Our good friend, Clayton Bagwell, has been kind enough to help
critique the Red Feather Manifesto...I would like to respond to
some of the points he makes. Before I do, I want to thank him
and others who have helped provide ideas for its improvement.
Chas A Ostenle.
Point 1. Praising Capitalism: This part of the RFManifesto was
designed expressly for those for whom communism is anathema. I have
found, over the years, that it is far better to begin with less than
grudging acknowledgement of the contributions private capital and a
sort of free market have made in a number of dimensions rather than
trashing capitalism from the start....I am rescinding that section;
simply explaining its fairly neutral to positive approach to capitalism.
Pt. 2. The Agent of Social Revolution. I would like very much for
the workers of the world to unite and transform capitalism;
however, I think that revolutionary agency is going to be
far more complex and far more splintered than we can imagine.
In particular, uniting workers of the world is very difficult
in view of nationalist loyalities; ethnic identifications at
the core of the self system; religious differences which power
all sorts of devilish divisions...and the fact that a great
many workers benefit from exploitation of still other workers.
So calling for a much broader revolutionary base is, I think,
good theory and good politics.
Pt. 3. Lamenting the enslavement of national capital to transnational.
Did I lament it or report it??? I think that enslavement is
a great tool with which to pry workers and many middle class
professionals away from their blind loyalties to private capital.
I have often said that, after the capitalist class has fully
exploited the working class, that they will turn upon the middle
class and begin to immiserate them...and globalization is a process
which transforms national middle classes into potential partners
to the workers of the world. Check out the passage below from the RFM:
As we have already seen in 20th century forms of class struggle,
entire sections of the ruling class are, by the advance of industry,
precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in
their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with
fresh elements of enlightenment and progress. Where once they were
enthusiastically loyal to capitalism, now they stand back, reflect
and ponder the future of their beloved children, their beloved
country and their beloved churches.
Pt. 4 'lured into waged job' I agree with Bagwell that most people are
forced into wage labor; and often into jobs with lousy working
In that passage, I was trying to account for the deep loyalties
workers have to a system which turns them into commodities to be
used and discarded....more social psychological than structural.
I'll be careful to make the distinction in future revision.
Pt. 5. 'Capitalism as the great equalizer...' Bagwell rightly notes that
class inequality is increasing...and that this passage seems to
say the opposite...
....again, it is not that workers
are becoming middle class but rather, equalization means that the
middle class are becoming immiserated.
the relevant passage from RFManifesto is:
All the classes that stand deserted by global capital become the raw
material out of which new forms of class struggle emerge. No longer
are the proletariat alone in revolutionary struggle; now they
partner with other classes, other races, other nations to try to
reclaim the political economy for the human project.
Pt. 6. 'Preserving the Bourgeosie...' Bagwell interprets a statement
about the middle class joining with workers to mean that the Manifesto
calls for keeping the bourgeoisie.
I have to say that most professionals do not own the means of
more and more they sell their labor power to huge conglomerates;
lawyers, managers and technicians alike.
'Tis true that some professionals do get great benefits out of their
employment but, as Marx noted, they can in a moment be cast out and
being cast out, find themselves utterly degraded.
Most managers could survive three, six or ten months on savings but,
dis-employed by capital, they join the working class rather than
Pt.7. 'Class struggle...' Bagwell states that the RFManifesto defines class
struggle as anything from sex to kleenex...
I have tried to find such a statement and/or such implication...I
closest passage I can find is this one:
Absent decent wages and full employment, workers of the world cannot
possibly buy all the goods and use all the services available. Given
the great successes of global advertizing campaigns workers,
students, children, the elderly and the impoverished alike demand and
desire access to goods and services. Frantic to own and to possess while at
the same time, goods pile up unsold and unbought; factories close,
shops close, mines, mills and farms fail. This great contradiction
between production and distribution produce both economic crisis and
great unrest on the part of those closed out from this great largesse.
The RFManifesto does say:
Today, class conflict is waged between workers and owners; between
small and large firms; between rich and poor nations; between blocs
of nations organized by race, religion and colonial status. No
longer embodied by sets of persons confronting other sets of persons
about wages, working conditions and investment policy, class struggle now
involves struggle between firms and nations over reserves of
oil, iron, bauxite and some 50 other 'strategic' raw materials.
Class struggle now involves struggle between local capitalists and
multinational capitalists over wage policy, taxation policy and pricing
policy. Class struggle now involves nations fighting on behalf of
domestic bourgeoisie against other domestic bourgeoisie as well as
against transnational bourgeoisie based in New York, Tokyo,
London, Toronto and other financial centers around the world.
I think I will stand by this view of the expansion of class
struggle: there is more
to class struggle than a set of workers striking for wages; a whole
workers in an entire nation fighting for job security; a whole world
trying to overthrow global capitalism.
Some of that class struggle is pre-theoretical; many forms of crime
corporate crime; racism; domestic violence and 'ethnic purification'
forms of pre-theoretical rebellion and resistence.
