Ten Principles of Revolutionary Praxis for the 21st Century

  (excerpted from Chapter 14 of Millennium Dawn)

Glen T. Martin

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 I have attempted to itemize here ten fundamental aspects of an integral revolutionary life.  They are not given in order of importance but together form an integrated whole.  Some persons may emphasize certain ones while other persons focus on others.  Nor are they meant to be exhaustive.  “Praxis” means that theory and practice cannot be entirely disentangled, certainly not when we examine the direct, existential transformation of human consciousness involved in the process of awakening.

The only option is the direct, existential realization that the mystics themselves practice. The same is true of revolutionary compassion.  The motivation to take the side of the poor and the oppressed cannot be activated through any theoretical account of their exploitation. Solidarity with nature and our planetary biosphere is based on decision more than on argument. Many scholars read Marx’s passionate accounts of the degradation of the poor and remain entirely unmoved.  One must discover compassion in one’s life, and then the motivation becomes self-evident.  One realizes that to be a full human being involves such commitment.  But one also needs a more complete philosophical account of what it means to be a full human being.  The aspects of “praxis” articulated here presuppose many of the theoretical discussions in this book, and vice versa.

(1) Promote and develop truly critical thinking.  

Think and live as a revolutionary heir of the philosophers of human liberation.  Expose the hidden premises of class society in every way possible and in every possible forum.  Learn to read the mass media, the manifestations of culture, the symbols of the dominant system, and the pronouncements of government critically, with insight into their ideological cover-up of the system of injustice and death from which they benefit.  Use a “class analysis” and an analysis of the “territorial nation-state” to understand the workings of governments, corporations, the media, and the other dominant institutions of the world.

No thinking is truly critical without being revolutionary.  The title “Critical Thinking” in most courses offered in universities today is deeply misleading.  To be critical, thinking must be able to penetrate beneath the ideological veil of capitalism and the nation-state.  And to be revolutionary, thinking must direct itself to a social reality in which human beings are first, in which dignity, security, freedom, and the satisfaction of basic human needs are the founding principles.

To be revolutionary means that praxis must direct itself toward creating global institutional embodiments of these values, toward making them the founding principles of a living institutional reality, and not merely holding them as “ideals” to be worked for in some distant future.  Critical revolutionary thinking is not only democratic and socialist in orientation but is also necessarily global in scope, freeing humanity from monopoly capitalism and the territorial nation-state.

(2) Delegitimize the system of territorial nation-states and global capitalism in every way possible and on every occasion possible.

 Work to expose the illegitimacy of the institutions claiming to be the only legitimate ones in a world in which there exist no other alternatives.  We must make clear everywhere the inadequacies and injustices of the system of nation-states and of the global capitalism with which it is intertwined. Show the interdependent complicities in this system of domination over education, communications media, culture, charity, business, the arts, and politics.

Expose the many absurdities of the system, while showing the many practical alternatives immediately available to any reasonably sane society (see Holland and Henriot, S.J., 1993).  Make clear that the world has no future under the present system of ecological destruction and exploitation of the poor by the rich.  Promote in every context the clear, universal principles of non-military democratic world government as expressed in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

(3) Commit to solidarity with the poor and the oppressed. 

Engage in organized struggle for liberation from all poverty and oppression.  Commitment to the poor is not an external addition to the fullness of life.  It is integral to a full and fulfilling way of existing, for unity-in-diversity with its concomitant awakening to the ethical dimension that recognizes persons as ends-in-themselves is at the heart of existence.  Some people happen to have been born into these circumstances, with this hunger and malnutrition, with this lack of opportunity for education or health care.  I could just as well have been born there and be experiencing these horrible sufferings and deprivations.

My struggle alongside the poor and oppressed and against the systems that oppress them is an essential part of my being human.  It is inseparable from a life at the heart of the world where the struggle of human beings to emerge from their present state of barbarity cannot be sundered from an authentic process of living.  Always act in solidarity with others around the world who are struggling for a just and prosperous world-order. Actively promote the simple principles of a transformed economic order outlined in countless books and studies, some of which are listed in the Works Cited section below.

(4) Educate for human and planetary liberation.

