The Working Class, the World, and RC

There are a lot of exciting developments within RC, such as the techniques of commitment and the use of the procedures toward the Golden Ring relationship. I’ve been dealing with these at other workshops and will get to them in the question period tonight and in the class tomorrow, but this workshop is a very special event. There are topics that need to be covered here that are not usually covered at other workshops. I want to talk about the situation for working people in the world at large and in the Re-evaluation Counseling Community; about the role of working-class people in the Community, the role of the Community in relation to the world, and the role of the working-class people in RC in relation to the Community and the world.

THE POSITIVE NATURE OF WORK

First of all let us look at the question of work. There is an attitude often expressed that work is terrible; that work in itself is oppressive. The “work ethic” (with some reason) is sneered at, and we have large numbers of people being socialized in the direction of avoiding work like the plague, as if work in itself were evil.

I think it is necessary for us to look past this and to realize that these attitudes are patterned, that they are the results of oppression, and that work itself is an essential feature of human existence. Work, as work, is very much a part of the upward trend. No human beings function well or are healthy unless they are engaged in productive, constructive work. Essentially, human work is the care of the environment, the transforming of the environment for it to be more supportive toward human life, toward human purposes, which, in their essential nature, are the purposes of the Universe, since we are, as far as we know, the leading edge of the whole constructive trend in the Universe. Human intelligence, and human activity outside of the distress patterns, is exactly on the topmost rung of the positive developments in the Universe. Work has been degraded by the oppression to produce the contrary impression, but there are many windows to the fact that work is very positive, an essential activity for all of us.

Someone once pointed out that what most people call play is the work they are no longer required to do. As long as hunting was the principle means of survival, it could be a chore, but as soon as agriculture developed, then one spent one’s spare time hunting for fun. As long as gardening was the principle means of support it could get a little tedious (I certainly remember from my childhood how tedious gardening could get), but as soon as there are other means of earning a living, then one gardens in one’s spare time for joy.

To participate in work is essentially a very positive human endeavor. We don’t want  to get caught in the backlash of negative attitudes toward work caused by the imposition of oppression on work. The absence of work is deleterious to humans, is damaging. We see this in a number of situations. Members of the owning class who are kept from doing productive work suffer obvious warping as a result. They feel purposeless. They do not feel at home in their Universe, even aside from the guilt and blame which they attach to themselves. We hear from our owning-class RCers the destructive effects of growing up in a ruling-class, owning-class situation. They lose part of their function. They are warped out of shape by not being allowed to participate in constructive work.

I love the story of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, who was still alive at the time of the liberation of China (the temporary liberation of China, as it turns out). He had been deposed by Sun Yat-Sen in 1912, but he had lived, and when the Japanese invaded Manchuria and set up their puppet empire of Manchukuo, they resurrected Pu Yi and put him on the puppet throne of Manchukuo, and he was still there when liberation took place. The liberation forces, instead of just cutting his head off in the old patterned style, asked him what he wanted to do. He thought long and hard and said that he wanted to be a gardener, that he’d had a chance to learn something about gardening. Tourists used to visit the old ex-emperor, and ask him, didn’t he miss all the glory and splendor of the imperial court and he would say, “Oh, no. That was a terrible bore, but here in my greenhouses, I feel that I am useful. I am contributing to the welfare of the people, and it is so much better.” A little window into the excellence of work in itself.

EXCLUSION FROM WORK IS OPPRESSIVE

Much more tragic and much more numerous are the people who are excluded from production by the misfunction of the oppressive society. These include people who, because of ill health or because of age (they’re either “too old” or “too young”) have become too discouraged to work. The patterns of discouragement have become too heavy for them to even venture out into the job market or work-place anymore. They have been “declassed” by the grinding destruction of society.

I’m talking about the people who are excluded from productive work by the oppressive operations of society: the chronically ill; the youth; the elderly, who just when they get really good at their jobs are told they have to retire; the people who have become chronically discouraged. Large numbers of Third Worlders, barred from decent work by racist discrimination, become too discouraged to attempt to fight their way out into the marketplace, and, of course, that isn’t restricted to Third Worlders. Among the declassed are large numbers of alcoholics, systematically destroyed for the sake of the profit involved in selling them booze. Disabled people have been systematically excluded from productive jobs. People in all these groups who are barred from productive work find this exclusion one of the severest, most resented parts of their oppression, because it’s very much a part of human nature to be productive, to participate in the improvement of the environment, in the care of the environment, in increasing the benignity of the environment.

EXPLOITATION DEGRADES WORK

The attitudes that work is distasteful and degrading only arise from the degradation of work by the oppressive society in using work as a means of exploitation. Only because of this do we regard work as grinding dullness, as unimaginative, as repetitive. Only because of oppression and exploitation do we have the danger of unsafe working conditions, the discomfort of too cold or too hot work environments, of dirty and/or uncomfortable work places. Standing at my bench because some supervisor thought we looked more productive that way, even though stools were available, will always connect Boeing Aircraft in my mind with an aching feeling in my arches. The speed-up, the noise pollution, the dangerous chemicals are the results, not of the essential nature of work, but of the oppression and the exploitation which has become attached to work.

I think we have a stake in reclaiming the nobility and the positive aspect of work. We are not for non-work, we are for work under human conditions. We’re for work that is constructive and directed toward the benefit of humanity instead of for profits for an obsolete economic system. We’re for work which enhances our well-being while it’s going on, not for the exploitation of work which strains our bodies and our minds to the utmost in order to make a profit for somebody.

The Present Condition of
the Working Class and World Society

WORRIES ABOUT OVER-POPULATION

Today we need to look at our human situation in terms of our numbers. This concern is recent. Although there is a good bit of alarmist talk about it, there hasn’t been too much rational thought given to the fact that our species has reached a point where its total numbers have to be a concern. We inherited the urge to survive from our pre-human ancestors. All forms of life everywhere attempt to multiply as vigorously as possible, to fill every available niche in the environment, in order to avoid extinction. As long as our numbers were small, the urge to multiply was a necessary force against the accidental extinction of our species. That need has been transcended at this point. Numbering four and a half billion, there is no danger of our being wiped out by the natural forces of the environment anymore (short of the sun turning nova or something like that, and we’d probably have enough warning that we could transfer to another planet if that actually were to take place). Our numbers are secure. The threat to our survival now tends to come from the mismanagement of our numbers.

Insecurity about species survival is not the only reason for reproduction. Since human intelligence is the highest expression of the upward trend in the Universe, there will always be a real point in having new humans. Certainly our total numbers are not too large yet. I would guess that our earth could handle twelve billion people easily—twelve billion wonderful humans, free from patterns—if we managed our resources intelligently. However, because of the way that our societies have done things, we have to be concerned about the crowding. We have to be very concerned lest we threaten, not only our own extinction, but the extinction of all forms of life, in our capacity to create new chemicals, our capacity to create nuclear explosions.

Fortunately, human intelligence already shows up in this area of overpopulation. The fiction in ruling-class literature of “the blind drive of the lower classes to breed” is not borne out in reality at all. The United States reached a negative population growth rate about three years ago. The numbers of the population would be decreasing except for immigration at this point. In the last year, statistics show the same trend for many of the developing countries. Even the most fragmentary bits of knowledge about how to control procreation have resulted in a sharp decrease in the birth rate. Surveys reported in the newspapers just two and three days ago indicate that the great majority of couples in many developing countries wish to limit the number of their children. If human intelligence gets any chance to operate, it certainly can control this problem of numbers. It’s the lack of knowledge and the desperate conditions of life that are responsible for the huge population surges, not any “blind drive to breed” or anything of the sort.

THE ORIGIN OF CLASS SOCIETIES

Human beings invented class societies several thousand years ago, and since that time almost all human activity has been carried on in these class societies. These have evolved through three principal forms.

The first form of society was the slave society. In this the great majority of people, the slaves, were owned outright by a small minority of people, the slave owners. These slave societies were everywhere the first form of class society that developed. Just a few remnants of slave society now remain, a few pockets of slavery in a few places in the world. These slave societies collapsed and were replaced, almost everywhere by now, because of their own internal contradictions, certain built-in unworkabilities that exist in every class society. Their own development as societies brought the contradictions to the fore.

