Some Thoughts On RPS/2044

Late in the book RPS/2044, the book’s interviewer, Miguel Guevara, asks one of it’s eighteen interviewees, namedBertrand Dellinger – who happens to be me – the origin of the phrase “planting the seeds of the future in the present.”

I answer: “I think it was originally an anarchist slogan but whatever its source, it certainly means that the attitudes, social relations, and structures we plant determine our harvest. If you want daisies, plant daisies. If you want roses, plant roses. If you plant weeds, you won’t harvest daisies or roses no matter how well you water your weeds. We should not plant seeds today which will become other than what we want tomorrow.”

RPS/2044 takes “planting seeds of the future in the present” another step by bringing a possible future to an existing present for an extended visit.

Guevara interviews eighteen participants of Revolutionary Participatory Society (RPS). He elicits our first hand memories of events motives, effects, and lessons. The catch is that of course the future events we recount aren’t really, nor even fictionally, future.

The book’s premise, briefly noted in its Foreword, is that Guevara’s Earth, which is mine too – time-shifted 28 years from your Earth, and space-shifted to who knows where from your Earth. More, it has somehow delivered to your Earth its oral history of its time-shifted United States near future revolution.

It is an outrageous ploy, some might call it sophomoric, yet, call me gullible, I feel it works.

After readers are told the background, they begin reading the oral history – and it feels exactly like an actual recounting by actual participants of actual events in actual interviews. Really, it does, yet it is, of course, none of that, but instead a novel whose primary point is to reveal possibilities, ideas, visions, and strategies suitable to winning a better future.
You can tell on every page of RPS/2044 that it’s interviewees wish only to inspire and provoke hope.

RPS/2044 is not plot-, character-, technology-, or thrill-driven. It’s an account of normal people contributing to the tumult of better times. We tell our stories and relay our feelings in untutored words that sum more to an informed prayer than a lectured blueprint.

RPS/2044 has ample plot details and emotional weight, but it features social rather than personal struggle. Its protagonist is the movement, not any member of it. Its point is to aid winning a new world. How could anyone who seeks universal liberation not want those desires fulfilled?

Even as I was directly familiar with much of RPS’s history, and even as I had heard or read about almost all the rest as it happened, I found myself powerfully moved by many of my fellow interviewee’s descriptions. I nodded along at their accounts of many organizing problems that I knew well from my own experiences, and I smiled with satisfaction at their resolutions.

I can only hope that you, dear reader, will find yourself hungry to live in RPS times rather than in Trump times. No problem. Make it happen.

The alternative future we interviewees describe starts with your 2016 election, moves through Trump and Trumpism – and yes, we suffered the carrot topped terror too – and continues from there, including all manner of struggles traversing all sides of life.

Some readers may say our progress from 2016 through 2044 moves too fast to be real. Twenty eight years and the ship comes in?

Well I’m telling you that on board it felt even faster, but history has a surprising way of accelerating.

That said, how could it be too fast. Just one year slower would have been millions more lives unnecessarily lost, billions more lost liberated moments. In that context, other things equal, faster is certainly better.

Other readers will take issue with this or that RPS claim, commitment, or method. Again, no problem. In your own rendition, in your own future, do it your own way.

RPS/2044 indicates which aspects of its own trajectory we believe contextual and which we believe central, but only your history will decide.

Of course some who read RPS/2044 will compare it with Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward/1888. But that was then and this is now, and that wonderful book put more emphasis on the inner lives of its memorable characters whereas this book has each participant answer Miguel Guevara, our interviewer, in our own words, as the people we are, but with our personal lives ancillary to our shared history.

My own reading of RPS/2044’s seventeen other contributors’ insights conveyed to me much about my fellow participants I didn’t know…but I mostly learned about the innards of a movement I have been part of from its prehistory to its first convention, from its conceptualization to chapter building, from its settling on aims to its developing program, from its raising consciousness within and without, to its waging diverse struggles in all sides of life, from its ideas, values, and desires, to its planting seeds – to its triumph.

I was happy to learn of a website Miguel established (at www.rps2044.org) that presents RPS’s front and end matter.
Not to slight songs, the site also offers an incredible playlist of Music/Videos with over 120 offerings, four or five included for each chapter, from chapter one’s Roll Over Beethoven, Jailhouse Rock, God Bless the Child, and People Get Ready, to chapter thirty’s Ringing of Revolution, Hallelujah, Will The Wolf Survive, Time Has Come Today, and When the Ship Comes In.

The list visits, in between, the Dock of the Bay in Mississippi Goddam, with Bold Marauders and Deportees, on Freedom’s Highway under a Bad Moon and Hard Rain, enjoying the Wave to Save the Country from Youngstown to Laramie, watching Strange Fruit while Catching the Wind, remembering People Who Died for Redemption, toiling on Maggie’s Farm while Killing in the Name, Imagining Once They Banned Imagine, seeing the Star Spangled Banner Blowing in the Wind, hearing The Sounds of Silence Everybody Knows, Fighting the Power Now that the Buffalo’s Gone, hearing the Soldier’s Song after the Call Up, Go Go Going Closer to Fine, wondering What It Means to a Working Class Hero, feeling Something in the Air under Spanish Bombs moaning Farewell Angelina, intoning No More Auction Block to the Fortunate Son, wondering with Biko How Much a Dollar Cost, while All the Young Dudes Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, Born to Be Loved or Born This Way, looking for Sign of the Times from the Badlands to the Man in Black, hearing Chimes of Freedom behind Another Brick in the Wall, Wrote A Song for Everyone while Lives in the Balance, with Cops of the World as Universal Soldiers, awaiting no more Masters of War – and much more.

