists, anti-tharitarians and anti-colonialists add their voices, desires and capacities in efforts that degrowth proposes and propels? Is this kind of movement of movements, mutual aid, plausible, possible, even essential? What do the 20 Theses say about all that, and could they aid degrowth advocates to pursue a discussion to better specify and enlarge degrowth-shared vision and strategy to fulfill its widest aspirations, and to also work compatibly with, and indeed supportably with, a similarly oriented movement of movements about all those areas of concern?

Speaker 1:

To end denials based on sex, gender identity or age? The 20 theses say new, fundamentally transformed kinship institutions should ensure that no individuals or groups, whether by gender identity, sexual orientation or age, dominate others in income, influence, access to education, job quality or any other dimension of life that bears on quality of life. To attain that aim, the 20 theses propose that future gender and kin institutions should respect marriage and other lasting relations among adults as religious, cultural or social practices, but also reject such ties as ways for sectors of the population to gain financial benefits or social status that others lack. Likewise, both for equity and also for the enrichment of personality and the affirmation that caregiving conveys to those doing the caring. The 20 theses suggest that gender and kin institutions should respect caregiving as a central function of society, including perhaps even making caregiving a part of every citizen's social responsibilities, and in any event should at least ensure equitable burdens and benefits among people of all genders, for all household and child raising practices. To all these ends, the 20 theses say it follows that gender and kin institutions should not privilege certain types of family formation over others, but should instead actively support all types of families that are consistent with the transformed societies of their norms and practices, and to promote children's well-being and affirm society's responsibility for all children.

Speaker 1:

The 20 theses propose that future gender and kin institutions should affirm the right of diverse types of families to have children and provide them with a sense of rootedness and belonging, and also utilize non-arbitrary means to determine when an individual is too old or too young, or otherwise able or not able to receive benefits and shoulder responsibilities. Likewise, to ensure that each person honors the autonomy, humanity and rights of others, the 20 theses propose future gender and kin institutions should centrally affirm diverse expressions of sexual pleasure, personal identity, sexual identity, gender identity and mutual intimacy, while they provide diverse empowering sex education, as well as legal prohibition against non-consensual sex. During all that, we may ask, is it plausible or delusional that the 20 theses could provide a good basis for cross-group and even cross-country discussions of core kinship and gender vision suitable to be shared by a movement of movements? Moving on desires to have racial, ethnic, national and religious relations in accord with predominant degrowth values require that we rectify the negative historical and contemporary impacts of racist, colonial and otherwise bigoted structures and neoliberal policies and practices on countries and communities, especially in the global south. Seeking that, the 20 theses urge that the new participatory cultural institutions should ensure that no individuals or groups, whether by race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion or any other cultural community identification, dominates others, and that future cultural and community institutions should provide space and resources for people to positively express their cultural community identities, however they choose, consistent with the freedom and the dignity of others. The 20 Theses likewise propose that worthy cultural and community relations should explicitly recognize that all people deserve self-management, equity, solidarity and liberty, even while society also protects all people's rights to affiliate freely and enjoy diversity. Also, to end the reality and even the fear of race, caste, religious or national suppression, the 20 Theses propose that worthy cultural and community relations should provide all cultural communities guaranteed access to means to preserve their cultural integrity, without barriers to free exit from all cultural communities, including nations, and without arbitrary non-cultural barriers to free entry. So the question again arises can the 20 Theses proposals regarding cultural community relations become a basis for visionary discussion in tune with a wide range of projects, organizations and movements aspirations on the way toward generating shared vision and strategy able to sustain a movement of movements Continuing?

Speaker 1:

The 20 Theses propose for international relations valuing people in all countries and being in solidarity with their just struggles for decent lives. The Theses propose that no nation or geographic region should be privileged above others and that, until that is achieved, we should move toward that result by working to end the subordination of nations in all its forms, while we also reduce and finally eliminate residual differences in collective wealth. Aren't these proposals for international relations consistent with degrowth aims for equitable international globalization in place of exploitative corporate globalization? For that matter, wouldn't all participants in a movement of movements want to diminish economic disparities in countries, relative wealth, protect cultural and social patterns internal to each country and facilitate international entwinement as people desire, including implementing reparations and international exchange and mutual aid, as well as border redefinitions, with these many ends in mind. And so couldn't the 20 Theses proposals for international relations provide a fruitful starting place for a cross-group and cross-country conversation that seeks shared internationalist vision for a movement of movements?

