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The Practical Work of Liberation Leaders, Harvey Jackins

The June, 1980, Liberation and Special Interest Reference Persons Meetings began with reports from each individual on his or her work. These reports have appeared in various journals. Harvey’s report, below, followed:

Listening to these reports tells us how far we’ve come, not only in the details that were reported, but in the type of reports, and in the confidence of the people making the reports. Some of our newest Liberation Reference People haven’t had time to do more than count their three or ten constituents, but it is evident from the people reporting and their attitudes that things will be happening.

I think we have three key jobs to do at this meeting. One is to really understand the role of a Liberation Reference Person and begin to define it better. We have enough experience accumulated that we can fill out our original projections or guesses about the role. Two, we need to get very, very clear on the relation of Liberation RC activities to the regular Community geographical structure and how we as individuals relate to that.

Three, I think that many of us need a seminar on how to work, how to do good work. Enough good work has been done that we can learn a great deal from each other, and enough mistakes have been made that it would be good to look at them and learn from them. Members of this group need to learn the fundamentals of how to organize. There are such fundamental concepts—they have been talked about in relation to Wide World Changing. You find some of them written up in the Wide World Changing magazines. This particular job is a new kind of organizing, a different kind of organizing from what has ever been tried before. We need to discuss and exchange a lot of information about this. If this weekend can accomplish these three things, it will be very successful.

This meeting should mark a turning point in our understanding of ourselves, as Liberation Reference People in RC, and what we do, and hopefully in the understanding by the whole Community of the job of Liberation Leadership. We had to start off with guesses, but now we’ve had experience. Enough has occurred that the fundamental laws of Liberation Referencing in RC are beginning to surface. It’s true that any important activity will turn out to have its own laws and only with practice will these laws begin to appear, but the intervention of intelligence is a very important part of the process. The occurrence and revelation is spontaneous, but aware grasping and holding the laws up to awareness is a function of intelligence. This is what I’m going to try to start this morning.


The job of the Liberation Reference Person is to eliminate the isolation of his or her group from the general population, and, conversely, to eliminate or break down the isolation of the general population from the group. It’s a two-way responsibility.

The isolation has been accomplished by the imposition of distress, and in all our groups, by the systematic imposition of distress through oppression.

Some steps for breaking down this isolation are:

1) Recovering pride;
2) Recovering power;
3) Achieving allies;
4) Participating in furnishing general leadership.

Part of your job as Liberation Reference Person is to accelerate the recovery of pride by the members of your group. We could write a book about the ways we have found of doing that, but I’ll just mention it for now.

On the recovery of power: certain liberation movements in the wide world have put a great deal of emphasis on recovering pride, but in the process have neglected the recovery of power, and have gotten caught in unworkable pretense.

The achieving of allies is crucial for liberation leadership because the distress continually pulls us back toward isolation, back toward thinking it’s “us against the world,” back toward attacking other groups. (Often there will seem to be ample apparent reason to do so. If you’ve been in a knife fight at a Los Angeles high school with several hundred on each side, then it can seem that you have obvious reason to distrust and hate the other group and be antagonistic to it.) Liberation leadership must continually find ways to bring forward the necessity of alliances. Unity inside the group, alliances outside the group.

The liberation person must keep in mind, and facilitate, participation in furnishing general leadership by members of the group. I say to a particular liberation group when I meet with them, “Take over the Community. Insist that a black be your Reference Person, insist that a Chicano become Regional Reference Person.” This is shorthand talk. In a careful theoretical statement, we should say, “participation in furnishing leadership for the general population.“ Unless and until there are black leaders, until there are Chicano leaders and Native leaders, until there are Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, South Asian leaders, until there are women leaders of the whole Community, liberation will be very limited, very insecure. It is a necessary achievement that a Mike White and a Sundreya Smith and a Judy Imai and an Aftab Omer and a Lorenzo Garcia become Area Reference Persons as well as liberation leaders.

How do we break down the isolation? How do we do these things that I’ve been listing? Well, we set up and encourage group sharing—within the group—of pride and of difficulty. This has been one of the most powerful experiences of any liberation group when they first get together and tell what it’s been like to be a “Wygelian.“ (I’m inventing here a general term for an oppressed group that won’t identify with any particular group. All right? It’s actually the name of a lovely pink bush, a Wygelia, but the bush won’t mind.) The first time a group of Wygelians gets together and shares what’s been great about being a Wygelian, and then what’s been rough about being Wygelians, there’s a tremendous breaking-down of barriers and a great relief because, in practice, every Wygelian, with a great deal of help from outside, has blamed himself or herself for all the difficulties. This revelation that it was outside oppression that systematically installed Wygelian difficulties is a great raising of consciousness for everyone.

Within the group this is a powerful tool. It is a preliminary tool: it isn’t enough, more must follow, but I don’t think it is a step that can be skipped. There are certain signs that indicate when you’ve done enough of it and it’s time to move on. If you don’t move further, the group starts getting sour and people quit attending.

It isn’t enough even in the beginning in an RC group, although it would appear to be for a couple of meetings. Our general insight, that every meeting of RCers must include a review of old theory, getting up to date on new theory, and at least some modeling or demonstration of individual re-emergence, applies to any meeting. Even the newest group of Wygelians should include these three elements. The theory doesn’t have to be called theory, it just has to be given. “I realized yesterday . . . ,” something like that. The furnishing of theory and the practical demonstration of re-emergence will give perspective and future to a pride-uplifting and experience-sharing meeting. There will be ample opportunity to secure discharge and demonstrate re-emergence.

This experience-sharing is a necessary but not a sufficient step. It is a necessary early or first step in the organization of Wygelian liberation (“Wygelian” again standing for whatever your group is). The collection of the group, and early within the group the exchanging of experiences, leads to the realizing of commonalities within the group both on the pride and enjoyment side and on the oppression side.

This group need only be as large as two. There is a great deal of invalidation around us in the society that is likely to enter our head, that says that it isn’t good or important unless we have a big group, that otherwise we’re not doing anything important. This isn’t true.

An RC class of two is just fine. I taught many classes of two people in the early years of RC. I tried to get more and sometimes I did, but I frequently had as few as two. I’ve done many introductory public lectures with only one person showing up. I decided in each case to go ahead and do a public lecture for that one person. I gave them the best I had. Guess who got up in front during the demonstration? Guess who participated in RC from then on without fail? A class of two, taught responsibly for eight weeks, not only brings two well-trained people into RC, who have had lots of discharge and lots of practice, but the teacher emerges. I learned a great deal in my two-member classes that I could not learn in a class of fifty-six that I taught once. The general rule is, however many show up, do your best job for that number.

A well-taught class of two will lead to a class of sixteen. An abandoned class of two leads you back into your discouragement with only your tail feathers sticking out of the shrubbery. This is true particularly in liberation work where the more your group has been oppressed, the more untrustful, suspicious and discouraged they are. Promises of attendance by twenty-two people often lead to one or two showing up. You’ve had this experience, I know. Don’t be demolished and discouraged when only two show up. Actually, if you move correctly with two, you will win the confidence of the twenty-two after a year, perhaps. It may not come fast, but it will work. For the leader who is also a member of the group, it is also important to remember that the group in which pride is shared and difficulties are shared need be no larger than two. A group of two is simply an opportunity to do intensive work. When you have a group of twenty, you will have to shift gears, and handle it as a group of twenty, which involves different skills. This you will learn to do well.

Once the group has begun to share pride and share difficulties, then it’s necessary to begin to point toward a speak-out, where people outside the group listen respectfully and keep silent while the members of the group say to the outsiders the things they have discovered in their experience sharing.

[Editorial Insert: Experiences since this meeting have led to a powerful format (see “Liberation From Oppression,” pp. 477-480). Members of the oppressed group appear before the majority group as a panel, and each in turn tries to say to the majority, “I’m going to assume that you are my allies,” then speaks to the three topics:

“What I wish you knew and understood about me and my people.”

“What I want you never to say or do again.”

“What I need from you as my allies.”]

We have been very lucky in RC in some of our initial experiences in liberation work. God must have had her eye on us or something. At Liberation I and II, for example, some correct decisions were made of whites keeping their mouths shut until the Third Worlders all had spoken fully. Once it had happened, we realized what a powerful tool we had stumbled on. Now we systematically move toward providing a forum of people outside the particular oppression for people in the particular oppression to speak to.

If necessary, a speak-out can be one-way. Sometimes great good will come from this. The people spoken to, if it’s understood that they will just listen, are likely to hear the fourth speaker say, “Please get off my foot!” instead of what they thought they heard the first three speakers say, which was blame and reproach. That wasn’t what was said, but they’re likely to hear that the first three times. If they keep quiet and listen, about the fourth time they’re likely to hear—understandably emotionally, but reasonably—a request to “get off my air lines, quit shutting off my air.” You know that story about the emphysema patient?

The doctor came to visit the emphysema patient who was breathing through an oxygen tube. As the doctor stood there talking, the patient became very agitated and began to struggle and the doctor said, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Tell me, tell me. I’ll do anything but tell me, tell me . . .“ Obviously on the verge of collapse, the patient finally reached out for a pencil and paper and scribbled something and fell unconscious. The doctor picked up the scribbling and it said, “You’re standing on my oxygen line.”

This is often what the message of the person in the oppressed group comes down to: “Quit making my life so difficult when it’s so completely unnecessary and doesn’t do you any good. Just move your heavy foot to the left two inches, please!” Even in a one-way speak-out, this is likely to happen.

If you can arrange a mutual speak-out, it’s better, much better. All the people present in the oppressor roles are also oppressed. If you were to gather the whole population and listen to everybody, everybody would obviously be oppressed. (Even the owning class. If we let the owning class people speak last, we’d discover how enormously oppressed they are, what victims they are.) It becomes apparent that there are no human oppressors—an insight that is very precious and that we reached with considerable effort. There are no human oppressors. Only the structure of the pattern oppresses. If we can have a mutual speak-out, where many oppressed groups listen to each other with respect, we get this powerful thrust toward alliances, toward understanding, toward mutual support, toward supporting each other’s program. The speak-out, if necessary, can be one-way, but if possible it should be mutual.


The first of our key jobs is to learn how to organize rationally. This is basic knowledge for every part of RC, but is certainly needed here. It is, in general, not available in the wide world. Most organization in the wide world is for the purposes of oppression, and the theories of organization that are available in the wide world, except in small details, are not useful to us. I have learned from other liberation movements, in particular political liberation movements, but most of what I have to say here comes from my own experience. Added to experience, RC can be powerful. I won’t try to tell you everything I know about organization, and I don’t know everything about organization. This will be just a start, but I think a good start.


How does one organize in a pro-people direction? Very fundamentally, one does it one-to-one. In spite of all the jargon about “mass” organization, “mass” meetings, putting out leaflets, making speeches, in spite of the usefulness of printed literature (and it is very useful), effective organization is always done one-to-one. I called many “mass” meetings and did much of that kind of activity in my years as a labor and political organizer, but, looking back, all the permanent results, all the forces that kept on going (and some of them are still going on though their directions have gotten a little funny), came from personal friendships that I made with individual people, in spite of my shyness and my lack of knowledge. The people who mattered, the forces that mattered, were the ones who somehow established personal friendships with me.

This is parallel to something that needs to be said about counseling. I didn’t say it this week and I now wish I had: counseling is not ever “role-to-role.” We talk about it that way. We say, “counseling the client,” and it is easy to get the impression that two roles go into a room and hold hands and something happens. (Sometimes it does, in spite of that. People make it work.) But any effective counseling is person-to-person. I’m never really effective as “a Counselor,” but only as “Harvey.” In the estimations that we did of the demonstrations all week, those of  you who were here remember people over and over again saying, “You made yourself personally available,” as if it were a startling thing. I don’t think that you can ever do very good counseling except as “Harvey” or “Diane.” Diane has to be aware of me. I have to be aware of Diane. It is a personal relationship.

The analogy of this in organizing is that you have to make the friend. A real friend, not for the purpose of organizing, and it has to be one-to-one. Occasionally, you will find someone who has found their way so close to a correct program that a pamphlet will push them over the edge. When The Human Side of Human Beings first came out, I think six people came rushing down to the office, waving their copy of the book. Now about two dozen people a year write me saying, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life, I found this book.” But that is out of thousands that are contacted. Those people are just the little lucky profits of chance. In general, the law is, if you want to win a co-worker, you make a friend first. If you want to win more support, you make personal individual friends.

How do you do this? You like them and let them know it. I could repeat that over and over and still not emphasize it enough. You like them. What is the greatest single difficulty for all of us in doing effective work? Patterns of shyness, of being afraid to show we like someone. I’ve tried to think if there is a culture from which we can borrow. To some extent, Hawaii is. In spite of the tourists, you are still likely to walk out on the street and be greeted with a smile by the first five strangers in the morning. “Hello, how are you! Aloha!” It’s a little surfacy, a little bit glassy, but it is better than the glum face of the mainland. Another model I think of is the Southeastern United States. I remember when I first went there, I was amazed at the culture. Again, it is a little rigid, but nice. “How are you this morning? Did you sleep well? Nice to see your bright face. Come, I would like you to meet my friends.” There is something good to learn here. Basically, of course, you can’t borrow a welcoming feeling from anywhere else; you have to get rid of your blocks and get back to your own natural friendly feelings.

We model for the persons we want as Co-Counselors, we encourage them, love them confidently and listen to them. We provide just enough structure to assist the contact, just enough, not more. We don’t try to drag them into a strange, unfamiliar structure. We choose the structure that is familiar enough that it doesn’t feel too difficult. How many here have been inducted into the army? This tremendous strangeness of going into the army and its completely hostile environment is designed, of course, to scare you so witless that you are conditioned quickly into a dumb killer, an automaton. It’s a horrible thing. To go into a very strange environment is tough.

