Towards a New International

Published on ZNet, by Michael Albert, April 22, 2011.

Our friends over at ZNet are currently conducting a poll to test the appetite for a new internationalist radical organization. A letter signed by Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Michael Albert and others states that:

“Since we would all benefit immeasurably from a massive, militant, coherent, and effective international organization that has branches in countries around the world, that galvanizes people around shared program while having sound organization – it would be a major benefit to folks working on all such endeavors to discover leftist reaction to this poll as widely as possible. It might tell us all that now is not the time. Or it might tell us all, as we who have signed below fervently hope, that now is the time, and that there is right now in the world a large, ready, and even eager constituency for such an undertaking.” 

I put a few questions to Z Net founder Michael Albert: … //

… The novelist Nick Hornby once described cynicism as “the Esperanto that caught on” – you have identified cynicism as one of the impediments to envisaging new organisations. How can this problem be overcome?

I think maybe cynicism is a misleading word. Partly it is an emotional feeling of doubt, of powerlessness, yes. Which may have many roots. It didn’t so much catch on as get produced by the institutions around us, the lives we lead, the horrors we encounter, the failings we suffer. But partly it is also just an honest and sober estimate, based on past experience, of the likelihood of current or near term success. If we extrapolate from the past, well, it doesn’t look all that promising. So if one says, I will only do that which is really promising, and seems so to me, one is left not doing anything particularly ambitious.

This isn’t complicated. If you have tried things and failed, then, until you succeed, your accumulated image of possibilities is ugly. But, if you feel that success is both mandatory and possible, then you keep trying and obstacles are just hurdles you must deal with. These are two different mindsets. One thinks, we may lose, better not try. The other things we may win – let’s by all means try. And, more, the latter knows you lose, you lose, you lose – but someday you win. And you only have to win once.

It is disturbing to see old folks with, admittedly, lots of accumulated bad taste, despondent. But it is even more disturbing to see young folks stop trying. There is no greater gift to the status quo.

Indeed, I will get in trouble for this, probably, but it honestly seems to me that a person who understands society and isn’t trying to change it is far far less admirable than a person who just doesn’t understand society, especially one who honestly tries to make lives better albeit piecemeal and without coherent direction and aims, and often doing things that are even counterproductive.

The poll we have uploaded arose over time from a project called Reimagining Society. There were lots of people who partook of that project, writing about societal vision and strategy, discussing their ideas, etc., and that project also had a poll, toward the end, that was very long. There was very strong support for various positions registered, and those preferred positions have been amalgamated into the description in the current poll.

This poll, then, doesn’t ask much, after all, from people. It requires a little time. Let’s say an hour to read the description and think about it – or perhaps some people would take longer, others certainly would finish more quickly. And then one has to only click a few boxes to answer three questions. Perhaps another five or ten minutes. That’s not much. Maybe more than the We Stand statement, but not much more. But the payoff for the poll is large in the form of real and useful information about a profoundly important matter. And the poll’s payoff is also laden with possibility, either to retrench because there is no constituency for organization building, or to build, because there is. And wouldn’t the latter be something to have contributed to. (full text).

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