A Call to Freedom
[This Call to Freedom has been strongly influenced by an essay in German by non-violent, mystic anarchist Gustav Landauer written in 1911, the title of which translates as ‘The Abolition of War by means of the Self-determination of the People’. I have been translating it, and will soon publish it at my other blog Passing on the Flame. During the so-called inter-imperial ‘Morocco Crisis’, three years before the outbreak of World War 1, Landauer was making a despairing, last-ditch attempt to awaken the people by calling for general strikes and worker conferences to prevent war and start building the social alternative: self-determination, self-organisation, self-management. He failed of course. Countless millions died and suffered in the resulting two world wars and dictatorships. All one can do is pass on the flame, try again, perhaps: fail better. The photo is from the wonderful late Pina Bausch’s ‘Rite of Spring’ production.]
A Strike for Life and a Great Palaver. A Call to Freedom.
– For all those who cannot take it anymore, yet feel another world is possible
Deep down we know it all.
At that level, down there beyond our fears and rationalisations, no one need tell us what the case is.
At that level, we are wiser and wider than our narrow everyday selves. This is the level we are at when we deeply respond to a work of art, music, a poem, a child, the ocean, the silence of a forest or an empty room, a quietened body-mind.
At that level, no one need preach and tell us what deep trouble the world is in.
No one need tell us that things cannot go on like this without some total, cataclysmic breakdown, one that has already begun and will cause further immense and lasting death and suffering.
At that level, we know that no one is an island and the world is one. That endless growth is not possible on a finite planet. That climate chaos or nuclear war could destroy civilisation for centuries. That the Sixth Mass Extinction of plant and animal species is upon us because of global deforestation, over-industrialisation, over-consumption, over-development. That our freedoms are being increasingly eroded as liberal societies become authoritarian police and total surveillance states. That true social and global peace and security are not possible without greater equality and social justice within and among nations, without a massive popular rejection of imperial interventions, militarism and jingoistic nationalism.
This sense of the existential threats to the common good is just common sense. Any child, any wise old person knows that.
The General Solution
No professors or activists’ megaphones need tell us that our ways of interacting with each other and the planet, our ways of organising our societies and economies, are utterly unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable.
At that deep level, we even know what the general solution is, whatever the debatable specifics of that solution: we know we have to fairly share wealth, resources and the global commons (water, air, oceans, land and soils, forests, internet…).
We know we have to make democratic decisions about how we organise things, how and what we produce, distribute and consume not for the benefit and unsustainable, luxurious wants of a global few but for the benefit and real, sustainable needs of all beings, human and non-human, present and future.
These social solutions are the same as the general means of achieving them: direct democratic debate, self-organisation and self-management, mutual aid, free collective action, civil disobedience, non-violence.
However, at this point our narrow everyday selves often say: no, we are powerless. No, it’s all too complex and overwhelming to face, and we aren’t competent enough to understand it all. No, we should leave it to the government, leaders, the experts, the CEOs, the scientists and technologists, the international conferences. No, we should just vote for someone who will ‘fix’ it all for us.
We would prefer to delegate our own thinking and responsibilities to others, and then complain when they fail to ‘fix’ things for us, and then go and vote for the next lot who necessarily must do the same, over and over again.
As voters marking a piece of paper and then going home and abdicating our own sovereignty to so-called representatives for another three or four years, we prefer to remain passive consumers of ‘democratic’ political spectacles created by others. We prefer to remain dependent, obedient, voluntary slaves, as it seems much more comfortable than thinking our own real thoughts, than being our real, wider self, than acting independently, for ourselves, in free interaction with others. We prefer to ignore our inner freedom, to drown out our niggling conscience with noise and ceaseless busyness. Sometimes we even do this in noisy political activism making demands to the state authorities, often mouthing mind-numbing clichés and the dead slogans of yesteryear.
We are not used to, we have no practice in, democratically debating public issues within our communities with a view to doing things together ourselves. We are not used to seeing beyond our own narrow and immediate personal interests, our work and families, our daily issues, even as the world slides into chaos around us precisely because we don’t want to face the larger issues and our own consciences that are the inner expressions of those existential larger issues. At an emotional level, we don’t really feel an emphatic part of, and thus responsible for, a social and natural community or world, except as rate- and tax-payers, voters, tourists, and, occasionally, anxiously frenetic flag-wavers.
Our everyday unfree self cannot respond to anything beyond itself and its perceived narrow interests, thus feel no responsibility for the wider world. In our true, free selves we respond to conscience and world, we are respons-ible. Freedom is not opposed to, but the same as responsibility.