They became so unworkable that they were overthrown by military leaders who set up a new kind of class society, usually called the feudal society, in which a small minority of the population, the nobles, owned the land and shops, and possessed all the power of making and enforcing decisions. The great majority of the population functioned, not quite as slaves, but as serfs, with some rights to stay on the plot of land, or their craft jobs in a shop, but where most of their production and their freedom to decide what to do with their lives was appropriated by the baron, by the feudal noble. These societies have also largely disappeared, have been overthrown, although not yet quite as thoroughly as the slave societies were. There are larger pockets of feudal societies still in the world. There are remnants of feudal relationships persisting in many countries of the earth. Feudal societies disintegrated and were overthrown because the inevitable logical developments of their internal contradictions finally made them unworkable. The feudal rulers were replaced by a new ruling class, the feudal society by a new class society, one which now dominates the world completely.

This society is called capitalism. We now have a society in which a small minority of the people own almost all the means of production. The great majority of the people sell their labor to the people who own the means of production and receive back in exchange, as wages, a small part of the value they produce.

REASONS WE SUBMITTED

All of these class societies, of course, seemed very beneficial to the ruling class of each of them, but they had certain general advantages as well, which undoubtedly was one of the reasons that the majority of the people acquiesced in their operation. It wasn’t just because of the whip or the knout or the spear that slaves “agreed” to be slaves (put “agreed” in quotation marks). It wasn’t just because of the knight’s sword or lance or the threat of lashes that the serfs “agreed” to remain serfs. It wasn’t just because of the pressure and the conditioning brought upon us wage workers that we have “agreed,” until now, to remain wage workers. Class societies brought benefits, mostly to the ruling classes, but there were certain benefits that were persuasive to the rest of us, too.

One, there was greater coordination among humans in organized class societies than there had been among free food gatherers and free hunters. There was greater mastery of the environment. It was a real advantage in ancient Egypt to support a priesthood class, who lived at the expense of the slave majority, but who had the time to figure out a calendar and tell the farmers when the Nile would flood. Crops were better, the population grew much larger. Many more people survived under the organized class societies than had in the free associations which preceded them. The Pharaoh could build granaries with slave labor and accumulate great stocks of grain in the good years, which could tide people over in the famine years.

Everywhere human populations increased greatly with the development of class societies. I’m sure our ancestors who were slaves figured, “Well, what the hell, it’s a tough life but more of my children live to adulthood.” Some kind of acquiescence to oppression must have taken place because of the obvious “benefits” that accrued from it. There’s a faster accumulation of technology and knowledge under organized class societies than there was under free existence. These benefits of class societies have had something to do with us and our ancestors agreeing to tolerate being slaves, being serfs, being wage workers. We weren’t just frightened or intimidated. There were some seemingly “good” reasons why we went along.

THE NEGATIVE RESULTS

There have been deeply negative results of class societies from the beginning. One such result is the degradation of the lives of the great majority of the population to a sub-human, oppressed status. For the Pharaohs and the court nobles, the priests and the intellectuals to have a relatively luxurious existence (compared to that of their poor farmer ancestors), it was necessary that the great majority of the population lead terrible lives under heavy oppression, under all the brutal conditions of slavery.

Another negative aspect of the development of civilization under class societies was the systematic distortion and concealment of reality that took place, especially concealment of the real nature of humans. The actual nature of humans is much more obvious when you’re living in the woods as a free hunter and food gatherer. You have a much better picture of what you’re really like—a free, independent spirit. You have a much better grasp of what goes on in reality than you do living the miserable life of a slave, a serf, or a wage worker.

By the time we became wage workers, the distortions of reality, the concealments of reality, had proceeded for a long, long time. The pseudo-reality, the falsehoods which had been sold to us had, by then, a certain hoary tradition to them.

A third negative result of the development of class societies was the substitution of oppression, conflict, and destructive war for intelligence and cooperation in relationships between humans and between populations of humans.

BAD RELATIONSHIPS PERPETUATED

I’ve mentioned the degradation of the lives of the majority as one negative result of having a class society. The distortion and the concealment of reality is a second negative result. A third negative result is the substitution of oppression, conflict, and destructive wars as the typical relationships between human beings and between populations of human beings, for the intelligent and cooperative relationships which had previously been the norm. In general, people in the free pre-societies had lived cooperatively. Nowadays people take delight, for example, in the stories of similar Polynesian pre-societies. Many traditions of the Native Peoples of the American continents are still well known—traditions of mutual respect, of cooperation. If anyone finds game, the whole tribe eats. There is cooperation and support between people as a matter of course. With class societies, these were replaced, in general, by oppressive relationships between human beings. Not only was the slave owner oppressing the slave, but the slave who “climbed up” to be an overseer was oppressing the other slaves. The males oppressed the females, the adults oppressed the young people. All the other forms of oppression were invented and perpetuated in order to divide the group of economically oppressed, whether that economically oppressed group were slaves or serfs or wage workers. Oppression became the typical relationship between humans. The development of conflicts that pitted everybody against everybody else replaced the cooperation that had been customary in primitive social relationships.

INHERENT TENDENCY TOWARD WAR

Class societies inevitably became involved in intense economic competition, which inevitably led to destructive wars. This has become the typical relationship between different populations of humans: economic competition, preparation for war, war. Wars took place before there were class societies, but they were “parlor games” compared to the wars organized by the class societies. In the interior of New Guinea (where Sam Putnam was one of the first Westerners to penetrate) the pre-society tribes there practiced war but they apparently did it as a kind of population control. There was a certain amount of death, but only enough to keep the population down to where the limited valley lands could support it. Such “wars” were trivial compared to the mass destruction and conflict engendered by the wars of all class societies.

ENVIRONMENT IN DANGER

A fourth general negative aspect of class societies is the destructive exploitation of the environment for non-human purposes, threatening, under present conditions, its total destruction. Our Native People RCers, as those of you who’ve been at workshops with them know, speak to us very clearly of how their cultures cherish the tradition of living in peace and cooperation with the environment, nurturing the environment as well as being nurtured by it. Instead of this, the class societies, and primarily the profit-oriented capitalist society, “clear-cuts” the forest, strip mines the coal beds, spills oil all over the oceans, and ruins the land.

These are four, but certainly not all, of the negative aspects of class societies. The positive aspects of these societies were positive only in the historical settings of their emergence. They are no longer positive or useful. They are no longer persuasive arguments for continuing to submit to an oppressive society.

PRESENT CONDITIONS

What’s the present state of society? We have a world-wide system of capitalism, in which a small number of people own the means of production, own the factories and the mines and the railroads and the shops and the banks. The vast majority of the population sells their labor to the first group, in exchange for a small part of the value which their labor produces.

When capitalism began, the margin of his or her production which the capitalist kept back from the wage worker might, percentage-wise, have been relatively small. The accumulation of capital was slow in the handcraft shops of beginning capitalism. But at the present time, the margin is very large. We sometimes think wages are “higher” now, at least in the developed countries, even allowing for inflation, but, as a percentage of production, wages—the part of the value they produce which workers receive back—tend to drop continuously. A worker in a factory with modern technology, using modern equipment, will often, these days, produce a hundred thousand dollars worth of value in one shift.

I worked at Boeing, a long time ago. (I “faired in” the ribs of the last China Clipper, if any of you are old enough to remember the China Clippers.) I made parts by hand. At the beginning of a shift I drew out a sheet of duraluminum from the stock room and I put my templates on it and I scribed around them with a little scriber. I cut them out with my shears and I filed the edges and I rubbed them with steel wool and lard oil to get the scratches down small enough that the part would be safe and the airplane wouldn’t come apart in the air. Then I formed it with a fiber mallet over a little form. If I worked very, very hard, for my sixty-two-and-a-half cents an hour, I might produce two of those parts in a shift, which meant that, since I got five dollars for making the two parts, they were certainly worth at least ten dollars a part or they wouldn’t have paid me that much.

About the time I left the industry, big presses had been moved in to which you fed a whole four-by-eight-foot sheet of duraluminum. You set your dies on the press bed, fixed them carefully (there’s some skill involved), but then you fed in the whole sheet of metal. You lined it up, stepped on a foot lever, the press went “whomp,” and a hundred parts went cascading off in a jet of air into a bin. It took about three seconds to make a hundred of the parts that I had been making two per shift.

