No more scenes as we see here; the management won’t allow it.
Last Thursday, as I arrived at the Bipartisan and turned to post the Green Party banner, I was accosted by a barista and advised that my presence was only welcome if I would abide by the following restrictions:
a) no posting of a banner, whether inside or outside;
b) no speaking to other patrons about politics;
c) no display of political materials.
Now of course in the immediate aftermath of this prohibition of political activity, without warning or discussion, I felt angry, betrayed, and (somewhat) depressed. Let me set those feelings aside, however, and look at the larger picture.
Gar Alperovitz, who gave the keynote address at the last nominating convention of the Green Party of the United States, has a new book (published by Chelsea Green Publishing of White River, Vermont, in 2013) in which he discusses the general picture of political economics: What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution. On p. 26 the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland says
For the most part political-economic systems are largely defined by the way property is owned and controlled (particularly productive economic property). It tends to produce political as well as economic power. [emphasis in original — MM]
So my being excluded from conducting political activity at the Bipartisan Café, when viewed in a general perspective, goes along with the already well-known phenomenon of United States media outlets, owned by capitalists, claiming to cover the news while acting as spokespeople for the wealthy. If the Cascadia Chapter of the Green Party of Oregon truly were to have a reliable place to meet and discuss our work, it would have to own or to lease it.
Professor Alperovitz reviews a number of wealth-democratizing movements, as he calls them, which are already operating in this country: worker-owned enterprises, community development organizations, municipal- and state-funded financial institutions, and the like. These could, he says, form the basis for a future more democratic social and economic structure for society.
Mike Davis opens his well-informed architectural history of Los Angeles, California [City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Vintage, 1992] by recounting the thriving socialist community of Llano del Rio, some 50 miles north of the city:
As Job Harriman, who came within a hair’s-breadth of being Los Angeles’s first Socialist mayor in 1911, explained: “It became apparent to me that a people would never abandon their means of livelihood, good or bad, capitalist or otherwise, until other methods were developed which would promise advantages at least as good as those by which they were living.” What Llano promised was a guaranteed $4 per day wage [in 1914! — MM] and a chance . . .”to live without war or interest on money or rent on land or profiteering in any manner.” . . . By 1916 their alfalfa fields and modern dairy, their pear orchards and vegetable gardens — all watered by a complex and efficient irrigation system — supplied the colony with 90 percent of its own food. Meanwhile, dozens of small workshops cobbled shoes, canned fruit, laundered clothes, cut hair, repaired autos, and published the Western Comrade.
Not only did this effort fail, it has been virtually completely forgotten.
Alperovitz is by no means excluding the possibility of conservative reaction to (let us call them) Green Movement changes. In his final chapter, entitled “The Prehistory of the Next American Revolution,” he warns of “what social scientists term a ‘legitimation crisis’: a time when the values that give legitimacy to the system no longer can, in fact, be achieved by the system.” He quotes the late Harvard professor of government Seymour Martin Lipset warning, back in the 1980s, that the trend of social and economic repression was worse than lead-up to the Great Depression or to the Vietnam War. Alperovitz reiterates, “Put another way, the deepening difficulties suggest the possibility that we may now be well into the prehistory of the next American revolution . . .”
Above all of the possibilities in the future, Alperovitz emphasizes (as have I, in all of my speeches about the vision of Green Party politics), the needs of real community:
[I]t is time to begin to get serious about the question if you don’t like corporate capitalism and uyou don’t like state socialism, what do you want? It is time to throw off the blinders that suggest we must always and and forever be constrained by systemic alternatives whose main lines of development can be traced back more than a hundred years . . . .
A good way to start answering the question is to confront the profound challenge of community, and its practical requirements and systemic implications. The institutional requirements of community pose fundamental issues that neither corporate capitalism nor state socialism ever took seriously.
Even though the meetings at the Bipartisan Café have been halted, that does not mean we cannot continue to develop a better future, based on the idea that all of humanity is one community.