On the website for RPS/2044, the music appears as links to YouTube videos – which I am still enjoying, albeit a bit sad that we didn’t send along works from our future. But you can send suggested additions.

The site invites readers to send questions to the participants who, it says, will post replies, and indeed I see that some have already appeared. I hope you’ll send me my share of questions.

The site also welcomes people to post criticisms, suggest improvements, propose adaptations for other countries, and contribute rewrites, additions, deletions, and especially explorations and extensions using the included blog system so all the site’s users can engage with your insights. In short the site seeks participation.

Finally, I include some further promo below, hoping to spur you on. But first, I would like to explain why I feel I need to do that. Can’t the book attract you on its own?

RPS/2044 has no publisher so unless something changes, it will not be available in stores. No ads for it, either. This is because, my inquiries revealed, when submitted it was rejected by about ten publishers before Miguel and Michael made it directly available via Amazon. Pretty ironic, that last part.

The publishers’ reasons: we don’t do fiction; we do fiction but this reads too real; we do fiction, but this needs a protagonist; we are full up on novels, including two new dystopian ones, maybe you should switch to envisioning armageddon; we do non fiction, so we can’t do this; we do non fiction, you should strip out the interviewing and make it more scholarly and resubmit it; we do non fiction, and this reads like it is non fiction, but it reads too easy, where are the footnotes; and so on, with no publisher even mentioning the book’s actual contents.

So it seems to me outreach must reach out entirely from those who are involved, which is interviewees like me and readers like you – so I am trying. I hope you will try too, if you find the book useful.

I heard a story that the first few reviews of Capital were written under pseudonyms by Frederick Engels – perhaps he’s not the best model, but desperation breeds strange bed mates. And this isn’t a review, it’s “Thoughts On.” And it owns up to my involvement.

Another oddity, the book introduces me and seventeen other interviewees, one interviewer, and one more person, the living breathing kind, Michael Albert, of Z Communications. Albert is the author of numerous political, activist non fiction books and is listed as RPS/2044’s author along with Miguel Guevara from my time-shifted world. So am I a figment of Albert’s crazy mind? I can’t help but notice this book is so different than anything else Albert has published it might be more accurate to say he merely channeled all its many other authors, including me, as well as the wisdom of some dead heroes he borrowed the interviewees’ names from. Bertrand Dellinger? I ain’t no philosopher pacifist. But am I a figment? I wonder.

As an inducement to read RPS/2044 for yourself, here are a few timeline entries from my time shifted society’s RPS history, all of which appear in RPS descriptions and discussions. Like you, we too had Sanders Campaign, Black Lives Matter Program, the NFL Anthem Protests, Trump Elected, Immigrant Activism, Sanctuary Cities Movements, Expanded Minimum Wage Movements, and the Women’s Millions March. But during our shifted time, we added Church Sanctuary Movements, Athletes Sanctuary Movement, Global March for Sustainability, Detroit Wages and Anti Violence Rally, War No More Rallies, and our Wall Street Peace and Justice March.

All that spawned our Firearms Manufacturers Boycott, Campus Military Divestment Campaigns, and finally our Initial RPS Meetings/Groups while Public Schools for the People emerged as did the Olympics Decentralization Movement, and Athletes Boycotts for Community Safety.

We then had our pivotal RPS Founding Convention, followed closely by the First Hollywood RPS meeting, the birth of Journalists for Social Responsibility, the Religious Renovations Movement, and the first Hollywood RPS School at about the time our One Hundredth RPS Chapter Formed and we initiated our Press the Press Campaign, National Community Control of Police Campaign, Campaigns for Balanced Jobs, Alternative Media Renovation Campaign, and Legal Workers Conference.

Then along with the High School Athletes Movement came our $25 Hr. Minimum Wages Campaign, Schools for Organizers, 30 Hour Work Week campaign, and the RPS-Defining Second Convention, plus our Shadow Government.
We soon began our National Bike Campaigns, Rights to the City expansion, Gender Roles Renovation, and extensive apartment organizing, leading to our 500th chapter forming.

Then came the pivotal Amazon Sit-down Strike and UPS, and Fed Ex support Strikes, followed by our Online Curriculum Campaign, National Alternative Media Coalition, and 1000th Chapter forming.

We undertook our Collective Alternative Media Funding Project and began our Military and Prison Conversion Campaigns, started up People’s Social Media, undertook nationwide Pharmaceuticals’ Protests, enjoyed the Oscar winning movie: Next American Revolution: Good Will Winning, and celebrated our Two Thousand Five Hundredth Chapter.

Next came the California Campus Workers Strike, the Harvard Med School Strike, and the National Grad Students Strike, plus nationwide Prisoners Strikes and the spreading Hotel and Motel Occupations.

