Preparing for inevitable system change in 2040?

In this video, Roger Hallam (co-founder of extinction rebellion and social change researcher) predicts that:

  • There will be system change in the next 20 years
  • This is inevitable now because of climate breakdown (i.e, likely scenario hitting 2C temperature rise by 2040).
  • Climate breakdown will lead to social breakdown and revolutionary episodes
  • Historically, when a crisis hits, it is always the state that steps in
  • This could go in one of two directions: a regressive direction in fascism, or a progressive direction in democratic planning.
  • Which direction will be down to us and what we do now in preparing and building a movement that is ready for what we put in place.

What do you think? Do you agree that system change is now inevitable in the next two decades? And if so, what form of democratic planning would be feasible in such a scenario? I have always seen full blown Annual Participatory Planning proposed in the participatory economy model as a longer term goal requiring experimentation and years of education and practise, in which case, what would a next step democratically planned economy look like that springs up quickly in the midst of serious social disruption, extreme weather, food insecurity and mass migration? And importantly, what needs to be our strategy to prepare for it?

Will it depend on vision?

Like what exactly are the economic structures going to be. Hallam talks of citizens assemblies, but that’s pretty vague and possible only if enough people are on board and agree as to what that really means, if there’s to be a peaceful, socially connected revolution, which is what he’d prefer. And shit, the break down of society will be what exactly and how would it be distributed across the globe? What sorts of movements if any are in place in diverse regions? What kinds of economic visions and political alternatives have been discussed and by enough people? How many will really know about them, understand them to make informed decisions regarding them etc.? Who will put them in place? Oversee them? Will they be assertively opposed by others of other persuasions? To me Hallam’s whole thing is just too simple. In the same way that so many others know what to fight against, that being capitalism, and perhaps the state, but aren’t so clear as to what to replace both with exactly.

As to participatory planning, that ain’t happening any time soon. I reckon if there isn’t a huge mass movement soon that knows what the strategy is, then if breakdown comes in 16 yrs then it will be chaos and people just doing whatever, wherever. Sort of like the last verse and out-chorus of The Drones Oh My.

People are a waste of food
Don’t bother learning Chinese
Thou shalt find oneself perturbed
By less verbose calamities
Just get some Heinz baked beans,
A 12 gauge, bandolier and tinned dog food
We’ll eat your dog, bury our dead
Or eat them instead
That’s entirely up to you

And oh my,
I hear the sound of unshod hooves come the middle of the night
And oh why
Well, from now on 'til your grandkids finally get what you deserve
I’m going to be stuck here with you wookies
Eating fortune cookies
Until my guts churn

People stick to what they know and have experience in at least to some part. To which part nobody can know.
Roger Hallam does not speak to much of self-management it at all but that’s the way to go to get rid of all that alienation. What he wants and asks himself, we have already in our model of participatory economy.
He means that the state will take over. Right now and all of the time capitalism relies on the state. It is not thinkable without it. Still there is a contradiction (see Nancy Fraser) because the state has at least in Western societies to provide public authority like property rights, reliyability of treaties, suppress riots, keep up the money regime and so forth. All this is undermined by the law of capitalism to accumulate capital and its consequences. So what state and which ruling class of it could help us out when capitalism breaks down? I feel very uncomfortable thinking about that. The state has to go the same way as capitalism has if we want to have a humane future. The council structure of participatory economy and Parpolity (of Steve Shalom) make me feel much better. We had enough of top down order. It has proven very well that it only works out for a small rich minority.
Democratic planning can be done bottom up as we propose. How could it be spread? That is a difficult task but we work on it (with every line we write at least we try).

One of the things I like about Citizens’ Assemblies is exactly that they are not vague. They are a concrete proposal that can be implemented today as an upgrade to our political system, and that have already been used successfully in parts of the world, such as in Ireland. If you are interested, there’s lots more information about them on the Extinction Rebellion website: Decide Together - Extinction Rebellion UK and the Sortition Foundation website: https://www.sortitionfoundation.org/

Here is the Sortition Foundation’s proposal for replacing the house of lords with a house of citizens in the UK: https://www.sortitionfoundation.org/replace_house_of_lords_with_house_of_citizens

Is it an ideal perfect system? Probably not. But it is a serious, implementable and better alternative than what we have today that we could all mobilise around to prepare for the crisis that is coming our way.

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Yeah. Probably right. Thanks for the links. I guess I still don’t know what the word crisis really means. Nor what social breakdown and revolutionary episodes means. Particularly if it’s all to come within the next two decades. Maybe Hallam knows better. I have no idea what the global situation will be either in regard to breakdown and how people respond nor what the global revolutionary state of mind will be. And particularly whether that state of mind will be of a unified type. That’s all pretty vague to me so therefore the implementation of CAs becomes kind of vague even though I get what they are and that they have been implemented round the world in places already. When social breakdown occurs the implementation may not be what we thought or go as planned or work as well as we assumed. Hey, but I get they are probably the only real option.

