Strategy Notes

On 7 May 2019, I started sending weekly email notes on strategy for creating the society we deserve.

Here you can read the Strategy Notes I've already sent and see some of the topics scheduled to come. Please recognize the list of not-yet-sent topics as tentative. I'll feel free to change them.

To add your email address so you get future Strategy Notes as they appear, please click on the "Subscribe" button in the menu bar above.



2019-05-07, Strategy Note 1:
What strengths do we have in the United States?

We people of the United States benefit from many strengths.

We have a large country with many kinds of land -- from semi-tropical in Florida to arctic in Alaska.

We have a large population with many kinds of people representing most of the ethnicities and cultures of the world.

We live in many ways -- from piled on top of each other in our coastal cities to scattered miles from each other on our interior plains.

Some of us descended from ancestors who originally settled this land thousands of years ago. Some of our people arrived more recently -- in many different conditions and from many homelands.

We have a wide range of attitudes and beliefs. Most of us have a capacity for cooperativeness and for orneriness.

In short, we have the strengths of humanity in general.

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2019-05-14, Strategy Note 2:
Four big problems face the United States

The people of the United States face many problems at the moment. Four of them seem the most dangerous.

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2019-05-21, Strategy Note 3:
Our four big problems violate widely held values

Our country's four biggest problems all violate widely held values, including teachings of most religions.

So given that these four problems violate deeply held values that most people share, why do they persist?

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2019-05-28, Strategy Note 4:
What causes our biggest problems?

Our biggest problems (climate change, oppression of certain groups, governments out of control of the people, inequality) result from the capitalist market.

Capitalism began a few hundred years ago in Europe. Its unsustainable need for growth spread it worldwide. Capitalism also pressures businesses to do four dangerous things:

Capitalist competition pressures businesses to do these things.

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2019-06-04, Strategy Note 5:
What can we do about capitalism?

Assuming we don't want to take our chances enduring it in whatever forms it mutates into, we have two options:

To regulate capitalism, we need to organize sufficient power to overcome the power of capital and maintain that power advantage while we wage an ongoing struggle to keep capital under democratic control.

To replace capitalism, we need to organize sufficient power to overcome the power of capital and maintain that power advantage while we wage a struggle through the transition period to a more humane economy.

I prefer replacement because I expect to like the results better and because it requires a shorter struggle (possibly only a generation or two instead of forever).

We don't have to choose between these two options immediately. In their early stages (organize sufficient power) both options have much in common.

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2019-06-11, Strategy Note 6:
What might regulating capitalism mean?

As we organize power to overcome capital's anti-democratic opposition to regulation, we might want policies like these:

These things theoretically could happen within regulated capitalism. They would require a continual struggle.

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2019-06-18, Strategy Note 7:
What might replacing capitalism mean?

We shouldn't think of our task as just replacing capitalism. Some replacements could have worse results than even capitalism does.

Instead, we have the goal of creating a healthy, humane society. That society won't have capitalist characteristics, but that freedom doesn't define the new society.

Most of us find it very difficult to imagine a society fundamentally different from the ones we have experienced. Capitalism doesn't encourage us to think outside its box.

The fact that we have trouble imagining the details of something doesn't make that something impossible. My grandparents could not have described how to build the Internet, but it exists.

Like any long-lasting human society, our new society must have ways to do certain things:

The current capitalist system produces enormous amounts of goods and services, allocates them in extremely unequal ways, matches supplies with desires incompletely, and totally fails on sustainability. So our new society doesn't need to offer perfection; it just needs to offer enough improvement to make the transition effort worthwhile.

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2019-06-25, Strategy Note 8:
How might our new economy function?

Those of us who can work and want to, do whatever work we want. We make the goods we produce and the services we offer freely available. We help ourselves to the freely available goods and services. We communicate widely to match supplies with desires and to recruit for multi-person tasks.

For work that we agree needs done but too few people want to do, we take turns. This practice likely will result in less efficient production in some cases. For example, if I annually work a three-hour turn collecting trash, I won't get as good at it as people who now do it 40 hours per week for years. I prefer that inefficiency to forcing people to spend large portions of their lives on unhealthy or unpleasant tasks.

We can afford such inefficiency because our new society will not need some of our largest current industries (advertising, financial institutions, real estate, insurance, militaries, most police and prisons, and much lawyering and accounting).

Replacing capitalism this way would create a bigger change than did the Industrial Revolution. It would approximate the scale of the invention of agriculture.

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2019-07-02, Strategy Note 9:
Can elections regulate or replace capitalism?

