Michael Albert: Lesser Evilism

Regarding the EU I think the question is what we do whether we are in or out. How does the opportunity help to change things for the better and for ordinary people? Michael Albert has a handle on the Clinton v Trump that would be useful in the EU debate.

Lesser Evilism

Chomsky’s view: Trump wins. His most virulent supporters become American Brownshirts. Climate deniers become policy makers. Inauguration becomes a death sentence for humanity. While Clinton is an imperial corporate savage, Clinton is also the lesser evil. So hold your nose, vote Clinton for the ten minutes it takes. Before and after, organize.

Joe’s view (Joe is a stand in name for many who hold this view): Clinton is despicable. A vote for Clinton is a vote for war. Hold your head high and vote for what you like or don’t vote at all. To waffle legitimates the Democratic party. To waffle aids empire. To waffle abets injustice. Lesser evilism sells out what is good.

How might we evaluate this face off?

Chomsky assesses the difference between Trump and Clinton, adds concern for humanity, and arrives at a modest prescription. Vote Clinton in contested states. Organize before and after. Chomsky opposes U.S. imperialism, corporate domination, racism, and sexism. If he votes against Trump, does anyone seriously think Chomsky will slip slide into apologetics for injustice?

Joe lets warranted hostility to Clinton interfere with acknowledging that Trump being in the oval office would be much worse. Yet to perceive that simple fact would in no way deny Clinton’s evil, nor celebrate her as good. I have to assume Joe knows that some evils are worse than others – to deny that in general would be ridiculous. So Joe considers differential evil unimportant in this case. Why?

One possibility is that Joe thinks the evilness discrepancy is inconsequential because to do something other than vote for Clinton in contested states will do more to avoid greater damage. If so, okay, that is a tenable albeit not very persuasive view. After all, voting takes just a few minutes. But if Joe thinks that damage differences are inconsequential because he simply can’t bring himself to vote for Clinton because the pain to him would be too great, that is not tenable. (I leave aside here the argument that says Trump is actually the lesser evil. I’m not sure if the people saying this are just posturing, but if not, then their chance of being taken seriously by anyone involved in progressive movements is nil – and deservedly so.)

Returning to Joe, of course it is hard for a sensitive human being to vote for evil. What a horrible situation. But Chomsky knows what is wrong with Clinton. Chomsky is committed to fighting Clintonian style politics. Chomsky has invested incredible time, energy, and focus to taking on the Democratic Party and corporate America. Yet Chomsky indicates by his choice that the pain he would feel pulling a lever for Clinton is inconsequential when compared to the additional pain people throughout the U.S. and all over the world would feel were we to have to endure Trump as President. So, I wonder, why would Joe be unable to give ten minutes to casting a vote and then get on with his activism or other involvements without the slightest negative impact of having voted for Clinton? Chomsky has voted lesser evil over and over, and suggests others should follow that path as well, and having done so has had zero ill effects on his other involvements, other than, perhaps, great nausea on the nights in question.

Tom Hayden enters the debate. He says many good people really like Clinton (which is sadly true). On that basis, in sympathy with them, I choose to like her too, says Hayden (which is one of the most ridiculous rationales I have ever heard from a thoughtful and often admirable political commentator). Women benefit from a woman President, Hayden adds (which is also true, though it can be exaggerated), so lets celebrate Clinton’s nomination and support her vigorously. Celebrate the woman? That doesn’t follow. Celebrate the likely policies? That doesn’t follow. Celebrate that the country is ready for a woman president, only that makes sense.

I assume Hayden would much prefer Sanders as president. As Sanders’ nomination became a dimming prospect, I assume to help defeat Trump, Hayden decided to support Clinton. And I assume Hayden felt the only way to do that was by delivering a kind of excited support that any talk of Clinton being evil would compromise. Hayden is therefore at least publicly not pursuing lesser evilism. Joe could sensibly say Hayden is flirting with a slippery slope and, worse, that he is establishing such a slope that others may unknowingly (unlike Hayden) slide down.

More could be said about every aspect of the lesser evil face off, of course, but I hope you will pardon me if I note that to explore this too deeply is giving credibility to nonsense or, to avoid that, would have to become too psychological and motive focussed to remain civil.

I too feel inner disgust at the prospect of voting for Clinton, but I also see that succumbing to that disgust would elevate reflex above reason and personal comfort above social responsibility.

First, there is no sell out if one is openly clear about one’s reasoning and commitments. And second, if being true to oneself means you must ignore the immense additional pain and suffering that would mark the difference between a Trump victory as compared to a Clinton victory, then your self needs to develop a sense of empathy and justice, not posture behind left rhetoric.

