Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From #Ur-Occupied Boston (#Ur-Tomemonos Boston)-General Assembly-The Embryo Of An Alternate Government-Learn The Lessons Of History-Lessons From The Utopian Socialists- Robert Owen- "A Quest For Universal Harmony"

Click on the headline to link to the archives of the Occupy Boston General Assembly minutes from the Occupy Boston website. Occupy Boston started at 6:00 PM, September 30, 2011. The General Assembly is the core political institution of the Occupy movement. Some of the minutes will reflect the growing pains of that movement and its concepts of political organization. Note that I used the word embryo in the headline and I believe that gives a fair estimate of its status, and its possibilities.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!
Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It, It’s Ours! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
Below I am posting, occasionally, comments on the Occupy movement as I see or hear things of interest, or that cause alarm bells to ring in my head. The first comment directly below from October 1, which represented my first impressions of Occupy Boston, is the lead for all further postings.
Markin comment October 1, 2011:

There is a lot of naiveté expressed about the nature of capitalism, capitalists, and the way to win in the class struggle by various participants in this occupation. Many also have attempted to make a virtue out of that naiveté, particularly around the issues of effective democratic organization (the General Assembly, its unrepresentative nature and its undemocratic consensus process) and relationships with the police (they are not our friends, no way, when the deal goes down). However, their spirit is refreshing, they are acting out of good subjective anti-capitalist motives and, most importantly, even those of us who call ourselves "reds" (communists), including this writer, started out from liberal premises as naive, if not more so, than those encountered at the occupation site. We can all learn something but in the meantime we must defend the "occupation" and the occupiers. More later as the occupation continues.
In the recent past as part of my one of my commentaries I noted the following:

“… The idea of the General Assembly with each individual attendee acting as a “tribune of the people” is interesting and important. And, of course, it represents, for today anyway, the embryo of what the “new world” we need to create might look like at the governmental level.”

A couple of the people that I have talked lately were not quite sure what to make of that idea. The idea that what is going on in Occupy Boston at the governmental level could, should, would be a possible form of governing this society in the “new world a-borning” with the rise of the Occupy movement. Part of the problem is that there was some confusion on the part of the listeners that one of the possible aims of this movement is to create an alternative government, or at least provide a model for such a government. I will argue here now, and in the future, that it should be one of the goals. In short, we need to take power away from the Democrats and Republicans and their tired old congressional/executive/judicial doesn’t work- checks and balances-form of governing and place it at the grassroots level and work upward from there rather than, as now, have power devolve from the top. (And stop well short of the bottom.)

I will leave aside the question (the problem really) of what it would take to create such a possibility. Of course a revolutionary solution would, of necessity, have be on the table since there is no way that the current powerful interests, Democratic, Republican or those of the "one percent" having no named politics, is going to give up power without a fight. What I want to pose now is the use of the General Assembly as a deliberative executive, legislative, and judicial body all rolled into one. In that sense previous historical models come to mind; the short-lived but heroic Paris Commune of 1871 that Karl Marx tirelessly defended against the reactionaries of Europe as the prototype of a workers government; the early heroic days of the Russian October Revolution of 1917 when the workers councils (soviets in Russian parlance) acted as a true workers' government; and the period in the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39 where the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias acted, de facto, as a workers government. All the just mentioned examples had their problems and flaws, no question. However, merely mentioning the General Assembly concept in the same paragraph as these great historic examples should signal that thoughtful leftists and other militants need to investigate and study these examples.

In order to facilitate the investigation and study of those examples I will, occasionally, post works in this space that deal with these forbears from several leftist perspectives (rightist perspectives were clear- crush all the above examples ruthlessly, and with no mercy- so we need not look at them now). I started this Lessons Of History series with Karl Marx’s classic defense and critique of the Paris Commune, The Civil War In France and today’s presentation noted in the headline continues on in that same vein.
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-Mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed.

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!

A Quest for Universal Harmony

Extracts from
Robert Owen’s published works

Many ideas expressed by Robert Owen (1771-1858) remain amazingly relevant and topical today. The international, cultural influence of his campaign for a better and fairer society is one of the criteria by which New Lanark was assessed by UNESCO as being worthy of World Heritage Status. A selection of extracts from Owen's published works follows.

A New Society for the New Millennium?

Robert Owen often talked of the new Millennium; a time, he hoped, when society would be greatly improved. When he opened the Institute for the Formation of Character on New Year's Day 1816, he gave an Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, in which he outlined his hopes for the Millennium, his plans, and his notion that education was the means of achieving a better and fairer society.

