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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/26/20

The Staff of Satyagraha: A Movement of Movements

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Satyagraha--Escaping movement silos to gain united POWER
Satyagraha--Escaping movement silos to gain united POWER
(Image by climatejusticeorbust.blog/the-staff-of-satyagraha-a-movement-of-movements/)
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Visionary Radical Realism--NOT Eternal Optimism

With my last piece invoking Gandhi and satyagraha, this series took a frankly visionary turn. A seemingly outlandish turn, perhaps, given its topic: the brass-tacks, workaday problem of how U.S. leftists regain the political leverage surrendered via lesser-of-two-evil (LOTE) voting. Putting things concretely, how the hell do we expect to successfully pressure Joe Biden after voting for him?

Any leftist keenly attuned to recent Democratic Party history should concede that this is a staggeringly difficult question. And to coddle any hope of strategic success, leftists must face it squarely. Best as I can judge from my political reading, watching, and listening, I'm perhaps the only public leftist voice who has.

Given my unflinching realism, I was flabbergasted one commenter under the OpEdNews version of my previous piece accused me of "eternal optimism." Viewing his own obvious stance as a Never Biden leftist, he clearly confused me, in knee-jerk fashion, with the Blue No Matter Who folks he's used to confronting. In my optic, lack of nuance makes for lack of realism--and jerking knees--in both camps. It's natural to respond with sheer reflex when your and your opponents' views are prepackaged and not attuned by deep reflection to intricate present realities. And the last thing you're prepared to recognize and meet on its own terms is visionary radical realism--eternal optimism's almost polar opposite.

So before proceeding with my stated topic here--the movement personnel who'll "staff" the new satyagraha--I must highlight for readers a point that's become crystal clear in writing this series. Namely, my whole detailed project is an exercise in visionary radical realism. All three words in that description are closely interwoven and crucial; together they define a position diametrically at odds with eternal optimism. It would be insanely cockeyed optimism to expect all, or even most, details of my proposals here to be adopted by the movements in question, and perhaps the soberest realism to expect them not to impact the world at all.

So, Antonio Gramsci's brilliant revolutionary dictum "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" must become my personal rallying cry. The Herculean task of leverage under LOTE demands a correspondingly grandiose solution. Proposing a grand, imaginative scheme that's never been tried--and, admittedly, probably never will be--I must brave naysayers' ridicule even to put that scheme on the table, granting it slim hopes of success rather than none.

What makes my grand scheme a target for ready ridicule is precisely biggest merit: that it's visionary. Severing the long-unyielding Gordian knot of leverage under LOTE will surely require "outside the box" thinking-or in a word, vision. The relevant vision here affects not just remedy but--crucially--diagnosis. As radical a cure as Gandhi's satyagraha would never have occurred to me had I not (with much help) diagnosed the problem facing would-be relentless pressurers of Biden and Democrats as a sinister, insidious, omnipresent system of propaganda shielding Biden and Democrats.

By failing to confront this propaganda system (because they don't know they need to), our major U.S. progressive movements-like the Poor People's Campaign, the Sunrise Movement, and Black Lives Matter--are defeated in advance. Failing to confront the propaganda system leaves intact elite assumptions and agendas lethal to the aims of all these movements. Since elite lying shaping public opinion is the fundamental problem, obstinate movement "truthing"--on a scale sufficient to overcome elite propaganda advantages--is the innovative solution.

While I clearly claim important innovative thinking here, my claim to originality is purely one of synthesis. As regards "my" analysis, never has Isaac Newton's insistence that he saw farther because he "stood on the shoulders of giants" been more relevant. In my second piece in this series, I already paid homage to Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald as essential analytic sources. Beyond Chomsky's and Greenwald's continuing influence, "my" analysis has also been indebted to such leftist lights as Naomi Klein, Adolph Reed, Jr., and Thomas Frank. And, needless to say, Mahatma Gandhi. My synthesis is purely a matter of "hooking up" major U.S. movements tragically disconnected from their crucial insights.

The Movements "Staffing" Satyagraha--and Their Demands

In this article's headline, I've already described the new satyagraha as a "movement of movements," implying that members of major U.S. movements already on the ground will serve as satyagraha's "staff." Justifying the member choices--and above all, their united demands--will require much preliminary spadework. But to keep readers interested--to avoid keeping them in needless suspense--I'll briefly identify here the key movement players in my novel adaptation of Gandhi's satyagraha. I'll also--probably more controversially--specify the severely limited package of demands around which they'll need to unite.

Briefly put, my proposed satyagraha movement "players" include members of the three major U.S. progressive movements already named: the Poor People's Campaign, the Sunrise Movement, and Black Lives Matter. My choice reflects the size and visibility of these movements as well as their experience with peaceful civil disobedience--a necessity for any movement inspired by Gandhi.

Almost needless to say, it includes lesser-known groups sharing their basic aims, such as the many groups comprising the youth climate movement. Also--in some issue overlap with the Poor People's Campaign--it includes the various groups against militarism and pushing peaceful U.S. foreign policy (like Black Alliance for Peace, CODEPINK, and World Beyond War). It includes RootsAction and at least some of its allies in its campaign to elect Biden and then relentlessly pressure him. It probably can include various Medicare for All and immigrant rights groups.

It can include, in short, any group or individual, in short, willing to unite around a severely limited set of "umbrella" demands. Namely, just two: a peaceful Green New Deal and national ranked-choice voting. Probably quite controversially, I believe the demands of all the named movements and groups can be subsumed--for the sake of united struggle--under the neat rhetorical package of a "peaceful Green New Deal." The second unity demand--ranked-choice voting--is to defeat Democrats' use of electoral extortion (at its worst in the Trump era) to win elections while strangling all progressive aims. All the movements and groups in question have a potent common interest in ending Dems' strong-arming of progressive voters by rational threats of Republican craziness. By making it safe to vote for progressive third parties like the Greens, national ranked-choice voting would face Democrats with competition from parties far more sympathetic to progressive movements' aims.

Such a radically simplified unity package of course requires far more thorough justification, which I'll at least begin (it's truly a huge strategy subject) in the next section.

Justification: Movement Unity as Propaganda War Power

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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he wields his pen (more...)

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