Without a vision, who will commit to the struggle for justice for all, and stay the course?
To gather people to a commitment, there must be a vision of a better society, one beyond faux democracy and the exploitation and repression inherent in capitalism.
Inspired by a transformative vision, people will join together and fight for what they believe is a better future, a just society based on cooperation not competitive individualism.
Not only does a common vision provide the glue that binds, it also provides a guardrail to ward off opportunism, pragmatism and hypocrisy.
“We are all in this together” – the classic liberal ideological con.
I paraphrase Marx: historically, the Great Deception by the rich and powerful has been to make the people think that their own interests are aligned with those who rule them. Thus nationalism, and racism, are handy tools to pit the people against the Other rather than the ruling class.
Two ideas commonly stand in the way of the understanding necessary to bring about transformation from corporate exploitation and state repression.
First, that liberal democracy while flawed, can be reformed significantly, especially through legislation and complementary state policies determined by the people’s elected representatives.
Second, that capitalism is a system based on freedom of choice; a system that allows people to succeed in a competitive system that rewards the individuals who work hard and therefore enjoy the results of their individual competitiveness.
Occasionally one also hears “The system is flawed but it is the best there is”. Our vision blunts the impact of such confusion!
One need only examine the class-and other-divisions in society to realize that capitalist liberal democracy is based in division, not togetherness. The differences are dramatic in employment, housing, education, health, life expectancy, even the environment within which rulers and ruled live.
The big battalions of education– the state and private education systems (from bottom to the top of universities); the Churches, the major media (and most other), are essentially “ideological apparatuses” supporting, generally, the political-economic system of capitalist liberal democracy in which many of us live.
Of course, like all other human endeavours, there are contradictions within these institutions, unintended consequences of their operations. As we say of the law, these institutions are sites of struggle.
Activists must engage in that struggle, contesting the substance and the process of the education being provided by these institutions.
But there are other educational sites– our everyday life experience educates us, probably more than the written or spoken word. For example, voting “tells us“ we are in a democracy. Such experiences, understood uncritically, provide very significant support for the status quo.
Activists must develop a challenge to such education with critical fact– based commentary and a primer on how the system of capitalist liberal democracy works in reality. And in their daily life show by example how it is possible to live a life different from that which the System intends for us. A life consistent with the vision of a different society.
“You can make a difference”
Well yes, occasionally (and in special circumstances) sometimes individuals make a startling difference, such as Greta Thunberg. With her vision of a very different world, she has rallied people around the globe to commit to the struggle. But on the ground, it has taken the solidarity of the rising people to begin to make that vision a reality.
We can only bring about transformative change if we the people develop the consciousness that We are all in it together-except for (1) those who use state and corporate power to exploit and repress us; and (2) those, fascists and others who are organized against us and preach hatred and domination.
Solidarity is necessary in our local struggles, and on up to the international sphere.
Solidarity must be for individuals such as Julian Assange; for sectors such as human rights defenders and environmental activists; for groups such as the Rohingya and Indigenous Peoples; organizations that are being attacked for their activism such as the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines; and for countries.
Finally, remember breaking the law is a time honored tradition. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”. We owe gratitude, respect and solidarity for those who fulfill that responsibility.
Gill H. Boehringer
Honorary Senior Research Fellow and former Dean at Macquarie University Law School, Sydney, & Co-Chair of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers