TIPS FOR COLLECTING SIGNATURES FOR "THIS I BELIEVE
Tip #1. Most (80% in our experience) people will sign "This I Believe" right away or after a short discussion with you about something it says. But some will only sign it after they see other people signing it. This is what we have experienced in Boston. So the first signatures we get will make it easier to get subsequent ones.
Tip #2. The vision of an egalitarian society in "This I Believe" is a mere statement of core principles. Before signing, some people will want to know a bit more about how these principles would or could apply in real life. There is no single "right" answer, because people with egalitarian values will make society be how they think it should be; but one ambitious 30 page attempt to "flesh out" these principles in a way that makes the vision a bit more concrete is Thinking about Revolution (with important supplementary articles here.) After reading this pamphlet, you may find it easier to persuade people to sign This I Believe.
Tip #3. Some people will say, "Hey! That's Communism," when they see the phrase, "From each according to ability, to each according to need" and hesitate to sign. Keep in mind that this reflects something positive about the person: they don't want to support Communism because they know how undemocratic Communist regimes are. They know that in Communist nations members of the ruling Communist Party are "more equal" than others. People who hesitate to sign for this reason typically agree with the principle of "From each according to ability, to each according to need" itself; they just oppose Communism. The "This I Believe" statement mentions that the "From each..." principle is found in the Bible in order to let people know that it is far older than Karl Marx and Communism. Marx merely popularized the idea.
The difference between Communists and the many other people who agree with "From each according to ability, to each according to need" is that Communists have a theory (Marxism, discussed briefly below) that makes them hostile to genuine democracy and in favor of having a strong Central Government controlled by their Communist Party exercising a dictatorship over everybody else. The paragraph in "This I Believe"--about how laws should be made only at the local level with voluntary federation (and not a Central Government) used to achieve large scale social order and economic coordination--presents a view of a good society that is the very opposite of what Communists want.
Karl Marx popularized the idea of "From each according to ability, to each according to need," but his point was that society could operate this way ONLY in the FAR FAR future because until then people wouldn't be "ready" for it yet. People who call themselves Marxists or Leftists or Socialists or Communists often subscribe to the wrong theory ("Marxism") that says ordinary people do not want an egalitarian world and therefore the way to get one is by having their Socialist or Communist party undemocratically control society with a strong Central Government that will re-mold people so that one day in the far future they will want an egalitarian society. People who think this way will likely object to the paragraph in This I Believe that says "Laws should only be made by meetings at the local level" and that social order on a large scale should be achieved by voluntary federation. These "leftists" are small in number, and the best people among them will likely abandon their wrong negative view of ordinary people and sign This I Believe after they see many others signing it.
Tip #4. If people think we need a strong Central Government it may be because they are worried that if laws are only made at the local level then how would we prevent people in some localities from doing terribly wrong things? These people may have in mind how the Federal government intervened to enforce integration in the South against the local segregationists, for example. (The Federal government leaders' motive was not concern for the welfare of blacks but rather concern that Communist propaganda throughout the world was highlighting the ugliness of Jim Crow laws in the United States to seriously embarrass U.S. leaders.) How, they may ask, would similar wrongdoing be handled if there were no longer a strong central government? Our response to this question is to point out that if people somewhere go against the principles of egalitarianism (equality and mutual aid) by, for example, deciding--no matter how "democratically"--to enslave or otherwise oppress a certain group of people, then egalitarians have every right to intervene and forcibly prevent this attack on egalitarianism. They can use voluntary federation to form whatever large force--even a military force--is required to defeat an attack on egalitarian values. This is what defending the revolution is all about. Voluntary federation is the way egalitarians work together to shape society by their values. But for the enemies of these values, egalitarians are just as powerful a foe as the federal government ever was to advocates of Jim Crow segregation.
