Preparing to Play a Key Role in Transforming Society

From the earliest days of Re-evaluation Counseling, RCers have worked toward transforming society along with transforming people. Through our experience in the RC Communities and in the wider world, we have come to understand that no individual can be free of distress unless we transform society into a rational one. We also understand that without ending the effects of distress on human minds we will not be able to transform society. Discharge and re-evaluation are necessary for radical change. Now that we have recovered enough of our ability to care about broad and diverse groups of people, and have some understanding of the effects of a class society, we are unwilling to settle for the continuation of the class system and all of its destruction of people and the earth.

We RCers are involved in all kinds of social change, in which we have made a significant impact. Our work on liberation and oppression guides much of what we do. Harvey Jackins’ pamphlet Logical Thinking About a Future Society remains a key piece of RC writing in this area and continues to be relevant.

The current version of class society, which dominates our planet, is crumbling due to its unworkability. We do not know how this will play out [be manifested]. Reforms could make it operable for a few more years, it could be replaced by another equally (or more) oppressive system, or it could be replaced by something more human. One of the determining factors will be which forces in society are most organized. And climate change motivates us to act as quickly as possible.

Although RCers are a relatively small group globally, it makes sense to assume and act as though RC could play a decisive role in developing the forces needed to create a more rational society. Our understanding of discharge as the way to heal from hurts, our theory on liberation, and our organizational processes are invaluable contributions. Strengthening and building the RC Community are an important part of playing a decisive role, but alone they are not enough. We are not building the Communities quickly or widely enough to transform society with RC alone. Transforming it will require very large numbers of people building massive social movements composed primarily of people who are the majority of the world’s population—Indigenous people, People of the Global Majority, and poor and working-class people. Co-Counselors could play an important role in the organizing, but to do so we will need to face some challenges and distresses. We want to renew a dialogue in RC about how we can do that.

CONFUSION BETWEEN REFORM AND TRANSFORMATION

In the wide world and also in RC, people are confused about what are “reformist” perspectives and positions and what are “transformational” ones. The confusion has many sources, including

  • early, almost universal distress recordings that make us feel like our existence and well-being are threatened, we are on our own [are alone], and we have very little power—all of which leave us settling for small gains;
  • patterns we acquire from growing up in capitalism and being taught that it’s the best economic system; being lied to about the history of genocide, imperialism, and colonialism and the reality we live in; being attacked, marginalized, and silenced if we go against the lies; and having our problems seen as our individual shortcomings rather than as coming from a failed system;
  • “middle class” patterns that include irrationally seeking comfort, avoiding conflict, finding compromise, trusting institutions, and seeking institutional protection.

The above distresses dominate U.S. mainstream culture. Almost all of us in the United States (and more and more people globally, particularly where capitalism has existed for longer) are touched by them, regardless of our predominant class background. Given who makes up [comprises] much of the RC Communities, these distresses also dominate RC, and therefore so do the confusions about reform versus transformation.

MORE THAN DISCHARGE NEEDED

The confusions make some of us think that we will discharge our way to a rational society. Discharge is an important part of our transformational work, but we also have to organize people to transform the structure of society. We cannot rely on liberal reforms; we must organize people toward transformational change.

Many of us are members of or work for liberal reformist organizations (such as government agencies, many non-profits, and many U.S. trade unions) and haven’t fully faced that the oppressive system relies on these organizations to sustain itself. These organizations fight for reforms that can provide temporary relief to individuals, communities, or institutions, but alone they do not make long-term changes in the class system that would transform oppressive conditions for everyone. In fact, the temporary relief they provide can allow oppressive conditions to continue while giving the illusion that systemic change is happening.

Fighting for reforms is a necessary part of changing society. Many reforms are needed, and we learn a lot by working for them. But we cannot see reform as the end goal. We must see it as a means to organize and educate people toward our real goal—a classless society that is human and non-exploitative.

JOINING TOGETHER TO REPLACE THE CLASS SOCIETY

Another challenge is to connect the work on individual oppressions into a program to change all of society. The work we do in RC of discharging on oppressions in identity-based constituencies (race, sex, class, and so on) and fighting back against the oppressions is vital, and our work in wide-world identity-based struggles (the feminist movement, racial justice campaigns, movements to end class oppression, and so on) has an important impact. However, working on these issues in isolation from each other for the long term will not replace oppressive systems.

Oppressive systems use the separations among groups to keep people apart and set them against each other in competition for limited resources or positions of power. They restimulate and manipulate distress patterns like internalized oppression that make people vulnerable to victimization—leading to fighting within or between groups and preventing people from joining together to fight against the system that keeps everyone oppressed. Thus the important struggles for the liberation of constituencies need to be integrated into efforts to replace the oppressive class society.

WHAT RCERS CAN DO

Here are a few things that we in the RC Community can do to get ourselves in shape [in a condition] to play a decisive role in the transformation of society:

1. Discharge the distresses in the way of transformative action

As capitalism collapses, our early distresses about survival are always being restimulated. The system we have survived in is crumbling, and if we don’t face and discharge regularly on the early distresses, we will choose what feels safe rather than deciding outside the distresses to work for transformation. To be able to choose transformation instead of liberal and reformist positions, we will need to discharge deeply and systematically on the early distresses.

As leaders we will have moments when we need to make tough choices between transformational and reformist programs. We will want to understand these choices and why we are choosing one over the other. We can prepare ourselves by having an ongoing dialogue about reform versus transformation and what it means in practice.