Medicine for Health not Profit grew and the world watched the Chicago Public School Occupation followed by Hollywood Strikes, the People’s Clinics Movement, and then the National Public Schools Occupations.
The National Nurses March, the Columbus Factory Takeovers, and Public Schools for the People, closely preceded Malcolm King becoming Senator of Massachusetts, and the National Coop Coalition.

Then came Students for Balanced Jobs, the Cleveland Workers Movement, People’s Prison Reform, and the NY, LA, Chicago, SF… Worker Movements.

The Hospital Renovations Movement grew and Hollywood’s Celia Lopez became Governor of California.
Our National Bloc Movement got going followed closely by National Prisoners Strike, Coops for Self Management, Factories for the People, and the Chicago Health Workers Strike.

Our Community Planning Movement, meshed with the National Health Workers Strike and Coops for RPS Economy, leading to Industry Wide Strikes and the Global Climate Action Strike.

The National Participatory Budgeting Campaign led to the Week Long U.S. National Strike, and Miguel Guevara began conducting interviews about all the above for this oral history.

And construction proceeds

Would you like to read about how we managed all that? Hopefully you would. But in case you still haven’t gotten to it, here is an indicative excerpt from Chapter Three, in which Guevara asks my friend Bill Hampton what most moved him in the early days of RPS:

“The first thing that comes to mind was when I was at a sanctuary for immigrants slated to be deported. The site was a church in Texas, with an incredibly courageous pastor, choir, and congregation. Police came and announced they were going to take the immigrant families away for deportation. “They had their vans and were set to do their duty. They lined up in three rows, ten abreast, facing the church entrance. The Pastor stood atop the Church steps, with maybe 50 congregants, and the full choir.

“The Pastor told the sheriff that to take the immigrant families, the police would have to go through the church’s extended family. He said, and I will never forget, ‘You will have to assault us. You may even have to kill us. We will not be moved in our minds. We will only be moved in our bodies and only then if you brutalize our limbs and torsos into physical silence and shove our trembling husks aside. If you feel that is warranted, come ahead.’

“We all simultaneously locked arms and before the police could even process that, the doors of the Church opened to reveal rows and rows of congregants, also with locked arms. You could see the families, in the distance at the pulpit.

“This was Selma, the Pettus bridge. It was Birmingham. The sheriff may as well have been Bull Connor reincarnated. Likely most or perhaps all the officers who accompanied the sheriff hoped they would get some action. But two sat down with us. Welcomed, crying, they must have thought they would be unemployed by days’ end, but they sat.

“The sheriff knew that breaching our human barrier would only succeed if we crumbled and ran. The Pastor said, no, we won’t run. But the sheriff had so little regard for anyone who could side with immigrants that he felt, of course we would fold. A few big swings of their overlong batons and we would scurry off leaving a clear path to the deportees. So the sheriff gave a two minute warning. The choir began singing. ‘We shall not be moved, we shall not be moved…’ The two minutes passed. The sheriff and his deputies marched into our human barrier. They struck viciously with their long, scary batons. Our singing continued. ‘Deep in our hearts we know…’ As the officers tromped and battered us, we grunted and moaned, but few screamed.

“With the choir singing, with more folks from within the church coming out, and with onlookers clearly horrified, incredibly, the defenders, including myself, reached up and embraced our tormentors. Our hugs diminished their capacity for brutal swings. There was an intimacy about it. We weren’t begging. We were understanding. We weren’t fighting fire with fire, but with water. We weren’t fighting racism with racism, but with solidarity.

“After a moment, some deputies relented. Then the sheriff did too. He had to. They certainly could have physically demolished us, leaving a battlefield of blasted souls in their wake, but nothing less would take the families, and scorched earth was too much.

“At first indication of retreat, the Pastor, bloodied and bent, invited the sheriff and his closest deputies to enter the church. I can still hear him. ‘You just have to leave your batons and guns with your fellow officers outside. If you will do that, you are welcome to talk to the immigrant families, myself, and others in our space of peace and worship within.’
“Tears flowed. Medics aided congregants. Calmly, respectfully, after what seemed like an eternity of just standing there staring at the bloodied Pastor, and in what I will never know but suspect was a shock for the Pastor like for the rest of us, the Sheriff took off his gun, and walked with the Pastor into the Church.

“I don’t know what they talked about, but the next day the Sheriff held a brief press conference. ‘I will no longer recognize federal orders, or any orders at all, to deport immigrants.’

“That was the whole thing. It was the shortest, longest, press conference ever. It was also the beginning of the end, not just in Texas and the U.S., but around the world, of the blame the immigrant, beat the immigrant, expel the immigrant, mindset. When those who are paid to impose rule break bread with presumed violators, rule succumbs to resistance. This was such an incredible sight, such an incredible event, so meaningful an occurrence in so many ways, that, I have to name it in answer to your question.

“I should add the event changed me in another major way. Before, I had always been afraid of and hated cops. I knew their worst side firsthand. To me, my family, my friends, cops spelled danger and even death. I used the epithet ‘pig’ more than ‘officer.’ I saw only one way to deal with them: fight fire with fire, eye to eye, toe to toe. The sanctuary didn’t make me a pacifist, but it did make me reassess defaming people and what made tactical sense. The sheriff was an archetype cop, but we disarmed him. Non violence plus compassion beat what would have totally demolished any attempt by us to fight back. I learned instead of violence being first resort, it had to be last. I learned there was a huge burden of proof on being violent and even on creating conditions leading to violence.”