Well, they didn’t sell them for any less. (Laughter) So one person was making about a thousand dollars worth of parts every few seconds. Of course, it took time to make and set up the dies and all the rest of it, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that a worker with modern equipment often produces hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of value in a shift. If you have a strong union, what do you get nowadays? About fifty dollars a day if you’ve a real strong union? Sixty? (Gee, if it weren’t for inflation we’d be getting ahead.) So that in this worldwide society the people who produce the value, the great majority of the people, the working class, receive a smaller and smaller part of the value which they produce.

In this worldwide capitalist society, certain remnants of the older societies, both slave and feudal, are embedded. There is still slavery in a few parts of the world. Saudi Arabia is infamous for it. Feudal systems and remnants of feudalism still occur in many places. Feudalism persisted in the southern United States until World War II. It was called “sharecropping.” The knight in armor of the traditional European feudal period was replaced as an enforcer by the deputy sheriff of the southern United States. The serf was called a sharecropper and the bondage was maintained, partially, by debt. The naked force was there in the sheriff’s deputies, in the Ku Klux Klan, in the other extralegal terrorist organizations of the landlords, in the beatings and the Iynchings and the rest of it. There was exactly a feudal system in southern U.S. agriculture until World War II. Then capitalism invaded the South and drove the sharecroppers off the land. They didn’t get a chance to become free small landowning farmers as the farmer serfs did in the French Revolution, where the serfs became free peasants. They were simply driven off the land. It was described by various sociologists as their “free voluntary migration to the northern cities.” Ha! ha! (Laughter)

NATIONAL OPPRESSION AND IMPERIALISM

Many of the world’s populations also still endure national oppression, which is similar to the pre-capitalist oppressions of feudalism, but which in these days actually grows out of the system of world capitalism itself. In this oppression, people in these countries are oppressed not only by capitalists of their own nationality, but primarily by capitalists of another nation.

This is “colonial” oppression. This is “national” oppression. Most of the world’s population still suffers from this although “officially” it has been overthrown and ended. In its concealed form— often called “neo-colonialism”— rulers, local capitalists of the same nationality as the people they oppress, act as puppets for the foreign capitalists. This “imperialist” exploitation by the capitalists of the strongest powers still continues so that most of the world’s populations still endure, not only capitalist oppression, but “imperialist” oppression, in that capitalists of a nationality other than their own do most of the exploiting.

This is important to remember for a number of reasons. One is that most liberation movements develop as an uneasy alliance between purely “national” liberation forces and class liberation forces. The “national” liberation forces are native capitalists or would-be capitalists. They are fighting, and asking people to support them, for the right to be exploited by capitalists of their own nationality.

The results of such limited goals can be seen in India. There a purely national revolution led by Ghandi on behalf of Indian capitalists was largely successful. There the exploitation and poverty of the majority of the people has been intensified. We can compare this to China, where the class exploitation was also overthrown, and national liberation was carried on to class liberation by the Chinese working class, led by Mao. For a while, until Mao’s death, tremendous improvement in the living conditions of the majority of the population took place because the revolution was carried on past the “national” level.

We must realize that, in the world system of capitalism, the owning classes of the most powerful countries hold entire nations in colonial subjection, sometimes still openly, but, since World War II, increasingly in a concealed form. The French capitalists, for example, no longer openly rule their African possessions, but they still own all the copper mines. In the Latin American countries U.S. capital systematically extracts billions of dollars out of these nations’ economies each year, sharing only a small part of the loot with their local stooges, the military cliques which rule most of these countries for them.

VARIOUS MASKS FOR CAPITALISM

Some capitalist societies, usually those dependent on the imperialist powers and acting as their agents, operate in a kind of open tyranny similar to that which characterized the slave and feudal societies which they replaced. Some examples of these are Iran under the Shah, Franco’s Spain, Chile under the Junta, and Saudi Arabia.

Some of the present capitalist societies, including the most powerful ones, operate within the forms and pretenses of “freedom” and “democracy.” The nominal rulers are “elected by the people,” but actual control of everything is in the hands of a small group of large owners and their corporations. Where it accomplished its revolution against feudalism most completely, in countries such as France, the United States, and, in some ways, England, capitalism came to power under slogans of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” These capitalist societies continued to operate on the pretense that democracy, the “will of the people,” determines what goes on in each country. (Anatole France long ago described the “equality” of capitalist France by saying, “The rich and the poor alike are equal. They both have the right to sleep under bridges.”)

Children in the United States are told over and over again in school that “the people get to choose the government officials, the rulers,” that “the people get to elect their President.” In actuality, the decisions as to which candidates they get to choose between is made only at the highest levels of economic power. No working-class person has any real say in who is elected to “run the country,” nor do the people elected to “run the country” have any real say against the domination of the powerful economic forces of the owning class. Even if actual “peoples’ representatives” are elected, which happens rarely, they have no power against the pressure of the lobbies and the general economic structure. The owning class dominates completely.

Some of the present capitalist societies are the result of capitalism regaining power again after a period when working people had overthrown capitalism and attempted to build a new kind of classless, non-oppressive society. These capitalisms still operate under the pretense of being “socialist,” “communist,” or a “new economic democracy,” but are essentially the same as U.S. capitalism, or Franco-Spain capitalism. The new owning class operates in the guise of a dominant bureaucracy, of a “communist party officialdom,” or so on, but has restored the basic economic exploitation of capitalism. The great majority of the people in the country work as wage workers for a small elite class, which controls everything and receives the benefit of everything under the pretense of “socialism” or “communism.” The actual economic and political relationships are the same as those in the openly capitalist countries.

The Soviet Union is the outstanding example of such a regression into capitalism. Now the same regressive process is accelerating in China. Among the ordinary people in China there are still many gains and still some momentum from the days of the Cultural Revolution, but the ruling circles are more and more taking the entire country and its economic structure in the same capitalist direction that the Russian leadership had done previously.

Such regressive capitalisms, though still calling themselves “communist” or “socialist,” hold other countries in colonial subjection in just the same way that the United States dominates Latin America or Great Britain dominated the British Empire. The countries of Eastern Europe are held in acute economic subjection: such countries as Poland, East Germany, or Czechoslovakia are exploited colonially by the Soviet Union, in the name of “communism,” but in a completely imperialist, capitalist way.

ALL CAPITALISMS OPPRESSIVE, COLLAPSING

All of the capitalist societies—the openly repressive ones, which still operate on some of the traditions of feudalism; the professedly democratic ones, such as the United States or the countries of western Europe; and the ones which still call themselves “communist” or “socialist” but have regressed to exploitative class societies as capitalism has regained power—are all part of a world-wide structure of capitalism. It is important to know that this entire world-wide structure of capitalism is in the final stages of collapse from its own internal contradictions.

For a long time objective conditions have been right for a new, classless, non-exploitative, cooperative society to emerge, in which the people who work are also the owners of the means of production. It is the subjective conditions that have held back such a new society, have delayed its emergence. The subjective conditions are simply that oppression continues. It continues only because of the rigidity of distress patterns. Only the distress patterns which have been installed on working-class people permit them to continue to tolerate oppression, promote their disunity, condition them to cooperate in the oppression of each other. Only these patterns of submission permit the tottering, collapsing oppressive society to continue to function at all.

THE PATTERNS OF WORKING-CLASS OPPRESSION

We working-class people have been told, and have had distress patterns installed on us that continue to tell us, that we are unimportant, that we are superfluous. “If you don’t like it here, if you don’t want this job, there are plenty of others that do.”

We have been told that we are unintelligent.“ If you had any brains you wouldn’t be working here.”

We have been told that we are powerless.“ That’s a great idea, Joe, if anybody ever asked you, but nobody’s ever going to ask you. Have another beer and forget it.”

We have been told that unemployment must occur to several million more workers “if we hope to get out of the recession.”

We have been told that we must compete with each other in order to survive. “You’ve got to look after yourself.” “Devil take the hindmost.” “Dog eat dog.” “One has to get ahead.” “Son, I will be proud of you when you climb up to where you are ashamed of me.” (Laughter)

We have been told that our only hope of a better life is to climb out of our present jobs into ones where we look down upon our former associates, and become straw bosses, foremen, superintendents, technologists, or “professionals.” (Eventually, perhaps, even small capitalists!) This notion has been impressed on us thoroughly, that there’s no hope of a better life unless we “get ahead.” The heart of the dream is, of course, to climb out of the working class entirely and be exploiters ourselves. (Although we don’t usually realize that that’s being an exploiter. We’ve been taught to think of it as “success.”)

