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(en) US, SDS* National Constitutional Convention Final Bulletin - A Vision for the Future

Date Tue, 06 Nov 2007 08:42:14 +0200


FOR NEARLY TWO GENERATIONS, THE LEFT IN THE UNITED STATES HAS BEEN UNABLE TO FULLY answer the following question: "What do you want?" We know what we are against: war, imperialism, authoritarianism, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental destruction, and so on. We know how to analyze contemporary barbarism. We can present the horrors of the world in broad strokes or in miniature detail, rough and loose or with meticulous precision. The Left does this well - we write long books, issue musty policy reports, update flashy websites. We also speak truth to power. We resist oppressive policies and practices. We fight for a better world.

The slogan of the first U.S. Social Forum,
"Another World Is Possible, Another U.S. Is
Necessary!" is catchy, but what does the cre-
ation of another world entail? What does it
mean to remake a movement? What does it
mean to say we want to live a better life in a
better world? While it may be a long and
thankless task, putting forth a vision of a
good society provides us with the founda-
tion necessary to move forward. If we
believe that humans are capable of accom-
plishing so much more than we do under
current constraints, if we believe that
oppressive institutions can be defeated by
the power of the people, and if we believe
that there is a viable alternative to present
forms of social organization, then we must
commit ourselves to the arduous task of
developing, revising, and implementing
visionary alternatives to the dominant social
institutions of our time.
It must be emphasized and re-empha-
sized that by outlining the values and institu-
tions of a good society, we are not offering
a blueprint for that society, nor mandating in
advance what specific practical arrange-
ments or relations will be found in the future
society. If it is even possible to speak mean-
ingfully about what we know we are against,
we must have some notions of what a better
world would involve and how it would be
structured. We must have some knowledge
of what the future society could look like
based on the historical examples set by radi-
cals of the past and by our own experiences
in the present.
This document seeks to put forth a vision
for the values and institutions in the spheres
of ecological, political, economic, gender,
kinship, community, and international life
that would constitute a good society. It is by
no means complete, nor can it be complete -
we do not have perfect knowledge of what
the future holds. However, it is the begin-
ning of a process that, if it is to be success-
ful, will require people taking collective own-
ership over the process of developing and
innovating revolutionary vision and can lead
to the creation of a Left in the U.S. that can
win.
There is little in the way of analysis or
strategy, but there is vision that lays a foun-
dation for our organization to develop a
framework of guiding principles and ideas.
Our social theories, analyses of present
social institutions, and our organizing strate-
gies can be developed as part of this collec-
tive process of building a semi-comprehen-
sive document detailing our politics as an
organization. This framework will not only
help us approach the world we live in now,
but also guide us toward the future society
we wish to win.
In this document, we seek to answer that
fundamental question of "What do you
want?" by offering an outline of the values
and institutions that we seek to obtain in a
good society, with the intention of eventual-
ly developing a critical analysis of the values
and institutions we oppose and seek to over-
throw, as well as a strategy and program for
obtaining revolutionary change. Although
the vision document received input and crit-
icism from a variety of SDS members, the
writing process for this document must
become more inclusive and participatory.
Only through popular participation and a
collective editing process can we develop a
document that accurately captures our view
of the world, our visionary alternatives, and
our revolutionary strategies.
Revolution
We struggle to win a total reorganization
of our present society and fundamental
transformation in the spheres of environ-
mental, economic, political, kinship, gender,
community, cultural, and international life.
To do so requires the process of forging
new relationships between people and the
creation of new institutions that meet the
needs of people and further the values of a
good society. To reach a society where all cit-
izens are provided with the means to devel-
op and fulfill their maximum potentials in
ways that do not sacrifice the well being of
some groups to advance the interests of oth-
ers, we must set a trajectory of change. A
successful revolutionary movement must
accomplish the following tasks:
o Win a series of reforms that will
improve the day-to-day conditions under
which people live while simultaneously
weakening the power of oppressive insti-
tutions and bringing society closer to rev-
olutionary transformation.
o Create and strengthen visionary and
alternative institutions that prefigure an
egalitarian society and compete with
oppressive structures for power and the
support of the people.
o Arouse radical consciousness among a
majority of people and empower the pub-
lic to want further changes in society.
o Retain and strengthen already active
members of the movement while simulta-
neously bringing a larger section of the
population into the movement.
o Build cross-organizational solidarity to
build long-lasting trust and support for a
variety of social movements.
o Continue to increase the power and
ability of the movement to successfully
challenge and defeat the power of
oppressive institutions.

