Propositions About Human Liberation

  1. All presently existing human beings are very closely related. All are members, not only of the same species, Homo Sapiens, but of the same sub-species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, an even closer relationship.

  2. The most important physical variations that do exist among humans, e.g., blood types, body structures, and brain sizes, all vary more widely within each ethnic or skin-color group usually described as a race than they do between such groups.

  3. Each human being whose forebrain has not been grossly damaged begins life with a far greater capacity to be intelligent than the best functioning adult has ever been able to demonstrate.

  4. The differences which do exist in the behaviors and functioning of groups of humans are cultural, are learned and acquired characteristics. Any human being, given the opportunity, can acquire and master the same culture and skills which any other human being has been able to do.

  5. There is no human culture which is superior or inferior to any other human culture in any overall human sense, though there may be, and are, particular outstanding richnesses in any culture. Some cultures have developed farther technically in the mastery of the environment than others, enabling them to be misused to oppress members of other cultures as well as their own people. This does not imply any human superiority of such a culture.

  6. Class societies evolved as tools to master the environment more effectively, and functioned to that end through allowing some members of the society time and leisure to think, to accumulate knowledge and to plan the activities of the society.

  7. All class societies which we and our ancestors have experienced and participated in to date have been oppressive societies, in which the results of the work of most of the people was taken from them by the ruling people by a kind of legal robbery. All such societies to date have operated primarily to organize this exploitation of the majority of the people by a ruling minority.

  8. The principal forms of class societies which have existed to date are, in order of their evolution, and in their basic relationships:

    • A. SLAVE SOCIETIES. In these the ruling slaveowners own the slaves outright and their production as well (e.g., pre-Civil War southern United States).

    • B. FEUDAL SOCIETIES. In these the baron or landlord owns the land or workshop. The serf is tied to his plot of land or job and receives part of what he produces with the rest going to the baron (e.g., post-Civil War sharecropping in the southern United States).

    • C. CAPITALIST SOCIETIES. In these the capitalist owns the factory, railroad, bank or farm. The wageworker is "free" to work or starve but what he produces belongs to the capitalist who returns a variable portion of it as wages (present Industrial United States).

  9. Societies which will be cooperative, and in which no one is exploited or oppressed have been imagined and described. Some attempts have been made to establish them (the Paris Commune, the Soviet Union in the l920's and l930's, China currently).

  10. The oppressive societies of slavery, feudalism, and capitalism each inevitably arose in turn because of a human need for change. Each contained within itself a built-in long range unworkability which, in the case of the slave system eventually led to its collapse and replacement by feudalism (e.g., Fall of the Roman Empire), and in the case of feudalism to its collapse and replacement by capitalism (e.g., European Rennaissance).

  11. There are many indications that capitalist society is now in the late stages of collapsing because of its own built-in, long range unworkability.

  12. Slave and feudal societies were able to be openly oppressive, using naked force openly against the slaves and less openly against the serfs.

    Since wage-workers are more independent and better informed, capitalist societies have had to be more subtle in concealing and enforcing the exploitation and oppression.

  13. One of the principal means used by capitalist societies to maintain their oppression and exploitation of people has been to secure the cooperation of different groups of people in oppressing each other.

    This has been done by installing and maintaining attitudes of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and sexism, and the oppression of young people between the different sections of the oppressed population.

  14. The basic mechanism for keeping any person in an oppressed condition is the installation upon the person of a distress pattern or recording by hurting him or her in an oppressive and invalidating way.

    This leads to one or both of two results when the distress pattern is restimulated.

    The first result is to be forced again into the role the person filled in the original hurt experience. In this case the person is pushed to "accept" or "agree" to be oppressed, to accept the invalidating feelings, to be defeated in the attempt to remain human. The slave "agrees" to be a slave, the serf picks up his hoe and bows his head, the wage-worker feels inferior and "lucky to have a job."

    The second result occurs when, in an attempt to escape the role described in the first result above, the victim of the restimulation seeks relief by "occupying" a different role in the restimulated distress recording, the role of the oppressor. In this case the male victim may turn the abuse and invalidation originally turned on him on a woman (the basis of sexism) or a white victim may turn it upon a black or other non-white (the basis of racism) etc., etc.

  15. An oppressive society actively reinforces both of the results described above with false "theories," propaganda, discriminatory treatment of all kinds, religious pronouncements, Secret Societies, etc., etc.

    In this way each group's attempts to resist oppression are discouraged and their confidence sapped, and each group is mobilized to cooperate in the invalidation and defeat of every other group.