Tip #5. Some people hesitate to sign because the final paragraph of "This I Believe" says that, in order to make a more equal and democratic society, it is necessary to make a revolution to remove from power a "greedy, rich and powerful minority who were never elected and therefore cannot be unelected." It is important to explain to people why this paragraph is important.
Firstly, this paragraph is simply stating an important truth. A Big Money plutocracy holds the real power in the United States. Voting in elections does not give ordinary Americans the ability to overrule the plutocracy. The plutocracy wages wars based on lies long after the public opposes them; it refuses to make good health care a universal right even though the public wants that; and it inflicts abusive standardized testing and deadening test-prep "schooling" on our working class public school children, despite the fact that there was never a popular mandate for doing this. Big Money controls the elections and the major political parties, and if it ever lost control it would use its power to change the system to one it did control. An egalitarian society can never be created within a legal framework created by a plutocracy that wants, more than anything else, to preserve its privilege and wealth and power by defeating any effort to make the United States truly equal and democratic.
The partially successful efforts to make our society more equal and democratic relied on ordinary people taking direct action outside the legal framework that the plutocracy told them to stay within: the Abolitionist Movement against slavery, the 8 Hour Day movement, the fight to make it legal to form a union, and the Civil Rights Movement to end Jim Crow laws all made gains precisely because they did not rely on limiting their actions to voting.
When a ruling class is removed from power, that is, by definition, a revoloution. Making the United States an egalitarian society means making it one in which there is no plutocracy in power. If a person thinks that an egalitarian society can be created in the United States without making a revolution, then they must either fail to understand that a plutocracy rules the United States today or else they must fail to grasp how fundamentally different an egalitarian society is from what we now have. To persuade such a person, who objects to the last paragraph about revolution, to sign This I Believe, find out which of these two reasons is why they disagree, and have a good conversation with them about it. They may not sign at first, but the conversation will get them thinking and maybe later on they will sign. The "revolution" paragraph will have served a good purpose this way in making our message more clear.
The second reason this "revolution" paragraph is important is that Americans need to gain confidence that they are not alone in wanting to make a revolution. If "This I Believe" did not explicitly say we need a revolution, then the signatures would not provide confidence that we are not alone in wanting to make a revolution.
Tip #6. Some people just don't like to sign things, no matter what. Here are some things to point out that might convince them to sign anyway. 1. Their signature will be just a wiggly line; nobody will be able to use it to get their phone number or email address for any purpose, so they will be fairly anonymous. 2. If they want to be even more anonymous they can use a signature that is not recognizable as their name or their usual signature. The important thing is simply that their signature is specific and unique, and it therefore shows the world that a unique person agreed with "This I Believe."
Tips for Ringing the Bells of Revolution in Your Part of the Country
Tip #7. Some projects we have found useful are described here; you may want to do similar things. Please let us know what your ideas are. No matter what part of the United States you live in, feel free to ask PDRBoston for help in your efforts to Ring the Bells of Revolution, and please let us know if you have ideas how we can make our web site more useful to you.
Tip #8. Read Swarmwise: the Tactical Manual to Changing the World, a book by Rick Falkvinge. Even though one cannot tell from reading this book whether or not the author would sign "This I Believe," the book nonetheless has some great, practical advice about building a movement (he calls it a "swarm") to change the world for the better. Not everything in this book is applicable to us, but a lot is, from tips on how to distribute leaflets and write a press release to how to recruit new members and inspire people to work together successfully for a shared vision. The book needs to be read critically, however. For example, he recommends having only a single large organization for the sake of administrative efficiency, thereby freeing more people from administrative tasks. We choose instead to rely on voluntary federation of independent organizations across the nation; this reflects how we want society to be. It is how egalitarians can cooperate most democratically. The Web Forum we set up is designed to facilitate this.
Tip #9. If you want to form your own organization to Ring the Bells of Revolution, we will be happy to help you by sharing whatever knowledge and experience we gained from setting up People for Democratic Revolution -- Boston.
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