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Book Review Back from the future: a guide for revolutionary change now

RPS/2044: An Oral History of the Next American Revolution
by Michael Albert
(Z Communications, £11)

MICHAEL ALBERT has long had the ability to simplify very complex systems of inequality and, in doing so, unveil their most regressive absurdities. But what really sets him apart is that he goes beyond complaining about how terrible things are today.

As in his book Parecon, he has the courage to propose participatory models as a starting point to build on. And RPS/2044 is exactly that.
An “oral history,” it looks forward to 2044, when the US people have begun building a new society. The Revolution for a Participatory Society is blossoming from the sort of campaigns familiar today and, rather than simply striving for justice, equality, peace and a liveable environment in small local groups, people have overcome their differences and come together to release an unstoppable wave of progress. Thus Albert's book is both a catalyst for change and a reflection of the role that each of us are already playing within it.

Reaching back from the future, revolutionaries talk through the problems that beset campaigners today — cynicism, self-doubt, the overwhelming shadow cast by the Establishment over public debate and the terrifying brutality of the paramilitary state.

They discuss too the capitalist homogenisation of rational and creative thinking and our seemingly suicidal tendency to turn on one another over the minutest of theoretical differences. It holds a mirror up to the reader and asks us to critically analyse our own doctrinal positions and recognise areas of pragmatism and intransigence.

But, most importantly, it asks us to imagine the world we all want to live in and demands that we start planning how to reach it.

And RPS/2044 is a reminder of how a lot of the writing coming from the progressive left has a tendency to be overly academic and impenetrable and even our literature tends toward depressing dystopias instead of inspiring utopias.

Albert may not always be right but what he does is take us to the next stage in laying out a model for the future and then inviting us to discuss it and even pick it apart if necessary.

The message is clear. None of us are happy with where we are but if we haven't agreed where we are going, how are we all going to get there?

Like Parecon before it, this work will provoke positive and negative reactions. With time, it will be increasingly argued over, disagreed with, vilified, championed, cherished and quoted. But it won't easily be forgotten.

Nicolas Lalaguna is the author of Seven May Days.


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