This narrow and this wider self, this fearful unfreedom and this fearless freedom, are in constant tension or conflict within us all. We oscillate between them. Social movements oscillate between them. The political and corporate powers-that-be, in all their varied mediocracy, are in fact living embodiments of the former and they do all they can to keep us all there at that level. Their opportunistic careerism, their media narcissism and entitled trough-hogging, their rigid ‘realism’ and Machiavellian mindsets, media communications and psy-ops constantly spin out nothing but fear-mongering, divide-and-rule, scapegoating, power maintenance, denial, short-termism, jingoism, the adolescent party-political games of abusing and ‘wedging’ opponents.
The Great Strike for Life and Great Palaver
So, what to do? Perhaps to even have to ask that question is already an indication of how bad things are.
In a healthy community confronted by imminent, life-threatening danger, the natural human response would be to down tools, stop work, get together to talk about the issue and what to do about it.
This is exactly what the world crises are indicating that all communities large and small, what humanity as a whole, should be doing: downing tools, going on strike, stopping the destruction machine, taking time out, coming together and conferring about the world’s deep and mounting crises and what to do about them.
Some of course are already doing this, not in striking but in a global mosaic of local resistance or constructive endeavours, cooperatives and social experiments outside the main turbo-charged system of work itself. It is time for the latter to be included. This can only be done by stopping the ever faster and more intensive exploitation within the main system itself for a period of resting, deep breathing, regaining clarity and sanity, conferring together. A kind of active holiday, a ‘holy’ day of whole-ness, of being whole and hale.
A possible initial name for this natural response and process could be: the Great Strike for Life and the Great Palaver. As it develops, the process will in time probably find its own name, or names.
Because it would be a directly democratic process, the outcomes of this process cannot be predicted or ordained. All that can be said about it is that, like the wider self we all have within us, it is necessary, needed, and must freely follow its own course according to its own internal dynamic.
The first steps: critically think all this through for yourself. Listen inside, ask your gut intelligence and intuition, your conscience and wider self, for a response. If you find you agree with it, circulate this Call to Freedom to colleagues, friends, neighbours, fellow citizens. Talk about preparing small, temporary strikes and palavers at work, in the community, in various grassroots groups and initiatives. Once these happen sufficiently and repeatedly, they may start to communicate with each other, link up, start preparing larger regional, national and international strikes and palavers.
The Identity of Means and Ends
Is this a clever ‘political strategy’ to achieve some distant ‘goal’ as defined by some armchair theory or other? The purpose of stopping work in the destruction machine and conferring is to stop work in the destruction machine and confer. The purpose or goal of the Great Strike and Palaver is not outside itself.
Nevertheless, such a lively, vital process, like the previous alter-globalisation, World Social Forum and Occupy movements, could become contagious across localities, regions and borders as it impresses and directly speaks to the suppressed feelings of others with its vital democratic energy and meaningfulness.
The purpose of the process is not to look ‘up’ or out and influence our ruling oligarchies, the usual form of what passes for ‘politics’. Rather, it is to become the ‘rulers’ ourselves, i.e. the active subjects of direct democracy, subjects who are stopping work and conferring together about life-threatening dangers, the declining quality of life on all levels, the common good.
Some within the state and corporate oligarchies, their consciences touched, might be moved to join us, others will try to manipulate, intimidate, co-opt or, as usual, suppress us with violence. Often the violence will also come from criminal thugs or sections of the people themselves who identify with the state and system or who feel threatened in their authoritarian beliefs.
However, there is no point in trying to prophecise what may or may not happen. Those are the speculative games of the armchair spectators and know-alls who enjoy spectating and almost never get active. Whatever does happen simply becomes the subject of the people’s Great Palaver.
The Choice to Be, the Choice to be Free
Deep down under our various social masks and insecurely rigid identities we know we are free, intelligent, responsible beings with a conscience. We know we are humans with souls and vital organic needs, not machines. Can we let this inner freedom, this freedom-to-think-and-act-for-ourselves without worrying what others may think or do, this freedom to be our true, wider selves, emerge like a bright butterfly from the tired old cocoon of narrow and false identity, from daily distraction and habit, from self-oppression of our deep longings and true selves?
Can we let our basic, intuitive understanding well up from within and break through into our clear, conscious minds and inform our actions? Can we let ourselves be the free beings we really are to save the world and all beings, i.e. ourselves? Je suis nous, ich bin wir, I am we.
Another world is possible: if we but let it, it is already inside us, as potential, as reality. Its name is: freedom.
~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on September 3, 2015.
Posted in critical theory, essays, social change, social theory
Tags: anarchism, anarchist manifestos, another world is possible, autonomy, false self, freedom, general strike, Gustav Landauer, non-violent anarchism, non-violent revolution, occupy movement, self-activity, self-government, self-management, self-organization, social change, social theory, true self