PERSUADING SOMEONE TO START
by John Spritzler
September 12, 2023
The URL of this article for sharing it is https://www.pdrboston.org/persuading-someone-to-start
[Also please read "What Causes a Political Sea Change?"]
Persuading someone to start doing what? This article is about what I have learned about persuading someone to start doing things intentionally for the purpose of building an egalitarian revolutionary movement, in other words a movement that aims explicitly for egalitarian revolution as discussed here.
Let me start with how I was persuaded to start doing this. I was persuaded by the late Dave Stratman in 1991. I wrote about how this happed in my memorial to Dave here. Very briefly, Dave asked me to read a book he had just written (you can read it as a PDF file online here) that completely changed how I thought about social change. The book explained how Dave came to understand that most ordinary people had values--such as equality and mutual aid--that were implicitly anti-capitalist and that when they acted on these values in their routine everyday lives they constituted an implicitly revolutionary force. Dave realized that this force was largely unaware of its own significance but that, when people became aware of its great revolutionary significance and gained the confidence to shape all of society by the values people already acted on in their personal everyday lives, then this would be the egalitarian revolution.
This understanding of revolution as the shaping of all society by the values most people already have and act upon is the exact opposite of the Marxist view, which sees revolution as shaping society by the values that most people do NOT have because they are supposedly brainwashed by capitalism and must be changed to be "class conscious" by the Marxist revolutionary party. Dave learned that a revolutionary's task is to give people confidence that they are right, while the Marxist says the task is telling people they are wrong.
Unless one is an elitist with a good dose of arrogance, one would naturally not be eager to build a revolutionary movement if one thought that this meant doing what Marxists do, which is telling people they are racist or homophobic or transphobic or selfish or complicit or lacking class consciousness, etc. etc. all of the time. It also means appealing to people not on the basis of their positive values (which Marxists don't think they have) but rather on the basis of "what's in it for you" or, as Marxists always phrase it, "your true interest." Dave and I had both been Marxists (in the Progressive Labor Party) and had discovered how this kind of activism was not the answer. But what WAS the answer?
Until I read Dave's book, I had come to the conclusion that there was no answer; the situation was hopeless as far as building a successful revolutionary movement was concerned. I had stopped even trying. My focus was on raising my children and tending to my vegetable garden. Dave's book changed my mind; it made me see that activism based on helping people see that they were RIGHT and that all of society should be shaped by the values they tried to live by personally, was an entirely new kind of activism that had great potential.
My new activism began by testing the new theory. I drafted the egalitarian revolutionary statement, This I Believe (PDF, give it time to load), and asked the first people I randomly met on the street where I lived if they would sign it. And they did! To be honest, I was shocked! This motivated me to ask lots more people, and lots more people signed it, as I wrote about here. Here's a video of me displaying the signatures on the document.
Next, I began video-interviewing random people on the street in five different neighborhoods of Boston, asking them if they thought it was a good idea or a bad idea to "Remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor." Here's one of those videos. About 90% of random people on the street said it was a good, or a great, idea. Later I asked people at a Trump rally and found that 86% of them felt the same way, as I wrote about here.
Here's a video (2nd half) of me asking random people on the streets of Boston if they would support an organization more, or less, if it advocated removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. Almost all said they'd support it MORE!
What happened next? I recruited my neighbors to join a new reform organization that was aimed at getting affordable housing instead of all the luxury housing that was being built. I asked random people on the street to sign a statement saying that they were hereby joining the reform organization and that they hoped it would also aim to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. I wrote about this here.)
By recruiting 1021 new members to the organization this way, I more than tripled the membership of the organization. I was optimistic the organization would soon be an egalitarian revolutionary organization. But that did not happen.
As I wrote about here, the leaders of the organization absolutely prohibited even any discussion on its email group of the idea of removing the rich from power, etc. And these leaders kicked me out of the organization. The 1021 people I had recruited to the organization never came to its meetings, and this is how its leaders prevailed in ignoring their wishes.
I LEARNED A KEY LESSON
This experience taught me a lesson. The reason WHY the leaders of the organization prevailed is that they, while being a small minority, felt like and acted like they were the great majority with all the confidence that entailed; in contrast, the 1021 people, while being the great majority, felt like and acted like a hopelessly weak minority with the extreme lack of confidence that entailed.
These 1021 people were people I encountered literally on the street and who signed the statement when I asked them if they agreed with it; this was a one-time-only encounter I had with them. They had the minimum confidence required to sign a statement that way, but did not know and never learned that they were the vast majority and hence did not have the confidence even to attend an organization's meetings. They believed that there was no way even to win more affordable housing, never mind to remove the rich from power, because it was obvious the rich were more powerful than we and were thus getting away with building only luxury housing. And so why, they felt, did it make sense to attend some meeting?
I ALSO LEARNED WHAT STRATEGY IS NEEDED NOW
I decided that the strategy required now was to help the great majority of have-nots learn that they were in fact the great majority in having an egalitarian revolutionary aspiration. This is the knowledge that makes it seem sensible to start building an egalitarian revolutionary movement. Without this knowledge, people understandably don't think it makes sense to even try, or even to attend a meeting.
The tactic I used to implement this strategy was to take photos of people declaring their egalitarian revolutionary aspiration and make a banner with these 500 photos (all from just one zip code) and display it in public places, as I wrote about here. Lots of other tactics are of course also possible to implement this key strategy.
PERSUADING OHERS TO START
You have seen how I was persuaded to start. I believe that a similar experience of some kind is what will persuade others to start as well. Because I had learned that most people already agreed with me about the desirability of egalitarian revolution, I was able to persuade some friends of mine and a few acquaintances to join me in talking to people on the street the way I had done. They would never have done this on their own; it required knowing somebody personally who had already done it and who could persuade them that if they did it they would find the experience very positive, and not at all the way they would expect it to be based on the negative image of people that we get from the mass media.
The negative image of people is, of course, that they DON'T want an egalitarian revolution (When's the last time you ever read or heard in the mass media an ordinary person expressing the egalitarian revolutionary aspiration? Never!) and that if you want to get their support for anything you must never mention egalitarian revolution and instead only talk about a reform in the most NON-radical way possible, to avoid scaring them off. This is how our morally corrupt leaders lead organizations, as I write about here.
If we help people learn the truth about most people, we can begin building the egalitarian revolutionary movement that we need. People will begin talking to their neighbors and co-workers, etc., about egalitarian revolution, and that is how a truly MASS movement gets started. It is what makes it possible one day to do what I describe in "How We CAN Remove the Rich from Power."