Achieving Social Justice

Published on Dissident Voice, by Kim Petersen, April 1, 2011.

… To the argument that anarchism will not succeed because humans are intrinsically greedy, Levine rightly points out that this is assertion. Whether humans are greedy or altruistic: “no one can definitively prove their case.”

It is likeliest that human character is in large extent shaped by the system and society one finds oneself in. If so, and indubitably it is, then human character can be shaped by designing culture and society to elicit desirable traits.

The electoral battle field is a no-win scenario. The two-party Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum focus is distracting and enervating. 

Levine holds that lesser evilism is bad for democracy. If lesser evilism is so terrible, one wonders what Levine meant when he wrote of the US presidential election in 2000, “… Nader and the Green party lost their luster.” It seems that one could just as well conversely state that lesser evilism gained luster, but for this writer, each election has adduced that lesser evilism appeases iniquity and only the evilists gain.

Levine recounts that elections are a long, long trail of defeats for progressives. What to do?

Levine calls for disruption, which he acknowledges is risky. It is not a novel call; it has been known by many for a long, long time. Workers have power in that their labor is required to work the factories and workplaces. Workers using their wages to consume is necessary to keep capitalism flowing. Disruption is another name for general strike.

Levine warns of “violent revolution, one risks the loss of life and the loss of even more power if defeated.” This is a risk. However, Levine does not address that violent revolution originates with the authoritarianism and classism of the capitalist system. Violence is the modus operandi of the elitists, and violent resistance is legitimized by the initial violence of the elitists.

Get Up, Stand Up examines alternatives to capitalist society, a dropping out of the rat race: communes, worker cooperatives, lower-cost online education or worker colleges.

The right to study in tuition free universities should be enjoyed by every person. If university academics truly are critical thinkers, they might ponder deeply whether the university hierarchy is justifiable and preferable.

Levine does not explore deeply an alternative economic system, and it would have improved Get Up, Stand Up if he had included discussion of such, for example, parecon which empowers workers and is non-hierarchical.

The basic thrust of Get Up, Stand Up is laudable. A few times the book digresses from its thesis, and that is when it read unevenly. For instance, Levine appears to take couched potshots at Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, referring to him as a “ruthless dictator” on one hand and “not all that powerful” on the other hand. Why does Levine use a figure demonized by the capitalist-imperialist hierarchy to make his points and rather unconvincingly?

Such examples are points of contention among leftists,1 as is the current civil war with many foreign interlopers in Libya.

Solidarity is a sine qua non of revolution. The general strike will require everyone to look after each other. Electoral strategies and military or economic interference in the systems of other states are potentially unity destroying topics better discussed and decided upon after the revolution is won.

Get Up, Stand Up is valuable for societal and psychological insights into what fosters and maintains continuation of egregious violence, exploitation of resources and maldistribution of wealth, and classism (the ignoble prejudice that one group is in some way superior as human beings to other groups). Getting out of this jaundiced cycle of capitalism is needed for humanity to fully progress. (full long text).

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