THE TRANSITIONAL PHASE TO EGALITARIANISM

In order to create an egalitarian society, as described here, the most important thing is for people to know what it is they are trying to create and to build a movement that is explicitly for this goal. This means knowing that the goal is to shape society on very different principles from the ones that our current society is based upon. Instead of the principles of wealth inequality and domination of the many by the few, it will be the principles of no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid.

There will of course be a period of transition to a fully egalitarian society, a period in which things will not yet be fully egalitarian. I will discuss this phase shortly below. But before doing that I want to remind the reader of something very important about any discussion of a transition phase. 

 

It would be a huge mistake to use the fact that there will be a transition phase as an excuse for not building a movement with the clear and explicit vision of a fully egalitarian society as its goal. Society will probably not ever be fully egalitarian in any utopian sense because there will likely remain individuals hostile to egalitarianism and other individuals who are simply anti-social people, and these people will make life less than utopian forever. So in this sense, we will always be in a "transitional" phase.

 

Nonetheless, in order to get to X, one needs to say one is aiming to arrive at X; it is not sufficient merely to say one is aiming to get to a "transitional phase" to X, is it?  This is especially true when X is an egalitarian society and there are powerful people doing their utmost to prevent even the IDEA of having an egalitarian society from being taken seriously.

WHAT IS THE TRANSITION PHASE?

 

The earliest part of the transition phase is when people who want an egalitarian society still do not have the real power in society. It is when, as today, the rich have the real power because the members of the military and police forces still obey orders that the rich give them to enforce all aspects of class inequality.

In this early part of the transition phase, the task of egalitarians is to strengthen the egalitarian revolutionary movement by a) doing things that make the egalitarian vision as clear as possible to the maximum number of people and b) doing things that make the size and strength of the egalitarian revolutionary movement as visible as possible.

Here is an excerpt from "How We CAN Remove the Rich from Power" that is about some of the things that people could do in this phase:

 

"One important way to build such a movement is by people forming local assemblies of egalitarians in their communities, as discussed here. These local assemblies at first, when they have only a small number of participants, can inform others in the community about egalitarianism, what it is and why it is both very practical and much better than our status quo. These early assemblies can also explain that local assemblies of egalitarians open to all egalitarians in the community are the only bodies that ought to make laws people in the community must obey. (Click here to read why only local assemblies and click here to read why only egalitarians make the laws.) These assemblies can provide a place where people meet to figure out how to involve more and more people in advocating for egalitarianism, challenging the power of the rich, and creating relations of solidarity with other egalitarians near and far.

 

"When lots of people are participating in their local assembly of egalitarians, and the assemblies are coordinating with each other by sending delegates to non-local assemblies to craft proposals for the local assemblies to implement if they agree, and when this voluntary federation of local assemblies involves tens or hundreds of millions of Americans, and when similar local and non-local assemblies of egalitarians are formed in workplaces, then something extremely important happens. Then, for the first time, there is an egalitarian government in place, with which egalitarians  have ALMOST everything they need to shape all of society by egalitarian values. This egalitarian government can begin doing some things to start making society egalitarian.

 

"The crucial thing this egalitarian government lacks is the power to prevail against the violence of soldiers and police obeying anti-egalitarian orders. This is when a critical mass of soldiers, however, can realistically be expected to side with the revolutionary movement. This is how the rich lose power. Like the Czar. Like the Shah. But unlike in those previous revolutions, when the leaders of the revolution advocated anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian goals, this time it will be egalitarianism that replaces the dictatorship of the rich."

The next phase of the transitional period is when the egalitarian revolutionary movement has succeeded in winning over a critical mass of members of the military and police forces to its side, resulting in the new situation in which the rich have lost power.

When this happens, then the actual power will reside in the local assemblies of egalitarians, that will create whatever they require to enforce their decisions.

In this phase, I believe that egalitarians would take the current (pre-revolution) status quo (i.e., who did what work where, who lived where, who owned what, etc.) as a starting point, to be modified incrementally in ways that the egalitarians thought made sense both practically and morally. How the egalitarians did this in one community might very likely differ from how they did it in another community.

 

I urge the reader, in this regard, to read this eyewitness account of a meeting of a local assembly of egalitarians in revolutionary Spain (around 1937) very shortly after the people had driven the rich capitalists away and, for the first time, had the real power. These egalitarians made many practical decisions you can read about, all based on their egalitarian morality of equality and mutual aid.

In the book, The Anarchist Collectives (online here) edited by Sam Dolgoff, there are many accounts of the various ways that egalitarians (they called themselves anarchists in Spain at this time) arranged things in different villages.

Here's one account.

"In the village of Magdalena de Pulpis a visitor asked a resident, 'How do you organize without money? Do you use barter, a coupon book, or anything else?' He replied, 'Nothing. Everyone works and everyone has a right to what he needs free of charge. He simply goes to the store where provisions and all other necessities are supplied. Everything is distributed free with only a notation of what he took.'” [From Dolgoff, pg. 73.]

In several provinces of Spain the egalitarians either eliminated money altogether or made its use secondary while making primary the principle of "from each according to ability, to each according to need." Thus where money remained at all, a person's wage was based on how much he or she needed (how big was their family, etc.), quite unlike in our present capitalist society.

Another more recent historical experience that sheds light on what workers might do immediately after the rich have lost power is what workers did in Argentina in 2001 when the rich had not been removed from power. Workers took over factories that had been abandoned by their owners (because of the 2001 financial collapse) and operated the factories themselves, for the good of the community rather than profit. A film by Naomi Klein called The Take describes this, and it is reviewed in the NYT here. A better review of the film is by Roger Ebert here, where he points out that "The factories are doing what they did before -- manufacturing goods and employing workers -- but they are doing it for the benefit of workers and consumers, instead of as an exercise to send profits flowing to top management."

If the Argentine workers could do this when the rich remained in power, just think what workers could do as soon as the rich have been removed from power (i.e., when a critical mass of their military/police force members had gone over to the side of the revolution)?

The political structure of the transitional phase is the egalitarian one: voluntary federation of egalitarians as described here. This is genuine democracy, and there is no reason, neither practical nor moral, for not implementing it immediately.

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