Speaker 1:

What about polity? The 20 Theses propose that, to eliminate political elitism and domination, new political institutions should establish transparent mechanisms to carry out and evaluate political decisions and to convey to all citizens self-managing political say proportionate to effects on them. The Theses propose that liberatory political institutions should include grassroots assemblies, councils or communes and federations of those by which people can manifest their views. Political institutions should provide advanced public education so people's views are well formed and clearly expressed. Political institutions should provide direct public policy participation or, when that's not possible, recallable representation and delegation that utilizes inclusive voting algorithms. Further, to ensure freedom for each person, consistent with freedom for all people, and to benefit all people, while also protecting and even advancing diversity, the 20 Theses propose that political institutions should guarantee freedom to speak, write, worship, assemble and organize political parties. Similarly, and additionally, to ensure diversity and continuous development, the 20 Theses propose that political institutions should welcome, facilitate and protect dissent, and guarantee to individuals and groups means to pursue their own goals, consistent with not interfering with the same rights for others Regarding violations, to attain justice and promote rehabilitation. The 20 Theses propose political institutions should foster solidarity and provide inclusive means to fairly, peacefully and constructively adjudicate disputes and violations of agreed norms. And so, here again, the question arises isn't all of this properly refined, amended and improved by diverse participants in extended conversation, compatible with degrowth aspirations for a continuing visionary political discussion that seeks a movement of movements, returning to where degrowth began, not only for liberation but literally for human survival?

Speaker 1:

The 20 Theses echo global calls that to have worthy ecological relations will require that societies implement new participatory ecological practices that, first and foremost, guarantee that societies cease and reverse unsustainable resource depletion, environmental degradation, climate change and other ecosystem disrupting trends. To such ends, the 20 Theses propose that new ecological relations should facilitate not only an end to using fossil fuels, but an ecologically sound reconstruction of society that accounts for the full ecological as well as full social and personal costs and benefits of both short and long-term economic and social choices, so that future populations can sensibly decide for themselves the level of production and consumption, preferred duration of work, degrees of collective self-reliance, modes of energy use and harvesting, means of stewardship, pollution norms, climate policies, conservation practices, consumption choices and other future policy choices in light of their full consequences. The 20 Theses additionally propose that new ecological norms and practices should foster a consciousness of ecological connection, responsibility and reciprocity, so that future citizens understand and respect the ecological precautionary principle and are well prepared to decide policies regarding such matters as animal rights or vegetarianism that transcend sustainability. And once again, isn't all this quite consistent with degrowth aspirations? Indeed, wouldn't these proposals provide a good outline for discussing shared vision for a movement of movements, including, in particular, degrowth In sum, for society at large? Don't most, and perhaps even all, advocates of degrowth celebrate mutual respect and qualitative fulfillment and want all dimensions of life to generate human solidarity and mutual aid, and certainly not to aggrandize a few? Doesn't degrowth, in that same degree, typically reject class, gender and political hierarchy and instead desire new economic kinship, cultural, political, international and ecological relations that elevate all citizens to participate constructively in daily life, with appropriate influence and equitable responsibilities and benefits? And as that is all consonant with and basic to the 20 Theses, is it plausible or delusional that the 20 Theses can serve as an outline for further discussion? That degrowth participates in and in turn enriches, as do feminism, solidarity, economy, labor, internationalism and all other potential participants in a flexibly unified movement of movements?

Speaker 1:

One might reply maybe, perhaps. But so what Conversations about such matters have occurred for decades, even for centuries? Why will this time be different? The difference is that this time the goal is not only edifying self or enjoying interesting subject matter with a few others. This time the goal is widespread, ongoing, inclusive and continually updated discussion of vision and strategy by diverse groups, projects and movements, both internally, each among its own members, but also outwardly, across issues, focuses and even countries. This time the goal is discussion with intent, and this time to fail is forbidden. Okay, one might reply. Yes, but hasn't that also been said before? Sure, it has, at least to a degree. But that is not a reason to not continue and greatly enlarge the effort.

Speaker 1:

Now the idea is to generate a degree of unity based on shared core vision and strategy, not only within a focus area and country, but across focus areas and countries. Still, one might ask but how do we make shared vision into shared reality? Won't significant mutual aid-guided collaboration, sufficient for a true movement of movements, require not only steadily enriched shared vision, but also steadily enriched shared strategy? Yes, of course it will. So our examination of the 20 theses must continue on to discuss strategy, and we will do that in part two degrowth and more for liberation, which will be about shared strategy and which will follow.

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Why am I doing this?

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Why have I done a episode on degrowth and the 20 theses?

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Why am I going to do one on degrowth and the 20 theses strategy?

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The answer is, truthfully, because the 20 theses effort has stalled. I think that's my impression, and I want to try and overcome that stalling condition. I want to try and overcome that, or to help overcome that, by making it the case that the 20 theses and it could have been others and it will become others by a long conversation can in fact help to provide diverse movements, an incredible number of diverse movements, efforts and projects the wherewithal and the basis for mutually aiding one another, for acting both individually and also as a whole, for having events, having activities in which each aids the efforts and the agendas of the rest. And because I think that's essential, because I think none of the separate, atomized efforts are big enough and strong enough to win on their own. So I'm doing this, I've done this one episode and I'll do another, even though they repeat material from before, because it seems to me to be essential.

Speaker 1:

For that matter, that's true of all the discussions that I do in these episodes of vision and strategy. Why does it come up every so often Again? It comes up every so often again because it is that important. And that said, this is Mike Albert signing off until next time for Revolution Z.

The Power of Unity
Wooden Conversations, Theses on Degrowth
The 20 Theses and Degrowth Movement
Importance of Degrowth and 20 Theses