Learning from the Movement for a New Society: An Interview with George Lakey
Revolution by the Book
In 1971 a group of Philadelphia-based activists formed the Movement for a New Society, a network of collectives dedicated to radical pacifist, feminist, and libertarian socialist politics. Over the next 18 years the organization grew to a peak of approximately 300 members in more than a dozen U.S. cities and made important contributions to anti-nuclear, radical ecology, and gender and sexual liberation struggles. The Movement for a New Society (MNS) sought to combine organizing campaigns that utilized direct action tactics with a commitment by its members to “live the revolution now” by transforming themselves and their social relationships, as well as by living collectively and establishing alternative institutions such as food co-ops. Many movement norms and forms of activism that contemporary anti-authoritarians often take for granted—the consensus process, the use of spokescouncils, internal anti-oppression work, and a focus on prefiguring in daily life the world one hopes to win—were either pioneered or heavily promoted by MNS. In 1988 the group dissolved due to the inhospitable political climate and to conflicts and challenges that arose out of MNS’ own innovative group process and strategy. (Read an historical account of Movement for a New Society here.)
Though its experiences are directly relevant to challenges facing radical organizers today, MNS remains relatively unknown. In the summer of 2008 Andy Cornell and Andrew Willis-Garcés interviewed founding member George Lakey as part of an effort to begin evaluating the MNS experience and drawing out lessons for contemporary social justice struggles.
To Read the Interview