But if Hallam is right, should not the whole left landscape be dropping their own preferred points of focus and be focusing on this one thing…survival and the required revolution? I mean, really, if revolutionary episodes and a final revolution or take over of the state is gonna happen in twenty years, should not all already existing orgs, projects, movements, radicals, media, whatever, be shifting their focus to this one major fight to save billions? Like set aside trying to sell participatory economics or whatever else. Setting aside getting people behind twenty theses for liberation or the global tapestry of alternatives or whatever else. It seems to me, if that does not happen then whatever revolutionary episodes Hallam is talking about are going to be pretty isolated, uncoordinated, unclear and maybe even incoherent on a global level.

I don’t know. I might be just talking out my ass. The whole “we” thing is still an unknown to me and the whole with what exactly are the CAs going to replace the broken down economic system? Which is really a huge problem considering the left landscape hasn’t been unified nor clear on that pretty much ever. Which doesn’t lend itself to confidence among those ordinary folk doing ordinary jobs just trying to get by, being asked to join the revolution.

But I guess none of that matters. Hallam probably knows better. I don’t know. Maybe we just gotta wing it. But that’s really how we got in the mess in the first place. Everybody was winging it. Some doing better than others.

I should stop, this shit is just too hard for my little mind. I defer to the experts and leaders that Hallam says we should aspire to be or perhaps follow, whoever they are.

I guess I still don’t know what the word crisis really means. Nor what social breakdown and revolutionary episodes means.

It’s a lot to get our heads around isn’t it? I think you highlight here a big problem with the way the climate and ecological crises is communicated; dry scientific language has its place, but without enough description or emotion about the impact on society and life, what social breakdown actually looks like, and coupled with the time-lag factor between emissions and impact, we are left with a situation where there is an emotional disconnect to the urgency and gravity of what we are facing. I don’t think we can say how revolution is going to pan out exactly, but I am pretty sure we are now heading for it this century, we have some lessons from history and we need to prepare as best we can to maximise our chances of success. Roger Hallam has done a lot of work in this area which he talks about in his podcast series Designing the Revolution. I find it refreshing compared to the usual left content.

But if Hallam is right, should not the whole left landscape be dropping their own preferred points of focus and be focusing on this one thing…survival and the required revolution?

Yes!

I mean, really, if revolutionary episodes and a final revolution or take over of the state is gonna happen in twenty years, should not all already existing orgs, projects, movements, radicals, media, whatever, be shifting their focus to this one major fight to save billions?

Yes. I think that other work still needs to continue, but we need to prioritise this, don’t we? Otherwise, why does the left exist? Why has it not organised emergency meetings to decide on a shared practical plan? Or even tried to do that? What is the left doing?

It seems to me, if that does not happen then whatever revolutionary episodes Hallam is talking about are going to be pretty isolated, uncoordinated, unclear and maybe even incoherent on a global level.

I agree. If we are not organised and prepared, there will instead likely be fascism or mad max.

Which doesn’t lend itself to confidence among those ordinary folk doing ordinary jobs just trying to get by, being asked to join the revolution.

Agree, I think this point is key. Getting ordinary folk involved in this movement for a new bottom-up deliberative political system will be critical to success. The climate action organisations I’ve been in are full of middle-class people with time and resources. How do we get regular people involved. Given the time pressures and constraints, how do we do that? Hallam has some thoughts on this in his podcast and why I’m inspired by what a new group are doing, Cooperation Hull, in the north of the UK. I think this is the template we need on mass for the next twenty years. Check it out and let me know what you think: https://www.cooperationhull.co.uk.

I’m looking to get involved with a new initiative based on a lot of this work called Humanity, which is “aiming to build the new world ahead based on deliberative democracy.” Attending a zoom call next week about it and then I can share more information if you like.

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The more I listen to Hallam the more I think he doesn’t have a clue.

What do you think he gets wrong?

He calls for revolution. He tells people to leave their jobs and become revolutionaries. He talks of painful deaths coming to people with absolute certainty. But all he gives back is some notion of citizens assemblies and a bunch of podcasts on designing the revolution that are all over the shop in terms of clarity and coherent visions/ideas and most recently an empty vessel of one about alienation to be followed by some kind of notion of transcendence and turning everything he’s said on its head. Yet it fills me with nothing.

It’s not that he gets anything wrong because there’s no real substance other than shit scaring fear of impending horrific death. That’s pretty much it. No vision, no notion of restructuring things in a way that may help say even the working classes think, oh yeah, that sounds good. Just the same call a spade a shovel demand for revolution.

I’m tired of this crap. Totally tired of it. He’s out on his own like some maverick revolutionary.

It could be he’s right about the shit coming down the line but by fuck he doesn’t have much else in his toolbox. Other than he’s some kind of frontline fighter possibly martyr to the cause. Oh and his chuckle.

Sorry to be so blunt.

As far as I can see. I may be the idiot here or the bad selfish negative dude unprepared to go the whole hog but I seriously have no sense he’s got anything but hey, revolution people or we die and that’s it. Gut feel. But who cares what my gut feels huh. Maybe I just ain’t ethically tuned quite right. It’s as much an emotional critique as intellectual.