Choose a structure that the person can accept.

S— made the first contact with Palestinians by arranging to meet several Palestinian men for dinner in an Arab restaurant. This was something they could do; they didn’t have to step clean outside their patterns or their culture to do it. She figured that out and did it. Now she has them come to her. We’ve noticed that our classes and our workshops are often very frightening to people when they are set up for one culture, say for University “busy, busy” intellectuals. When we try to bring a working-class or a Third World person in, they tell us afterwards it was a chamber of horrors because the unfamiliarity was so frightening.


Use literature. A written communication is almost always more rational than an oral communication because the patterns infest our oral speech and, though we devise ways of getting around the patterns by the way we look and the way we wave our arms, they are vulnerable to misinterpretation. To write something, in general, tends to strain out the patterns. This is because we are likely to look at and read what we’ve written, to edit it and cut it down. We’re likely to ask someone else’s opinion of it.

Use the literature, but offer it cleverly. “You’ll enjoy this” is not the way to offer literature. Nor is, “You need to read this book,” or “I want you to read this.” This installs blocks. I have a roomful of books that people have given me and told me I ought to read. I think I’ve read two. Don’t offer literature that way.

There are better ways. You can leave the journal open in a place where there is nothing else to read and people are going to be. That’s better than telling them that they should read it. I don’t say it’s the best way, but it’s a little better. The best way I’ve found is to ask someone if I could have their opinion of the article or book. “Would you take a look at this? I’m uncertain in my own mind about it. I’m not sure I understand it and I don’t want to swallow it unless it makes sense. Would you take a look at it and give me your opinion?” I have never met anyone who could resist having their opinion asked.

Use the literature in other ways, of course. Do a “commercial” in your class or workshop. Use the literature. It will keep on working while we sleep. The literature is working all the time. It will work and work and work and work. If you figure your time is worth at least $3.00, note that a $2.00 journal will go on working days and weeks on two dollars. Sometimes it will say things better than you could.


How do we organize? We ask people for help with small jobs that they are easily able to do without becoming intimidated, without feeling oppressed or exploited. “Would you give me a hand with this?” “Could you pick up this spent kleenex?” “I am meeting this person and I want to get their opinion on something, but they seem a little uneasy when they are with me alone. Could you come sit in with me?” If the person will help you by sitting by while you explain RC to someone else, you know who is in a relaxed position to hear what you say.

Ask help with small jobs. Ask people to give you a hand. This is very fundamental. Ask everyone’s opinion. There is no one whose opinion is not worth hearing. (Even if it’s pure pattern, you at least know what pattern you are dealing with after that.) It’s only rarely that you won’t get a worthwhile opinion, but that’s only the beginning of the value, because look what’s happening to the person who is giving the opinion. They have engaged their thinker in this area. In order to give you an opinion, they have put thought into the area where you want to have them start thinking. This is the profound result.


Use basic counseling all the time—outside RC, but also inside RC. Do not wave labels, do not label it as “counseling.” Do not turn on the self-conscious red light that says, “I am counseling you.” That’s distracting. Inside RC or outside RC, be a good, interested human being, which is all that basic counseling is. Listen, be interested, ask questions, listen. Nobody is going to call that “counseling.” Listen, be interested, ask questions, listen. It’s the most powerful tool in the world. You organize by listening. By being interested. By asking occasional questions to indicate your interest and steer the thinking. Listen some more.


As you begin to collect people together, you’ll begin to be alarmed that you have too many one-to-one clients. You will become alarmed about it long before you need to be alarmed. You may fear being surrounded, having no time for yourself. You may fear that you’re not building a mass organization this way, or that you’re not really a good organizer. Your fear will come in long before it is a real problem that you have too many one-to-one relationships, but there will come a time when, of necessity, your organization must take a group form. In other words, the people who have come to depend on you must learn to depend on each other. It’s analogous to putting the rim on the counseling wheel which we have been trying to do. The hub and spoke type of counseling, where the hub person can counsel everybody, and everybody waits for a chance to be counseled by the hub, is replaced by everybody going around the rim of the wheel, every spoke turning for counseling to the next spoke.

Again, begin this wider contact on an “I need your opinion” basis. “George, I’d like your opinion on how much time I should spend with Joe, and whether Joe would make a good participant in this project that I am thinking about. You have good judgment about people. I am quite interested in him, but I don’t want to make up my mind without some other opinion. Would you meet us and have dinner?” Say the same to Joe and introduce them and facilitate the meeting and they will take careful stock of each other and, probably, if you chose well at all, say, “I think he’s all right. I like him.” The friendship is begun. If they say, “Nah, not that one,” you ask, “What would bother you about him?” and you listen out the block and you get there more slowly, but you get there.