Environmental Justice & Sustainability

We struggle to win a society that respects
Earth and life in all its diversity, recognizing
that all beings are interdependent, that all life
has value, and that the resources and beauty
of the planet are things to be preserved and
secured for present and future generations.
This requires that society protects and
restores natural systems that sustain life, pre-
vents environmental harm, applies a precau-

tionary approach where knowledge is limit-
ed, adopts methods of production, con-
sumption, and allocation that safeguard the
planet's regenerative capacities, and under-
stands the mutual interdependence of envi-
ronmental quality, economic health, and
social equality.
We must also recognize the unique posi-
tion we occupy in human and natural histo-
ry. The current general scientific consensus
on global climatic change warns that we may
pass up, in our own very lifetimes, the
opportunity to prevent outright ecological
collapse that threatens the future survival of
our own species, as well as that of the plan-
et. The evidence is overwhelming, and in
many cases incontrovertible. An environ-
mentally just society must systematically
advance the fullest possible study of sustain-
ability, and promote the open exchange and
wide application of the knowledge acquired.
Advances in environmental and ecological
research should further inform our educa-
tional system's curriculum, as well as our
economic practices, allowing society to
develop praxis in sustainability and environ-
mentalism. Such praxis is of the utmost
urgency.

Economic Justice and Democracy

We struggle to win a classless society
where all forms of fixed economic hierar-
chies that demarcate people into opposed
constituencies have been abolished. For
cooperation and solidarity to be the defining
aspects of a classless economy, the tasks of
production, consumption, and allocation
must be accomplished through participatory
and democratic institutions that maximize
human potential, provide an equitable distri-
bution of society's resources, provide a
diverse range of options, and provide a rela-
tive level of empowerment among all citi-
zens to provide each with enough time to
pursue individual interests and to participate
in democratic decision-making. This
requires the social ownership and control of
the means of production - the means by
which society produces and utilizes the
resources people need - so that society may
have collective control over its economic
activity. Such an economy would take into
consideration the impact of transactions on
the greater population, as well as the social
and environmental impacts of the produc-
tion and consumption of particular goods.
Economic life in a classless and democratic
society can be organized through federations
workers' councils and neighborhood assem-
blies.
We must work to build alternative institu-
tions and social relations in the economy
that embody our values, prefigure our vision
of a future society, and work better for peo-
ple than current forms of economic and
social organization. Our "seeds of the future
in the present" must be practical and com-
pelling in their own right, and be attractive to
everyday people and everyday concerns pre-
cisely because they are rational, effective,
and equitable means to embody the values
and achieve the goals held by communities,
regions, and society.
We must also recognize the need for, and
actively pursue, social and economic recon-
struction. That is, we design and implement
alternative institutions whose operational
details - the actual plans and actions across
firms and industries - embody our shared
values, and restore productive potentials
across industries along truly democratic
lines. They should not only be responsive to
the challenge of capitalism, but address the
challenges of militarism, environmental
deterioration, sexual and ethnic divisions of
labor, and so on.
In delinking ourselves and our communi-
ties from oppressive systems, we must
devolve the power of that system, while build-
ing our own power. In a metaphor, entirely
rebuilding a ship piece by piece, while at the
same time keeping it afloat at sea.