Oh and all that crap about Graeber’s naïveté, imagination, and this notion of conscious incompetence, are all just empty nothings. People have and people need ideas that may lend to actual possibilities. A GND is that. David Schwieckart’s, along with others, market socialist economic models, is that. So is Parecon. Real visions. Coherent things that are understandable. Not just some idea about citizens assemblies as if this is some kind panacea. The world needs real vision, coherent, clear and concise. Just transition too. The word revolution doesn’t mean shit to most other than mess or to trust in some person or persons yelling at them it’s that or possible death.

What I say about Hallam is highlighted, not just in his vagueness and his strange relationship regarding academia and a seeming anti-intellectualism embedded within his own intellectualism…which I find considerably thin…but within the section The Proposal, in his book.

After outlining a number of tactics with which I grant he is, as an activist organiser, well acquainted and that I have no reason or ground to doubt, he writes this…

“Finally, there needs to be a post-revolutionary plan otherwise chaos will ensue. The plan I outline is for a national Citizens’ Assembly to take over the sovereign role from a corrupted parliamentary system. Parliament would remain, but in an advisory role to this assembly of ordinary people, randomly selected from all around the country who will deliberate on the central question of our contemporary national life – how do we avoid extinction?

They will decide what new structures and policies are necessary to maximise the chances of achieving our collective desire to live, now that the odds are stacked against us. We need to start acting now. We may need to act before governments come around. A transition movement has already started. This needs to be massively expanded and integrated with the Rebellion.”

That’s not a plan that’s a vague hope that a bunch of citizens randomly chosen can coherently present to a population a cogent set of new institutional structures, while, as Hallam seems to have decided, parliament remains under their (CA) control. Sounds like a guess to me.

Is he hoping that people like yourselves, Pareconistas, of which I am one still, or the Degrowthers, Next System Folk, Democracy Collaborative, or GND economists, or Yanis Varoufakis and Progressive International, RealUtopia, Global Tapestry Network, SolarPunks and the rest, will fill the visionary void? And it will be done efficiently and swiftly and with unity setting aside sectarian differences, something the “left” has really yet to achieve over 200 yrs? Or does he suspect a random bunch of citizens will be knowledgeable enough themselves or as all the groups mentioned above are swept up by his rebellion informing said assemblies?

There is much about the “left” losing the communicative battle with the working classes. As outlined much by Michael Albert, Tom Wetzel, and others, like Emma River-Roberts’ concern the degrowth movement and its PMC/coordinator image doesn’t connect with the working classes sufficiently…to put it nicely…to get them involved. She even felt in Albert’s podcast that XR had a kind of anti-working class attitude which she’s experienced herself…if I heard right. Hallam seems oblivious to this problem really. The working classes are very used to working 24/7 for survival and dying unnecessarily (for all sorts of reasons). Do you really think Hallam is presenting something that they would flock to? To trust in some anonymous dude telling them they’re all gonna die if they don’t and all he’s got is an idea of citizens assembling to control parliament, slashing emissions and some geo-engineering? And to trust him enough and his message to give up jobs and join him in the streets with no mention about just transition and how difficult that is? But I suspect he thinks just transition is a reformist trope and we are beyond that now. His attitude to the rest of the left is somewhat antagonistic and critical but with little engagement and often very generally asserted without much good evidence and research. Most of his criticism seems anecdotal and emotionally based…in my opinion.

And of course his add on thing on transcendence was as I expected, pretty woeful and empty of any real graspable content.

Ok, he’s part of an overall awareness campaign. I get that. And he’s across tactics and organising. But so are many others.

There is a new U.K project which Hallam has been involved with setting up, called The Humanity Project, which puts his ideas on a revolutionary strategy into practise: https://humanityproject.uk/

From the site:

“Humanity Project are supporting grassroots Popular Assemblies, or ‘Pops’, up and down the country – to come together, shake things up, and get things done. These are like Peoples Assemblies but with an emphasis on breaking down barriers and division, ensuring diversity and inclusion, and securing outcomes."

“These local Popular Assemblies will feed into Britain’s Popular Assembly in spring 2024. This will be a first step towards building a permanent House of Citizens. The House of Citizens will be made up of ordinary informed citizens managing how we govern ourselves, and hold power to account for the people.“

I’m planning to put some time into this to help with the organisation of the first national people’s assembly in June.

What do you think about their plan?

Jason, I’m not sure if it matters two hoots what I think about Hallam, or anything really anymore. I wrote my responses to Hallam because Ive been listening to his stuff, reading his stuff, supporting him, yet always feeling like he’s got nothing other than his call a spade a shovel revolutionary demand based upon fear and a growing feeling within me that he may be a bit of a grifter. I’ve written about three long responses and I’ve given up on all of them. I looked at the site. I’ll just say this.

Is that a plan?

“A new culture of inclusive democracy, crafting a new common sense, delivering the solutions we need.”

It’s empty of content. What the hell is a “new common sense”? And how do a bunch of citizens assemblies decided by sortition know and are going to deliver the “solutions we need”? What the hell are they brother? Sounds more like a hope and prayer.