This may be hard to remember, but if you can do this much, do what I’ve said so far, with considerable ease, I think that, good organizer that you are (and you are a good bunch of organizers), you will almost immediately be ten times as effective. Look at someone who is extremely effective in a group. Look at P—. There are other factors in P—’s effectiveness, but part of it is that, regardless of how she feels, she does this. I suspect that P— often feels shy and sometimes I think she feels shyer than anybody else in this room; but she has made up her mind: when she sees somebody who should be organized, her shyness is trodden underfoot. Her determination simply rides over the difficulty and people respond to her, by the hundreds and the thousands.


As part of taking leadership, all of you are or will be leading workshops. Tommy will be leading a workshop with a hundred and fifty ethnic Chinese in it before very much time has gone by. There are some things to learn about taking leadership in RC. All of you are or will be leading workshops. I talked before about the urge to go abroad where you can get lots of glamour and applause instead of staying home and building your own constituency. There is also a pull, when you feel insecure and feel you are a failure, to do “something,” and the easiest way to do this is to think up a workshop to lead. That’s not a good enough reason to schedule a workshop, especially if it has to be supported by Outreach funds.

The same kind of feelings, which often include undischarged fears of making friends and really relating to people who live around us, will sometimes tell us that the thing to do is to be “creative,” to come up with “new” things. That’s good. We want people to be creative, but there is a trap, a big ditch, that’s very easy to fall into, and that’s the substitution of novelty for creativity.

Creativity itself is risky. Any important decision you make is, by definition, one you cannot know ahead of time is right. If you know ahead of time you’re right, it’s not really a very important decision, although it may seem so to other people. The basic challenges to your thinking are when you do the creative best you can and hope you are right, but watch carefully as the decision goes into effect in case you need to catch a tree before you go all the way down into the lake just in case your decision turns out to be wrong. Even creativity is risky; but there is a patterned business of innovating for some kind of patterned satisfaction. Perhaps this is to “push things faster,” or to get a little applause, to show someone that you’re doing your job well, or to avoid the fearful work of really organizing people personally. All kinds of sneaky patterned motivations can come in.

You’re in a very dangerous position, each one of you. Even if all you have so far is a title, and you don’t have any constituency yet, you still have a title. You are in a very dangerous position because patterns abound—hopeful, wistful, dependent patterns—that will conclude that you are the solution to all their problems of dependency. If you have a title, then you must solve their problems. Such faith is touching but exhausting, and to try to live up to it is irrational. You show people how to help each other, you don’t let them lean on you.

As soon as you get a leadership title, you are regarded as the font of wisdom and if you goof, your mistakes will be copied. Long ago we clarified the principle that “set exercises” are not good counseling, that you must do the particular thing with the particular person that your best judgment says is best at that particular time; but because the great pull of the distress pattern is not to think, the patterned urge is to find some formula to use. You’ve seen people try to rigidly copy everything I do. Don’t think you’re not subject to the same mimicry.

Your jobs as Liberation Reference Persons are not to make a big splash, your job is not to prove you can “innovate” or “invent new theory” or anything of the sort. I don’t want to put up a stop to your creativity. You’ve got to be creative like everybody else, but apply it to your job, which is to end the separation of your group from the general population. Be a little modest about your leadership or attempted leadership on any other point than this. Use a little modesty, a little caution. You’re married to Caesar now. “Caesar’s wife must be above reproach.”


Diane: Does “representative Regional Conferences” mean that, if a limited number from those populations that are highly represented in the general wide world is available to the Conference, the other groups will be restricted in their numbers to come?

Harvey: No, it means that now we get busy and see that no group is under-represented and that if we approach the Conference with a shortage still there, I will urge the Regional people to do what I did at the last World Conference, i.e., give the Regional people permission or encouragement to reach out and bring in additional working class, Arabs, Third World groups, disabled people, elders, young people and so on. We will buttress up the number of such participants at the Regional Conferences, so that their voices, the voices of the less-well-represented, are amplified for those particular deliberations.
Any questions or discussion about that? It is clear we don’t know how to do it, but is it clear what we’re setting out to do? Take the Los Angeles region, for example. Just imagine what a really representative meeting would be there, with that enormous diversity of population—about 60% Third World now.

The effect of doing this at the World Conference was remarkably good. We want to get the same phenomenon in twenty-eight Regions. Start now. That’s the whole point. If we don’t start now, we’ll have missed half our effectiveness.

Any question about that? You will be the ones who will have to be the Regional people’s consciences. Just send friendly notes saying, “How are you coming at improving the Japanese representation in your Region, Jackie?” Or, “I knew, Joan, when I met you that I could have confidence in you, that an important question like this wouldn’t be delayed. I just thought I’d check in with you and see how many new black RCers there are. I’d be happy to write them a note and welcome them into the sisterhood of black RC,” and so on.

