Ron English: A Manifesto – Worksheet #4
ARTISTS’ WORKSHEET #4
7 March 1965
By Ron English
The real revolution that is forthcoming will be a bloodless one – or if blood is spilled it will be that of revolutionaries only. It will be a slow deliberate transformation of cities into places where people can live. It will be the triumph & end of American democracy. The millennium it ushers in will not be a millennium; it is likelier to last perhaps twenty years at most. That twenty years will be a golden age: an age in which each man will be able to pursue his own glory & doom in surroundings of human proportion. That is, men & women afflicted by the revolution: the city-dwellers. Neighborhoods will develop. Theaters will open, games will be played, and WORK will be done. Independent economies will arise – Negro banks at first, then integrated. The mass economy will continue to exist, creating needs for junk to be consumed by members of bourgeois communities – which will be no longer bourgeois, but suburban, outlying. When it exists in the city, it will be in islands of commerce. The bourgeois community will support both its own consumption cycle & the revolutionary economy – it will connect the city with the national bourgeois money-goods cycle, in that the bourgeois will patronize the goods & services of the revolutionary community, enabling it to procure, with national money, goods it cannot produce.
Revolutionary communities & economies will come about this way: bourgeois governments & their tax-systems are now engaged in destroying the physical rot of cities & establishing (positive) humanizing places: auditoria, parks & (negative) fast-rotting rabbit warrens. Armies of students & artists are invading slum neighborhoods (as they have since at least the 19th century in all Europe, & the first of the 20th in many American cities). The revolutionary prospect is that these people, along with person-to-person “social workers” now appearing will arrest the process of displacement of the ignorant & poor (& the depraved & hopeless) that now takes place. The bourgeois governments (local & federal) are, in fear, now embarking on their own programs to bring some of the bourgeois knowledge & practice which has survival value – e.g., hygiene, literacy, plus the more immediate: FOOD, ability to earn & function within the bourgeois economy – into the cities. Negro revolutionaries are supporting more & more independence of the urban (Negro) community – especially economic.
PROSPECT: IF – a separatist economy (co-op, food stores, banks, local industries) can be in part established, &
IF – natives and outsiders can raise literacy (through independent schools in the houses, or through introduction to new text & programs & TEACHERS in the schools – texts and programs related to the real context of the kids: REAL STORIES) & create the amenities of high culture in the slums via the “settlement house,” &
IF – they can introduce birth control & sanitation, &
IF – the bourgeois governments can be persuaded to aid community redevelopment, instead of community destruction – i.e., REFURBISH solid old houses before erecting new rat-traps, which can only happen
IF – the landlords’ hold can be broken by law, RENTS REDUCED & partitions knocked down, & the craft unions can be held at bay or enlisted in the cause (e.g., carpenters, electricians), & if the people can be persuaded to join in & work; &
IF – non-profit local manufactures can be started, with whatever capital is available, and
IF – everybody can somehow get enough to EAT, and Wear;
THEN – the revolutionary society may come about. It depends on educated & humane people moving in & helping out, as well as immediate assistance from the governmental arm of the bourgeois economy. Its first hope is to work in areas like those which surround Wayne State University, the U. of Chicago, the lower east side; & incorporation will be one of its main tools.
Should the revolution succeed, it will usher in a golden age of arts and letters (golden for those who create and who will have created ready audiences). It will probably be short-lived, & will perish for one or more of several reasons:
(1) It will disrupt bourgeois economy & thereby will (a) be crushed (economically or legislatively), or (b) falter with a faltering nation.
(2) Slide slowly, of its own weight and prosperity, back into bourgeois economy and bourgeois values (consumption and production as ends, economic force as sole value criterion).
(3) Perish along with the rest of society in some unanticipated calamity – war, famine.
What will be revolutionary about the community is that it will be to some extent cooperative & communal. It will be radically reactionary: in some cases a return to city-state democracy without slaves, more a return to ghetto or village economy: a cooperative corporation – goods produced limited to craftsmanship – sold outside the community (i.e. to outsiders) at “reasonable” – competitive – prices; inside, for less. As a cooperative, the neighborhood city-corporation sells to members only on a non-profit basis. Similarly, entertainments and arts are free to resident members, at a price (bought memberships and admissions) to outsiders.
Food, clothing and shelter; available cheap – food through co-op stores, also clothing, shelter available for the cost of maintenance, and outside utilities, ideally, if the city-corporation could own the buildings. Again, the important thing is for every family and each person to be able to have enough economic power to exist comfortably within the community – and this depends finally on creating some separate local industry to export and take in money. Also – it must be based on WHO LIVES THERE, not on who will buy from outside.
It would attempt to run an economy with national currency, but on a reduced scale within itself. Members are those who work for its contacts with the outside & who perform services within it: the craftsmen & workers of the industry; the entertainers & artists; the teachers, maintenance men, carpenters, painters, store managers, clerks &c. People who live there & work outside, may join by performing some service. What this leaves out: the winos, the pimps.
The whole thing would flounder if “consumer values” got out of hand – as they no doubt someday would, whether thru outside advertising pressure, or the lure of suburban luxury. Hopefully, for a time anyway, residents would be satisfied with the entertainments offered by the community, & with modest (in bourgeois terms) comforts: living space, no rats or bugs, fresh paint, whole furniture, enough to eat, work to do, i.e., HUMAN LIVING CONDITIONS.
WIDER POSSIBILITY: Farms – make deals with farmers direct for goods, even operate farms?? A farm?? Not at first, but after the revolution is underway & functioning.
The universities, now part of the bourgeois economy – important economic constructs, corporations, industries, depend on universities for manpower & production knowledge & distribution techniques. Bourgeois economic government distributes communal dough to them for this purpose, also to provide jobs & to train its own minions. FUTURE: University graduates (some few) funnel off into revolutionary communities; perhaps revolutionary community colleges can quietly be established by universities on revolutionary terms? Faculty become community members, school tuition fee to resident members, books thru a co-op shop, &c.
The possibilities are amazing; all we (as individuals) have to do is organize enough de-brainwashed people & start DOING IT…
– Ron English, Worksheet #4, 1965
Tags: Ron English