I was powerfully moved by Bill’s account of something I somehow had missed. My bad. I thought I’d share it.
Bill Hampton, by the way, was born in 1997 and became highly active in immigration and anti racist politics and then in RPS. He focussed on issues of city life, transportation, and urban planning which he was active in conceiving and organizing for. In time, he became a prominent inner city activist and candidate, and then a Mayoral candidate and finally Mayor of New York City. And he had a way with words too, though, by way of warning, we aren’t all as eloquent as Bill.

Finally, I hope to see you on the RPS/2044 site. I hope you send me a question or two. And here is my brief bio as it appears in RPS/2044:

Bertrand Dellinger, born in 1966, was politicized by his no nukes and anti war activism. He became a key advocate of RPS from its inception. Bertrand has been a university professor of physics and world renowned contributor to physics theory, as well as a social critic and militant activist his entire adult life. He was shadow Vice President under Lydia Luxembourg’s first RPS shadow presidency, and later had his own term as shadow President, as well.

An Orgnizer’s Take on RPS/2044

Offering my take on RPS/2044, I should acknowledge that I was one of the book’s eighteen interviewees and, from the organization’s start, an avid member. My addressing the book may seem awkward, but that’s par for me. Consider it narcissistic if you like, or perhaps merely forthright.

Miguel Guevara wanted to hear my views, and I happily consented. But I wasn’t particularly excited by my contribution and doubted Miguel would use it. However, a year later, I received the finished book and a note of thanks. I had lived through the times and knew many of the other Interviewees and the experiences they recounted. Feeling no need to read their words, I set the book aside.

A few months passed and I got the flu. I hate watching video during the day and by chance read RPS/2044 for diversion. I saw after a few chapters that the book would be very useful for someone just getting going on activism and even better for anyone who doubted prospects for winning or was unsure what winning could mean.

Over lunch I read on, and it turned out the book was also useful for an unrelentingly committed veteran like myself, not for reliving glory days or enjoying a subtle selfie, but because thirty six eyes and eighteen voices give eighteen angles, slants, and takes, and eighteen is more than one.

Even for someone involved, it turned out RPS/2044 didn’t get redundant. We interviewees told how got involved and became and retained confidence, how we got radical and used language to communicate and not alienate, how we simultaneously sought reforms and revolution, and how we navigated the ills of violence. We overwhelmingly agreed on all that, though we took different paths to our similar ends, and recounted different nuances.

Considering RPS roots, we evaluated the motives at work in the 2016 election and its 2017 Resist Trump aftermath. We offered related, compatible, mutually enhancing insights on RPS start-up, discussed early rallies and events, described conventions, explained chapter building, recalled demands, explored thoughts, and revealed visions. We recounted successful but also compromised electoral work undertaken to alter old or to model new, as well as to win and use elected offices.

We reported the means and results of our consciousness raising work, described how we contested for race, gender, class, and environmental demands, and examined how we constructed shadow and alternative institutions to plant seeds of future habits, deeds, and projects.

Throughout Guevara’s oral history, my fellow interviewees and I described our journeys into and through RPS, including how we became revolutionaries, our misgivings, and why we persisted. We shared with Miguel Guevara criticism and praise. We recounted warnings and celebrations.

As I read RPS/2044, I felt proud that our in-person descriptions of events transformed otherwise dry claims into heartfelt evidentiary testimony. Yet RPS/2044 is not a call to do as we did. Each respondent recognized the contextual dependency of each event and project in our timeline, whether sanctuaries, boycotts, marches, strikes, occupations, or elections. We workers, athlete, doctor, nurse, actor, priest, judge, cultures, genders, and classes among the book’s principle persona all described RPS as we experienced it, south, north, west, east, center and coast, and about it all we emphasized the contextual dependency of our efforts. I believed and I still believe RPS’s values are suitable and even inevitable for modern human liberation. I believed and still believe no one can end run equity, downplay justice, bypass self management, sacrifice solidarity, or underestimate diversity, sustainability, or peace, and win a worthy world.

Less obviously, and more instructively, I also concluded my fellow interviewees’ words showed the centrality of RPS’s institutional vision for RPS’s timeline. But even beyond that, what I got from hearing RPS history from so many voices and especially from hearing about parts of the journey that were pivotal to other participants, yet peripheral or even unknown to me, was that the path from the past to a revolutionized future isn’t, in fact, one path. At every turn, different steps were not just possible, they were likely.

Rerun the tape starting in 2017 100 times, and the shape of our path would be different each time. A modest change at the outset, would often snowball into major differences not far down the road.

Maybe a few reruns would attain success even faster than we did in our own history. Perhaps a comparable number of rerun histories would not succeed at all, falling to internal flaws or suffering massive war, climate collapse, plague, or other dystopian calamities of the sort so many people so oddly like to write or read. But beyond those possibilities, I would guess that most reruns would lead to liberty like ours did, but take longer than we took due to making different choices, encountering different frictions, or provoking different responses.

Given all that, my main thought on the oral history RPS/2044, and my main hope for it, is that it makes the ringing of revolution plausible, tangible, and able to generate and inform successful activism.