Yet some new forms may be progressive...violations of copyright by
3rd world countries
may well destabilize rich capitalist countries as does movmeent of
the 3rd world. The Green Movement in Europe and North America has
out to 3rd world nations...and thus erodes the power base of
\ in Europe and North America...
CONCLUSION: In all this, Bagwell touches only lightly on his criticism that
in the last part of the RFManifesto are 'only reforms'...
There are some 16 suggestions for democratic socialism in the 21st
do not, as Bagwell notes, tell us how to get there so much as what
to do after/as
we make the way there. See below...
Again, I stand by them: I don't know how to make the revolution; nor
do I have
a simplistic formula: 'workers of the world unite.'
I tend to think that revolution these days is made not with a bang
but with a
good hard ground work which tears the fabric of privatized greed and
avarice to shreds...
Chas A Ostenle,
Part VII. SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PROGRAMs FOR THE 21st CENTURY.
Socialists, feminists, humanists, affirmative postmodernists should work for
whichever elements of the following program they value with whichever of our
brothers and sisters in religion they find to work with at whatever level of
governance is available to them.
Economics is the solid base upon which all else grows or is stunted.
Democratic socialists should support broad experimentation with market
socialism. By market socialism, I mean worker owned and operated stores,
shops, firms and factories, mines, mills and farms. Ownership is the
simplest means of providing workers and families with essential private
goods. Stock ownership is the most portable means of instituting ownership.
Together, wages and stock ownership provide workers with access to prosocial
labor and to prosocial market goods and services.
1. First work with and for the children; always the children. Each child
born should have all its physical, emotional, educational, recreational and
spiritual needs developed and oriented to pro-social labor and pro-social
2. Eschew violence in word, deed, program or policy. Violence may well have
been helpful in Czarist Russia, Nazi Germany, in the China of Chiang, in the
Cuba of Batista or the Nicaragua of Somoza. In a world with global media,
with global political institutions, with global internet connections, and
with global economic weapons, personal and public violence is neither
necessary nor effective. Our weapons are words, songs, plays, dramas, and
public campaigns in the various media. The murder of particular persons, the
destruction of particular governments do not thereby change a globalized
3. Form alliances easily and broadly with feminists, progressive
theologians, affirmative postmodernists as well as with social democrats
everywhere to support public ownership of basic services: health, transport,
communication, education and public safety.
Workers are no longer the chief agent of and object for democratic socialist
programs. Nor do they embody, as a group, the totality of all that is
progressive in a society.
Nor is it necessary for workers of the world to unite across cultural,
religious or ethnic lines. It is only necessary that workers in one country
do not support the exploitation and alienation of workers in other
countries...nor the exploitation and alienation of any other status group
for that matter.
The agent and object of social revolution is the entire society, the entire
global complex of societies and not the working class alone.
4. Pro-social jobs for all peoples between middle school and old age is
essential both to society and to each individual. Early engagement in
pro-social labor for wages is essential for young adults; both to train and
to entrain them for and in a life of productive labor.
Availability of optional stock purchase plans for all employees in all firms
is essential both to reward labor and to provide a base for retirement with
dignity is central of a praxis society. The government should provide
minimal taxation for firms which provide optional stock purchase plans;
heavier taxation for firms which do not.
5. Be ready to accept some economic inequality; 10 to 1 wage/salary
distributions in any 10 year period; work toward a 5 to 1 ratio or less for
lifetime inequality in wealth. Universal asceticism and crude leveling of
wages, wealth and social honor are no longer essential, if ever they were,
to a praxis society.
6. Work for social justice programs which provide low-cost basic needs to
the very young and the very old: food, shelter, education and health care,
as a matter of human need rather than individual merit.
7. Democratize social relations broadly: in health care, in community
policing, in educational policy as in the work process. Voting should be
available in an informationally rich and interactionally rich format for all
questions of public policy. Voting should be for policies more so than for
candidates. Public officials should supervise and be responsible for
implementing policy. Removal from office for cause should be part of the
political culture of a people.
8. Cherish well the good earth and the natural environment upon it: repair
damages done to air, water, soil and animal life; prevent further damage by
mines, mines, farms, cities and factories. Charge a reasonable interest rate
on the trillions of dollars provided by use of 'natural capital' by those
firms...including public firms, workers co-ops, and non-profit firms which
daily draw down upon the 'natural capital' of the good earth.
9. Honor diversity in culture, gender, art, music, drama, literature and all
other cultural products. Diversity in religion and religious expression is
primary; dramas of the Holy vary from the most sacred rituals of
celebration, marriage and confirmation to the daily kindnesses among
strangers to democratic socialism itself. Praxis, at the most global level,
requires a dialectic drama of the holy between basic human rights for those
who may not share traditions of Hindu, Islam, Judaic or Christian religions.
