|| CHAPTER 2: LESSONS FROM GREAT PEACE ACTIVISTS:
Six Steps of Consciousness Development
Both Eugene Victor Debs and A.J. Muste came out of the labor movement. Debs was the principal organizer of the great national railroad strike of 1894 and only later became a socialist, a Presidential candidate, and an anti-war activist. A.J. Muste, having resigned his pulpit over pacifist opposition to World War I, was thrust by chance into the leadership of a bitter textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where his consciousness rapidly developed. Later he played a major role in the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War movement.
More recently Helen Caldicott and Sandy Pollack played leadership roles in the great anti-war movement of the 1980's. Caldicott first became active against the environmental effects of nuclear testing, and later worked with Australian trade unionists and American physicians against nuclear war. And Sandy Pollack, in addition to her work against the Vietnam War and the escalation of the Cold War in the 1980's, began her political work as a leader of an SDS housing committee in Boston which organized a tenants' council, rent strikes, and housing demonstrations. Later she became a leader of solidarity work with the revolutionary movements of Latin America.
Consciousness development is something that we all know about from our own experience, whether or not we are peace activists. To some extent, we all develop through similar steps, starting with the basic values and purpose that we learn from our family and friends and school. We become active, changing the world around us, and we affiliate with various organized groups, and develop a unique, integrated pattern of social relationships that we call personality and that is unlike that of anyone else. In this way, we become conscious of our self in relation to the rest of the world and to human history.
The steps of this development may take place over a long period of time, as long as a lifetime, or sometimes they may occur very rapidly. Like the steps in a staircase - and unlike the stepping stones across a stream - each new step builds upon the preceding steps and interacts with them in a cumulative way. No development is lost, but each new step strengthens and transforms the steps that have gone before into a new and higher level of functioning.
In the autobiographies of the great peace activists, we find a pattern of consciousness development that can be described as six cumulative steps. They are: 1) acquisition of values and purpose; 2) anger; 3) action; 4) affiliation; 5) personal integration; and 6) world-historic consciousness. The steps tend to be taken in the order mentioned, although we should not forget that they are cumulative so that each step continues to operate in combination with later steps at a higher level of functioning (footnote 4). We will find it useful to consider each step in terms of its opposite, i.e., the difficulties that can hinder development at that step: 1) alienation; 2) fear and pessimism; 3) armchair theorizing; 4) individualism and anarchism; 5) burnout; and 6) sectarianism.
(end of Chapter 2)