Diane: I have a question regarding the major function for Liberation Reference Persons being to eliminate isolation of your group. If you’re functioning as a minority group in a particular country it’s clear. But let’s say if you are Asian but in Asia—and so in the majority—your job would be to put your people into an international context—but why would that be the major function? I also think of women, who in a human sense are isolated, but live in close contact with every sector of the population.

Harvey: I think you are right. It does need clarification. I said “isolation from the general population,” and I think it should be “isolation from the general liberation forces.” Women are still overwhelmingly isolated from the liberation forces.


That reminds me of one thing I meant to say to this workshop and almost forgot. Observably, every group, as they get together and find the commonality of their oppression, without exception falls into one particular ditch. They don’t always verbalize it, but the feeling is plain from the other things they say.

Each group settles into a feeling that they are the bottom of the totem pole, that their oppression is really worse than anyone else’s. What’s worse is that they draw the implication of powerlessness. “We, the most oppressed, deserve to have those other fortunate people take some initiative first and come to our support, and then (maybe) we’ll go to their support later.”

Do you hear what I’m saying? Every group tends to feel this way and you see the track of the oppression that paralyzes us right there. If nobody can go first, nobody’s going to go. We have to see this clearly. “Who else had as tough a life as we half-Norwegian kids living on small isolated farms. All the rest of you were really advantaged. You complain about what happened to you, but you see, I was the one who really had it rough.” This is an observably universal tendency in every group. The implication is that “we” have to wait until somebody else gives us some support. See? First help us, then, maybe we’ll think about somebody else. It has to be a pattern.

I think the direction against this is exactly to move first on the basis of our pride in being who we are. “Who else but we Wygelians should help lead everybody’s struggle? We Wygelians can lead all liberation.”

The best viewpoint is, “Of course my group will act first!” It is obviously up to us Wygelians to lead everybody’s liberation. Who else but people like us should lead the whole thing? I think this falls for each one of you with equal logic and much greater results than “We ain’t gonna do it until somebody else gives us a hand,” or “We’re not going to be interested in them until they show interest,” or “When they support me, then I’ll support them.” You hear this all the time in every arena of struggle.” What the hell did they ever do for us?” Mike?

Mike:  Three questions. First of all, what would you think of leading a combatting racism workshop?

Harvey: Well, I’ve been beset by requests for it this weekend for some reason. I think it would be good and I would be happy to do it. We talked at breakfast about some of the ways it should be done. I think it needs to have a majority of Third Worlders. It may only be a small majority but I really think it needs to be at least half and better fifty-one or more percent and then, that the whites there should be people who, if they learn something, will have great influence when they go back. In other words, leaders. That would be my guess.

Mike: White racism has pitted every Third World group against every other Third World group. What can be done to unbutton this?

Harvey: I think this is already beginning to happen spontaneously, which is good. First of all, we need to build the support groups of the individual Third World groups, and then arrange joint meetings. Make it a festivity, a great occasion, where the black support group meets with the Asian support group (or eventually the Japanese support group). Form an evening to listen to each other. Just that. Use the model we accidentally fell into at Liberation I and II—the separate caucusing, the joint respectful listening. It cuts through. There are a lot of other things you can do once that happens, but I think if you try to do anything else first, it will end up mostly hot-air and dramatization. The respectful listening to each other’s heritage and situation must come first.


I think this group and your assistants in liberation activities need to hear that the Foundation is not a rich uncle in the sky, or a government project thing. There is a little money that comes into the Foundation Regular Fund from grants, and there has been some land left in somebody’s will and so on, but the great majority of the money that the Regular Account of the Foundation gets is from the ten percent that they charge for taking care of Outreach monies. That’s still the majority of all the Regular Account. So we’re not talking about some outside source of funds of any significance, yet, at least.

We’re talking about each other’s pocket and that’s a lot different from a government funding agency. It makes a big difference. There has been a problem with many requests for money from liberation leaders. I would be asked for money from International Outreach and would say no, not primarily because the money wasn’t available (though it’s always in short supply), but because it was a poor project. For example, the request would come out of somebody’s feeling that they deserved money to enhance their personal growth by attending a workshop or something like that. That isn’t what the money’s for, you know, really. I would disapprove it. In a slightly masked form it would be presented to the Foundation President as something urgent for Third World liberation, or something like that, and she would grant it out of the Regular Fund. This had gone on quite a bit. This has now been stopped.

