Revolution #204, June 20, 2010
Stop the Oil Catastrophe!
The People Must Act
The following is an edited transcript from the Q&A session at a talk by Raymond Lotta on June 8, 2010 at Revolution Books in NYC. The title of the talk: "A Capitalist Oil Spill...A System Not Fit to Be Caretaker of the Planet...And the Revolution We Need!" Go to revolutionbooksnyc.org for audio and video of the whole talk.
Question: I was wondering if you could give us an idea specifically about what's planned and what's involved in implementing this call for action to go down to the Gulf—with this encampment and any other action that can be taken and what we can do about it. Because for reasons that you have very skillfully illuminated, this is a unique moment. And it seems to me there are two aspects to this. One, as I see it, mass mobilization of people and resources for a clean-up and mitigation effort, which you mentioned, that we're in the summer season, there's lots of young people, students, people who might be available to do that and also mobilizing and organizing in the local community down there, especially fisher people, for hands-on, really mass mobilization of labor and resources.
At the same time and I think equally important, you've also talked about a concurrent consciousness raising exercise. People are already, you indicated, lining up to do this, and this is where we would focus here, come in, to seize on this really unique moment. This comes at a time, you just mentioned, where people are already extremely agitated and concerned about the future. We have this 24-7 spill cam that's everywhere you go as you walk around the city. It sort of reminds me of the film 1984, or Matrix or Blade Runner where you have this one image that is in every shop and it's these spill cams spewing out this horrible oil. I read just before I came here—you mentioned 40 million gallons—I read that scientists now think it's closer to 100 million. So everybody is seeing this 24-7, this camera shot. This comes almost counter to the fact that people have been disengaged for the last 8 years—everybody got fed up, lost interest let's say, in the perpetual wars that are going on. But this has kind of reactivated a consciousness, a mass consciousness.
And thirdly it comes at a time, you've also spoken to, of intense disillusionment with the government, and with the system and with the capitalist system in particular. Those of us of a certain age remember the Vietnam era of teach-ins and be-ins, and we were doing all this stuff and it did over time have an effect. It forced one president out of office, in the long term it really did work. So I'm wondering what specific plans there are and how we can find out about it and what we can do to be a part of it to act on the plans for this, to implement the call that you spoke of.
Raymond Lotta: First of all, people should sign up and get in touch, if they want to go down or help with this effort in any way. The e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is something people need to get involved with. And I agree with the points you were making about this moment. As I said, we don't know where this could go. This could be a triggering element of a deeper crisis in society. We have to influence the course and development of events and we have to enter into this situation in the ways that I was describing. And also, this is one of these moments where you can reach out and learn.
There's a dynamic here of reaching out widely and broadly to all kinds of people—these fisher people, learning from them and at the same time, helping, as you said, using your phrase, to raise consciousness. And there is a particular battle line that has been drawn, we have to stop the catastrophe. This is an environmental, wildlife and human catastrophe, those three things. And we have to deal with it on those levels. We have ideas, we have focus, we have determination, we have plans, right? But we need to ratchet this all up to another level of actuality, and that's why we're calling on everyone to get involved. We need to brainstorm, but we need to do that much more fervently in the context of taking on this challenge.
Also, we feel it is very important to put forward demands that serve to illuminate, that focus up people's concerns and their aspirations—demands that really put the focus where it needs to be put, demands that can help unite people, and that speak to what's before us.... We've been discussing this with environmental activists, with scientists, with others in taking out the special issue of Revolution on the environment. [Since this talk an emergency committee has formed and issued demands. See call on page 3.]
There's this whole idea about how it's BP, it's private. Just think about it, private property, private profit, that affects all of humanity, that's an "externality" for BP—all of humanity. And yet it's private property and private control when it comes to dealing with a crisis that's affecting all of humanity. In other words, BP is insisting that they are going to control this. And the government is saying they will.
We have to go at this whole thing from that spirit of "all hands on deck," mobilize all positive factors—scientists, engineers, the fisher people, to go at this thing and raise the demand that they be provided with the resources to do it and that people be allowed to take initiative.
We have to reach out to others who are already fighting this thing and finding how to magnify that and learn from it.
Here's a situation where you have scientific knowledge but then you have the knowledge of the people on the ground who know the waters, not necessarily in terms of the laws that express hydrodynamics and marine biology, but who know something about how to deal with a crisis like this. How do we bring together the scientific knowledge with the more practical knowledge that people have?
In building this kind of struggle and raising this vision, this is actually sort of a seed of the kind of society that we want to bring into being. We see this emergency summit not as a summit of "the experts." We've talked about it as a "three-in-one combination," of the scientists and the engineers, the activists and the youth, and then the working people in the area, the working people, the artists, the professionals. This is how we need to run society.
I mean, we don't have a state power that's organized around the principles of socialist sustainable development that I've talked about. But we can bring people together in meaningful ways to take on this critical question and through this for people to gain a sense of the nature of the system, a deeper grasp of what is wrong with this system, and why we have to get rid of it, and why we can in fact replace it with something that enables people to live, as I said, lives worthy of human beings. That we have the vision, we have the plan. We're going to be talking to people about our strategy for revolution in the course of this. But in building this struggle, we're building it according to the principles of the world we want to live in.
Think about that. The revolution is REAL. And we have to take up this real battle.
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