"Re-establishment of unaccountable, self appointing boards at Pacifica must be avoided"
Dear IPNB members;
Despite the fact that I have significant areas of agreement with its stated intent, I urge you to reject the proposals for a "constituency model" or appointed seat paradigm. They are inadequate to ensure meaningful diversity at Pacifica. Although there are aspects of the model that serve their stated purposes, the overall thrust does not.
Of particular concern is the failure of the proposal's to take into account the intersection of race and class. The mechanical approach the authors take on the question of race and nationality, assumes, rightly, that the social conditions and kind of oppression one faces influences ones' stand on key questions -like the meaning of the Pacifica Mission, but the authors fail to consider that race or nationality alone are inadequate predictors of a given individual's consciousness.
Many of us understand that gender as a single determinant is not a sufficient predictor of a woman's stand on race and class. The feminist movement has been hampered for years - actually since the mid 1800's - by the different interests that are created by the intersection of race, gender and class, and the failure to unite white middle class women and poor working women of color is a well known historical and sociological fact.
Likewise race or nationality is not a sufficient indicator of a given individuals' stand with respect to class and gender, and sometimes even of race itself. We are all aware that figures like Mary Francis Berry played a direct role in destroying diversity in much of the network - KPFK's audience figures put its listenership at 70% white male, for example - and that the first groups purged under the old regime were radical programmers of color - people who represented different _class_ interests within the same oppressed nationality as those who purged them. We also know that the old PNB worked in the service of the "democratic" party, not in the interests of poor working people of color. And we all know that these usurpers of the Pacifica Mission were appointed to their positions one by another.
In a word, ending discrimination on the basis of race alone does not eliminate the system of class privilege, as we can readily witness, for example, in South Africa. The subsystem of racism is an integral aspect of the class system. As long as class privilege remains in place the tendency will be for it to recreate racist subsystems, just as the people of color among the usurpers on the old PNB were bound, by virtue their class interests and loyalties, to purge from Pacifica's airwaves more authentic voices from among the oppressed.
The "constituency model" recapitulates the flaws in the Pacifica system that enabled the usurpers to gain power and institutionalizes them.
It further fails to enhance the role in Pacifica's governance to be played by poor people of color, by failing to create a system or structure that creates _hands on_ participation in governance by those who are normally excluded from power. The model embarks instead on the well worn bourgeois path of selecting or _appointing_ "leaders" from among the oppressed to "represent" them in capitalist institutions. Those who are normally excluded from direct participation in power remain so under that model. The promise of appointed seats to a board whose power is merely advisory and which lacks power over programming is fraudulent.
To deal adequately with the intersection of race, class, gender and governance of Pacifica's programming and engagement with its Mission will require a leap of moral will and imagination.
It will require of us that we create structures that engage the voiceless directly in Pacifica's governance in a process of co-intentional dialog that serves their interests, their conscientization through their _self_ representation.
Simply appointing a "leader," most often a leader from the middle class, to "represent" the oppressed is inadequate. To allow such a proposal to win the day will mean that the door of Pacifica's future will be left open, if not today, then tomorrow, for the resurgence of the Mary Frances Berrys, Marion Barrys and Pat Scotts to come.
There are, by contrast with what we are offered by both constituency and subscriber models, several key principles for governance that should be paid heed to. They include;
1. That governance at Pacifica is governance of programming, and that empowerment at Pacifica for the oppressed means empowerment around programming, or else it is a false empowerment, a co-optation of the interests of the oppressed.
2. That excluded / oppressed groups must be included in the hands on governance of programming policy, as well as in more abstract, less direct, powers, like voting for representatives on station boards and programming councils.
3. That diversity at Pacifica must include the category of class as well as race and gender. That class interests, as determinants of consciousnes, are equal to race and gender, at a minimum, if they are not in fact more potent determinants.
4. That the use of the signal as a tool is key for creating diversity - for outreach, organization and democratic processes. The only way to create authentic diversity is through mass outreach to a mass audience (or "constituency") via the signal and through programming devoted to and produced by oppressed groups. Special broadcasts and town hall meetings devoted to the concerns of oppressed groups - like police brutality - is a particular tool we will need to regain the trust and establish the engagement of oppressed groups in the life of the network and its governance. This enables us to avoid the problems inherent in hand picking constituencies.
5. That the re-establishment of unaccountable, self appointing boards at Pacifica must be avoided. Paradigms that include appointed seats, in any form, are modeled on elitist principles and can only lead, in the final analysis, to the empowerment of new elites and the disempowerment of the oppressed.
6. That the oppressed must have a living voice; that the working poor, people of color and women have a right to speak for themselves on the air and in their own programs in proportion to their numbers in the general population.