What was also happening was that similar requests were coming to me and being disapproved on the basis that they weren’t correct enough and then Area Reference people were asked to make contributions from their Area Outreach Funds for the same project with a little pushing of their guilt buttons. Area Outreach Funds were being plundered for projects that I had correctly disapproved of. The person asking undoubtedly felt that I was wrong in rejecting his/her request, but we need and we must have a united Community. If I’m consistently wrong you may need to replace me, but we don’t want that kind of thing. This is an announcement that in the future I will be very tough about this. Any sort of activity by a person that attempts to evade a properly made judgment on funds by going to an alternate source, that person’s role in the Community will be called in question and they may quickly be out of a job. It really is an opening wedge to very bad stuff. That is a heavy statement but I make it deliberately. Please pass it on to the people who think that there’s a government bureau somewhere furnishing our money. Such activity is actually plundering each other’s pockets and failing to accept the judgment of the Community.

A rough guide on spending when you are asking for spending Outreach or Foundation funds would be, do not spend more for anything than you would spend out of your own pocket if you had $50 a month more income than a bare minimum. That’s about where we are. We are scraping up a little bit here and there. If you start spending with any freer idea than that it was coming out of your own pocket, only you happened to work two overtime shifts last month, or something like that, you’ll be out of line. That’s a rough guide.

It is very clear that all the money we need is available to us, mostly from our own pockets, and that what holds us back on money, which basically is always going to come from our own pockets, is our failure to deal with two things. First is a widespread failure to realize how important Re-evaluation Counseling  activities are to us, how rewarding and pro-survival they are. We treat them as luxuries still. This group perhaps doesn’t, but a lot of Co-Counselors do. We haven’t yet raised clearly and awarely enough the necessity of Re-evaluation Counseling activities.

The other difficulty is the wide-spread persistence of a pattern that is imposed upon almost all of us in this culture. This comes from being cheated repeatedly. It leaves a patterned yearning to get out of the cheated end of the pattern into the something-for-nothing end. It’s the pattern that all of us feel. We flock to sales and horse races in the effort to get at least a little something for nothing, to get ahead of the game, to be on the profit side for a change. Of course almost all of us wind up being cheated again. But the patterned yearning continues and is even reinforced by each experience of being “ripped off” again.

I think this something-for-nothing pattern operates in our failure to support our RC activities adequately. It seems logically certain that there is enough money among us no matter what terrible shape the economy and we individually are in, that if we could all be aware enough, there’d be money to do everything that needs doing. I have great hope about the effects of the money workshops.


I want to talk about a principle that I’m very clear is necessary, but I have only glimpses of how to implement. Extending RC into the general population is like fighting a guerilla war. We are surrounded by the enemy, the great, grey, globby sheets of pseudo-reality and pattern. Like guerrillas, we have to live by “swimming among the people as a fish swims in water,” to quote a famous saying. We have to live off the country. This seems to be a hard thing for Liberation leadership to hear. Outreach money is only seed money, only money to get started, only to first communicate the idea. Then RC has got to accommodate and adjust itself so that it can live on the support of the people where it is.

Most of the difficulty in having new groups accept RC is not the content of RC, not even the practice of it, it’s the unnecessary trappings that it brings with it, picked up among the groups it spread from. One of these is the business of fees for workshops and classes.

Now, workshops have to have a fee in general, because we’re paying rent, room and board for people, and also workshops have been the place where we could raise money, where people would contribute relatively willingly. We have taken advantage of the pattern that people are used to paying whatever the store charges. I can say to a workshop constituency, if you’re going to come to my workshop you’ve got to pay this, and they will pay it up to their ability to pay. All the way through these last years, most of the income of the International Community (it’s changing a little bit lately) has come from money earned from workshops. Part of it has come from the one-way counseling work of the staff of Personal Counselors in Seattle, but much of the financing to keep the International Community going has come from workshops.

Classes are different. As we move into Third World neighborhoods and start classes, the class fee cannot be fixed rigidly at what was charged in the nearby suburb or campus class.

The notion that a teacher must charge a certain fee because otherwise she is lowering her status is ridiculous. This hasn’t been universal; a lot of teachers have charged little or nothing. Our outreach money scholarship system has corrected some inequities. It’s sometimes objected to because “I feel like a beggar if I accept a scholarship.” Say, “Go ahead, feel like a beggar if you insist.” It’s ridiculous to try to find solutions to fit everybody’s painful emotion. We must adapt to new situations. We must keep the content of RC accurate as we outreach, but we must absolutely start thinking about how to adapt its forms to the new populations.