Okay, but to move from the odd to the important, what about Sanders? Though Sanders’ situation is more complicated than Joe’s, Hayden’s, or Chomsky’s, I think essentially the same reasoning applies. For Sanders to call Clinton the lesser evil or, more to the point, for Sanders to constantly address what he doesn’t like and will continue to oppose in her agenda would make it virtually impossible for him to actively traverse the country giving rousing speeches about her virtues. So what can Sanders do, given that he wants Trump to lose?

On the one hand, Sanders can lie and say “Clinton is great, vote for her.” But I would agree with Joe that that would be a slippery slope for him and for many who have been drawn into social involvement by him. On the other hand, Sanders could continue to explain and reject what he believes is wrong with the government, with corporate rule, and with the Democrats and Clinton too, while he at the same time excoriates Trump and reaches out, as well, to Trump’s supporters with the truth about their situation and about Trump’s actual hostility to them and their needs. And, yes, based on all that, Sanders could still urge audiences to vote for Clinton in contested states, but to vote for Greens, or himself, or whoever, in safe states. This isn’t complicated. And it wouldn’t even be particularly hard within the contours of American politics because Clinton herself is likely to run more less this way. She will constantly emphasize that Trump is worse, not that she is wonderful.

But what would make Sanders taking this route convincing and what would cause Sanders supporters to not become passive or mired in Clintonism, but to instead remain passionate, aroused, and committed – voting for Clinton in contested states, but far more steadfastly and aggressively seeking to build a lasting movement for change in all states?

Likewise, what would prevent mainstream media from totally ignoring Sanders into oblivion? What would make his words during the campaign and the during Clinton’s administration compelling enough to keep his audiences large? What would help the support Sanders has galvanized grow steadily more astute and resolute all the way through the presidential campaign and into the subsequent Clinton administration? Here are some possibilities.

1. Sanders and the campaign could seek to arrive at its own platform, to be fought for not only at the convention, which is relatively minor, but also after the convention and into the campaign period, and then after the election and into the future. Optimally this could be a continually updated product of national discussion and exploration, not a top down inflexible delivery from above.

2. Sanders and the campaign could opt to create lasting organization to carry on. One possibility would be to set up a shadow government. Sanders could be its President…and then diverse activists could serve at all the other main positions, including Cabinet Secretaries, perhaps Senators, and so on. Sanders and his campaign could keep fund raising, no longer for the election process, but instead for the shadow government so it can pursue its program, battle the Clinton administration, and galvanize popular support for worthy change, while constantly, about every important government policy and situation, revealing what a government for the people would do, thereby continually growing support for positive aims.

3. Sanders and the campaign could move the campaign’s fund raising efforts even further than the above, from supporting his run, and then supporting the run of Sanders allies (which he has been doing for some time now), to supporting a shadow government (as proposed above), and then also supporting additional vehicles for what he has called a political revolution. His calls for funds could say, please give x for my campaign and our coming shadow government, give y for so and so’s campaign, and give z for this or that worthy movement or activist organization.

4. Sanders and the campaign could broaden and enrich his heretofore weak internationalism by traveling abroad to meet with worthy allies in other countries or to express solidarity with victims of U.S. supported imperial policies. Brazil could be an early destination. Greece too. Imagine Sanders speaking at and joining demonstrations against U.S. Military bases, or addressing immigration issues, or war and peace, again at major movement gatherings. Imagine he gives a galvanizing and inspiring speech at every stop. As but one example, at military bases around the world Sanders could speak about the needs of soldiers and of local communities and propose that such bases begin to benefit rather than diminish social good, for example, turning their energies to building inexpensive housing and sources of renewable energy for their hosts and not least for ex soldiers, all in place of endlessly squandering energy in nonsensical but corporation serving military bloat. Imagine not only Sanders giving such speeches and supporting demonstrations and gatherings, but other shadow government officials as well.

5. Sanders, the campaign, and then the shadow government could not only be a megaphone for inspiring analysis and vision, but also a touchstone for activism. Sanders has said over and over that neither he nor any other president could enact the political revolution he favors without millions of people organizing, including in the streets. Consistent with that correct insight, Sanders and his campaign and then the shadow government could call for diverse national campaigns – for example, for a higher minimum wage, for debt cancellation, against various trade policies, for a massive energy makeover, for military reduction and retooling, and on and on.

None of this has to diminish the number of votes Clinton receives much less raise the number of votes Trump receives. On the contrary, all of the above could do the opposite even as it builds organization, awareness, desire, and hope to fight on through Clinton’s presidency and into a better future.

As a first step, can we transcend the perspective that says beating Trump by having Clinton elected is one option, and fighting for real and lasting change and even for a new society, is another? The contrary truth is that with modest creativity, these ends can be simultaneously accomplished. Chomsky, Joe, and Hayden too could be on one team.

