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Two 'What If?' Books to Learn From

by John Spritzler

September 17, 2023

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What if, during a great economic depression with huge unemployment and lots of idle factories, a person became the Democratic Party nominee for governor of California on a platform of ending poverty in California with a plan called "EPIC" (End Poverty In California), and the EPIC plan called for the following:


The government would establish a network of cooperative colonies for the state's 700,000 unemployed, basing them in idle factories and vacant farmland, which the state would seize under its powers of eminent domain or through confiscatory taxes. The state would capitalize and manage these cooperatives, which would exchange their products within a giant, cash-free network. This would be the basis for a new cooperative economy, an economy of 'production for use' that would ultimately supplant the old economy of 'production for profit' as workers, farmers, and even businessmen realized the efficiency and numerous personal and social advantages of cooperation. [1]

Well, this actually happened in 1936. Upton Sinclair won the Democratic Party primary election for Governor on the basis of wild enthusiasm by millions of Californians for the EPIC program. Sinclair's victory in the primary election shocked the political establishment, which determined to do WHATEVER it took to prevent him from actually becoming the governor of California. You can read all about this in Sinclair's book, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

What if, beginning in 2000, a young American Harvard Ph.D. non-tenured professor at the University of Illinois got it into his head to replace the militaristic U.S. foreign policy in Asia with a peaceful one and ended up advocating "a new concept of the military, in which the air force no longer used fighter planes, but was concerned with stopping air pollution, the navy dedicated to ending pollution of the oceans, and the army concerned with preserving soil"? [2]


And what if this man, who had taught himself to speak Korean and Chinese and Japanese, developed a substantial amount of support from academics in Korea and China and Japan and the United States for this peace-not-war notion? And what if this man happened to be an excellent writer, wrote some best-selling books in Korean, wrote lots of columns in newspapers in Korea, spoke on this theme at lots of different very respectable venues in all of the countries? And most importantly, what if this man clearly aimed to appeal to, and work with, and essentially join the establishment leaders rather than come across as a revolutionary?  What would happen?

Well, this did actually happen. The man who did this is Emanuel Pastreich and you can read what happened in his book (officially fiction but in fact his best effort to report the truth), Wrestling with Shadows

Both of these fascinating books provide important lessons for anybody who wants to make positive changes to our society that the ruling billionaire plutocracy opposes. The first tells us what the limits are to using the electoral system. The second tells us what the limits are to "working within the system."

These books, in my opinion, make it evident that the only way to make our society genuinely equal and democratic and to end the warmongering of our rulers, is to build a massive egalitarian revolutionary movement to remove the rich from power, as I discuss here.


1. This paragraph is largely based on one on page vi in the introduction to I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked by Upton Sinclair

2. from Wrestling with Shadows by Emanuel Pastreich, page 342

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