  16. When any oppressed group begins to awarely organize to achieve its liberation there will be a reactive attraction towards blaming and attacking the other oppressed groups who have mistreated it, fighting with them as if they were the source of oppression and leaving the real (and more threatening) oppressor forces unchallenged. (Thus women will at first be pulled to see "men" as the source of the oppression, black and Chicano high school students will be urged into gang wars against each other, etc.) Needless to say, this tendency will be encouraged by the real oppressors in every possible way.

  17. To attain complete liberation two processes are both necessary:

    one: effective, organized social action and struggle.

    two: discharge and re-evaluation to free each individual from his or her individual distress patterns.

    The two processes are complementary and each enhances the other. To fight intelligently against social oppression is to contradict one's individual distress patterns and expedite discharge and re-evaluation provided one pursues one's Co-Counseling systematically.

    To emerge from one's individual painful emotion enhances one's effectiveness in social struggle and helps avoid mistaken strategy and tactics based on feelings, provided that one really engages in activity and doesn't just settle for talking about it.

  18. To be successful, any oppressed group seeking liberation must move in two directions :

    A. It must consistently strive for unity within its own group around a clear-cut program of goals and actions.

    B. It must consistently seek unity and mutual support with every other oppressed group, no matter how difficult this task may seem at first.

  19. Reform of an oppressive society cannot bring liberation from oppression. Replacement is necessary. Since the sole reason for the oppressive society is oppression and exploitation, such oppression and exploitation is bound to be re-introduced after the reform in some other form as long as the oppressive society exists.

  20. The great liberation theoreticians of the past are useful inspirations and models to liberation workers today in many ways, but cannot be applied except in the most general ways to a current situation. Of most use is their method of concretely examining the real situation they were confronting, making sure they had the facts, and then thinking fresh and hard for new solutions to that particular situation. All our situations are new.

  21. It may be true that "right" in a political sense is irrational, but it by no means follows that "left" is necessarily rational. The numerous movements and theories that call themselves "left" and "revolutionary" abound in rigidities and can by no means be accepted as guides. Fresh, intelligent thinking is required.

  22. People can only be effectively organized to participate in liberation on an individual basis. Calling mass meetings, distributing leaflets, and other "mass" activities are an almost complete waste of time unless they are peripheral to a systematic making of individual friends, who will consider a liberation program if you offer it because they trust you.

  23. Every group of oppressed people can be reached to participate in the struggle for liberation if we reach correctly.

    The first job is to counter the fears, suspicions, antagonisms and resentments that have been installed between us. This means a sharp stand against all sexist, racist, condescending, or invalidating statements and language of all kinds.

    We all begin afraid of each other. We have been conditioned to fear anyone who is "different." We can learn to love and trust each other but we must begin with an attitude of respect, of complete respect for every human being in the world. The love and trust can come later.

  24. Every group of people is important to the unity of the liberation forces. Even individuals from the oppressing classes are welcome if they really "throw in their lot with the people."

    There is one group of oppressed people, however, who overlap and include parts of nearly every other group and who are centrally important to liberation because of their great power in relation to the oppressive structure.

    This is the group of wage workers, especially the industrial wage workers, in particular the wage workers in the basic industries.

    The entire social structure of capitalism is dependent on their continuing cooperation in production. No profits are produced without them. If they refuse to work, the whole capitalist system comes to a grinding halt.

    Liberation cannot hope to succeed without them. It cannot help but succeed with them.

  25. The trade unions are and will remain the basic organizations of the wage workers. To win the trade union members to a liberation policy, to recover the trade union leadership posts from the employers' agents and the criminal elements who have been smuggled into many of them is the most crucial organizational job facing the liberation forces.

    There can be no avoidance of, or substitute for, doing this.

  26. Farmers are oppressed as a class and are being forced off the farms by the spread of large-scale capitalist production methods into farming. Many of them become agricultural wage workers.

    The preservation of the smaller farmers in this period is important, however, because they possess a vast treasure of knowledge of how to produce food for good nutrition, while the newer, larger, capitalist operations in agriculture operate only on the motives of profit.

  27. People cannot be organized successfully for liberation around programs of distress or painful emotion. To appeal to their fear, guilt, shame, is to paralyze them by restimulation in the long run.

    They must be organized by appealing to reason, logic, and confidence. All programs and policies should be rational. The tone of communication should always be one of confidence in the inevitability of success.

  28. Liberation of any group will only be complete when all oppressed groups are liberated.

Harvey Jackins,
The Upward Trend, 1977, pp. 299-306.

Last modified: 2014-02-11 22:38:34+00