I tried to read RPS/2044 not as the participant I have been, but as the curious and worried teenager I was over a quarter century ago, and, in that persona, I found it highly provocative. It didn’t strike me as a how-to-do-it book. It seemed instead a how-to-conceive-it, how-to-refine-it, and how-to-work-on-it-for-yourself-along-with-others-book.
In that sense, RPS/2044 seemed relevant not only as an oral history, looking back, but as a facilitator of creative rebellion and revolution, looking forward. A work in progress.

Finally, as a taste of the book’s content that I think I can legitimately make available, hoping it may spur you to read more, here is the first exchange Miguel Guevara included with me in the book.

Harriet, born in 2000, you have been a grassroots organizer and a trainer for other organizers. You started your activism in local communities fighting evictions and, at the same time, developing consciousness of larger scale demands and campaigns. You became active with food organizing and delivery. You were always a protector, advocate, and empower-er of the defenseless. You got involved in housing issues a bit later than Cynthia (Cynthia Parks another interviewee with a section right before this one), and with a different focus, right?

Yes, I was in school. I was thinking about social change but not yet seeking it and I began to wonder about housing. First, what could improve the living situation in large apartment complexes? Everyone was fragmented. There were few shared agendas. Landlords dominated. There had to be options worth pursuing.
Second, I wondered whether some broad national policy could increase affordable housing.

What followed?

I started meeting with friends to discuss ideas. We visited housing activists and tenants’ rights groups and encountered many people already in or about to join RPS, so my friends and I joined too.

So joining wasn’t a major life decision to angst over?

Not remotely. We were sitting around talking, and we noted that people we liked were in RPS. and so we joined. RPS’s short term benefits attracted us.

And then?

Our talks hatched two plans that were later adopted as part of RPS housing program. The first was a massive expansion of organizing in apartment complexes. We helped renters see themselves as a collective force able to control their circumstances. We would visit an apartment complex, make friends, and hear about issues and problems. Then we would make tentative suggestions and help implement modest gains. For example, sometimes elderly tenants would be on a high floor they had difficulty getting to and we would arrange an apartment swap with younger tenants from a more accessible floor. Such self-organized events displayed sympathy and a desire for overall fairness.

How did you get folks to do it?

We reached out to student tenants in places where one or more were already in RPS. Before long we approached families. We offered a bit of modesty, a bit of social engagement, and a lot of listening.
Gains that residents could themselves enact, such as making aesthetic changes in corridors, were excellent because they quickly revealed potential. Once we had some trust and excitement built up, we helped people set up tenants’ food co-ops to reduce costs and time spent shopping. With the same logic, we helped set up collective approaches for handling day care and laundry. Folks with kids who worked double shifts couldn’t be active, so freeing people’s time became crucial. We started holding parties and hosting group events. In time, there arose the idea that maybe tenants didn’t have to each individually own things that they would only rarely use but that were important to have available when the need arose. Perhaps people could share. It was like setting up a lending library – but not just for books. Such projects saved time and money, and built trust. New friendships brightened lives and foreshadowed greater gains.

Did you do this type work?

Yes, I was a tenant and organized in my complex, but the work didn’t come easily for me. I wasn’t a person who enters a room and immediately relates to everyone. I was shy, quiet, and not well-suited to talking with folks. Like most women I feared knocking on doors, having a man answer, and going in to talk. But I knew how much it might matter, so occasionally I did it though typically we went door to door in teams, especially for first encounters.

Once we had more trust among residents, dealing collectively with reducing drugs and sexual and spouse abuse became another focus. The idea that people could publicly talk about such horrible personal violations and collectively take steps to reduce them was at first inconceivable. Yet it didn’t take long for our solutions to simpler issues to mature into giving attention to more complex ones.

As collectivism and mutual aid developed, we sought ways to adjudicate disputes, allocate resources, and win lower rents and timely repairs. We realized our apartment complex was a small society amidst others, quite like a neighborhood amidst other neighborhoods, or even a country amidst other countries.

Didn’t you also get involved in broader national campaigns?

Yes, we wondered how we could build high-quality, affordable housing in non-exploitative ways featuring exemplary distribution. Who would do the work? Why would they do it? With what financing? Who would get the product?

As our group discussed these questions we thought about enlisting participation from people who had great unmet needs and under-utilized capacities. Instead of learning how to kill with blind discipline in the military, and instead of learning how to gain more advanced criminal skills to use after release from prison into a society that stigmatized their reentry, why couldn’t soldiers and inmates learn useful skills, cooperate at work, and make their own decisions while generating a much-needed product? We began RPS’s campaign to transform military bases and prisons to soldiers and inmates constructing low-income, high-quality housing, including giving soldiers and inmates, once they left the military or prison, first claim on houses they had helped build, with other recipients being young people, homeless people, and others in need.

Organizing began partly in communities, partly in the military and prisons. RPS members reached out to prison and military families, to people working with those constituencies, and to neighborhoods around bases and prisons. I remember hearing how setting up coffee shops around military bases was a tactic used during the Vietnam war to talk with soldiers about resisting. I also remember working with prisoners’ groups, and visiting inside prisons to talk about our conversion campaign. The interactions were incredibly moving as we met and talked with young and often poor soldiers being used as war fodder, on the one hand, and with diverse people being punished sometimes for real crimes but often for trying to survive, on the other hand. They warmed not just to getting a home on release, but also to playing a powerful positive social role.
It was tumultuous, as we all knew it would be, but it had so many benefits we didn’t gain a good grasp of their full scope until later.