We’ve been told, conditioned to believe and accept as fact, that the present economic system is the best there is. That it’s eternal. That it cannot be improved upon. That it must be adjusted to. That if God had wanted a different economic system, He or She would have installed a different one. (Laughter)

We working people have been told, and have had distress patterns impressed upon us to keep this message ringing in our internal ears, that we will be able to endure things better, that our lives will be more tolerable, if we will look down upon and help oppress any group of workers different from ourselves in any possible way. “It’s tough here on the hot slab with us Ukrainians, but think what it would be like if you had to work out there in the freezing coal yards with the Poles.” This kind of thing goes on everywhere. We men workers have been told that our lives will be better, more bearable, not if we demand better wages and working conditions, but if we go home and take out our irritations on the women. “Look how much better off you are than the Third Worlders.” This racism was the principal mechanism for maintaining feudal oppression in the southern United States in the times between the Civil War and the Second World War. White sharecroppers were kept in subjection largely by being manipulated to assist in the oppression of the black sharecroppers. This was their “reward” for being oppressed. Otherwise, there wasn’t much reward in being a white sharecropper.

This illusion of “being better than,” of acting oppressively toward our fellow oppressed, amounts to being able to dramatize in the other end of the distress pattern. That’s all there is to it, this illusory “comfort” of being in the other end of the distress pattern.

As Co-Counselors we’re all familiar with this. All of us know that when, as clients, we try to climb out of a distress pattern, we’re pulled at first to stay in the pattern but act out the other end. That’s as far as we get, without assistance.

We have been conditioned to think that our lives are more tolerable if we can oppress women, if we can oppress people of a different color, if we can oppress younger people, older people, disabled people, Gay people, people of another nationality, and so on. This is the actual situation. We have endured and put up with heavy installation of oppressive distress patterns with only the pseudo-comfort of oppressing others as a palliative in our otherwise unbearable lives.

We’ve been told that unions are no good and worthless, and that a labor union which is not led by employers’ agents (whether “respectable” or criminal) is “communist-led.”

THE REALITY BEHIND THE LIES

What is the reality on all these matters? Let me go over these.

First, we working-class people are told that we’re unimportant and superfluous. The reality is that working people are the indispensable, crucially important members of the population. Society can get along without any other group (although it’s handy to have some of them around), but it cannot get along without the working person. The wealth on which everyone lives is produced by the worker on the farm, in the factory, in the home.

We’re told that we’re not intelligent. The fact is, that working people are, on the average, more intelligent, more in touch with reality than the members of the owning class are. The only place where we don’t act intelligent is where we believe the owners’ propaganda. As we re-emerge we temporarily think of ourselves as “stupid” because we have believed the society’s propaganda; but the owners’ propaganda was the only thing that made us think we were stupid in the first place.

Working-class people are more intelligent for a very simple reason. You know the bell-shaped curve of probability? Well, the bigger your sample, the higher the mid-point of the curve is likely to be, and we working people are almost everybody. (Laughter) We’re almost everybody. We have to have the most functionally intelligent people within our numbers. See? We know that everybody is potentially enormously intelligent, but we have the most functionally intelligent people.

I’ve had a chance to prowl around various niches of society in my career. I have worked with leading politicians. I have spent time with Presidential Assistants and with Senators and with Representatives. I have dealt (usually across the labor relations bargaining table, but, boy, they try to get very friendly with you there) with the leaders of very large corporations. I have had college presidents and outstanding scientists as my clients. I’ve associated with symphony musicians and with great artists on an intimate basis.

I’ve also done stoop labor in the beet fields. I’ve been a migratory harvest worker. I’ve worked at many trades, at different times. I’ve known a lot of varieties and classes of people.

WORKERS INTELLIGENT AND SENSIBLE

There is absolutely no question in my mind that the smartest people I’ve known are the wage workers. Their wit and insight, their grasp of reality is outstanding. There’s no doubt at all that a society run by seasoned, experienced workers would make a lot more sense than a society run by the present stooges of oppression.

We working people have been told that we are powerless. The reality is that the working class has complete power to do anything we want to whenever we unite and decide to do it. We have complete power. No question. The only way the oppression can continue at all is for us to continue to oppress each other. The oppressors have no real power at all.

The owners don’t even manage the industries anymore. In the beginnings of capitalism, yes, they combined some management skill with their ownership, but now the managers are hired hands. They have usually been brainwashed into thinking of themselves as owners and they get much larger wages than you and I are used to, but their economic relationship is still that they sell their labor power to the owners. The owners are of no use at all anymore. They have no power.

In the beginning of the organization of the aircraft industry, we struck North American Aircraft. How was the strike broken? Only by working-class people in uniform (obeying orders from Franklin D. Roosevelt) fixing their bayonets and pushing the picket line back into the plant. It took workers in uniform being used against workers on the picket line to break the strike. Only the disunity between us gives the oppressors any power at all. This, I think, is important to say because the illusion of powerlessness is so heavy upon us.

Modern capitalist production is all ready to be transformed into modern socialist production. The preconditions are all there. Modern production is so highly integrated that it requires that every group of workers involved all cooperate with enormous accuracy to keep production going at all. As an example, watch what happens when a spark-plug plant of General Motors shuts down with a little wildcat strike. Three days later three more plants shut down. A week later five more plants shut down. Pretty quickly the whole industrial set-up is paralyzed. It takes the complete cooperation of every group of workers for modern capitalist production to work at all.

REAL POWER LIES WITH WORKERS

If ever any sizable group of workers in a basic industry—one of the industries on which all the other industries depend—unites on a program, gets organized, makes up their minds, decides to and uses their strength, they can require anything they want. The power to do it is right there anytime they put it together. The objective conditions are not lacking, only the subjective conditions. Only the elimination of the patterns of helplessness, discouragement, and disunity is necessary for the working class to require and receive anything they want, including the complete transformation of society. If any sizeable portion of the workers in the basic industries of, say, the United States, agrees upon a program of profound change, unites around it, lines up their allies, takes sensible action, and simply says, “Do it” to present administrators, that change will be forthcoming, because society cannot function without their complete cooperation.

The truth is that real power does not lie with a Jimmy Carter. He hasn’t even the power to make up his own mind for very long. (Laughter) He keeps getting conflicting directives from the real seats of power. The Rockefeller brothers have enormous power as long as we give it to them, but the actual power does not reside in them, or in the generals, or in the heads of multi-national corporations, or in the government officials. The actual power, once it’s realized and used, resides exactly in the working class, in the industrial working class, and, in particular, in the workers in the basic industries. I keep stressing this because there is a point to our concentration there—that is exactly where the power is quickly obtainable.

We’ve been told that we must compete with each other in order to survive. The truth of the matter, the reality, of course, is that our real survival, our having lives as human beings instead of pushed-around clods, depends on our cooperation, not on competition. Our cooperation with each other is exactly in the direction of our real survival.

We’ve been told our only hope of a better life is to climb out of our present jobs, to “get up there” where we are at least straw bosses, doing the will of the oppressors. The reality is that the “climbing out” benefits, at best, only a few. We don’t want to reproach or scorn the people who have done it, because they’ve made great effort and they’ve demonstrated their human ability to do it, but the “climbing out” only benefits a few, and at great cost to them. Listen to any report of the “made it” caucuses that we have at workshops. “Yeah, I made it (or my Dad made it for me) and I feel guilty and lonesome. I can’t wait to get back where I belong.”

Climbing out benefits only a few and at great cost to them, but staying working class and using the workers’ united power can bring good lives for everybody. This is reality. Underneath the pseudo-reality that “you’ve got to climb out in order to make it” is the reality that staying working class and acting with our united power can bring good lives for everyone, including the former Chinese emperors and the Rockefeller brothers. I’m sure they all have skills that can be put to use. (Laughter)

CHANGE IN SOCIETY INEVITABLE

We’ve been told that the present economic system is the best there is and that it’s eternal, that it cannot be improved upon, but must be adjusted to. The reality is that the present economic system has only been around a very few hundred years. It’s no longer workable. It will inevitably be replaced. With the use of intelligence, it can be neatly and speedily replaced without much damage to anyone. If we get intelligence to the scene of the action fast enough, there can be very little destruction of life in this changeover and there can be very little damage to economic resources.