Can RC be correctly communicated through prayer meetings in black churches? I think it can. If we don’t do this I think that there’s a great deal of our own embarrassments and rigidities getting in the way. I asked Judy if, in the Japanese farming communities of the California valleys, there could be an “honoring an elder” celebration, where everybody gets to say good things about themselves and speak out and honor the past as well as the elder. She said she thought so. I asked Emma, “Can we have a block party in East Harlem, where the ideas of RC could be communicated without strain?” The first Palestinians were reached by having dinner with three or four of them at once, at an Arab restaurant, by sitting and drinking thick coffee all night while pursuing the communication of policy.

On finances: there was a class of welfare mothers in a midwest U.S. city that had run two series very successfully, with the teacher being paid from a nearby Area’s Outreach Funds. The teacher got the same fee as she charged students in classes in the nearby Area. It wasn’t a huge fee, but it was a fairly big one. The ARP said they had used up their Area Outreach money paying this teacher, and asked me, “Could International Outreach assume the cost of keeping the classes going?”

And I said, “You’ve had two series of classes already?”


“Will the teacher teach for less?”

“That isn’t fair! Here she’s teaching welfare mothers. Why should she be paid any less than someone over here forty miles away teaching college professors?”

“There’s nothing fair about it; there’s nothing fair about having distress or about the world situation; but you cannot keep these details rigid and do outreach.”

I then said, “O.K. You’ve got a good project going and you haven’t thought much about it. International Outreach will pay the teacher for one more series of classes, but in that series the class and the teacher must come up with a scheme that lets the resources of the welfare mothers themselves be enough to keep the class going. Can you teach one of them to be a teacher fast enough? Can you meet in somebody’s home? I don’t know the details but it must be possible for welfare mothers to support their own class.”

RC has to live off the land, wherever it goes. Phil has done a good deal to pioneer this. He has done excellent work. He has taken RC into the sweat lodge, the gathering where you let out your feelings, and it has found itself right at home. You heard Phil say here that it’s a goal for Native RC to do its own financing within a brief period of time. Phil and I have been clear about that with each other. There’s going to be a period when we spend a lot of Outreach money to reach Natives. Then that period’s going to come to an end and by that time, it’s got to be self-supporting.

This obviously hasn’t been clear to some of you who have been working a longer time. Perhaps it hasn’t been said clearly enough before, but it’s a basic principle.

Speaker: It seems to me a better model is political organizing and volunteer work, which is all non-paid labor. There’s a long tradition of people putting a lot of time and effort into that without being paid, and if we could look on our work that way, more than as a job, we might be able to get out of that pattern of feeling we’re being cheated unless we get money.

Harvey: Yes, or the feeling that our fee determines our status. That is right out of the oppressive society. We have to reject that.

One move in the right direction is this proposal (originally from Gill) that we have three no-fee scholarships for young people and two no-fee Third Worlders scholarships in every class. No Outreach involved, just a contribution by the teacher. This can break through this business that gets stuck in some teachers’ heads that the fee is what the class is about.

On the one hand, we can’t have oppressive nonsense about money, that we are a commercial enterprise or that our status is tied up with money. We have to fight against that. If the teacher gives the scholarship for young people and Third Worlders and forgets about claiming Outreach, it is just real healthy for the teacher and improves the class greatly, as well as taking the strain off our Outreach funds. On the other hand, there is another kind of pattern that says, “Everything should be free, so why isn’t it?” Like that. I am attacked and criticized because, though I am not paid in the International Reference Person’s job, I do charge for my workshops, and I’ll be charging more as I do fewer workshops. It’s the only practical way I have to raise money. Personal Counselors does charge for Intensives and we’ll necessarily be raising the price, even though people “need” one-way counseling badly and “don’t have the money for it,” and so on. Personal Counselors’ and Rational Island Publishers’ first job is to see that they survive as businesses so they can exist to perform their other services. Everything else may be important but will have to come after that or there’s no capability left to do the other things. Liberation Reference People who do little besides request Outreach funds must be helped to reform or be replaced.

On the one hand we cannot let the money mentality of capitalism corrode our policy and notions. On the other hand we cannot pretend that we do not have to deal with the reality that there are no free rides. All the work we want done has to be done by some other Co-Counselors if not by us. All the money we want to use or spend must be contributed by other Co-Counselors if not by us. If you succeed in getting “something for nothing” in RC, you have cheated other Co-Counselors. We can use Outreach Funds to “take out a loan,” to get started in RC, but, once started, we must pay our own ways and repay the loan with Outreach to others. I guess that’s about as succinct as I can say it.

Speaker: Say that one more time. Just once more.

O.K. We cannot let the money mentality of capitalism corrode our policy or warp our judgment, but, on the other hand, we cannot fall into pretending that we do not have to deal with the reality of paying our own ways. Does that make sense?

Speaker: That’s great.

Speaker: My concern is that the whole Community be thinking about this and not just the people here or those who are affected immediately.

Last modified: 2021-01-05 12:52:58+00