Dec 13, 2013
A Freedom Budget for All Americans
Posted on Aug 18, 2013
By Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates, Monthly Review Press
Institutional racism would be gone, not just the Jim Crow system, but also de facto racism, including the racial differentials historically and currently existing among the different racial and ethnic groups in our society. Related to this, personal racism would be greatly diminished – the entire panoply of attitudes, prejudices, and practices caused by fear and want among ethnically and racially diverse peoples, and by different groups competing for scarce resources.
Despite differences, many of the more radical and the less radical partisans of the Freedom Budget were in agreement that its adoption and implementation would come about only through mass struggle, challenging and pushing back existing power structures and self-interested but influential defenders of an unjust and oppressive status quo. They agreed that such struggle could be won only through a movement reaching out to win the support of, and to effectively mobilize, the great majority of people – the working-class majority, trade unions, civil rights groups, those who oppose war and militarism, liberal-minded professionals, progressive religious constituencies, and the interracial poor – in a mighty coalition capable of bringing power to the people.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once explained that “power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” He elaborated:
Winning the Freedom Budget would have involved a dramatic power-shift whose implications and dynamics would have gone far beyond the specific confines of the Freedom Budget itself. It would have represented a dramatic expansion of freedom, equality, and democracy – moving powerfully in the direction of socialist transformation, which is nothing but the realization of all that has been said here.
This did not happen. The Freedom Budget was defeated, and the hopes it encompassed were destined to evaporate. History proceeded not as it might have, but as it actually did. In our book we seek to detail and document reasons for this defeat.
Toward a New Freedom Budget
Our society today needs a Freedom Budget, on the scale of what was proposed by A. Philip Randolph, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and their co-thinkers almost half a century ago. However, a modern Freedom Budget will need to incorporate lessons learned from previous defeats, and at the same time adjust for new realities.
A broader consultation and consideration, reflecting the political and social forces that would be capable of making the New Freedom Budget a living reality, will need to take place. In the hope that such a process can be generated, we are offering here some thoughts on aspects of the principles, the objectives, the policies, and the strategic perspectives that might be embodied in such a New Freedom Budget. We are convinced that , at this point in history, only a more radical variant of what had been proposed can bring about the goals that Randolph and King were reaching for.
The hopeful days of the earlier Freedom Budget are gone. Barring radical changes, poor and working class men and women will be condemned to lives of disappearing hope. Austerity is everywhere the watchword of our economic and political rulers. For us, this means that it is long past time to put forward the kinds of demands that the mainstream political parties are unlikely to embrace, just as neither the Democratic nor the Republican party was inclined in years gone by to accept labor rights or racial justice before the labor movement and civil rights movement were able to mobilize massive and militant activity.
Our conception of the New Freedom Budget is grounded in five fundamental principles.
1. Liberty and justice for all: equal rights, equal opportunities – no exceptions. These are among the highest ideals that are articulated probably by the overwhelming majority of people in our society. The New Freedom Budget must allow for and help to nourish the free development of each and every individual – with no exceptions in relation to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, age, sexual preference, political orientation, physical characteristics, and the like.
2. Deepening democracy – politically, socially, economically. Democracy, rule by the people, must be the keystone of the New Freedom Budget. There is a growing conviction throughout the world that the political, social, and economic institutions of society must not be subordinated to tyrants or privileged minorities. The resources on which all of us are dependent, the resources that make our society possible, should be overseen democratically for the benefit of all. The notion that our country’s economy should develop as an integral part of a democratic commonwealth is sometimes labeled socialism – which is why the authors of this book consider themselves to be socialists. Regardless of such labels, we are convinced that a thoroughgoing democracy must be a defining principle of the New Freedom Budget.
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