Capitalism has bipartisan support within our country's establishment. Let me restate that, in case you missed its implication. Both of the main political parties in this country support the cause of our biggest problems. (The minor parties generally do also, but the two major parties have arranged things to keep them insignificant.)

Big money (capital, to use a slightly technical term) has captured both major political parties in the United States, all three branches of the federal government, most state governments, and the minds of many of our people.

These facts mean we cannot realistically expect to save ourselves via elections. We certainly cannot solve our problems quickly via elections.

Elections still matter. We should accomplish as much as we can through them. In some places, local elections have valuable possibilities. At this point in our country's development, however, we cannot expect elections to make the major changes we require.

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2019-07-09, Strategy Note 10:
How we can move forward

What should we do when big money blocks progress through elections? Obviously, we turn to non-electoral methods of making change.

Nonviolent action campaigns --if waged smartly-- can build enough power to break through the barriers that big money has created. (For examples of how the Scandinavian countries used nonviolent action campaigns when the wealthy blocked progress in their countries in the last century, see George Lakey's book Viking Economics.)

By launching lots of nonviolent action campaigns each aimed at achieving some winnable goal that will attract the support of people who do not currently think of themselves as activists, we can greatly expand the active portion of our people and build our movement.

Nonviolent action campaigns can begin small. It probably will work best that way. Some will fail; some will win. Many small campaigns on a wide range of topics let many people from many parts of society get experience waging campaigns. This trains the pool of people who will lead the big upsurge.

To overcome big money in this country, we will need to develop much larger and more strategic campaigns than we have generally seen here.

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2019-07-16, Strategy Note 11:
To grow sufficient power, build a movement

Nonviolent action campaigns working in their locality can win real victories. We need to encourage many such local campaigns.

To create large-scale power, we will need (not immediately, but soon) to network those local campaigns into campaigns with much wider reach.

For example, in the 1970s proposed nuclear power plants faced local opposition. Those campaigns communicated and learned from each other (some more than others). Together, they defeated the nuclear industry's intention to build hundreds of new plants. The industry saw the persistent, widespread, growing power of these campaigns and stopped trying.

Anti-nuclear campaigns constituted one sector of a much larger movement. Other sectors include the Black freedom struggle, labor unions, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, disability access, environmental issues, peace activists, etc.

More cooperation (and sometimes competition) among organizations happens within a sector than across sectors. Both levels of cooperation strengthen our overall movement.

When efforts within a sector grow in strength it can multiply the strength of the whole sector. Multiple strong sectors help create strength movement-wide. We need this multiplying effect of broad cooperation to build the power to create a new foundation for society.

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2019-07-23, Strategy Note 12:
For our movement, we need infrastructure

Healthy, strong movements (and sectors of movements) do not just appear magically. People have to work intentionally to build them, much like people work to build organizations.

Sectors and movements generally develop best where they have good infrastructure organizations to strengthen them. Infrastructure organizations provide research, training, strategic advice, news media, catering, retreat centers, and such in the service of multiple organizations.

Infrastructure organizations can serve a particular sector, a few sectors, or the whole movement.

Infrastructure organizations can have formal relationships with (possibly even authority over) the organizations they serve (for example, the federation structures of the labor union sector). They can relate through short-term or long-term business contracts. They can take the form of coalitions. They can have highly informal relationships.

But however structured, infrastructure organizations and individual infrastructure workers provide many of the connections that facilitate cooperation among organizations. When they do that well, they help build a movement.

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2019-07-30, Strategy Note 13:
We can do this job

We have an enormous amount of work to do to turn this world toward something like what we need. Fortunately, we humans enjoy a good challenge. We can do this job. We also can enjoy doing it.

A time will come when people look back on today as a barbarous age. A time will come when everybody gets treated with respect. A time will come when we all have food, shelter, a healthy planet, and opportunities to learn anything we want. That time may come within the lifetimes of people alive today.

Such a time won't come just by happenstance or by electing better officials. It will come because we build a movement capable of creating that new society.

People love working together to accomplish shared goals. Step by step, we've made good progress. With loving determination, fierce patience, and a lot of fun, we can get this job done and celebrate together.

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2019-08-06, Strategy Note 14:
What must we in the United States do to correct the climate crisis? An outline

The next several Strategy Notes will offer details on the following summary.

Climate experts estimate that we must keep our planet from warming more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To do that, we must stop emitting greenhouse gases by about 2030.