There’s a danger, of course. The danger is extreme because of modern weapons. These could sterilize the planet. There’s also the possibility that this can be a relatively smooth transition. We don’t have to permit the destruction this time that capitalism imposed when it overthrew feudalism. The capitalists in overthrowing feudalism, laid waste many of the countries of Europe, in the “Thirty Year “ and “Hundred Years” wars. Capitalism, in coming to power, killed off the majority of the populations of many European countries with these wars and with the plagues that followed. This next transition to a new society does not have to be destructive in the blind way that feudalism destroyed things when it replaced slavery (see the collapse of the Roman Empire), or the way capitalism destroyed almost everything when it replaced feudalism. There’s a chance for this next transition to a new society to take place neatly.

RESPECT, NOT OPPRESS, EACH OTHER

We’ve been told that we can endure our lives better if we look down upon and help oppress other groups of workers different from ourselves in any way. The reality is that this looking down on or helping to oppress any other group of people is only acting as the tool of our own oppressors. The human, practical attitude is one of full respect for every other working person and eventually for every other human being.

We had to face this issue at Liberation I and II, the first liberation workshops. The people there were reaching for unity, but they were too divided to be very loving to each other at that point. An important point of policy emerged there. This was that we can expect love and closeness to eventually flower; we can have real confidence in that; but as a start we must require full respect. We must expect from each other that we have an attitude of complete respect for every other human being. Anything else is acting as the agents of the forces who make our lives miserable, acting as the agents of our own oppressors.

We’ve been told that unions are “no good” and “worthless.” The reality is that a labor union is an indispensable tool for survival for working people. We must have trade unions in the very nature of our relationship to the society. They’re not only essential for our immediate survival, for day-to-day fighting to make life bearable (“to have beans on the table”), but also they’re potentially agents of the workers’ power for the major social transition. Labor unions are crucial and indispensable.

We’ve been told that a labor union which is not led by a company agent (gangster or not) must be “communist-led.“  The reality is that leadership and control of unions by their members can be achieved and maintained by the education of the membership and by effective rank-and-file organization. I’d like to underline this. We do not want to repeat the mistakes that made so many progressive efforts ineffective in the Thirties and the early Forties. These mistakes were to regard capturing leadership posts of the unions as “enough.” What happened was that progressives lost the leadership of the unions quickly.

The control of the unions by their members can be achieved and maintained by two activities. One is the education of the membership. Do not shortcut that. Do not think that electing a business agent by caucus action is a big triumph. It may be useful, but it’s a very minor, shallow gain. Much more important is the ongoing education of the membership. The second essential activity is effective rank-and-file organization, the ongoing organization of the union members who do not take union office. I’d like to underline this out of bitter, painful experiences in many unions. Underline it, underline it and underline it. These are the ways that really work.

The RC Community and the Working Class

So much for a description of the present situation of the working class. Thank you. (Applause) Now I want to talk about distress patterns.

ONLY DISTRESS MAINTAINS OPPRESSION

Working people tolerate the crummy conditions of their lives, the mistreatment, the injuries, the low wages, the fatigue, the lack of safety, the unemployment, and the other insecurities. They act powerless, they put each other down, they try to “climb out of” their class position, or they abandon hope and start drinking. They stay disunited, and they neglect their unions, only because of distress patterns which have been installed on them, starting in childhood. As they discharge and re-emerge from these distress patterns, they observably regain their functioning intelligence, their power, their initiative, their respect and caring for each other, their determination to change society instead of playing society’s stupid games. They regain their unity and their leadership abilities. This is not a pie-in-the-sky dream; this is what’s been happening, observably, with large numbers of working people in RC. I think most of you know this is true of others if not of yourself. (The reason you often don’t know it of yourself is because you haven’t taken stock lately, you’ve been so busy looking at the next distress you want to get rid of.) This, in a nutshell, is the story of the distress pattern and the working person.

The discharge and re-evaluation process which we call Re-evaluation Counseling operates spontaneously whenever a human being can find an opportunity. On the cover of Present Time No. 37 you’ll find a quote from Tim. At the World Conference, in relation to working with young people, he said, “What we call Co-Counseling is not something we invented, but our approximation of a natural process.” This is important to remember. We mislead ourselves if we talk about this profound, inherent process as if it were a cute little gizmo we had just invented. This discharge and re-evaluation process is inhibited and interfered with by the distress patterns themselves, many of which are systematically installed by the society for the purposes of oppression. The theory of Re-evaluation Counseling (now we are talking about the theory) greatly enhances and expedites use of this natural process. The theory is, essentially, the understanding that we’ve arrived at, the clearer picture of reality that we’ve exhumed from underneath the pseudo-reality with which it has been covered. To have this understanding greatly enhances and expedites the use of this natural process. To learn and use the theory and practice of RC is a powerful tool for working people. Even temporary, superficial exposure to it has resulted in profound changes for many people.

WORLD CONFERENCE DECISIONS

Here I want to digress a little and talk about some of the decisions of the July, 1979, World Conference. The World Conference decided to encourage spreading basic RC insights widely out into the general population. Co-Counselors were encouraged to start distributing this knowledge everywhere; to do lots of introductory public lectures whether they bring students in for classes or not, to take any speaking assignment we are asked to do, to set up classes under non-RC titles at every Junior College and YWCA in the country.

Once, when I was flying from Seattle to San Diego, the plane stopped in San Francisco, and while we were on the ground, we were informed we’d be held for another half hour, that there was some minor mechanical trouble. The repair crew came on the plane. The third man, as he came abreast of me, looked at me and said, “I know you. You’re Jackins. I heard you talk in Seattle about five years ago.” I thanked him for remembering. He said, “You’re pretty good. You talked about praising your children instead of pounding on them. I went home and tried it and my son hasn’t been arrested since.” (Laughter)

We can multiply this sort of experience many, many times. People are eager to hear our theory because it confirms their own intuitions. We’re going to do a lot of this. To disseminate the basics of RC theory widely among working people is one of the most important, effective things we can do. There are many ways of doing it.

Imagine a job situation. A group of us who work in the hammer shop are eating our lunch together. If I take the initiative and say, “Ted, would you say you’re a good drop hammer operator?”, Ted might feel embarrassed at first. And two people are almost sure to make some snide remark. But if I say, “Hold it, hold it! Are you a good drop hammer operator or not?”, with a little encouragement he’ll say, “Yeah, I do my share.” Then if I ask somebody else, one of the more thoughtful ones, “Do you think he’s a good drop hammer operator?”, he’ll say, “Yeah, I’d say he’s damned good.” “Okay Ted, what do you think is good about the way you work?” You’ll have to shush the catcall business, discourage the baiting, at first. If Ted once starts talking a little he’ll have something to say. Then I’ll ask, “How do you think you could improve?” I’ll get a serious answer and, by then, everybody will be really interested, really listening. Soon, it’s time to go back to work. Next day you ask some other worker. Soon, the tradition is set. People can’t wait to get to the lunchtime gathering to talk about themselves. (Laughter)

This is fundamental self-estimation. All these tools can be used anywhere and will be eagerly used. We have enough experience to know this is so.

COMMUNITY DISTINGUISHED

The Re-evaluation Counseling Community is an association of people who work together in an organized way to develop and use use the theory and practice of Re-evaluation Counseling to the fullest extent. We need to make a distinction between Re-evaluation Counseling and the Re-evaluation Counseling Community. Re-evaluation Counseling is the use of our knowledge. Re-evaluation Counseling is the name we use for our increasingly skillful recovery and use of the natural process. The Re-evaluation Counseling Community is an association of some Co-Counselors. Lots of Re-evaluation Counseling goes on outside our Community. There are probably a quarter of a million by now who’ve been through fundamentals classes, and most of them aren’t presently in our Communities. (The majority of them still think they are. Their Area Reference Person doesn’t think so, because he or she can’t find them, but they think they are.)

The Co-Counselors who constitute the Community are associated together to develop the theory and practice of Re-evaluation Counseling, to keep it free from the intrusion of patterns or other patterned systems of thought, and to apply it to every area of human activity, in particular toward the liberation of humans everywhere from every type of oppression. This is a possible definition of the Community. It’s an association of Co-Counseling people gathered together to carry out these purposes.

The Communities can be defined in other ways. They can be defined by the agreements between the Community members. The Community has evolved a series of agreements which are to be kept by members of the Community. These are embodied in the Guidelines.

