What would a transformational movement look like?

Transformational movements are rare in history.

What Alexander the Great did was transformational (spread of Hellenic culture). The phenomenon of the Roman Empire was transformational. So was the Christian movement, the Islamic movement, the Protestant movement, the movement toward science and secularism of the Enlightenment.

There was a movement for labor power during the 1930s. It was dynamic and society-altering. For those involved it was exciting to feel part of something significant. It resulted in widespread industrial unionism. By the 1950s more than a third of the workforce was represented and industrial unionism was a real force. It could have become transformational, but it did not.

There was a movement for change during 1960s. It was less well defined than the movement of the Thirties. There were some new ideas. They were inchoate. Nonetheless, it was exciting to feel part of something significant happening. We thought it could become transformational, but it did not.

There’s something of a movement now (inspired by Bernie Sanders) to elect social change progressives to local, state, and national offices. It’s having some success, but it’s not yet a widely significant movement and its aspirations are not deeply transformational.

What’s badly needed at this point in history is a broad-based eco-communitarian movement for the greening of society. Here’s how it could manifest:

Some movement participants would establish ecovillage communities and ecovillage urban neighborhoods that would have a social change orientation and put themselves forward as modeling “best practices” re: social and ecological sustainability. Other movement participants would form cooperatives to locally provide goods and services. The communities and the cooperatives would become the basis for an alternative economy, alternative local culture, and alternative lifeways in general. Movement participants would run for city council on a “Transition Towns” type of program. It would be exciting to see one town after another become a locus of “greening” transformation. At higher levels, movement participants would run for state and national offices on an eco-socialist program.

Such a movement could transform society. It would take generations to develop and then to succeed. But the ideological basis for it already exists. See:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFJdr8fwJUA

https://transitionnetwork.org/

https://eco-socialism.org/

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).