Website link

From an activist notebook

The term activist is a bit odd as it implies everybody else is inactive, which is far from the case. But for this we will imagine an activist as someone engaged in public life, in political life, is interested in things outside of the private. Should that not be everybody? Is there such a thing as inactivism? After all, to do nothing has as big an impact on things as whatever else happens.

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Today maybe more than ever. So what is meant by activist, or activism, here is a marker to describe those odd people, to varying extents, that have some kind of political obsession. I guess what is meant by politics here needs some clarification to. Politics, in this sense, is what we do together; by discussing things, coming up with ideas consensually, by inclusion and by keeping as many people happy as possible, before making final decisions and acting on them. Politics is the act of engaging in public life. This description for the purposes here, should not be confused with “party politics”, which is something completely different.

So what is activism here, in terms of what has being described above? Well specifically, activities towards implementing ideas that will force institutional change. The banking institutions; corporate institutions, state institutions and the powerful conglomerates, who for profit, ensure that many live in poverty. This is the high end of what needs to be achieved. If we can understand a bit about what is going on up there, we can understand what we need to do down here. This is the bit, apart from the obsessed, where peoples eyes start to glaze over. Attempting to explain to folk who are politically disengaged for many reasons, what is going on up there, in the corporate stratosphere . All they can see is the mad rush of their lives flashing past. All the things they need to do, or would rather think about, apart from, (to them) the abstract and intimidating world of the “activist”. What’s this got to do with me?  A question constantly posed and rarely answered.

The general problem with the activist, (self included) is that they usually know a lot more about what is going on up there, than they do about what is going on down here. This isn’t a criticism of the need for better understanding, more a question of context, more a question of what is needed at this point in time. The question is not only about getting folk away from the television, consumerism and private life into public life, into the community, but also about getting the activist away from academia, social media, esoteric groups, the protest culture and the constant defense of their own righteous position, into the same community. We all need to have things we enjoy doing and that interests us. The point is. If that is all that we are doing, no matter how important we feel it is, we also need to ask. Who, and what purpose is it serving?

“If you look over the developments in recent years, there’s been severe retrogression on economic and political issues, but considerable progress on cultural and social issues.” Noam Chomsky

In other words we are making much progress in cultural change and around social issues. There are a mass of wonderful things going on. But there are two things. Where is the infrastructure work growing out of this progress that will be powerful enough to challenge institutional power, i.e. the banks? Where is the work going on to engage the many ordinary folk we will need to raise to that challenge? In the world of the activist, we can usually fill rooms to listen to and watch how others, in other countries build and raise the kind of awareness and solidarity needed to challenge corporate power. Which is ok in itself. But in our own communities the same handful of folk will turn up when the problem is our own social housing, or such like, that is at stake. Sure there is commendable stuff going on on the ground and much to admire that we should be thankful for.  But it is enough to shift the might of the powerful? To hurt as Michael Albert says, what they hold dear? That will take a massive mind shift in the population, but will still have more to do with practicalities than philosophy. A bit less peer to peering on the network and a bit more education to where it is needed most. By us getting out more, by showing up, by being active, in all the right places.

The following offers some ideas for going forward. Yet again not much is mentioned of building grass roots networks that relate to peoples day to day lives. Maybe that could be part of a shared program?

People for a Shared Program
People for a Shared Program is a place to explore, develop and organise around left programmatic ideas. http://www.sharedprogram.org/#!faq/ryp9j

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City Strolls “Enough already” walk

With their 1994 battle cry, “Ya basta!” (“Enough already!”) Mexico’s Zapatista uprising became the spearhead of two convergent movements: Mexico’s movement for indigenous rights and the international movement against corporate globalization.

‘I think we have to start by admitting that we don’t have the answers. The fact that we think that taking state power is the wrong way to go does not mean that we know the right way. Probably we have to think of advancing through experiments and questions: “preguntando caminamos” — “walking we ask questions” — as the Zapatistas put it. To think of moving forward through questions rather than answers means a different sort of politics, a different sort of organization. If nobody has the answers, then we have to think not of hierarchical structures of leadership, but horizontal structures that involve everyone as much as possible.’ John Holloway

Join us on an “Enough already”, walk. Meet at Govan underground and come on a walk into town, taking in the landscape and discuss the changing social dynamic and ways we can move forward. Or just come for the stroll. All ages welcome.

Saturday 18th June. Meet 12:00 Govan Underground. Walk around two hours. Finish with tea at the Electron Club CCA Suchiehall street.