Intuitively, everyone uses RC every time they get a chance. There are large numbers of people who use RC as well as they have learned or as well as they can remember it from attending an introductory lecture or part of a fundamentals class or from having it explained a little bit by their friends.

The Community is a more limited group. It is a formal association of people working together, awarely, to help each other’s rapid re-emergence, to protect the consistency and rigor of Re-evaluation Counseling theory and practice from the dilution and distortion by intrusion of patterns or other patterned systems of thought. (We have a continual battle to keep RC from being identified and confused with “human growth” movements or with humanistic psychologies, or with individual        Co-Counselors’ or teachers’ chronic patterns.) The association of Co-Counselors together in the Communities seeks to apply Re-evaluation Counseling in every area of human activity and particularly to the liberation of humans everywhere from every type of oppression. This is one of the phenomenal attributes of the RC movement, especially in the last few years, that the central core of the theory is being applied in this enormously diverse range of activities. The theory is developing rapidly in at least fifty areas of application at this time. Take the time to sit down and read the latest issue of every one of the twenty-four RC publications. People are writing in these with great elegance, really, about the things they are experts on, which are the conditions of their lives, the conditions of their oppressions. They are writing brilliant presentations.

THE RC JOURNALS

These magazines are a real phenomenon. They are people’s journalism of an entirely new type, and they continue to proliferate. We’re planning now for a journal about immortality. We have a name for it; it will be called Forever and Ever. The artists in RC want a journal. “Raised poor” RCers want a magazine. The journals share applications of RC to classroom teaching, to the work of faculty people on campus, to a score of liberation areas, to solving the problems of men. I hope you all know that the first issue of Men has at last been published. (Yay!) You might as well stand and take a bow, Chuck (Esser). (Applause) The men are very enthusiastic, and my impression is that the women are twice as enthusiastic. (Laughter) They cheer loudly with the phrase, “It’s about time.” (More laughter)

COMMUNITY AGREEMENTS

The Community has evolved a series of agreements to be kept by members of the Community. As people come into the Community we need to make it plain to them that they’re expected to keep the agreements that have been worked out, that this is a condition of their membership in the Community. They’re not free to come in and do any patterned thing they feel like doing, or what they learned to do in some “human growth” experience. The Guidelines of the Community are binding on people who are admitted to the Community.

The Guidelines can be changed. There’s a procedure for changing them, but they’re agreements to be honored until changed by agreement. We do not have to make every mistake over again seventy-seven times. Our policy and practice of individual leadership, for example, was under attack last summer before the World Conference. Many of you got circulars demanding that we go back into a kind of primitive, “Let’s not do anything until we all agree,” procedure. Many people were not aware of the fact that these issues had been resolved in International meetings years before.

RC leadership policy has evolved to the point that we depend on individual leadership, individual responsibility. Any RC leader is expected to consult with all responsible Co-Counselors concerned with a particular decision as far as possible before he or she makes the decision. All RC leaders are subject to periodic review on their policies and their positions by the Co-Counselors they lead. We have control of the leadership by the membership, but we do not have the usual creaky interference by patterned competitiveness, nor do we attempt to work by committee leadership, which made many of us old long before our time in other organizations through the hours we spent reaching unworkable solutions with great fatigue.

That’s just one example. The agreements of our Community have been worked out with a great deal of thought. It’s correct to explain to people as they come into the Community that these agreements are binding.

We’re not going to pursue people to ask them to come into the Community anymore. We’re going to communicate RC to lots of people, and lots of people are going to take fundamentals classes in the name of RC (and under fifty-seven other titles as has been happening all along), but they will come into the Community only when they’re ready to take responsibility for carrying out the functions of the Community. It’s not going to be a free-for-all arena. We’ve wasted too much time with that kind of attempted functioning.

INDUSTRIAL WORKERS WANTED

The Community is committed, currently—these are policies proposed at the World Conference and unanimously accepted—to making industrial workers the majority of the Community membership. This is a shift from the beginning populations of most Communities, which are usually dominated by workers holding professional or student or white collar status. These beginning groups of people often don’t think of themselves as working-class at all. They have a key to the executive’s washroom or they have tenure at their university, and it has often not occurred to them that they’re selling their labor and receiving part of the value back in wages just like those of us who sweep the floor. Until we’re a lot better organized and a lot more centered in industry, we are probably going to have to start every Community with the people who have the leisure and the slack to get interested. Most of our new Communities undoubtedly will start with so-called “middle-class” or “professional” people. We’ve got to start with the people who have a little slack to begin with, but we’re committed to changing our Communities over to a majority of industrial workers just as rapidly as we can.

Now, commitment and agreement by the World Conference won’t, of course, by itself bring this about. That’s our job as working-class Co-Counselors. We’re going to have to take the initiative to do this, but at least we have the whole Community’s backing. I proposed it at the World Conference and it was accepted and it’s explicitly stated in our policy statement.

INITIAL SEPARATION, RESULTING UNITY

“Safety” (which really means feelings of safety) to allow discharge of distress from oppression, is provided by support groups or classes, which are set up for the commonality of distress experiences. This needs to be underlined a little bit. We do have these, in effect, “segregated” classes or support groups of particular types of people. We have Third World support groups, we have black support groups, we have “raised dirt poor” support groups, and we have other support groups for “father was a foreman,” or “I’m a preacher’s child and proud of it!”.  We’ll have support groups for those on welfare, for manual workers, service workers, office workers, cooks, waitresses, poor dirt farmers, and so on. This kind of temporary “segregation” can provide the beginning feelings of safety for getting at the content of the oppression distress and discharging it.

The goal of these groups, however, is to discharge this distress rather than rehearse it. We’ve had some experience with beginning working-class groups getting caught in grievancing. We need to present both the advantages and the pitfalls of this separation right away.

These “segregated” groups are to prepare for broader unity rather than stay segregated. We need to keep in mind, always, that almost everyone is working class in a fundamental sense. The differences are usually expressions of internalized oppression, internalized classism. These differences are to be surmounted rather than perpetuated.

Let me emphasize this. To get the feelings of safety which commonality of experience gives us, it’s necessary that we have separate meetings for any particular group that doesn’t feel at ease with any other group. If we have some left-handed pretzel venders who had to ride the subway to work, we can set up a group for them. No question, no objection. This is legitimate, this is valid. There is a great beginning feeling of safety in having common experiences behind us. We will have as many divisions as are necessary to achieve this beginning feeling of safety, but our goal is never to remain there.

At one of the Arundel workshops in England there was a Jewish caucus, with about ten people in it, and eleven different kinds of oppressions. It came to light when somebody was thrown out of the caucus because she “wasn’t really Jewish.” There had to be something a little wrong with that. We met with them, and it turned out that she was a convert and some people were saying, “You’re not born Jewish, I can’t discharge in front of you,” but they were insisting on calling it a Jewish caucus. We held about eleven different meetings. There were the native-born Israelis, the Sabra. There were the people who were immigrants to Israel but had been through the wars. There were the people who were immigrants who hadn’t been through the wars. There were the Mizrachi (the Oriental Jews) and there were the Ashkenazi (the western Jews). There were people who were just in Israel temporarily. There were the English Jews and there were the American Jews and so on. We had all these groups meet separately and discharge. When they had used this safety for a while they all came together, and now the convert was very much a part of the group and they had tremendous unity.

Much the same thing happened with the Irish caucus, at the same workshop. We had about eight different divisions that had to be dealt with separately before the Irish caucus could achieve working unity. This was a great lesson for us.

On the other hand, we have experiences of setting up special classes and support groups where the goal never got beyond the separation. At the first session, “Isn’t it wonderful to be by ourselves,” and discharge, discharge, discharge. At the second session, “Isn’t this great? It’s wonderful.” At the third session, “I guess we’ve lost interest.”

This principle shows up everywhere. We need the temporary safety of division and as narrow divisions as are necessary to get started, but always the following move must be towards unity. Some of you were at Liberation I and II. We started out with a South American caucus, a Puerto Rican caucus, and a Chicano/a caucus. We also had an Asian caucus with several varieties of Asians in it, and we had a black caucus. The African blacks were at first quite uneasy and met separately from the U.S. blacks. These separate groups met with great enthusiasm, but within a day, the Chicanos/as and Puerto Ricans independently decided that they needed to get together. Then the South Americans came in and then the blacks and the Latino/a caucus merged and they sent an emissary to ask the Asians to join. Within two days we had a Third World caucus, and this tremendous change from the necessary beginning separation to the broad unity.

