UER Left Forum 2017

We are living in the best time for the human species when our ancestral project: liberation, can be realized if as a species, we seize the time. The biggest, most powerful, most destructive and most creative empire we have created, is collapsing and across the planet we are mobilizing and organizing in the millions for climate justice, economic justice, peace, authentic democracy. Each of our societies, hunter gatherer, enslavement, feudal, capitalist, socialist...has generated more resource than the last, allowed more of us to live. The current society has generated enough wealth for all of us to live, and yet accumulation has gone haywire and while many of us live on pennies a day a very few of us accumulate uncountable amounts of wealth.
The left has been the sector of our societies explicitly dedicated to advancing our human project of liberation. For the left the ability to think well and flexibly has been key. In moments of crisis in the oppressive systems the left has been able to propose alternatives, construct strategies, coalesce forces. System change has resulted. Again and again we have partly (of completely) reverted to the oppressive patterns we had gotten rid of.
I lived through the Cuban revolution in the 60s and came to the US in the midst of the civil rights and anti war movements. I was active in those; joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party; worked on reproductive rights, against the sterilization abuse that had resulted in one third of Puerto Rican women of child bearing age being sterilized, most often without informed consent, I lived through neo-liberalism, and now through system collapse which includes resorting to fascism by the state, and the emergence of another movement surge around the world,
The Re-evaluation Counseling communities are a child of the left. The founder was a communist and labor organizer. As the movements of the 60s were being repressed (he was a target of the HUAC), he figured out that there was one battle that could be fought and needed to be fought, the battle for the mind. He figured out that listening was key and that when humans are listened to, natural mechanisms of healing unfold...These are things we humans do all the time and that release tensions in our body and mind and heart, caused by hurts...tears, laughter, shaking, sweating...I picture hunters and gatherers returning from chasing and being chased by powerful animals, during which they survived via adrenalin sheer fight or flight mode, to a safe place, and maybe by a fire once they had discovered fire, sitting together, crying, laughing, shaking, talking about the terrifying and exhilarating moments of their hunt, grieving about any casualties, maybe even grieving and crying about the animals they must kill to survive. These forms of what in RC we call discharge, or tension release, happen naturally. Interestingly they are often repressed: children are distracted when they cry, or punished, told they will be given something to cry about. In schools they are punished if they show strong emotions. In the larger society displays of strong emotion land us in the so-called criminal justice or the mental health systems.
The RC theory and practice holds that reclaiming the discharge process is key to healing hurts, and healing hurts is key, because unhealed they tend to make our thinking rigid. We have found consistent discharge contributes to flexible thinking.
The RC communities have just one point of unity: agree to use the discharge process to reclaim intelligence. Over the years we have created a great many liberation policies and do work coalesced around many constituencies: by race, class, gender, age...we do work to undo many oppressions, including adultism, through family work. We have a policy that the counseling relationships are to be kept separate from other possible relationships among us, so that there is no socializing, no doing business together. For many years as individuals we have worked on many aspects of organizing and political work. If we knew each other outside of RC we have worked together on some of these political projects.
About 20 years ago we went "out into the world" as a community, for the first time, to the women's conference in Beijing under the No Limits for Women banner. In recent years we have created United to End Racism to apply these tools of listening, discharge, thinking flexibly, reaching for clear perspective, to contributing to ending racism. We are bringing the tools to climate justice work as Sustaining All Life.
We feel one contribution we can make to the Left is offering these simple, yet powerful tools, primarily built on listening, and creating safe spaces for discharge, for releasing tensions from hurts and healing them...that include as well, reaching for good thinking, for perspective, and building communities of support.
We believe, that as we move forward as a species to seize the opportunities of the present moment to advance our project of human liberation, these tools are key.
(As RCers we have always been "in the world". RC is part of the world. Because we discharge, and have some slack some of the time, we can be yeasty everywhere we are. We are in the world when we tell others about RC, invite them to intros. When we naturalize RC and bring listening and discharge tools into our work as educators, organizers, workers, managers, leaders...We have taken more concerted, collective steps to share these tools in projects like UER, SAL, NLW..Now, in this key period, we are figuring out how to do this more actively, intentionally. In our specific project, we are taking the tool directly to the Left at the largest left gathering in the US.