Since my teens, I have been active in social justice struggles in the US and abroad. In the 1950’s and got involved in the Civil Rights, labor, anti-McCarthyite and ban-the-bomb movements, then in the ’60s and ’70s with the anti-Vietnam, student rebellions and black freedom marches, and in the 80s Central America solidarity, anti-nuke and environmental movements. In the ’90s in Russia, I helped found Moscow’s Praxis Research and Education Center for anti-totalitarian socialism (www.praxiscenter.ru). Today I divide my time between Montpellier, France and New York City, where I teach at the Brecht Forum.
I have always felt that “another world is possible,” but after Russian tanks crushed the 1956 Hungarian Revolution of Workers’ Councils, I concluded that the Communist world was not the new society we need and yearn for. This led me to join alternative libertarian/socialist groups – including the Committee for Non-Violent Action, the Young Peoples’ Socialist League, the IWW, Socialisme ou Barbarie, and the Marxist-Humanists. These radical schools provided my political education while pursuing formal studies at Yale, Columbia and the Sorbonne.
I thus had the great luck to hang out with older political activists, including veterans of the defeated Russian and Spanish Revolutions and of the struggle against Nazism: among them first rate theoreticians who were themselves questioning every dogma. With that critical political education, I have never been tempted to turn away from socialist ideas, which alone are capable of explaining the errors of past revolutionary movements and of orienting us towards better solutions based on our positive experiences from the Paris Commune of 1871 to May 1968. I hope that coming generations will rediscover and reinvent these working class and socialist traditions. (Click here to read ‘My Political Education.’)
My writing draws on my experience and the rich political and intellectual heritage of the anti-totalitarian revolutionaries I was privileged to know so as to help understand today’s planetary crisis. Two main ideas (from Victor Serge and Rosa Luxemburg) dominate my outlook: internationalism and tolerance. For me, internationalism is basic: in the only way to defend ourselves against global capitalist barbarism is through the unity of the working and thinking people in all countries. My motto “The world is my country,” is borrowed from the 18th-Century pamphleteer Thomas Paine.
To this end, tolerance is a necessity. Without respect for the individual, freedom of opinion and unbiased information, the masses will be forever mislead by fanatical leaders and controlled or corrupted mass media. Instead of an infallible single Party, I propose critical thinking and the development of an “invisible international” woven of thousands of links where people can discuss and decide everything for themselves.
My message: ‘If there remains a single chance for humans to survive capitalism’s economic and ecological crisis, it would entail the emerging planetary movements and world-wide general strikes aimed at replacing the competitive profit system with a green cooperative commonwealth through a planetary network of producers. Today, the Internet makes this old Internationalist dream of an actual possibility.’ I elaborate this vision in ‘The Invisible International.’