  Everywhere and in every situation, strive to educate others, with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, about the possibilities and processes and necessity of human and planetary liberation.  Show the interconnections between the political and the spiritual and between humanity and nature. Apply the process of education to yourself as well as to others, since education is truly a life-long process and is never finished.  Emphasize the inseparability of authentic education and truly critical thought.  Think always in terms of the ways, the means, and the possibilities available for human liberation and the creation of a decent future for our children and the precious Earth on which we dwell.

(5) Become a planetary citizen: think both globally and locally, and act both globally and locally.

 Explore the connections; recognize that the only solution to many local problems will be planetary.  Understand that it is not “globalization” in itself that provides an answer (since capitalism has been doing this for centuries) but rather a planetary solution based on a founded society, a global non-military democratic world government.  Distinguish critically between the misleading ideology of “global governance” or “new world order” in which nothing substantial has changed and a founded, planetary society in which human liberation has been substantially institutionalized.  Transfer your primary loyalty to the Earth and its inhabitants.  Become a signatory to the Earth Constitution. Be a citizen of the Earth before all else, for only then can we become truly good citizens of the local communities of which we are a part.

(6) Organize and resist; organize for political and economic effectiveness, and resist through nonviolent direct action.

Use the inseparability of critical theory, compassion, and active nonviolence as the basis for action as well as the theoretical framing of a new social order.  Active nonviolence includes speaking out, editorial writing, voting, organizing, strikes, boycotts, protesting, street theater, revolutionary music, wall murals, disrupting the system, conferences, educating, teach-ins, and refusal to participate (for example, in paying war taxes, military registration, corporate military contracts, corporate exploitation of the third-world poor, and so on).  It includes expressions and actions of solidarity with others in their revolutionary struggles, whether these be environmental defense actions, labor movements, or third-world struggles of liberation. Be very clear that none of the struggles by themselves can lead to a just world order without democratic world government.

(7) Practice meditation and mindfulness.

Meditate: set time radically apart, free from all interruptions, to quiet the mind, and practice mindfulness in daily activities.  The emergent evolutionary history of humanity is precisely the history of transformations of consciousness, often linked with the material conditions of existence.  A person imbued with revolutionary ideology who is not self-aware and lacks sensitivity to others and to the fullness of the present moment is likely to be an incomplete revolutionary.  The process of living itself is inseparable from a perpetual growth of awareness, a growth requiring effort, discipline, and conscious choice.

Meditate as often as possible without sacrificing the time of competing revolutionary activities.  Continue the process of awareness cultivated in meditation into daily activities through mindfulness,  the  practice of self-awareness.  Watching ones reactions, emotions, compulsions, and “inner chatter” without judging them is in itself liberating and helps make us free, rational, awake persons, no longer driven by hidden motivations or obsessions.  Observe the many ways  the dominant systems try to inhibit awareness and promote mindless, knee-jerk reactions in the population.

(8) Cultivate compassionate solidarity; think and live compassionately.

The word “compassion” is used here as a symbol for a spiritual awakening to the inseparable unity-in-diversity of all things that is the source of our revolutionary solidarity with the poor and oppressed.  As such, the realization of compassion is the inseparable compliment of social revolution and a fundamental dimension of revolutionary praxis.  As the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, insists in his writings, compassion does not need to come in a blinding light of something called “enlightenment” for those who follow the Buddhist path (see the Dalai Lama, 1995; 1994; 1985).

Instead, compassion, kindness, and love (three intertwined concepts) can be cultivated in daily actions, by attention to the way we treat others, though mindfulness of our own egoistic and selfish impulses, and through going out of our way to help, consider, and empathize with others.  The realization of compassion is a process just as the other aspects of a revolutionary life are processes. This realization intertwines with our life-long education, meditation, and spiritual growth and becomes ever fuller, possibly in a series of breakthrough experiences.  Ultimately, we must discover compassion that can identify with others we have never seen, simply because they are sensitive beings who are suffering.  When this process begins to happen, we are beginning to discover true revolutionary solidarity and well as the fullness of our own humanity.

 (9) Think and live with an awareness of the silence encompassing our lives: be apart from all the world.

