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What Are the Needs of Leaders?

What are the needs of leaders? Do they need to get together and all agree upon a program that they will all carry out1 together, and have the organizational secretaries check up on them to see that they carry it out? We’ve always assumed so, but it turns out to be2 complete nonsense. All this enormous effort that organizations have made to work that way turns out to be complete nonsense, worse than unnecessary.

What do leaders working in the same field need? They need to release their individual initiative. When they get together, they need four things:

1. They need a chance to report on what they’ve been doing, with the attention of their interested peers. That’s point one on the Wygelian agenda.3

2. Next they need a chance to share information, tell what they know, in the field that they share a common interest in. “What seems to be the situation facing Asian Pacific people at the present time—in the world, in the country, in Los Angeles County, in Topanga Canyon? What facts do you know, what opinions do you have? Distinguish between facts and opinions if you can, but what do you know?” The Wygelian groups in Seattle (Washington, USA) within a period of a few meetings became enormously well informed. They all knew what everybody else knew; they shared back and forth. They’d find a good book and buy a few extra copies and bring them in case somebody wanted to buy them. They’d copy magazine articles, recommend magazines, and so on like that. Sharing information—a basic need among leaders who are working together. Point two of the Wygelian leaders’ agenda.

3. They need to set goals in the hearing of people who share their motivations, their interests—who are their peers. Boy,4 do you think a lot better when you know that people who know the score5 are listening to what you’re going to do. Each person is free to set their own goals. Those are the ones they’ll have a chance of carrying out. So point three of the Wygelian leaders’ agenda is a simple question: “What do you propose to do in the area of Asian Pacific leadership in the next period?” “Well, I thought I’d bake cookies with the right slogans on them and take them to schools.” That’s fine. If that’s what the person says they’ll do, they’ll do it. They don’t have to be pinned down6 and make commitments that somebody will check up on. Also, they frequently get inspired by other people’s goals.

4. They need assistance in crawling out of the distress that gets in the way of their leadership—the fourth point on the Wygelian leaders’ agenda. The last thing is a session. “Where are you hung up7? What’s getting in the way of your leadership?” Boy, are people ready to tell you! They may not say, “Well, I have this difficulty that I would appreciate some help with.” They may say, “This is all tomfoolery.8 You’re just wasting our time. I want to get back to . . . .” But they’ve handed you their difficulty. They’ve handed it to you in the best way they can, and if you’re any kind of a counselor, you’ll find a way to get discharge going on it.

And you don’t meet regularly. You only meet when there is something to meet about. Wonderful idea! Wonderful! No regular meetings! And you don’t meet very often.

Harvey Jackins
From the July 1986 Peace and
Disarmament Activists’ Workshop


1 “Carry out” means make happen.
2 “It turns out to be” means in practice it is revealed to be.
3 The “Wygelian” agenda is what is followed in a Wygelian leaders’ group. A Wygelian leaders’ group is a group of leaders and potential leaders of a particular constituency in which each person takes a turn doing the following: (1) reporting on what he or she has been doing in the last period with regard to the constituency, (2) saying what he or she thinks is the current situation facing the constituency, from his or her viewpoint, (3) sharing what he or she proposes to do as a leader in the next period, and (4) discharging on what is getting in the way of his or her leadership. The group does not make any group plans but rather serves to encourage individual initiative. It meets only when the members feel a need for meeting.
4 “Boy” is an exclamation.
5 “Know the score” means know what’s happening, are informed about the situation, have  experience related to the topic.
6 “Pinned down” means made to be explicit.
7 “Hung up” means stuck, unable to move forward.
8 “Tomfoolery” is foolishness.



Counterrevolution Due to Persistence of Patterns

Harvey Jackins, at the July 1986 Peace and Disarmament Activists’ Workshop

Question: I’d like your thoughts on one of the great questions. We had Russia and China moving toward a genuinely new society, and they’ve fallen back to state capitalism. How did that happen without a major violent revolution? It seemed relatively smooth. Was it just a matter of old patterns, or were there mistakes in terms of structure that made it possible?

Harvey: I think it’s the persistence of patterns of oppression in the heads of the leaders of the revolution and in the subculture. There’s always an allure. For example, you notice it when you get elected to be business agent for the union. You’ve been used to being laid off, and here you’ve got a steady job with a wage comparable to the lowest pay of a journeyman, something like that. All of a sudden you’ve got security. Your family thinks, “Maybe we can have a little decent furniture.” All the pressures of upward climb come in on you real heavy. The boss starts talking to you nice. Union members come around and say, “Fat cat,1 loan us some money; if you don’t, you’re a (derogatory word).” The pressure of the patterns is there. And it certainly is on the people who take leadership in a revolutionary movement. They haven’t thought about patterns. They don’t know about patterns. The only models they have for somebody operating in a leading position are the old oppressive models. I think this is the principal thing.

Also, the counterrevolutions didn’t occur without violence. A lot of people died in Russia, and there was a lot of violence in China. Large numbers of people died in the regression to capitalism after Mao’s2 death.


1 A “fat cat” is a wealthy and privileged person.
2 Mao Tse-tung, the leader of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1976


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00