||CHAPTER 8: WORLD-HISTORIC CONSCIOUSNESS VS. SECTARIANISM||Page 22|
World-historic consciousness, the highest step of consciousness, is not the quality of an individual acting alone, but of a leader working in affiliation. It is the kind of leadership that enables action and affiliation for peace and justice to develop in an effective and progressive rather than a narrow and sectarian direction. It's the ability of a leader to know the mood of the people, to analyze the strengths and directions of all political forces, and to organize and broaden the political character of the movement so that it is in step with the agenda of history, which, in the present time, means the abolition of war.
First of all, a leader must know the mood of the people. This can come only from long and direct experience working among them. The leadership of Eugene Victor Debs came from such experience:
I had fired an engine and been stung by the exposure and hardship of the rail. I was with the boys in their weary watches, at the broken engine's side and often helped to bear their bruised and bleeding bodies back to wife and child again. How could I but feel the burden of their wrongs? How could the seed of agitation fail to take deep root in my heart?
Her years of service among the people enabled Jane Addams to play a leading role in the peace movement:
....in every social grade and class in the whole circle of genuine occupations there are mature men and women of moral purpose and specialized knowledge, who because they have become efficient unto life, may contribute an enrichment to the pattern of human culture....he who would incorporate these experiences into the common heritage must....be equipped with a wide and familiar acquaintance with the human spirit and its productions.
Second, a leader must understand the strengths and directions of all political forces in a systemic, not a superficial way. Such understanding must be "radical" - it must go to the roots of things - their economic and social causes. It must not be content with talk of superficial change, but must recognize that peace requires fundamental economic and political changes in society. In the words of Emily Balch:
When war came in 1914 I felt this at first mainly as a senseless interruption of social-economic progress. I felt that war must be got rid of so that the threat of war might not interrupt and distort the course of this progress. Only gradually I came to understand at least partly how deeply war is intertwined with our whole economic and social system, our scale of values, our ideas of what is right and of supreme importance. I see no chance of social progress apart from fundamental changes on both the economic and the political side, replacing national anarchy by organized cooperation of all peoples to further their common interest, and replacing economic anarchy, based on the search for personal profit, by a great development of the cooperative spirit.
In retrospect, Eugene Debs realized that such a radical perspective was missing in his ill-fated leadership of the American Railway Union.
My supreme conviction was that if the railroad men were only organized in every branch of the service and all acted together in concert they could redress their wrongs and regulate the conditions of their employment ....I had yet to learn the workings of the capitalist system, the resources of its masters and the weakness of its slaves....It all seems very strange to me now, taking a backward look, that my vision was so focalized on a single objective point that I utterly failed to see what now appears as clear as the noonday sun.....
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