Because our early distresses have made it difficult for us to let things matter to us, we also need to discharge on letting the existence of each human and each other life-form matter.

2. Discharge on attacks

As society collapses and our early distresses are restimulated, we are more easily manipulated into seeing others as our enemies (especially across lines of oppression). There will also be more attacks on our allies and ourselves. We need to work on whatever could get in our way of thinking through the restimulations and attacks, so that we can continue moving toward people, building alliances, and working together in transformative programs.

3. Study past movements

Re-evaluation Counseling theory is wonderful. There is also a lot we can learn from past attempts to create more rational societies. We should study these attempts, discharge the distresses in the way of our studying, and use what we learn to develop organizing programs for the current moment.

4. Build and join organizations, and build relationships

To play a decisive role in changing society, we will need many RCers who have experience organizing large numbers of people. We can find ways to organize the people around us. There is no wrong way to start. We can organize in our schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and families; among our friends; and more.

To transform society, we will need large, powerful organizations led by poor and working-class people, Indigenous people, and People of the Global Majority. These organizations need to understand how the oppressive society functions, have a vision for a new kind of society, and be able to take bold action. We can build new organizations like this and also help existing organizations get a larger perspective and overcome confusions about the kind of change that is needed. As we try new things, we can discharge everything that comes up and learn together.

The most important part of this is building relationships, especially with people who have borne the brunt of oppression. Many organizations will not support the transformational change we are talking about, but the people in them, and the relationships we build with them, will allow for transformational change despite the organizations’ positions. Also, making relationships and facing the conditions of the people we are close to will be what pushes us to fight for change.

5. Make climate change central

Creating a classless society is now inextricably linked to stopping the destruction of life on our planet from human-caused climate change. All organizations aiming to end oppression and transform society must make ending climate change a central part of their work.

Climate change makes clear the unworkability of our current system and the need to change it. For example, the biggest impacts of climate change to date have been on Indigenous, Global Majority, poor, and working-class people.

As RCers we are dedicated to having an accurate picture of reality. This means that we have to discharge on and understand what is happening with climate change and make stopping it a priority.

To effectively address climate change, we will need to organize large movements led by oppressed peoples who understand how climate change, genocide, oppression, and class societies are connected. We will also need to discharge distresses related to reform and transformation so that we can think clearly about the real solutions.

6. Bring RC tools to organizations

As we join and build organizations focused on transforming society and addressing climate change, we can develop creative ways to bring RC tools to them. Some people may join the RC Community, but bringing people into RC won’t necessarily be our goal. Becoming an RCer is often a slow process and takes lots of resource. We need to experiment with versions of RC that can support large numbers of people in their organizing work independent of their membership in the RC Community.

7. Hold out a revolutionary perspective

As Harvey said in Logical Thinking About a Future Society, “The survival of humankind and the effective solving of any new problems of any sections of the population are now crucially dependent on the transformation of society from a class society, where one class owns and another class works, to a classless society, where everyone owns in common and everyone works.” That means organizing movements led by poor and working-class people, People of the Global Majority, and Indigenous people. Holding this out again and again will remind us what we stand for, give us something to discharge against, and influence the ways we take action.

A CHALLENGE TO US ALL

In the past we as RCers have made major gains when we’ve challenged ourselves to take on [undertake] big projects such as eliminating racism and stopping climate change. For the well-being of all people and our planet, the replacement of the oppressive society with a classless one is now a necessity.

This replacement will require organizing transformative movements on a mass scale. We can play an important role with the tools we have in RC, but to do so we will have to challenge ourselves in new ways. Many RCers are already organizing people toward the transformation of society. We encourage all of us to think and discharge about the role we can play and to take action. We can create opportunities for us to connect—workshops, webinars, study groups, and more—as we take on this challenge.

Irene Shen

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Jenny Sazama

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

Eric Braxton

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Diane Shisk

Seattle, Washington, USA


Note: The four of us who wrote this article attended Tim Jackins’ workshop last summer: Taking RC Actively into the Wide World. That led to a discussion among us, followed by some sessions and go-arounds of thinking online and then to circulating and revising several drafts. We got stuck temporarily when we disagreed on how to include the work on climate change (which mostly isn’t transformational in how it’s currently being done). We did more sessions and another go-around of thinking and wrote this article, which we are all pleased with. We plan to work together on a follow-up article that includes more thinking about the work on climate change as transformational work.


Excerpts from pages 66 to 69 of Logical Thinking About a Future Society, by Harvey Jackins:

The individual Co-Counselor can

  • Inform himself or herself on the thinking and struggles that have gone on [occurred] in this field, by reading and discussing the RC-oriented summaries [in RC publications] and by reading about and discussing the great movements, theories, and leaders of the past;
  • Examine the concrete situation in which she or he functions;
  • Join and participate in the most basic, the largest, the most rational organizations available to one;
  • Begin to formulate . . . long-range goals and immediate steps in one’s own area, in the context of the goal of the transformation of the whole world into a rational, classless society.

(Present Time 191, April 2018)


* People of the Global Majority is the term chosen by the International Liberation Reference Persons for African-heritage people; Chicanos/Chicanas (Latinos/Latinas); Puerto Rican-heritage people; Pacific Islanders; and Southeast, East, South, Central, and West Asian-heritage people to refer to their collective group. The authors are using that term instead of the terms people targeted by racism or people of color.  


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00