The last major campaign focused on motels and hotels, didn’t it?

We realized the number of empty rooms in hotels and motels, on average, at any moment, was roughly the same as the number of homeless people nationally, about 8 million. We decided to build a campaign around the idea that we should have housing for all before anyone could occupy dwellings that were not their own. This started by saying that all buildings that provided temporary housing for travelers should allot 20% of their rooms to permanent residents at a low income rental rate. There were lots of details, but the idea was clear enough. Luxury had to come after necessity. Of course later everything about hotels, motels, and income for housing would change as RPS progressed and more housing was built, but short of that, the partial opening of various private motels and hotels to low income residency bettered the circumstances of deserving constituencies and elevated values and practices that prepared people for winning further advances.
Finally, all these housing approaches benefitted the people doing the activity, benefitted the recipients of the products, benefitted society writ large, and strengthened various constituencies with skills, dispositions, and interconnections suited to winning still more gains.

Can you remember some pivotal moment or moments during the emergence of RPS that greatly affected you?

Here is one from my time tenant organizing. I called on an elderly couple, the Posners, to ask if they would be interested in very carefully swapping apartments with someone from the first floor so they would no longer have to walk up three flights. They looked at me after getting me some tea and cookies and the gentleman was clearly moved. The woman explained that for two years climbing the stairs had been devastating for her husband, which meant he very rarely went out, and also quite difficult for her. He had worked assembly and his legs were bad. She was, in her own words, long-lived lungs on long-lived legs.

So we talked and they told me about themselves and vice versa and it was striking to hear that they were surprised that it had never even occurred to them to see if anyone would make the switch for them and more so, that no one had ever spontaneously offered.

I took from it not just making new friends and the pleasure of having helped them, but a deep understanding of the incredible extent to which society twists us all so far from human sympathy and respect that we take callous isolation for granted. We don’t question it. We don’t even admit it. We quietly endure while waltzing by it. I realized that to have strong activism we had to overcome the near universal assumption of inevitable isolation and that even switching rooms could spur important consciousness raising.

Going another step back, born in 2000, when did you become radical? What caused it?

I was 19, in community college and had heard various progressive formulations, particularly about racism and global warming, but much else too. I was sympathetic, I guess you might say, but more into music, films, boys, and social media. One night I was talking with a new friend who turned out to be very radical. She was telling me about the then recent Wall Street march and arguing for doing more, including on our campus. After about an hour of describing her aims and expectations, she said, “please don’t take this wrong, but I wonder why you come at every issue assuming indignity is permanent? Why don’t you entertain the possibility of anything else? Why does all your thinking go into navigating current circumstances, and none into seeking change, even as you seem to pretty much accept that things are horrible”?

Her question didn’t have any impact in the moment, but later I began thinking about it. Did I rule out change and take for granted horrible existing relations like I defended scientific theories against lunatic heresy? I almost settled on that being the answer, but my friend pointed out that no scientist would assume cancer was incurable at the outset of considering what to do about it, though a beneficiary of exorbitant fees for cancer treatment might. No engineer would assume a bridge couldn’t span the Hudson River at the outset of trying to connect cities on either side, though someone wanting to maintain separation might. Hearing a proposed cancer cure, or a proposed bridge design, unless you had some axe to grind getting in the way of reason, you might carefully question the proposal, but you would want your doubts to be wrong. You would not hope to be right. Well, this ate at me. What was my axe to grind? Of course, radical views still had to win me over, but a big obstacle had disappeared and before long I was RPS bound.

All this made me see that everyone takes for granted that young people more easily become radical than older people. But why is that? I heard commentators point to the pressures of earning income, having family, toeing the line, but while that explained why young radicals often lose their views as they age, albeit never realizing just how profound a critique of society’s roles that was, for me it didn’t convincingly explain why a young person was more likely than an older person, all else equal, to become radical in the first place. What was it about being older that made one less open to becoming radical?

I decided my experience showed that young or old, to become radical requires at least implicitly recognizing that earlier you had been wrong. The older you are, the more of your life you have to admit was mistaken. If I was thirty when the conversation that began my radicalization occurred, I doubt it would have been enough. I would have been too defensive and this gave me great respect for radical longevity, and even more so for becoming radical later in life.

One last comment. There is a web site for RPS/2044 at www.rps2044.org. It has lots of material, testimonials, and reactions (including this one you are reading). It welcomes comments and forum posts, and it also has a special feature that I particularly want to welcome you to use.

On a page about the interviewees, each of us has a brief bio, a link to our unedited verbatim initial interview, a link for users to submit questions to us, and a link for each of us to a page listing your questions and our answers. Perhaps you will partake of that option and even send a question or two to me. I hope to meet you by that path.

Here, then, indicatively, are the first two questions I have been asked – my answers are online.

Jill Sussman asks: Harriet, at times RPS success seems to owe more to momentum than merit. You describe joining without much examination, based on others having joined. Was that common?

