Robert Jensen interviews Abe Osheroff
Robert Jensen is a University of Texas Journalism professor here in Austin. As an activist and writer, he also co-founded Third Coast Activist. The thing that always gets me is the lack of overall interest in serious political issues with a strong desire to change things for the better. Campaign and electoral changes come to mind where we can un-seed the two parties and have more parties shake things up and work on consensus building or coaltion building, rather than one party vieing against another with all the reactionary platforms that come with it.
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Anyhow, check out this interesting interview where Abe Osheroff basically says, forget about joining activist groups, work on your own. Well, he's talking about himself really but I agree; nothing can be done at this point in time to change the mindset of the majority of Americans. Life is just too good for them. Excerpt time:
4) Building political movements in an affluent societyRead the rest HERE.
RJ: Let's talk about movement building, about the tension between the need for people like Turnbow, with all that energy and passion, and the need for discipline and organization. For years you were a member of the CP, which was highly disciplined and organized. After leaving, you've mostly worked on your own politically -- with people, in groups, but not in that kind of disciplined organization. Is there a way to balance this? Can we have structures that bring people in and organize the energy, without restricting and limiting people in the way institutions sometimes do?
AO: Well, we may never achieve that. It may not be possible to balance those things. In fact, it's not sensible to believe it can be achieved. Rather than a goal you think we'll get to, it's a direction in which we have to move, to build a movement that keeps those things in balance. But I have to tell you, at this moment, I can't think of a movement that I would want to be a member of.
RJ: Do you mean a recognizable political movement in the U.S.?
AO: In the U.S. at the moment, I have two options. I can do what I'm doing, which is working somewhat independently, or I can quit. There's no movement that exists out there for me to join. The way I look at my work, frankly, I feel like I'm helping -- together with others -- to plant the seeds for a different type of movement. To me, a lot of my work is a seeding operation. What I think we need is -- something that's always been absent in American political life -- is a conscious attention to activism as a way of life and as a vehicle toward achieving some kind of structure for society which will be of use, historically. Right now, that structure does not exist, and it will not come into being by declaration, or by a handful of people desperate to have some kind of movement who institutionalize one. There's no basis for that right now in this country.
RJ: No basis for...
AO: A movement, a real movement. There are a lot of people in motion, doing all kinds of things. But there's nothing that represents them -- not the Communist Party or the civil-rights movement, or anything like that. There's a void.
RJ: Do you mean that there just doesn't happen to be an existing structure, or that the conditions are such that you don't think one is possible right now? I agree there's no movement in any serious sense. But are you saying you think the conditions are such that one can't exist right now?
AO: I think right now it's kind of fruitless to work at creating such a thing, at least for me. It seems to me there's no way in the world it could happen right now. If others see it, I'd love to learn about it, but I don't see it.
RJ: What's missing that makes that impossible right now?
AO: Well, the big thing that makes everything difficult is that the so-called movement in our country consists basically of middle-class people, who are fairly comfortable. That's what most of the movement is. And such a movement has its value, but it's not exactly a durable basis for building things. I'm not going to negate it; there's a great deal happening. But it cannot result in real positive growth. We have a thing here in Seattle called SNOW -- Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, as in Puget Sound. It's based on consensus. It became a wheel, with spokes, a coalition with no hub, no axle, and it's in a constant state of crisis and disarray. I mean, we don't deserve the reputation we've got in Seattle for activism.
RJ: When you say middle-class, is it U.S. affluence that stands in the way of a real movement?
Which reminds me when I spoke with this lady at a birthday party. She said that people are not suffering enough to make changes. And a comfortable middle class won't.