Monday, February 8, 2010

Per for Lieutenant Governor: In which I endorse, with reservations, the Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International

Z Communications has released a Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International, presumably in response to Hugo Chávez's call for the creation of a Fifth International at a meeting in Caracas.

I think it's important that the Quinn/Per administration have a position on this. And, while I can't speak for Pat Quinn, I'm sure, given his history of strong support for progressive politics, and his expectation that his running mate have a record of standing up for progressive values, he would not only approve of my issuing this statement, but will freely endorse it once I am selected as the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.

First, let me say that I'm skeptical about efforts like these. Even beyond my skepticism about any organization created by Hugo Chávez, I worry about the extent to which an International could be truly democratic. Even if Chávez wasn't running it, the first meeting would be dominated by people who could make it to Caracas -- aside from Venezuelans, that means either relatively rich folks or folks with the backing of powerful institutions such as states. Here's how the ZCom proposal addresses democracy:
“democracy” or perhaps even a more inspiring conception of “people’s power,” “participatory democracy,” or “self management,” to foster participation and equitable influence for all."

member groups would have a wide range of sizes - but since the International’s decisions would not bind groups other than regarding the collective International agenda, a good way to arrive at decisions might be serious discussion and exploration, followed by polls of the whole International membership to see peoples’ leanings, followed by refinements of proposals to seek greater support and to allow dissidents to make their case, culminating in final votes of the membership.
We need more here -- we need specific efforts to combat the dominance of rich white folks from developed countries.

As a prefigurative organization, it's important that the Participatory Socialist International not only refrain from actively undemocratic processes, but that it work to combat existing inequalities of influence and access. As Illinois's Lieutenant Governor, I will work to make sure the Participatory Socialist International lives up to its goals by ensuring equality of access to all decision-making structures, formal and informal.

On a related note, it's important that the Participatory Socialist International work to reach out to people of color, women and queer people, and to make sure these voices are heard prominently In the proposal, women's issues were recognized as significant, but no attention was paid to the needs of women within revolutionary movements, or the importance of fighting sexism within the International itself. If our organization is to be the seed of the future society, it's important that we not allow queers, women and people of color to be marginalized within our ranks, and that we dismantle oppressive structures and habits of mind within our community, even as we seek to reform the world.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will pressure the International to make sure its internal practices are consistent with its vision for a society free of gender-, race-, and sexuality-based oppression.

I will also push the International to do more to prioritize equitable distribution of resources among societies. Here's what the proposal says about the distribution of wealth within societies:
economic production, consumption, and allocation be classless - which includes equitable access for all to quality education, health care, food, water, sanitation, housing, meaningful and dignified work, and the instruments and conditions for personal fulfillment
Here's what it says about the distribution of wealth between societies:
"international trade, communication, and other interactions attain peace and justice while dismantling all vestiges of colonialism and imperialism - which includes canceling the debt of nations of the global south and reconstructing international norms and relations to move toward an equitable and just community of equally endowed nations"
The former is much more radical. If they talked only about canceling debts within a society, and moving towards an equitable and just community of equally endowed individuals, this could very well involve the maintenance of class and, indeed, capitalism -- we could be talking about Scandinavian-style "social democracy."

In addition to these problems, the politics of queer people were drastically underrepresented in the proposal: queer sexualities were mentioned only twice, and then in passing, and issues of gender identity were not discussed at all.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will use my bully pulpit to bring queer issues to the forefront of the International's agenda, and make sure rights of sexual choice and gender identification are an important part of the International's platform. I will make sure the International's vision for the reshaping of our child-rearing and family structures to end oppression of women also explicitly includes welcoming and supporting families of all compositions.

I was also disappointed by the lack of discussion of cultural change in the Participatory Socialist International's proposed platform. I don't believe any incentive system, no matter how well-designed, is impossible to game – and so it's important that we recognize that change can't come only through a change in the incentives, but also through a transition from a culture of self-interest to a culture of sharing.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will push the Fifth International to consider a politics of sharing, and to think about what this means for our internal organization as a prefigurative movement.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure, even if a Participatory Socialist International comes to fruition, that it will meet these key criteria. It seems quite likely that, whether or not I am chosen as Quinn's running mate, the Fifth International will be less radically democratic than I hope, and Illinois will refuse to participate.

No comments:

Post a Comment


To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

However, he believes you have a moral obligation to comply with the restrictions of the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

Look here for clarification.