This works everywhere. It’s a general principle and one that’s valuable everywhere. At the non-RC workshops we’ve done (in particular, I think of last October’s workshop in Israel), just the determined, stubborn application of this principle—insisting on separate caucusing at first and then insisting that the separate caucuses be listened to with respect by all the others all the way through—accomplishes this miracle of unity that people at workshops, to begin with, don’t believe is possible.

I remember the first teen-age class set up in Seattle. The members were wildly enthusiastic about it. At first, they just couldn’t get enough of it. When they discussed repeating for a second eight-weeks, there was a long silence and finally some of them said, “I think we need some grown-ups in this class.”  They hastened to add, “And not just any grown-ups, we want to pick them.”

ONE-POINT PROGRAM, WIDE-RANGING APPLICATIONS 

The basic organizational principle of our Community is a very profound one. Proposition Three of the Guidelines: “The only program of the RC Community that is binding on all members is to use RC to seek recovery of one’s occluded intelligence and humanness and to assist others to do the same.” This is very basic. In addition, all Co-Counselors are encouraged to reach rational positions on all issues confronting humanity, including the most controversial ones. The Community will support this reaching of rational positions on all these issues with workshops, conferences, publications and circulation of the positions reaching to the entire Community; but that none of these positions shall be binding on the members of the Community. The two together are a stroke of genius and an extremely workable duo.

This is often not well understood. Agreement among our Community members is often so quickly reached and people are so enthused about the rational positions that are being reached, that they frequently take a little short cut and say, “This is the Black Liberation Policy of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.” No one objects because “it’s such a nice policy, although the improved one coming up next is going to be even better, you see.”

But this isn’t quite true. All these policies reached are the policies only of the people who participated in reaching them. They’re not the policy of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities. The Community has no policy except the use of counseling to recover people’s intelligence. It’s important that we be clear about this, especially in certain situations. Otherwise we run the risk of being identified as a political party or a revolutionary organization or “the last bulwark of capitalism” or whatever.

CONCENTRATE ON INDUSTRIAL WORKERS

We have a goal of bringing large numbers of working people, particularly industrial workers and particularly workers in the basic industries, into the RC Communities, and assisting their re-emergence and their advancement into RC leadership as quickly as possible. This is a goal. This process is already well underway. Certainly this workshop registers a good deal of progress. Not all of the Reference People that are here (and we could almost call this a Reference Person’s workshop) are here just because they are Reference People. Already many of them are workers, basic industry workers. We concentrate on workers in the basic industries simply because they have the most power to transform the society. It is not that workers in basic industry, or workers in industry generally, or even workers generally, are any more virtuous than other members of the population. Nor do we have a policy of excluding anyone. We want every billionaire we can possibly get into RC. There are no barriers to them at all.

It isn’t that workers are more virtuous. By and large we’re just about as virtuous on the average as billionaires are. We may have certain different virtues and different vices, but on the average we’re just about as human as anybody else. It isn’t that we’re prettier or necessarily more gifted; but there are reasons why the whole Community has agreed to support the idea of making industrial workers the majority of the Community. It’s simply that in this period industrial workers, and particularly workers in the industries on which all other industries depend, have the real power. These are the people who can require that the world not blow itself to pieces. These are the people who can require that society change. These are the people who can require that wars not take place again. Any time that they are united enough and recover their power and act firmly enough, they can do it. This is why we seek workers in the basic industries, not because of their virtue or their good looks or anything else, but simply because they are fine people like the rest of us and they have power to require change.

There are a couple of other reasons for concentrating on industrial workers. They tend to have to learn how to organize. From the very conditions of their lives, they tend to be more in touch with reality than paper pushers are. They have to learn how to cooperate and to work together from the nature of their jobs. When I was taken through the Chrysler engine assembly plant, I got a real glimpse of what work is like on a modern assembly line. The noise is battering at you. People are working very fast and passing things on to each other at breakneck speed. Seeing this, one gets an idea of how advanced industrial capitalism trains workers to cooperate. They have to cooperate. This cooperation can be carried over into the field of action for themselves.

This concentration isn’t a favor we’re doing the industrial workers, although it may work out to be a favor for them. The whole process is necessary for the development of the RC Communities themselves. For us to carry out our role as vigorously as it needs to be done, we need this discipline and power and effectiveness which the majority of the industrial workers can bring to us. This does not diminish the importance of any of the rest of us who come from any other background. Any individual can transcend his or her class background, can transcend class position or education or training. In fact, most of the great leaders of the working class in the past have had a professional background. There’s no barrier to the individual; but where we look for the basic population which will make the RC Communities effective, we’re looking for industrial workers.

We have a goal of placing the theory, practice, and tools of RC in the hands of the working class, particularly those in the basic industries, as quickly as possible. They need these to arm themselves for defense against the oppression, in order to reclaim the leadership of and strengthen their unions, and to organize the unorganized workers.

I want to underline this last. The recovery of control of the present unions by their members is only one step. The biggest and basic job is to organize the unorganized everywhere. (And to prepare to transform society.)

To this end we propose to transmit RC theory widely, through RC publications, union publications, and rank-and-file publications. We propose that RC publications in the future be sold widely outside our Community membership. (The little “commercial” done here at this workshop gave just a hint of how much our sale of literature can be improved.) At the present time, I would guess about half the copies of Sisters go outside the RC Community. And they have had wide impact. We get letters saying, “I found this amazing publication, Ruah Hadashah, in my dentist’s office. I’ve never heard these attitudes expressed before. I want to know more about it.” Every edition of Working For a Living is good for distribution outside RC, and it will improve.

Not only are we going to have to sell the RC publications widely; we intend that all our present publications, and many more that will be started as soon as we can work out the financing, will grow into wide-world journals. We’ll probably have a section in each that will be devoted to inner-RC affairs, and we’ll begin moving our articles more and more to where they speak to everybody. People won’t have to understand our “in" language or even have the theory to understand what the article is saying. If we can manage it, we’ll eventually be going to slick paper publication, printing in six colors and all the rest of it.

This will take some work. This will not happen next Tuesday. (Laughter) We have a hard time financing the publications as they are at present, and inflation is presenting us with many problems. Working For a Living needs to come out more often. Marty is just beginning as editor. This is his first issue, and he is doing a fine job. All of you are going to have to sell enough copies of this last issue to raise the money to put out the next issue. And this is the basis that our publications are going to have to operate on. We have to face this. The magazines have been heavily subsidized to get started, but that has to change. Most of the money to begin these publications was raised by my carrying a heavy workshop schedule and putting my fees into the magazines. My cardiologist says I can’t do this anymore, that I’ve got to strictly limit the number of workshops I do. (I’ll be doing bigger workshops and they’re going to cost a little more because I still have a lot of financial obligations to meet.) Basically, we’re going to have to sell enough of each issue of a magazine to pay for getting out the next issue.

Black Re-emergence is having a wide impact. It’s been read over black radio stations in many parts of the United States, and articles from it are being reprinted in important places. We want RC theory to be appearing in union publications. There are three copies of a teachers' union paper on the reserve table, that Ben has something to do with. If you’ll look through them you’ll see a number of places where some very good ideas are being communicated. This is happening in other union publications; we can expedite it.

There are a lot of places to transmit basic RC theory without calling it RC. It can be done in rank-and-file publications. Many union offices are thoroughly controlled by hard-boiled company agents or gangsters, so that it’s very difficult to work through the union apparatus until some kind of successful rank-and-file struggle has taken place; but rank-and-file publications should be a permanent feature of every union, not just a temporary tool to struggle to put your candidate into office. That’s a mistake we used to make, to view electing new union officials as a sufficient goal; but keeping the rank and file informed and active in good union work should be a permanent feature. There are rank-and-file publications on the reserve table. Talk to Roy about them. They are an example of good transmission of good theory widely. The doors are open for this everywhere. Any union is open for a rank-and-file movement, even the most viciously dominated, if you’re very careful how you organize.