articipatory Democracy

We struggle to win a society where every
individual directly shares in making the deci-
sions that determine the quality and direc-
tion of both the individual's life and that of
their community. Citizens should have an
influence in decisions proportionate to the
degree which they are affected by the out-
comes. For every individual to make well-
informed and meaningful contributions to
the political process there must be equal
access to empowering opportunities, to a
diverse range of single-issue and multi-issue
organizations with varying social agendas,
and to a media system that is under direct
democratic control of the people and serves
to foster greater participation and to better
inform the decisions of the public by pre-
senting a diverse range of ideas and opin-
ions, as well as the views of competing
groups. Instead of politics being a means by
which privileged groups perpetuate their
domination, politics will become the domain
of the public and citizens will be given the
responsibility of formulating social policy.
In a participatory democracy, decisions of
basic social consequence should be carried
out through a series of public, deliberative
bodies. Collective discussion and debate
encourages people to move beyond their ini-
tial opinions or stereotypes, seek common
ground with others, and take seriously the
opinions of others. When politics become
participatory, it has the power to bring peo-
ple out of apathy and isolation and into a
larger community. This form of positive
political organization can provide further
meaning in personal life by making politics
into the art of collectively creating an
acceptable pattern of social relations.

Feminism

We struggle to win a society where all sex-
ual divisions of labor have been abolished
and where the demarcation of individuals
according to sexual orientation, sexual iden-
tity, sexual expression, and gender expres-
sion is eliminated. A feminist society aims to
free people from socially imposed oppres-
sive definitions and provides the means for
all to pursue the lives they want regardless of
their gender, sexual orientation, or age.
Society must be respectful of an individual's
nature, inclinations and choices, whether
homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, heterosex-
ual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, two
spirit, queer, questioning, monogamous, or
non-monogamous.
Kinship institutions are necessary for
people to develop and fulfill their sexual and
emotional needs, and to socialize new gener-
ations of children. Kinship relations and
institutions under feminism must elevate the
status of childrearing, encourage highly per-
sonalized interaction between children and
adults, and distribute responsibilities for
these interactions equitably throughout soci-
ety without segregating tasks by gender.
Traditional couples, single parents, lesbian
and gay parenting, communal parenting, and
more complex, multiple parenting arrange-
ments must be provided with the means
necessary to develop and flourish. This
requires that parents have easy access to high
quality day-care, flexible work hours, and
parental leave options.
The liberation of women and society
requires reproductive freedom. Society must
provide all with the right to have children
without fear of sterilization or economic
deprivation, the right to not have children
through unhindered access to birth control
and abortion, and the right to sexual educa-
tion and healthcare that provides every citi-
zen with the information and resources to
live a healthy and fulfilling sexual life.
In a feminist society without oppressive
hierarchies, sex can be pursued solely for
emotional, physical, and spiritual pleasure
and development. Experimentation must be
appreciated and the narrow possessiveness
of monogamy must be overcome while
allowing the preservation of the fulfillment
that results from lasting relationships. The
exercise and exploration of different forms
of sexuality by consenting partners provides
a variety of experiences that can benefit all
of society.

Participatory Education

We struggle to win a society where every
individual has access to as high a level of
education as they wish to achieve and where
the education system is democratically con-
trolled as a community of scholars, dedicat-
ed to individual and social betterment. In
such a society, the education system would
serve as a means to empower the individual
by helping each person grow in their skills
and knowledge to their fullest human poten-
tial, as well as facilitating people's growth
into critically conscious, engaging partici-
pants in a democratic society. Critical educa-
tion is a prerequisite for participation in
democratic decision-making.
In a participatory democracy, education
will not be confined to the classrooms.
However, this does not mean schools will be
eliminated altogether. Participatory educa-
tion seeks to draw a distinction between
what will be known as education and what
will be known as schooling. Participatory
schools will emphasize creativity, free
expression, critical thinking, civic engage-
ment, and empowerment. Schools will be a
place where people can practice democracy
and solidarity by educating one another,
building their own curriculums and practic-
ing self-management. In a good society, edu-
cation will be appreciated not only as a
means to an end, but something that is itself
empowering and of value.
Participatory schools will be run collec-
tively by the people who work and study in
them. In schools - as in the rest of society -
people will have influence in decisions pro-
portionate to the degree which they are
affected by the outcomes. Students and fac-
ulty will cooperate to collectively develop a
curriculum that both the students and facul-
ty feel confident about and have mutual
ownership over. Students will affirm them-
selves by educating one another, the faculty,
and themselves. Schools and educators will
practice horizontal methods of education
where each student's experiences, skills, and
innate knowledge are appreciated as some-
thing that can contribute to the whole edu-
cational experience in the classroom.