"Embedded in the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C is the opportunity for intentional societal transformation .... The form and process of transformation are varied and multifaceted ...." -- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C, section 1.4.3

To correct the climate crisis must we replace capitalism? In the long term, yes. We must do that by replacing exchange and property.

In the short term, we do not have to replace capitalism but we must severely regulate it to stop emitting greenhouse gases. Regulating capitalism sufficiently requires organizing almost as much power as replacing capitalism will, but does not require the full ideological and practical shifts needed for the long-term solution.

We must work simultaneously on the short-term (regulation) and the long-term (replacement) projects.

These efforts require a massive scale and a broad alliance. We must work with people with whom we agree about the climate even while disagreeing about other issues.

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2019-08-13, Strategy Note 15:
For correcting the climate crisis, how should we think about short-term and long-term work?

To correct the climate crisis, we must stop greenhouse gas emissions by about 2030.

This date does not mean we work on short-term goals until 2030 and on long-term goals starting in 2030. We must work on both simultaneously.

We who share the long-term goals outlined in these Strategy Notes have the interesting task of working with many people who do not yet share our long-term goals. Some of them vigorously oppose our long-term goals. Nevertheless, we must find ways to work together to win the short-term goals.

Without victory on the short-term goals, our species may not have a good long-term future. The short-term goals gain us the time needed to win our long-term goals.

Even when our short-term allies denounce our long-term goals, we must continue to work with them respectfully. We sometimes should debate long-term goals, but we must do it in ways that let us work together for our shared short-term goals.

We must build friendships with short-term allies with whom we disagree on long-term goals. We must make those friendships real. We must actually learn to like them. We must win their trust and friendship. Nothing less will sustain the necessary alliance.

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2019-08-20, Strategy Note 16:
To correct the climate crisis, what must we do in the short term?

To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) on the scale needed by 2030 requires action by large governments (especially the United States government) and by large businesses.

We must win regulations to:

In the United States, we have two legislative proposals that could accomplish these goals:

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2019-08-27, Strategy Note 17:
We must also make the long-term change to replace capitalism

In addition to the short-term changes, we must also replace capitalism with an economy that has the possibility of long-term sustainability.

We must replace capitalism for at least three reasons:

These pressures (for growth, for pollution, against democracy) make capitalism unsustainable. In the long term we must not just regulate capitalism but must replace it with a better economy.

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2019-09-03, Strategy Note 18:
Do the emotional work about the climate necessary to think clearly

Noticing the degradation of our environment stirs up many difficult feelings: fear, anger, grief, loss, shame, numbness, etc.

These feelings can distract and confuse us. They can make it difficult to think clearly. They can cause timidity, rashness, self-righteousness, depression, assuming that officials will take care of the problem for us, and other non-helpful behaviors.

We need to think clearly and to act well. So we must acknowledge that we have these feelings and let ourselves feel and express them. Doing so lets our minds heal from the hurts of living in such a messed-up world. That healing helps us think and act more effectively.

However, we must not express these negative feelings unthinkingly. Doing so could add to the confusions (and possibly even the hurts) of others.

We can solve this dilemma by pairing up with each other and taking turns listening as we feel and express our feelings. The active listening skills that form such an important element of training for nonviolent coercive actions work very well for this paired healing work. Organizations working on correcting climate change will benefit from including such paired listening time in their regular activity.

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2019-09-10, Strategy Note 19:
How can we overcome fossil fuel wealth to win our short-term goals?

We must end the fossil fuel industry. Most of its wealthiest owners will oppose us. How can we develop sufficient power to overcome them?

Use officially approved methods ("inside game") to persuade government.

Use methods not officially approved ("outside game") to pressure government and businesses to act.

Back reforms that improve democracy:

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2019-09-17, Strategy Note 20:
To win our legislation, make climate a bridge issue, not a partisan issue

To pass legislation in the United States soon enough to meet our 2030 goal will require determined, realistic political work.

We have to win support from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. We likely will need bipartisan support to overcome a presidential veto and to maintain the bill in future Congresses.

This means we must make protecting our climate a bridge issue, not a partisan issue.

We must strictly avoid letting any party claim this issue or blaming any party for inaction on this issue. Both of the two main parties have members of Congress who agree with us and members who oppose us. We must support or oppose them based on their actions on the issue, not on their party. We must seek, welcome, and praise helpful actions from all members of Congress. We must build support for the climate in all political parties.

We also must understand that some members of Congress (from both major parties) will speak as if they support our goals while working to dilute, delay, or defeat our bills. We should not pretend that such behavior qualifies as support.

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