We propose that we conduct RC classes (under many names) in union halls and other working-class centers. In particular, the community colleges and junior colleges are wide open. Here I think we have to challenge our RC faculty people, who often feel frustrated that all they have to worry about is getting tenure or publishing. Yet, these people, if they will actually use RC in their moonlighting at the community colleges and junior colleges, have the most eager, the most aware, alert and active section of the working class and the Third World all sorted out for them. The people who come to these classes are the people who want something more of life, who are not ready to give up. They’re all sorted out for us in these classes. Some people have done a job on this and have challenged these people, in particular, Lee in New York City. Lee has for years been doing what we need to learn how to do, which is to go to these people who are trying to climb ahead with a little education and challenge them to improve the world where it is. He’s an expert, and we need to learn from him.

STUDENTS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES

Something more about our faculty people, because most of you are in touch with them. For heaven’s sake, put them to work. Our faculty people in the universities and regular colleges (even aside from their moonlighting) have access to great bodies of students from other countries. Many of these students are in unbearable emotional positions as they come to college in the industrialized countries. They are often sponsored by very reactionary regimes at home, snooped on by those regimes’ agents, very interested in the ideas of freedom and change, and terribly lonely. Our faculty people have the opportunity (or any of you who have the ear of a faculty person has) to start organizing hundreds and thousands of people to return to their own countries armed with precious RC knowledge. Every time one of these students from another country wanders into RC, they become very excited about what they can do with it. “If I could just take it back home!”

But, we have not, in general, been supportive of them. The fact is that these student populations have a great role to play, and I think we need to challenge our faculty people to begin to reach them. M—  of Boston has not been doing a great deal in recent years, but in the first couple of years (before he got discouraged or whatever happened) he went back to his university and told his students, “Don’t come into these RC classes unless you intend to change the world. Don’t come into these classes unless you intend to commit your life to using these tools to transform society.” His students rose up and responded to the challenge. Today we have a dozen Reference People and founders of new Communities from that group. One person challenging students correctly, achieved this great response. He did an invaluable service for us in modeling how to reach a hand and a challenge out to students. He set an example for us that we can all learn from. Now back to the main points.

RECLAIM AND EXPAND

In addition to conducting these classes everywhere and communicating theory through the union and rank-and-file publications, we need to assist in establishing organizing centers for reclaiming unions for their membership and we need to organize the unorganized. I place these two challenges before this group, and I hope you place them before a much larger group, not only in RC but among your associates in your workplaces—the job of reclaiming the unions for their memberships and the job of organizing the unorganized.

The first alone is not sufficient. The majority of workers are still not in unions. You can hear this reflected even here in the introductions to this workshop. For many of the workers even here in this group there isn’t an existing union and they don’t know how to get one started. But we need to take this initiative, not as a function in RC, but as our function in the wide world.

We need to help establish organizing centers for reclaiming the existing unions for their memberships. We need to find ways to educate the union memberships and start ongoing rank-and-file activities. Beyond this we must find ways to get together the healthy forces in the labor movement to begin to organize the unorganized. We’ll need this additional strength.

WE ARE CAPABLE

This will take some doing, but you are in good shape to do it, and the objective conditions are ready. I was around during the big organizing drives of the Thirties. I participated in some of them. These drives were valiant, heroic. You still sing songs about them, you’re enthused about their history, but the forces that did the organizing then were terribly uninformed, inexperienced, inept, scared, and inexpert compared to you. If we had had a group of people like this ready to participate in organizing when the CIO was launched, the AF of L-CIO would have three times its present membership at the present time. Most of the organizing then was done by a handful of devoted, determined leftists and large numbers of rank-and-filers. The names in the newspapers then and in the labor histories now didn’t do much of the organizing.

We in this group here are a small fraction of the working class in RC, but just this group here has tools and knowledge far beyond the forces who carried out the great historic drives to organize the unorganized in the U.S. in the Thirties. We have more forces, we have much better theory, we have far superior tools. If we could have had RC tools in those days it would have made an enormous difference. We just burned ourselves out over and over. We got more and more wound up, and we often made decisions on the basis of painful emotion. Often for that reason we weren’t effective in our appeals. We responded to challenges on a knee-jerk basis instead of using logic.

The tools you have for sorting out your thinking and doing a good job are enormously more effective than we had then. The objective situation is much more favorable.

REGIONAL LEADERS ARE ONLY TEMPORARY

One more task. We propose that, as a temporary measure, Regional Working-Class Reference Persons be chosen where qualified persons are available, and that the principal task of these be to quickly put themselves out of business by securing qualified people to be Area Working-Class Reference Persons in every Area. We want to be very sure that we do not encourage the pattern that is endemic in the working class (it’s part of the “get ahead” and “climb out” patterns that push every business agent towards trying to be businessman, that keep working-class activists preoccupied with titles and prestige). We want to temporarily have Regional Working-Class Reference People, but have them clearly understand their job is to set up Area Working-Class Reference People, to set up leadership at the grass roots. It’s part of our general policy in RC not to set up any Regional bureaucracy.

There may come a time when the Regions will be completely autonomous. In the event of war, Regional Reference People will have to assume heavy leadership if we can’t communicate with each other across national battle-lines. There’s more danger of war than we like to think, and we have to keep that eventuality in mind, but, in general, the Regional Reference People in RC are there to assist in the development of Area leadership, not to set up any kind of Regional bureaucracy, any kind of Regional structure.

We want our leadership to operate on an Area level and we want the Areas to divide and promote additional leadership when they grow to over a hundred active Co-Counselors. We want to develop thousands and thousands and thousands of capable, informed leaders and editors of Area newsletters. We want all members of the Community to know the score and we’re not going to do it by proliferating Regional bureaucracies.

This has special force and importance for Working-Class Reference People. We’re delighted that Albert is temporarily Regional Reference Person for North England, that David is Regional Reference Person for the Midlands, that John is Regional Reference Person for the Upper Middle Atlantic region, and so on. We are delighted, but we remind them and we will remind the others who will be taking such appointments that their job is to develop a Working-Class Area Reference Person in every Area (save your own Area for yourself, of course), but that we do not want a Regional working-class structure. We don’t need it, and it will interfere with Area organizations. As soon as we can, we want intensive working-class organization on the Area level.

QUALIFICATIONS

The qualifications for an Area Working-Class Reference Person include a good knowledge of RC and effective counseling skills, not just the fact that they work for a living. We want them to be RC leaders as well as workers. Such a person should be accredited as an RC teacher. We must insist that anyone who is going to lead the working class be at least that skilled in RC as well as have a working-class background.

Each should have good judgment as well as all the other good qualities. It is important that each working-class RC leader eventually lead some kind of working-class constituency outside as well as within RC. We want such Reference People to be leaders of workers outside RC. We do not want an internal apparatus where we play games of pretending to organize the working class, when all we do is get together the people who come into RC anyway. We expect our working-class RC leaders to have a constituency in the wide world.

EVOLVE INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP

When a sizeable number of our people are functioning well as RC Reference People with working-class constituencies on the Area level, then an International Working-Class Reference Person should be chosen from among them, but not until then. Until then, I will handle this in addition to my main job. It isn’t that I need the extra work; but in trying to explore the possibility of appointing such a Working-Class International Reference Person, we’ve seen a phenomenon of bureaucratic competition for the job. It’s part of the “climbing out” pattern and analogous to “pie-card”-ism It’s competing for a title and prestige without doing the work that the job is about. I think that it is correct to require that anyone considered for this job have a working-class constituency outside as well as within RC. Regardless of your Area, who you are or where you come from, if you wish to assume leadership on a broader scope in working-class RC, get yourself a constituency in your Area, be in touch with workers who will follow your leadership, who are hearing policy from you and are communicating things to you. Then we will choose an International leader, and he or she will know what she or he is talking about.

OTHER PROPOSALS

Let’s get Working For a Living expanded, published more often, and sold widely outside RC as well as in.

Let’s hold working-class workshops on Area or Regional levels at least every six months. Even if we have to start small, let’s have a workshop with good effective leadership at least every six months in each Area. (If necessary, start in each Region, but let’s do it in each Area as fast as possible.)

There should be an International workshop at least once a year. From the size of this one (seventy-five people were turned away for lack of room), it sounds like we need them a little oftener. We’ll do the best we can. Certainly the size of this one hasn’t gotten in our way. There have been advantages to it.

That’s it. That’s what I wanted to say. Thank you for listening so well and for so long. (Applause)

Reprinted from Working for a Living No. 5, 1980.


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07