Me, You, and 20 Theses #4Liberation | Michael Albert
On May 1 2023, various media outlets and organizations co-published an essay titled 20 Theses for Liberation. Thirty progressive activists initially signed it. 5 international organizations initially host and advocate for it. Many other venues are displaying it. And its own page at http://www.4liberation.org displays all that and additional information and also provides a form for you to add your support as another signer. I sincerely hope you will visit 4liberation.org to consider signing on yourself.
But at this point, skeptical, you might very reasonably ask: Why now? Why theses? Why sign? And what next?
As a co-author, I know the 20 Theses don’t mean to present a program. A program would differ dramatically in different countries, regions, and even cities as well as from one year and even one month and sometimes one week to the next. The 20 Theses want to bridge all those realms. And I also know the 20 Theses don’t mean to say this way or no way. They don’t mean to be commandments. They just mean to be a collection of diverse wisdom offered to try to help unify a movement of movements across issues, focuses, and borders. They offer themselves as a starting point to propel conversations to develop better, richer, more inspiring formulations. So, with that clarified, here are answers to the above four questions that propelled me to be part of this project. I hope they will resonate for you too.
I was recently 76. That just means I have been around a long time. But being around a long time has told my eyes and ears, my beliefs and passions, that our current time is different.
I remember nightmares of nukes, the Cuban missile crisis, duck and cover, Vietnam, Indochina, maddening nationalism, and the stream of persistent barbaric international horrors since. I remember vile sentiments among elites and I remember ugly sentiments percolating through daily life each many times over. I remember ecological worries first rising to public sight a half century back and increasing ever since. And I remember much more, and yet I remember nothing so threatening to human well being and even to human survival as today’s growing fascist projects, today’s festering interpersonal and international anti social violence, today’s burning ecological nightmares, and todays growing threat of nuclear extermination. Now is to my aged eyes the most dangerous of times.
Yet I also remember the American Sixties, the French May ‘68, diverse movements churning, and varied consciousnesses rising ever since. I remember advances lost but also won. Movements born, struggling, but also slumbering. Yet, call me crazy, while I can feel in my old bones that these are the most dangerous of times, they also strike my still young soul as the most promising of times. Humanity faces possible extinction—but large sectors of humanity now know it, and many have got to already be or will soon become eager for reasoned, passionate, militant change, not solely in one realm, not solely for one moment, and not to just create a momentary pause in the ugliness, but in all realms and for all times, to create a stupendous revolution in values, views, and institutions. That is an organizer’s invitation. We can hear the invitation all over the world, from Europe to Asia, from the the Middle East to the U.S., from Africa to Latin America. In France, Germany, the UK, Iran, Israel, Sri Lanka, Peru and elsewhere, the signs of times changing are unmistakeable.
So 20 Theses, why now? Because now public opposition to racism, to sexism, and to all manner of sexual oppressiveness is rising and more and more people are ready to rumble for change. Because now, literally all around the world, working people are organizing not only for immediate gains but against systemic injustices and for encompassing liberation. And because now, the simple truth is, later may be too late. Less apocalyptically and more optimistically, because now just beneath the surface, revolutionary aspirations and spirit are awakening. Because now we need battles for immediate specific gains whose pursuit can lead to sustained multi focus struggle for a new world. And because now winning such gains in such ways will require movements that share vision and strategy and that, on that shared foundation, exercise incandescent, inspiring, mutual aid. So why now? Because now is our time for unity.
For me, it is because to share core insights about vision and strategy sufficient for effective unity we need to enunciate, discuss, refine, and come together around bottom up, widely conceived, openly vetted and continually updated insights that can sustain collective struggle and mutual support without so over-reaching that they curtail creative diversity born from different circumstances. Theses because we do not need some presumed universal blueprint. We do not need top down marching orders. But we do need visionary and strategic unity that both respects diverse heritages and simultaneously facilitates continually emerging unifying insights.
But how can we arrive at, share, and continually update such needed insights? We can write, read, and above all listen and talk about what we have already and what we will soon experience. So why 20 Theses? The dictionary says a thesis is “a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.” The 20 Theses for Liberation put forward 20 statements, plus an introduction and conclusion. They intend that each statement, 1 – 20, be assessed, refined, enriched, and when settled, maintained until they are further improved to be maintained anew. “Thesis” is just a word. It applies. But if you would prefer to refer to the 20 Theses as 20 statements, ideas, precepts, themes, insights, or whatever, so be it. It’s the ensuing conversation that will matter.
Of course signatures aren’t marches. A name on a form isn’t a strike. A name on a form isn’t itself actual face to face organizing and organization building. But many names together can convey a sense of possibility. Many names can give folks a reason to relate. Many names can convey motivation to spend some time reading, thinking, assessing, and hopefully signing on. The initial signers no doubt each hope their name will inspire attention and critical sharing. We’ll see.
But you may wonder, how can I sign on to words I didn’t write?
In all likelihood each co-author would, on their own, express this or that thesis or even all 20 Theses a little differently. Each co-author would include or remove something if he or she wanted to arrive at a perfect, precise statement of their own personal current views and inclinations. But to perfectly present each co-author’s individual views wasn’t the point. To wholly encompass any one signer’s or the sum of all signers’ totality of views wasn’t the point. The 20 Theses don’t mean to cover all things for all people. But they do hope to offer a collection of core foundational insights for, well, all those who agree. They hope to offer a starting point to work off to arrive at a set of widely shared pivotal views about vision and strategy sufficient to sustain mutual aid within an increasingly effective movement of movements. What broad shared commitments can get myriad struggles which seek different specific but compatible ends by different specific but compatible means to see themselves as all together constituting a set of intersecting mutually supportive parts of a larger whole?
You say you wouldn’t yourself formulate one or more of the 20 theses precisely the way the 20 Theses formulate them? You say you have additional ideas for or concerns about possible refinements? No problem. That will be much needed material for the conversation that the 20 Theses seek. What is now reason for you to sign is only that you, like the co-authors, feel that the 20 Theses provide a good basis for seeking shared vision and strategy, and that you agree with their intent and overall direction. So, in that case, why sign? To express your support and hope. To add your name to the call in hopes your doing so will increase its credibility and prospects.
And what next?
This may seem the hardest of the four questions, yet in most respects it is the easiest. Answer: Different strokes for different folks. First step is to get the 20 Theses and particularly the 4liberation.org site widely visible to motivate more people to sign. Second step is to add your thoughts to an emerging discussion by reposts, articles, and especially conversations so as to spread, apply, refine, and share the evolving insights. From there, we will all see together where this will go. Here is how the 4liberation.org site answers “what next?”: “Engage, Adapt, Share.”
The site suggests we each consider, How does the 20 Theses for Liberation framework relate to your context, or not? How can unifying themes about vision strategy be applied in your life? Do you have a local history or practice of collective strategic organizing? How can a shared organizing framework become more accessible and actionable in your community? How might we connect and act together?
It says, “Dig in, connect, discuss, adapt, write, create, build & share! Send articles, art, ideas, and projects to [email protected] with in the subject line.
Share on social media using #4Liberation.”
Are these steps worth some of your time to interact with your family members, friends, students, schoolmates, and co-workers? We never know in advance, do we? But I am trying to “dig in, connect, discuss, adapt, write, create, build & share” because I think it is worth my time to do so. I hope you will too.