Henrik Hansen: Harriet, In your interview you say that: “I wasn’t the kind of person who goes into a room and immediately relates to people. I didn’t quickly create bonds. I was more like most people. Shy, quiet, not well suited to talking with folks I didn’t know.” How did that change? How did you get beyond the idea that neighbours shouldn’t talk? How did the first neighbours react to activists trying to organize? Because people are both quiet and shy, how did you manage to engage them in the beginning? Finally, what is your suggestion for any radical who wants to organize his apartment complex, but is too shy/afraid to actually start?

Testimonials from the future for your comments…

Below are the testimonials by interviewees – in case anyone would like to comment on one or more. There are illusions, often ptetty obvious, sometimes pretty subtle, scattered throughout to the historical figures whose names are in part borrowed. You might find it amusing to find those…

“Imagine a better world, but first read RPS/2044 where a crowd of better world advocates report on actually winning one. Our victory is certainly no end point, but it is a marvelous place from which to take a look around and further open one’s own vistas – to travel one’s own freedom highway, and that is what Miguel Guevara’s questions have let a bunch of us participants do. Maybe above all this book reveals the beating heart and open mind of being a revolutionary. I hope it sings to you.”
– Harriet Lennon, 2042

“To hear firsthand about athletes, actors, lawyers, and doctors questioning and refining their professions, to hear about worker’s from restaurants to warehouses claiming dominion over their lives, to hear about RPS’s conventions, its chapter building and campaigns, its shadow and alternative institutions, and especially to hear the decentralized, self managing thoughts and desires that fueled the lessons it’s participants took, and to hear it from people so immediately and resolutely involved, with zero time given to shoot em up machinations, is simply wonderful. But of course I dance it. The question is, will you?”
– Andrej Goldman, 2042

“If you want a novel with a male protagonist battling a deadly, macho, outer space , killer crisis, don’t read this book. In fact, if you want a novel with a female protagonist resolving a perfectly plausible and meaningful, down home, common crisis, don’t read this book. RPS/2044 stars social change. The people are real, I am one, and I know many. But our personal specifics aren’t critical. What we shared and still share is what matters. I read RPS/2044 for inspiration and to enhance my memories of the a, b, c’s and x, y, z’s of our shared history. I learned from the insights of the other participants, and hopefully soon, I will learn from its readers too. The book is invigorating, engaging, moving, and edifying. It is not a tweet.”*
– Juliet Berkman, U.S., 2042

“I have acted in a lot of movies and also presided in the Governor’s Mansion in California, but I am far more proud of and would urge others to see as far more worthy my having devoted myself to RPS. Twenty-five years into that experience, Miguel Guevara’s questions induced me and others to tell RPS’s story experimental data for doing more and better in years to come. What is remarkable about the story Guevara elicits is how little it is about fights, conflict, and drama and how much it is about ideas, vision, and achievement. Guevara got us to talk not about the exciting tumult and travail while ignoring boring lessons and commitments, but about exciting lessons and commitments, while not drowning in boring tumult and travail. Enjoy RPS/2044, discuss it, debate it, improve it, and then work to make your best version of it real. Don’t shortchange it’s breadth or depth. Every page of this oral history finds opportunity in difficulty, not the reverse.”
– Governor Cecila Curie, 2042

”New York, New York is not Chicago, but it’s a hell of a town and we are proud to be part of building a participatory society for all. Miguel Guevara’s book shares the joy and complexity of the ringing of revolution. As readers, and I include myself, we need to refine, enrich, and take the experience’s lessons regarding race, gender, class, power, and nature, and concerning self management, solidarity, and justice, and especially concerning the ramparts and ramifications of diverse ways of working together, into our continuing activism. If you smile and enjoy our history, very nice. If you take our history and adopt and refine it to make it yours, then Guevara’s idea will reach its true goal.”
– Mayor Bill Hampton, 2042

“Every so often a book teaches and readers benefit. RPS/2044 is a case in point. 18 teach, how many will benefit? RPS/2044, like the revolutionary project it chronicles, is a tonic against cynicism and an antidote to submission. From its beginning at the time of the god awful Donald Trump to its postscript conclusion after we elected the diametrically opposite Malcolm King and through all kinds of organization and movement building in between, Guevara’s chosen interviews inspire, provoke, and empower. I am very glad to have contributed, embedded as, I was in the events, and even as I loved reading others’ contributions.”
– Barbara Bethune, 2042

“Here my fellow revolutionaries and I separately beat out a rhythm of unrelenting and intimately linked optimistic commitment. Our words envisioned and revealed the fabric of classlessness better than any other work I know. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since we were so steadfastly part of bringing it to life. I truly hope our experience can help others not just name, or even just comprehend, but also surmount their own complex situations.”
– Mark Feynman, 2042

“Reading this book was a joy and also an education for me. I of course knew my part in the events. I knew less, but somewhat, other aspects that I had encountered or even just heard about but not personally experienced. But even having been intimately involved in RPS myself, I found much clarification. In the clash and jangle of tumultuous times, it is hard to stop to hear the not so loud sounds of vision and program much less tease out their lasting influential meaning. I can only guess and hope at the kind of contribution our interviews might make to people elsewhere and elsewhen confronting harsh and grim conditions as they move toward vastly better relations. If the book helps that, even just for some readers, I will celebrate having had a part in it.”
– Cynthia Parks, 2042