The Address included these memorable words:

"What ideas individuals may attach to the term "Millennium" I know not; but I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal.”

Owen's campaign for education as a means of eradicating society's problems, and making people happier and more fulfilled, was prominent throughout his working life:

"To train and educate the rising generation will at all times be the first object of society, to which every other will be subordinate". [The Social System, 1826]

"The three lower rooms (in the Institute) will be thrown open for the use of the adult part of the population, who are to be provided with every accommodation requisite to enable them to read, write, account, sew or play, converse or walk about. Two evenings in the week will be appropriated to dancing and music, but on these occasions, every accommodation will be prepared for those who prefer to study or to follow any of the occupations pursued on the other evenings".
[Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1816]

"It is therefore, the interest of all, that everyone, from birth, should be well educated, physically and mentally, that society may be improved in its character, - that everyone should be beneficially employed, physically and mentally, that the greatest amount of wealth may be created, and knowledge attained, - that everyone should be placed in the midst of those external circumstances that will produce the greatest number of pleasurable sensations, through the longest life, that man may be made truly intelligent, moral and happy, and be thus prepared to enter upon the coming Millennium". [1841]

"Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building, in which formality predominates ………. But in the nursery, play-ground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and class-rooms. …The facts collected from all these sources will be concentrated, explained, discussed, made obvious to all, and shown in their direct application to practice in all the business of life". [Book of the New Moral World 3rd Part 1842]

Social Inclusion and Early Intervention
Social Inclusion and Early Intervention have both been key aspects of the government's social policy in the early 21st century. Robert Owen was including them in his plans for The Institute back in 1816 when he stated that the building would accommodate more than just the children of New Lanark, and that anyone in Lanark or the surrounding neighbourhood who could not afford to educate their children, would be at liberty to send them to it, where:

"They would receive the same care and attention as those who belong to the establishment. Nor will there be any distinction made between the children of those parents who are deemed the worst, and of those who may be esteemed the best members of society: indeed I would prefer to receive the offspring of the worst, if they shall be sent at an early age; because they really require more of our care and pity and by well-training these, society will be more essentially benefited than if the like attention were paid to those whose parents are educating them in comparatively good habits".
[Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1st Jan 1816]

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Parenting Classes

"One of the apartments (in the Institute) will also be occasionally appropriated for the purpose of giving useful instruction to the older classes of the inhabitants. For believe me, my friends, you are yet very deficient with regard to the best modes of training your children, or of arranging your domestic concerns". [Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1816]

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Working Conditions
Owen's extremely advanced system of factory management, which he pioneered at the New Lanark Mills gained him credibility, not only as a successful businessman, but also as a benevolent employer. He proved that commercial success could be achieved without exploitation of those employed; his approach to social and economic organisation was extended beyond the mill floor into every aspect of village life.

"The working classes may be injuriously degraded and oppressed in three ways:
1st When they are neglected in infancy
2nd When they are overworked by their employer, and are thus rendered incompetent
from ignorance to make a good use of high wages when they can procure them.
3rd When they are paid low wages for their labour ".
[On the employment of children in manufactories, 1818]

"The lowest stage of humanity is experienced when the individual must labour for a small pittance of wages from others". [From a Paper Dedicated to the Governments of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and the United States of America, London 1841]

"Eight hours' daily labour is enough for any human being, and under proper arrangements sufficient to afford an ample supply of food, raiment and shelter, or the necessaries and comforts of life, and for the remainder of his time, every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep". [From the Foundation Axioms of Owen's "Society for Promoting National Regeneration", 1833]

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Employment Training

"Train any population rationally, and they will be rational. Furnish honest and useful employments to those so trained, and such employments they will greatly prefer to dishonest or injurious occupations. It is beyond all calculation the interest of every government to provide that training and that employment; and to provide both is easily practicable". [A New View of Society - Essays 1813-1816]

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Child Care / Workplace Nurseries

"The Institution has been devised to afford the means of receiving your children at an early age, almost as soon as they can walk. By this means many of you, mothers and families, will be able to earn a better maintenance or support for your children; you will have less care and anxiety about them, while the children will be prevented from acquiring any bad habits. and gradually prepared to learn the best".
[Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1816]

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Robert Owen's views had particular appeal for women. At a time when men were hostile to women's rights, he courted controversy by denouncing marriage, as it then existed, as a form of slavery for women.

