People For A Shared Program: YES, There Is An Alternative!
By Michael Albert
11 June, 2016
Recently my in box is flooded with articles talking about nothing but Trump, Sanders, and Clinton. I bet your’s is too.
A subset of our daily deluge goes beyond the three candidates to add commentary about the Democratic or Republican parties and the election process itself. I bet you get those, too.
A still lesser component says we ought to ignore what its authors call the quadrennial extravaganza calling it a mere distraction. But even as these calls to abstain immerse themselves and us in the same flow. They are just another part of the deluge. You get those, too, don’t you?
To top it off, while many of the deluge essays taken separately are wise, insightful, passionate, and well written - taken together they tell us things we have already heard over and over. Worse, many simplistically castigate everyone other than whoever wrote each piece.
Alongside the deadening deluge, everyone with a shred of sense, including almost all the deluge-ers, says that even if progress requires some electoral activity to reach out, to protect past gains, to ward off horrors, or to win some new gains, winning a new future requires tenacious and sustained activism, durable movement connection, and flexible and effective organization. Everyone agrees we have to transcend the focus that everyone at the moment can’t seem to escape -- the deluge defining presidential election.
About 40 days ago, in context of all the above, a new international web site called People for a Shared Program went online. The site doesn’t focus on Sanders, Clinton, Trump, or even on elections at all, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. The site’s merits, or not, have nothing to do with the U.S. quadrennial extravaganza or any other. And unlike writers and activists who reject but are at the same time overly caught up in personality or electoral politics, the new site is neither.
Here is how People for a Shared Program describes itself on its top page:
People for a Shared Program is a place to explore, develop and organize around left programmatic ideas.
87 writers offered a document - Possible Ideas for Going Forward - to foster such a process.
Below is a regularly updated version of that initial document. We hope you will discuss the ideas and suggest further additions or changes in our forum and/or in a blog post. We will continue to update the document in accord with good suggestions and display the current version below.
While we work together to formulate flexible ideas for a shared program we ask you to show your support by signing on to the effort. Signing says you believe in the goal of collectively developing a shared program and that you will participate in the process of refinement and improvement as best you are able.
Here are ways to participate:
>> Sign to show your support!
>> Suggest any changes to the document on the forum or in our blog
>> Share this site on social media or via email!
Our hope is that our collective efforts will ultimately inform actual organizing in the real world. How this might happen is something that could also be discussed using the facilities highlighted above.
The initial People for a Shared Program document was signed by 87 writers of diverse geographic and political lineage including Noam Chomsky, Hilary Wainwright, Walden Bello, Kathy Kelly, Bill Fletcher, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Leslie Cagan, Omar Barghouti, Marina Sitrin, Robert McChesney, Laura Flanders, Jerome Roos, Bhaskar Sunkara, Michael Albert, and 73 more.
The co-signers offered programmatic ideas bearing on economy, race, gender, international relations, polity, ecology, health, and education.
The multi-author article was sent to dozens of left, progressive, radical, and revolutionary web sites. Virtually every such site knew of the multi-author article’s existence. Progressive radio also knew. So did a huge number of activist projects and organizations.
It is also the case that most alternative media routinely publishes pieces by many of the article’s 87 authors. Yet only five alternative media operations, to my knowledge, posted the multi author article. Only one operation sent the article to its constituents. Only one followed up with reactions from its own writers. Only one prominently linked to the new site. Did the deluge drown out such possibilities? If so, can alternative media now see clear to relate to this effort?
The original signers proposed ideas to try to develop shared program. They signed the initial document. They supported the idea and effort. But only 8% wrote something about People for a Shared Program beyond initially signing.
The site remains. It has so far attracted 288 grassroots signers supporting the idea of shared program. And yet, aren’t there 100,000 people, and even a good many times that, who would be ecstatic to see a shared program that includes even remotely the insightful aspects that the 87 writers proposed in their article emerge from a bottom up project like this? Of course there are.