“We interviewees sound rather alike, don’t we? It isn’t surprising. After all, we share so many views and aims. That said, Guevara’s book spans a diversity of participants and in that way gives a wide appreciation of RPS. His intent is obviously not so much to reveal the contextually connected details of our involvements, much less of ourselves, but to highlight the abiding lessons that can inform activism for change if not anywhere and anytime than very nearly anywhere and very nearly anytime. I believe and hope you will agree Guevara succeeds admirably in precisely that. This book is a literary revolutionary council.”
– Anton Rocker, 2042

“Some people think history is just piles of facts. Guevara and his interviewees relegate fact on top of fact to the included timeline. Our oral history is not mainly a list of what happened but a personal account of why and how it happened. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know just to know. But I and the others in RPS/2044, and Guevara as well, want to know so as to do more and do better, to reach as high up the mountain that is revolution as we can. I hope readers approach the book with that positive frame of mind as well. If you do, you will find a wonderful database of material for changing your world as successfully as we are changing ours.”
– Senator Malcolm King, 2042

“I spent most of my life, in movements that lost, lost, lost – and then, suddenly, learning from the losses, the last twenty-five years in a movements that is winning. RPS/2044 tells that tale, but it doesn’t highlight people, or herculean personal greatness. It highlights the collective intellectual muscle and emotional sinews of social change. It rejects even the idea of a blueprint to blindly follow and instead offers a template on which to imprint one’s own insights. The book’s unfolding panorama of change is remarkable, but it is also true. Our epoch has very few accounts that recount the highly dramatic only to hone in on what has made it all possible and real. This is one. This lights up our stage.”
– Lydia Luxembourg, 2042

“I wish I had an account like this one when I was deciding my life commitments, when I was first protesting, first punished, first praised. I am not sure how much quicker and more productively I would have arrived at my own future, but surely quite a bit. And that would have been all the more true the less positive and hopeful the times were when first reading a book like his. I hope the book helps others as it has me, now, even with RPS succeeding, and even more so as it would have helped me embarking on something like RPS, not knowing my future. Not a liberal word or thought is uttered, only revolutionary. No lies here, no easy victory either.”
– Peter Cabral, 2042

“Guevara’s book takes 18 long interviews, splices them into sections, and then merges parts from each with parts from others in 30 chapters. The result is a biography of ideas, a theory of intentions, aims, and methods, a chronicle of passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, for love, knowledge, and to end the suffering of mankind. RPS/ 2044 reverberates with the wisdom that every act we perform today must reflect the kind of relationships we are fighting to establish tomorrow and yet this oral history is preeminently human. I am proud to have contributed my words, but mostly I am excited about the rest of it, and wonder how many people will consider its many messages with the attentiveness I find myself giving.”
– Bertrand Dellinger, 2042

“Activists seeking to right wrongs and create liberty don’t need a bible and Miguel Guevara knew that while undertaking this oral history. They also don’t need accounts that are time and place specific, unreplicable, or idiosyncratic. Guevara pursued the anti-fundamentalist and anti-sectarian intentions of RPS even as he stitched together this account of RPS. And yet, truth be told, I’d much rather look out at my Church congregation and see each and every member reading RPS/2044 than any other good book I can think of. Not to worship it, of course, nor to mindlessly adopt its insights, but to enjoy, excite, and especially innovate. RPS/2044 is about integrity smiting oppression, honesty ruining deception, decency silencing insult, virtue overcoming force.”
– Rev. Stephen Du Bois, 2042

“Being part of RPS has been like riding an unstoppable train. The best media maker of our times has been that train swooping through our workplaces and communities. RPS/ *2044 examines the train’s path, highlights some minor and major stops, but most often examines the engine compartment, the wheelbase, the links between cars, and the accommodations, all in the words of travelers on board. I think Miguel Guevara’s intent was to ensure that more people ride, and more freedom trains run. I hope my contribution helps.”
– Leslie Zinn, 2042

“Let’s be honest. We who told Miguel our story were sometimes a bit pedantic though there was also passion. We were sometimes a bit dry though there was also fervor. We were sometimes a bit one dimensional in our focus on change above the rest of our lives – though looked at from another angle, that just means we were not about ourselves, or even about our specific events, but about RPS. I loved reading this book and re-thinking my experiences in light of the book’s many messages and I hope you will too. Life is way too short to settle for saying ‘I didn’t have time’. History’s court alone decides.”
– Robin Kuntsler, 2042

“I have read a lot of accounts of our struggles for change. What you get here, though, is not just facts – important as they are. Here you get texture, ideas, and desires. You get RPS’s internal reality, the part less contingent on the precise when and where and more rooted in the timeless why and what. Guevara did the participants, including myself, a great service in piecing together our words into a tapestry of meaning. This is what language and resistance, in combination, look like. RPS/2044 chats the growth of belief among the unqualified that they are in fact qualified: they can articulate and be responsible and hold power.”
– Noam Carmichael, 2042

“Self management is coming to the USA. Guevara heard its tones, and massaged them into chimes of freedom for everyone. I am listening, and hearing, and I hope you will too. It’s music you can not only dance to. You can be born to it. Over and over.”
– Dylan Cohen, 2042