7. That direct, proportional self-representation be guaranteed for the poor, people of color and women in Pacifica's power structure and decision making bodies through the establishment of diverse, elected station governing boards and program councils with powers to regulate programming policy.
8. That Pacifica programming policy will place primary and permanent emphasis on fulfilling the actual wording of its Mission statement - that programming focus primarily on cross cultural dialogue with the aim of ending war and racism.
David Moore"... leadership and people, co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling...reality, and coming to know it critically, but in the task of recreating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators. In this way the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not psuedo-participation but committed involvement."
In reply to Mr. Matsimela.
My central thesis is that there are class divisions that create different political and moral interests among different sectors of the oppressed nationalities here in the US. To demonstrate the point, I alluded to figures like Mary Francis Berry, pointing out that in the interests of their allegiance to the ruling class the first programmers they purged from Pacifica were radical prgrammers of color - programmers who represented different class interests within the same community of racially oppressed people. I would like to see Matsimela address this point. Most of what he offers is an ABC's of our oppression in a racist system, not a cogent analysis of my remarks in the concrete.
On one hand Matsimela is right in suggesting that race and class are inextricable: On the other hand they are nonetheless _not_ the same thing. They are a unity of opposites in struggle. Their "inextricability" is a dance of death, not an imaginary landscape in which class oppression has been mitigated by a larger racial unity among members of any oppressed group, certainly not among African Americans and Latinos. If that were the case, if there were no decisive differences based on class among racially oppressed groups, we would be having no discussion - there would be no Mary Francis Berrys, Colin Powells or Condleeza Rices. There would also not be any Utrice Leids.
Unfortunately very few of Matsimela's points have anything to do with the thrust of my analysis, which is not about relations between the white proletariat and the African American and Latin American proletariat, but pertain instead to relations between the proletariat, the middle class and capitalist class _within_ the oppressed nationalities and the relationship _between_ the white middle class and upper class and the same classes among racially oppressed groups.
It is an error to fail to recognize a consonance of interests among the middle and upper classes across race lines, and to assume a consistent consonance of interests between the upper, middle and lower classes within any given nationality.
With respect to South Africa Matsimela makes my point for me, turning my passing reference into a full argument. The argument he makes is, in effect, that Black South Africans from the middle and upper classes _sold out_ the interests of the Black proletariat. THAT is the danger in empowering elements of the middle class from oppressed groups instead of creating a governance scenario in which the oppressed masses _themselves_ are *directly* involved in the governance of the only thing that counts - programming in Pacifica's case. Under the constituency model those who will do the organizing of the poor will be the middle class, and it is they, invariably, who will be chosen to represent the the poor. The _self representation _ of poor people of color can guarantee that their interests will be represented in programming. It is the only thing that can.
However, having both read the Rosenberg model and having interviewed Mimi I have neither seen nor heard anything concrete that suggests any real power for poor people of color in governance at any level beyond the right to vote. There is little here more radical than the voting rights act.
If there are concrete proposals for direct involvement in governance on the part of poor working people of color they are not in the proposal. What I see both in the proposal and in what Matsimela writes is that elected representatives of these groups would hold power. But nothing in the proposal offers direct involvement for the people themselves.
Matsimela misses the point when he asserts that the "community" will "elect" its representatives. That's not the question. The question is who selects or creates the community that does the voting - who stacks the meeting in support of what. The question isn't only the politics of those who are elected, but the politics of those who choose and organize those who elect them. Ask the PRI in Mexico (the former ruling party there) if you don't understand the lesson. They were experts at organizing votes to ensure their own victories for their own ends. It worked for three quarters of a century. Of course that was and is a case of Mexicanos organizing to oppress Mexicanos, and I suppose we're not to admit in front of the white liberals that such things happen.
The argument that elected representatives would come from "the community" is unconvincing. Al Sharpton, Utrice Leid and Mary Francis Berry also come from the community. Former PNB chair and usurper David Acosta comes from my community - from the same barrio where I was born, a few blocks away, in fact. His origins in my community guaranteed nothing about his consciousness. He was a vendido.
There is, in the final analysis, no structure that guarantees support for the Pacifica Mission of ending war and racism. The only thing that can come close to a guarantee of consciousness - and thus the fulfillment of the Mission - is to set up structures that promote an ongoing dialog that directly involves poor people of color in struggle over the direction of the network and its programming.
The only way to safeguard the Mission is for people to become _conscious_ of its meaning through direct participation, including through the use of the signal itself as an organizing tool. If the masses of listeners - especially those who are poor working people of color - do not grasp and embrace the Mission, then it can be absconded with yet again.
If there are no affirmative action quotas based on class as well as race and gender, if station boards are not empowered to control programming policy, if the masses of poor working people of color are not involved in the hands on governance of the network, especially in programming, then any plan to guarantee the presence of people of color is little more than tokenism.
opinion | home