Recent videos – Radical Imagination Project

Film crew


Norman Armstrong Free Wheel North
Radical Imagination Project. Discussions with folk who have worked and committed much of their time to community activism. Norman Armstrong
Norman, a tenacious community worker, who “gets things done” but unlike many fly-by-night “social entrepreneurs” is rooted in his community and has the philosophy and principals to match. freewheelnorth.org.uk
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO

May Day picnic Glasgow Green 2016
A small may Day event on the Glasgow green at Free Wheel North. Part of an effort to have the Glasgow’s May Day event in the open. More information for next year to follow. spiritofrevolt.info    iwwscotland.wordpress.com
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


John Cooper on the spirit of revolt and the Castlemilk connection
John Cooper, a name synonymous with Castlemilk and community struggle over the last 40 years or so. The evening took us through the adventures and campaigns of himself and his Castlemilk comrades, from the miners strike to the present. A social history. Find more on the “Spirit of Revolt” website at. spiritofrevolt.info Film in two bits Talk and after discussion. facebook.com/castlemilkagainstausterity/
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


John Cooper – After talk discussion (Castlemilk Against Austerity) Castlemilk, experience and its relevance to the youth who take up the mantle today of community organising. facebook.com/castlemilkagainstausterity
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


The Downtrodden Tenant
Bad housing exists not because the housing system is not working but because it is the way it works. Peter Morton has taught me more about technology in the last few months than I knew before. His boundless energy to educate, given the fact he is in a wheelchair and on strong medication through bad health is an inspiration. We are working on a pile of projects around the Radical Imagination and opening the “Open Source” to the people who need it most. This film denotes Peters struggle with Renfrew Council, their lack of duty of care and how the use of his technological skills were used to collect empirical data to back up a case against their failure to uphold their own housing policy. Downtrodden Tenant Blog
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


Self Determination Power Event Common Sense and Freedom 1990
A wee blast from the past. The Self-Determination and Power event was organised by a loose alliance of the Free University of Glasgow, the Edinburgh Review, then under the editorship of James Kelman advocate Peter Kravitz, and Scottish Child magazine, edited by Rosemary Milne. Also involved were Variant, then a glossy magazine containing provocations from Stewart Home, Pete Horobin’s Dundee-based Data Attic and others; West Coast literary magazine, Here and Now magazine, the radical-based Clydeside Press, and the Scotia bar, then a hub for free-thinking dissent down by the river just across from the Gorbals. radicalimagination.co.uk/about/what-happened-in-1990
(Produced by Street Level) streetlevelphotoworks.org
View on VIMEO

Videos can also be viewed on Youtube

Norman Armstrong Philosophy, environment, access and bikes

Youtube    Vimeo

Discussions with folk who have worked and committed much of their time to community activism.

Grace Lee Boggs, said. “The most radical thing I ever did was to stay put”. If our interest is building movements we need to learn to stay put some of the time to see ideas through.

These videos will be about folk who work on the slow burn for the long term.

Radical Imagination Project

Bring MAY DAY back to the green

MAY DAY,Sunday, May 1 Glasgow Green at 1 PM – 3:30 PM. Meet at Free Cycle North, near People’s Palace

Tired of the ritual Glasgow May Day, a boring walk through the city, to
sit in a hall listening to “our leaders”, pontificating and spouting
about how they will save the world. Well, a group of us are trying to
bring May Day back to The Green and make it what it was meant to be, a
family day, a fun day, a day to celebrate the solidarity of the working
class. Sunday,

May 1st we are organising a family get-together/picnic in the Green,
Based at Free Wheel North, with activities and bikes, in and around the
green.

With a little bit of the history of May Day. Bring what you expect to
find, it is our day. It is early days yet, but we expect face painting,
music, singing and performance poetry, among other events, and a picnic,
with some eats. It should kick off on The Green around 1:00pm and end
by 3:30pm on May 1st.

You can have your march around the city and come back to the Green to
meet up with friends and comrades and have a friendly afternoon with all
the family. May Day belongs to the people, and belongs on the Green,
let’s bring it back. Bring a picnic and food to share.

If you can sing, dance, juggle, face-paint play an instrument, ride a
mono-cycle, read a poem, or any other wee skill that might entertain the
people. Bring it along. If you feel you would like to take part, please
do get in touch.

We will be doing some banner and sign making at the Electron Club his
Saturday 23rd, from 2:00 come along and help. Electron, CCA 350
Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD

PLEASE FORWARD

The Day Noam Chomsky Came To Town

From the Archive: Agitate! Educate! Organise! The Day Noam Chomsky Came To Town

Originally published in the Alternative Strategies issue of Line

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When a seventy year old Hamish Henderson sang Freedom Come All Ye at the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow in January 1990 , it was the ultimate folk-song cabaret. Here, after all, was the man who’s co-founding of the School of Scottish Studies in 1951 had kick-started the Scottish folk revival, and here was singing the song he’d penned that many believe to be Scotland’s real national anthem (with a small n, for Henderson was nothing if not internationalist in outlook). Henderson sang it too in his own slightly cracked tones not as part of some officially sanctioned flagship event for Glasgow’s status as European City of Culture that year, but for a low-level grassroots initiative that brought together art and activism in an event that would prove to be of huge trickle-down significance. Continue reading