10. Accept the necessity of repression of some behaviors in order to protect
children, handicapped, public space and domestic peace. The right to free
marketing, free speech, free action is not without limits in a praxis
society. Some jobs are hostile to the human condition; some language forms
degrade those at whom it is directed; some forms of play and recreation
cripple mind, soul and body. As in all non-linear dynamics, the boundaries
between good and evil, right and wrong, helpful and harmful are fractal and
ever-changing. It takes wisdom, good effort and enough patience to
re-evaluate a behavior, practice or policy if we don't get it right the
first or second time.
11. Institute simplistic tax plans: 5% across the board for wages; 10% for
salaries; 15% for profits, dividends, rents, and royalties. Protect all
earned income below a 5x ratio to cost of living; protect all unearned
income below a 2x ratio in cost of living. A simple tax program is always
regressive; poor people pay more of their income for all flat tax rates.
Rich people pay in a currency which means far less to them than the scarce
dollars, schillings, Yen or rubles paid by the wealthy.
At the same time, complex tax policies produce some many uncertainties that
they are, ultimely unworkable and hence, unfair to the poor who cannot
afford to evade or contest them. Again complexity theory suggests 4, 6, or 8
'outcome basins' are preferred to 1, 2 or on the other hand 8, 16 or 32 tax
12. Prevention of harmful behavior is vastly superior to control and
corrections of both individuals, firms and groups which default upon the
public trust. Socialist and affirmative postmodern criminology are first and
foremost oriented to prevention and repair of harm done to the public trust.
Punishment, confinement and utter degradation are tools helpful to praxis
and a praxis society very seldom.
13. Progressives must not attempt to institute one and only one socialist
democracy; each socio-cultural complex must have its own societal flavor,
its own societal life-style, its own rich cultural heritage honored,
enlivened and embedded in everyday life of each different socio-cultural
14. The role of the state must be minimal. Rather than the control of
production and markets, the state must be limited to setting the general
framework for social justice: redistributions of wealth from high-profit
lines of production to low-profit lines or to abandoned lines of production
still essential to the health and welfare of the society as a whole.
Some policing but more prevention of the forms of crime endemic to local and
transnational capitalism is preferable to the heavy and expanding role of
the state in criminal justice. In a word, social justice precedes criminal
15. In earlier epochs of communist agitation, managers and administrators
have been seen as class enemy. A praxis society requires good management;
good accounts; good implementation of policy and honest agency by every
responsible officer of both private and public activity.
Many realms of social life must not be managed; art, music, literature,
religion and creative science require a great deal of individual initiative,
a great deal of flexibility by supportive agencies as well as a good deal of
tolerance by publics whose very life depend upon creative autonomy. Again,
there is such a thing as necessary repression; necessary to the health and
dignity of children; necessary to the security of praxis and a praxis
society; necessary to the transformation from alienated human relations
toward social dignity and honor for those still vilified and ostracism by
virtue of race, gender or religious life-styles.
16. Praxis and a praxis society requires a philosophy of science which
honors complexity, diversity, surprise and variations. The absolutistic
social philosophies of ancient religions; the positivistic theories of
modern science as well as the totalitarian social policies predicated
thereupon are not adequate to the complex and non-linear dynamics of really
existing social life-world. Efforts to get conformity, certainty and
absolute rationality are doomed to fail; the new sciences of chaos and
complexity have taught us this and have more to teach us about the best
dynamics of social life worlds.
Liberalism was predicated upon absolute freedom for the masters of industry,
finance and business. Libertarianism was founded upon the absolute freedom
of private individuals. Fundamentalism was founded upon the premise of
absolute conformity for everyone; totalitarianism was founded upon the idea
of absolute obeisance from everyone except an elite; 'scientific' management
was predicated upon the belief that all could be controlled; all could be
contained; all could be predicted and all goals could be accomplished by
strict linear implementation of policy by well schooled staff.
Chaos theory teaches us that such absolutes are self-defeating....either
they tend to deep chaos or to a slow death. A praxis society requires
sufficient order for planning and for success in programs; it requires
enough uncertainty to permit variety, diversity, innovation and
creativity...extremes of order and disorder are, equally, hostile to praxis
> I enjoyed the first reading of Ostenle's manifesto. I thought it
>extended the truths of the original by using modern phraseology descriptive
>of today's world, but I had difficulty with the way the paper concluded with
>a list of items intended to solve the inequalities of the globe. Ostenle's
>manifesto concluded with a list of reforms as opposed to the original that
>called for the
>workers of the world to unite and overthrow the bourgeoisie. What a huge
>difference+ACE- So I went back to find how Ostenle could describe the
>conditions and causes of the global crisis, the systematic subjugation of
>the proletariat (a class, the existence of which he doesn't deny) and poor
>of the world for the benefit of capitalist markets, and so on, but conclude
>with a list of reforms. How can his attempt to extend the relevance of the
>Manifesto result in a list of reforms?
Chas A Ostenle,
The Red Feather Institute