Intercommunalism

We struggle to win a society where the
division of people into subservient positions
according to culture, ethnicity, nationality,
and religion has been abolished, and where
material and psychological privileges granted
to a section of the population at the expense
of the dignity and standard of living of an
oppressed community has been eliminated.
An intercommunalist society values the his-
torical contributions of different communi-
ties and provides them with the means for
further development. Diverse cultures
should be preserved, not destroyed. People
must be allowed to uphold a sense of who
they are and where they came from, and a
democratic society must respect and pre-
serve the multiplicity of cultural communi-
ties by guaranteeing each sufficient material
and social resources to reproduce itself.
Each culture possesses a particular wis-
dom as a unique result of its historical expe-
rience, and the interaction of different cul-
tures can enhance the internal characteristics
of each and provide a richness no single
approach could hope to attain. The key to
eliminating negative intercommunal rela-
tionships is by guaranteeing that each com-
munity will have the means necessary to
carry on their traditions. Under intercom-
munalism, individuals will be free to choose
the cultural communities they prefer, rather
than have others define their choice for
them on the basis of prejudice. Those out-
side a community should be free to criticize
cultural practices that, in their view, violate
humanist norms, and members of every
community willl have the right of dissent
and to leave.
Our society's long and brutal history of
conquest, colonization, genocide, and slav-
ery will not be transcended easily.
Intercommunalist relations must be slowly
constructed, step-by-step, until a different
historical legacy and set of behavioral expec-
tations are established. Every community
should be guaranteed sufficient material and
communicative means to self-define and
develop its own cultural traditions, and rep-
resent their culture to all other communities.

Internationalism & Self-Determination

We struggle to win a society that pro-
motes solidarity between national, as well as
cultural communities. Revolutionary strug-
gles for liberation take place in all corners of
the world. For such liberation struggles to be
successful and to obtain a world without war
and oppression, revolution must be global.
An internationalist society understands the
mutual interdependence of struggles taking
place in particular regions of the world, the
necessity to support the struggles of
oppressed peoples against imperialism,
regional and national tyrants, and transna-
tional corporations, with the understanding
that oppressed peoples have the right to
define and lead their own struggles of liber-
ation and independence and to resist any
foreign or domestic force that prevents
them from controlling the decision-making
process. Such struggles for self-determina-
tion are to be supported by an international-
ist society and given material and social
resources to assist and support them in their
struggle for freedom.


---------------------------------------------
A Note on Implementation / Ratification
This proposal is the combination of two documents: "A
Vision For the Future" by Pat Korte, and "Towards Economic
and Social Reconstruction" by Aaron Petcoff and Dave
Shukla, that were presented together at the 2007 SDS
National Convention at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Each vision document outlines several core concepts,
principles, and institutions. The first contains vision orient-
ed towards strategy - outlining basic principles for the insti-
tutions of a new society and the process for how to win a
total reorganization and fundamental transformation of our
present society. The second contains vision oriented
towards analysis - naming the systems that constitute and
perpetuate contemporary barbarism.
Neither document is complete. These proposals were
passed, not for their specific language or specific content,
but to be combined so as to create a starting point for
determining what sort of society we wish to obtain. As
presented on the floor of the convention, the combined
version of these documents was not proposed as a final
draft to be subject to the ratification process.
Rather, it was proposed as a working draft to be distributed
in print form to all chapters, to be reproduced freely by all
SDS organizers, and to be posted on the SDS National
Website.
This is a living document, and should be circulated with the
Website. aim of being discussed and debated, clarified and ampli-
Website. fied, rewritten partially or entirely, and to be revisited at
Website. the 2008 National Convention.
Website. It is a starting point that is by no means complete. Revise
Website. it. Expand it. Change some or all of it. If the task of devel-
Website. oping alternative visions to inspire and inform the move-
Website. ment and the society is worth the effort, then it is our hope
Website. that the process of developing such visions will be under-
Website. taken by the membership of SDS as a whole.

================================
* An antiauthoritarian anticapitalist network
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