Such awareness is simultaneously to be at the heart of the world, living from the depths of silence in the fullness of the present moment.  But it gives us the non-attachment, the objectivity, and the critical relationship to our own subjectivity that are essential requirements for effective revolutionary praxis. This awareness is also linked to other aspects of praxis: to the meditation, mindfulness, compassion, and ethical awareness discussed at many places in this book.  But it must be emphasized in its own right, for ultimately the process of realizing this silence, available to us as the background to all our experiences, leads to the transcendence of the compulsive and fractured ego so fundamental to capitalism and nationalism.  The silence is transforming, so we become revolutionaries not only in our actions and commitments, but also through being transformed and awakened persons ourselves.

(10) Think and live eschatologically, and cultivate the utopian imagination.

Celebrate daily the new time of human fulfillment being born in the present, or the realization of Buddha nature in all things, or the coming of the kingdom of God, or the coming and ever-present pleroma, or the realization of the messianic age, or the cosmogonic birth of the Omega Point, or the new era of peace and prosperity beginning in the here and now.  The eschatological present-future informs the fullness of the absolute present and points to the wondrous, transformative depths at the heart of reality.

Available to us all as part of the depths of present existence, this awareness is a source of overwhelming joy and ecstasy in living. It is the bubbling up in us of the ultimate promise of the universe whose cosmic processes have led to the emergence of human beings over billions of years, not as the final goal but as the key to further realization of the divine-human project. It is the source of the authentic revolutionary imperative in us precisely because it sees the radical futurity of the absolute now and is no longer seduced into a perpetual postponement of a peaceful, just, and transformed world.  Like the participants in the Jewish seder, we live as pilgrim citizens who celebrate daily our place in the liberated world to come.

While eschatological awareness involves the unsayable aspect of the fullness of the present, its partner, the utopian imagination, is free to use language, symbol, or story to express its vision. The utopian imagination can be freed from the ego and can articulate a future more “realistic” and intelligent than is possible for the egoistic imagination (see Moltmann, 1996; Fox, 1988).  For we have seen that the utopian imagination is not the negative working of idle fantasies (as the forces of the present empire, which strives to freeze history and make itself eternal, would have it).  The utopian imagination freed from the ego is one avenue of access to “reality.” It can point to the possibilities implicit within the eschatological dimension of human existence.  It can articulate the parameters of a practical utopia entirely available to human beings if we are willing to choose it.

Conclusion: These ten principles are, in brief form, the ten primary elements in a revolutionary praxis for the twenty-first century, transforming one’s own life and the institutions of the world simultaneously:  think critically, delegitimize the system, commit to the poor and oppressed, educate, adopt planetary citizenship, organize and resist, practice meditation and mindfulness, cultivate compassion, live from the silence of the absolute present, and live eschatologically.  While one or more may predominate in daily life, I believe all of them are essential to the fullness of life and a truly revolutionary praxis.  They are a result of a further development of revolutionary theory from the time of Marx as well as a fuller understanding of the notion of spirituality since the twentieth century.  In this sense, they are uniquely the features of a twenty-first century revolutionary praxis.

And all of these ten principles of a maturity oriented praxis are essential if we are to participate as vehicles of the divine-human-cosmic processes of emergent evolution taking place on planet Earth. The integral revolutionary awareness described in this book need not be fully present in our lives at every moment.  We are always in the process of growing toward maturity, wisdom, and compassion.  The central issue is our praxis, how we act, what we do to transform our broken and fragmented world-order and ourselves.  The central issue does not require any claims to some “enlightened consciousness.”  People who care deeply about our planet, our children, and our world will be engaged, in one way or another, in all or most of these ten forms of praxis.

The destiny of the Earth and its creatures has been delegated to us. On our present choice hangs the future of the world.  We can accept our true vocation as wayfarers on the immense and sacred journey of cosmogenesis, or we can once again refuse and remain mere tourists outside of the struggle for the fullness of life on this planet, to become ever more complicit in the death of nature and of future generations.  At this daybreak of the twenty-first century, the choice is still ours.  Soon it will be too late, and the choice may be revoked.  Will we descend in the years ahead into ever greater darkness and nightfall?  Or will we now choose, for ourselves and future generations, a glorious millennium dawn?