"Women will be no longer made the slaves of, or dependent upon men….
They will be equal in education, rights, privileges and personal liberty".
[Book of the New Moral World: Sixth Part, 1841]

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Rules for the Inhabitants of New Lanark

Robert Owen drew up a list of rules for the inhabitants of New Lanark. These encouraged community responsibility, religious tolerance, and other good habits amongst the villagers.

"Parents shall be answerable for the conduct of their children, and householders for their lodgers".

"None of the inhabitants of same village shall injure any of the fences about it, or upon the farm, whether stone, dyke, railings, or hedges; nor any of the houses, ground, or plantings, nor any of the company's property, of whatever nature it may be; but, on the contrary, when they see children or others committing such damage, they shall immediately cause them to desist from it, or if that shall not be in their power, give notice at the principal counting-house of the offences, and who are the offenders".

"As there are a very great variety of religious sects in the world (and which are probably adapted to different constitutions under different circumstances, seeing there are many good and conscientious characters in each), it is particularly recommended, as a means of uniting the inhabitants of the village into one family, that while each faithfully adheres to the principles which he most approves, at the same time all shall think charitably of their neighbours respecting their religious opinions, and not presumptuously suppose that theirs alone are right".
[from the Rules and Regulations for the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1800]

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Health, Preventive Medicine & Health Education

"The advanced members of the medical profession know that the health of society is not to be obtained or maintained by medicines; - that it is far better, far more easy and far wiser, to adopt substantive measures to prevent disease of body or mind, than to allow substantive measure to remain continually to generate causes to produce physical and mental disorders".

"It is the interest of the individual and of all society, that he should be made, at the earliest period, to understand his own construction, the proper use of its parts, and how to keep them at all times in a state of health; and especially that he should be taught to observe the varied effects of different kinds of food, and different quantities, upon his own constitution. He should be taught the general and individual laws of health, thus early, that he may know how to prevent the approach of disease. And the knowledge of the particular diet best suited to his constitution, is one of the most essential laws of health".

"To preserve permanent good health, the state of mind must be taken into consideration". [Book of the New Moral World, 3rd Part, 1842]

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Care for the elderly and infirm

"In advanced age, and in cases of disability from accident, natural infirmity or any other cause, the individual shall be supported by the colony, and receive every comfort which kindness can administer". [The Social System - Constitution, Laws, and Regulations of a Community 1826]

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The Environment

"They will be surrounded by gardens, have abundance of space in all directions to keep the air healthy and pleasant. They will have walks and plantations before them".

"To obtain and preserve health in the best state to ensure happiness, pure air is necessary. It is at once obvious that large cities and extensive manufactories are not well calculated to permit pure air to be enjoyed by those who live in the one, or who are employed in the other The advantage of pure, and the disadvantage of impure air are experienced each time we breathe, and all who understand the causes of disease know that an impure atmosphere is most unfavourable to the enjoyment of health, and an efficient cause to shorten human existence within the natural life of man. It is therefore most desirable that decisive measures should be devised and generally adopted to ensure to all a pure atmosphere, in which to live during their lives". [Book of the New Moral World – 1842]

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Campaign for Universal Harmony

"Is it not the interest of the human race, that every one should be so taught and placed, that he would find his highest enjoyment to arise from the continued practice of doing all in his power to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour" [From a Paper Dedicated to the Governments of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and the United States of America, published by Robert Owen, 1841. This is the 17th of 20 Questions to the Human Race]

"It is therefore, the interest of all, that everyone, from birth, should be well educated, physically and mentally that society may be improved in its character, - that everyone should be beneficially employed, physically and mentally, that the greatest amount of wealth may be created, and knowledge attained, that everyone should be placed in the midst at those external circumstances, that will produce the greatest number of pleasurable sensations, through the longest life, that man may be made truly intelligent, moral and happy, and be, thus, prepared to enter upon the coming Millennium".[A Development of the Principles & Plans on which to establish self-supporting Home Colonies, 1841]

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International Co-operation

“There is but one mode by which man can possess in perpetuity all the happiness which his nature is capable of enjoying, - that is by the union and co-operation of ALL for the benefit of EACH.

Union and co-operation in war obviously increase the power of the individual a thousand fold. Is there the shadow of a reason why they should not produce equal effects in peace; why the principle of co-operation should not give to men the same superior powers, and advantages, (and much greater) in the creation, preservation, distribution and enjoyment of wealth?” [The Social System, written in 1821, published in 1826]

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