As the list of signers attests, People for a Shared Program is an international endeavor, but even just in the U.S., and even just among the U.S. audiences who are already highly attuned to serious left thought and action, much less among the broader currently aroused electorate, wouldn’t an incredible number of people love to see shared progressive left program emerge? And wouldn’t virtually every alternative web system and journal and magazine and radio station, and yes, also every activist organization of the left also celebrate a shared program emerging and being adopted very widely as a touchstone for later shared activity? And can’t we say the same thing for the people and alternative media and left organizations of many many countries around the world, France, Greece, Spain, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, India, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, and on, and on, and on? If not, then what do such progressive people and operations favor?
So the question arises why don’t tens or hundreds of thousands or, yes, even millions of folks flock to a site that offers a way to undertake a bottom up, diverse, cross border and cross constituency collective process of program development?
Remember, this project isn’t just a shot in the dark day dream of a person or two. It arises from the involvement of 87 of the most prominent and respected social critics and activists in the world.
Folks at large likely aren’t rushing to relate to People for a Shared Program largely because they don’t know about it, and if they did happen to hear of it, they assume it will get nowhere, until and unless they see real momentum. But what about people who are already activists, people who already give a good part of their lives to social change, people who already write and organize, and thus, people who could make People for a Shared Program known to wider audiences? Why don’t those sophisticated and resourceful folks lend a hand?
Is it that we are caught up in the election deluge and can’t tear ourselves away for even an instant? Is it that we are afraid to try for shared program, because we fear that shared program is beyond our capacity to attain - we can forever raise our fists as dissidents with good values and clear understanding, we can never cohere into a united force for change? Is it that we are just too involved in our own very worthy and incredibly time consuming and exhausting endeavors to do what we all nonetheless continually urge needs doing if those endeavors and others are to succeed?
We could try to settle on an answer and then try to address it to overcome the obstacle. That would be a very worthy response, I think.
But we can try another more hopeful path first. We can engage with People for a Shared Program, even if we have not done so for the past few weeks. We can go to the site, read the material, think about our own views of program, and offer our ideas for improvements or refinements in whatever ways we prefer. We could use the offered forum or blog system. We could comment. Even better, we could write about People for a Shared Program and about our own ideas for new program for other venues. And we could urge others to do likewise.
We could push to see shared program emerge as a step toward creating a new kind of deluge. All other activism would benefit from shared program emerging and winning wide explicit support. Specific current campaigns would gain solidarity with other current campaigns and gain reason to mutually pursue still larger agendas. Established and emerging movements would gain focus, connection, and hope. Deeply dormant yet undeniably paramount desires to build new organization would gain program around which to cohere.
Is all this too ambitious for our times? Yes, much evil is afoot. But millions upon millions of people are aroused, angry, and desirous of good, as well. Yet still, as for the last fifty years, our best minds, our best hearts, our most energetic souls mainly preach about what is wrong. We immerse ourselves and our constituencies in personality politics even while we rage against personality politics. We pursue worthy but narrow agendas while we ourselves argue they can’t win unless they combine into larger unity. We know the programmatic task of the day is generating mass solidarity around larger agendas. We nonetheless leave that task largely unaddressed.
But we can change all that. No law of nature or of history blocks us from doing so. Not even the powers that be block us. What blocks us is within ourselves.
If you have a better path to promote large scale, massively entwined struggle for change than contributing to the project People for a Shared Program, a path that has more promise, a path that has more traction, a path that is more diversely rooted, then by all means pursue that path. And proclaim the need for others to do so as well.
But if you don’t have a better path toward a now much needed massive networking of activism, and you have some time to offer, why not as one part of your personal schedule, join the path of People for a Shared Program and proclaim the need for others to do so as well.
Do you want bottom up solidarity? Do you want participation? Do you want coherent agenda? Do you want activists and organizations to maintain focus but also support one another in growing unity? Of course you do. Pursue it. It won’t come to pass unless we make it happen.
Michael Albert is an American activist, economist, speaker, and writer. He is founder of Z Net and Z Magazine. He co-founded South End Press.