The editorial assault on Vladimir Teichberg illustrates a disappointing intolerance among some fellow alums (five attacks, all graduates from the 1970s). Ad hominem attacks are so self-satisfying, but none of the authors seriously address the issues Teichberg raises. It shows an embarrassing ignorance to insinuate that Teichberg’s idea of local “people-driven assemblies” and “consensus based on equality” somehow has direct parallels to the bureaucratic monstrosity of the Soviet Union. The Soviets built a hierarchical nightmare (something Marx himself would have been the first to protest!). I urge the five writers to re-read Teichberg’s words: “This is a revolution against hierarchy.” Perhaps one of them can explain to me the intimate connections between local town hall meetings based on direct democracy in Vermont and Soviet bureaucracy.
These letters reveal something deeper in the American psyche: the survival of a “Cold War” mentality. The threat of the Cold War forged a worldview of perceived polar opposites (socialism vs. capitalism, democracy vs. dictatorship). In a polarized worldview, it is easy to label things “socialist,” generating much unenlightened conversation on important issues like Obama’s health-care act, reforming taxation, the “nanny state,” and “entitlements,” of which one letter-writer complains.
Teichberg’s ideas concern controlling power inherent in hierarchy, something that exists in capitalism and socialism, democracy and dictatorship. The letter writers miss in Teichberg a powerful social trend, leading our society in unexpected directions — decentralization. Examples are everywhere: the decentralizing of knowledge and communication in the Internet (a tool Teichberg himself utilizes), consumption at local farmers’ markets (if not growing food in a garden), banking at local credit unions, and yes, local, direct democracy. Anyone who uses these modalities in their daily life is having an influence on hierarchy and centralization.