Questions to and Answers from Lydia Luxemburg

Benjamin Lynch asks: Lydia, in what ways is RPS organized differently than movements that you participated in during the 20th century? Do you feel that the way people view freedom has changed? Has communication improved at all over the years with advancements in technology?

Hello, Benjamin. RPS is different from Sixties activism in many ways. Indeed, when I read RPS/2044 it seems to me that in a real sense the whole thing is answering that question.

The focus has been made more encompassing and the aspects more intertwined. The tactics have been enriched and oriented more toward their long run impact. Reforms are treated differently. Organization is markedly different. Vision and strategy are forefront. There is a different operational attitude of people.

The point is, I think the interviews are all about trying to tease out what is innovative, or elevated, compared to the past. So once you read the book, if you have more specific questions, I would be happy to try to help.

I am not sure I understand what you are asking about people’s view of freedom, but I agree with you it is an interesting thing to consider. The usual thinking is a difference between freedom from and freedom to, as in freedom from restraint or coercion and freedom to do more with one’s life.

I think there is a change on that score, with much more tilt in RPS toward the latter, largely reflecting the tilt toward belief in winning new relations rather than in merely warding off past negatives. But there may be another part to that. Freedom from – long preponderant as the meaning of freedom – has a tendency to be insular. I look to avoid restraints on me. If there are no overt restraints, no overt encumbrances, no overt coercion, I feel free. The trouble is, I may not be in position to do much of anything. Freedom to is more about what can I and even what can we do. Not just is there some government or boss or whatever pushing me or us around, but what options do I or we have? Freedom to is open to there being social responsibilities, which includes restraints, when these are for social benefit. I think the notion of collective self management that RPS advocates may reflect and enlarge these trends.

As to communication, again, I am not sure what you mean and I may be reading into what you are asking. Back when I was first getting involved we would stay up all night, many nights in a row, just to have an event, even on one campus, say. We would prepare leaflets, mimeograph them – basically a very time consuming messy job of preparing each. And then we would have to hand deliver them to people, sometimes at their doors, sometime on the street, and so on. Later, of course, means of preparing and sending information developed and became vastly easier. But does that mean communication improved? That is not so obvious, I think.

It meant more info flowing, yes. It meant more eyes potentially able to see or ears potentially able to hear a specific message, yes. But better quality? Better ensuing discussion of messages? Better debate and exploration? That was not so clear to me. Even in the sixties I used to read letters from people from much earlier times and marvel at their depth. By 2020, to compare instant messaging and texting and even emailing with earlier letter writing and the like…it wasn’t a pretty comparison.

Technologies are tricky things. They are adopted in a context. You can be sure, then, that they more or less fit that context, at least as they are preponderantly used. So technical means of information preparation and flow are bent to service existing relations and did. RPS of course worked to subvert that – partly by developing our own social media and broader media as well, and partly by trying to adapt the existing structures, and largely, as well, by changing the whole tenor and finally structure of society, all of which efforts are discussed in the interviews, I think.

So yes, the coming full RPS victory means communication will be vastly richer and better than in the past, but that is not so much about technology as about the social relations and structures that welcome and utilize some technologies and not others, and that use them for better – or worse – and mostly about peoples’ changed minds.

Nancy Pearlman asks: Lydia, Did you ever consider giving up and going to the beach instead of seeking change?

When Trump was threatening to ignite the planet, playing madman – or being madman – toward North Korea, Venezuela, China, and Russia – I had moments, not only of desperate fear, but also resignation. I wondered, like so many others, what can I do, and I had no good immediate answer. I thought of doing a hunger strike. In fact I thought of getting my whole extended family to do one, all together, elderly, adult, and even teenage. And then calling on other families to strike in their own ways – including “families” of workers in firms, of actors, athletes, nurses, and so on. But I couldn’t get anything going fast enough. Desperate times, desperate thoughts.

Even as I trembled, I mostly felt the Korean scare was  going to prove to be a show to distract from what Trump was really doing to the judiciary, to government bureaus, and so on, but that whether intended or not, it was also going to have another effect. I thought/feared, it would deaden the populace, discipline it, produce in it, in us, a kind of lethargy and despondency. I feared that people fearing annihilation and doing nothing about it, which was the plight of nearly everyone, would create a kind of habit – to do nothing, while hoping for the best – that would persist long after Trump.

I guess we will never know, but I suspect I was quite wrong. Back when I was young we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. We had what was labelled duck and cover – school kids, like me, being told to get under our desks to survive a nuclear attack that was coming. I remember having nightmares where planes would drop bombs supported by parachutes that would then slowly drift toward the ground, and human obliteration. Fear was, my memory says, or maybe it was just being a different age – even worse then than in your time with Trump. And the response, then, actually, was doing even less about it, I think. And, yet, consider what followed? Not long after we were ducking under school desks, we brought on the Sixties – the most tumultuously dissident and radical times before now.

Maybe going near armageddon had something to do with shifting the mentality of both epochs. I have no idea. Suffice to say,  you/we survived the missile crisis then, and afterwards fought and accomplished a lot. This time, we survived and fought and are about to crown a new creation. Hopefully you will achieve something similar.