S.O.M.B.A. (Some of My Basic Assumptions), 1971-73

1. Basic Assumption
All people are different, but everyone is of equal worth.

2. Class. Needs.
Marxism is about destroying class differences, not differ-
ences between individuals.
"From everyone according to his ability, to everyone
according to his needs."

3. "Human Nature"
Are people intrinsically evil (aggressive, etc.)? Or are they
basically good?
People are conditioned by society. "There are no evil
people, only evil governments." (Ho Chi Minh)

4. Two Economies
(A) Capitalism, Lopsided development: development for
the strongest, for "the best", (Up: wealth and power for
the elite, consumer goods; technology; elite education.
Down: employment and job control; health pensions,
schools, housing, etc.).
Basis: profit, People are a factor of production, a means
to an end: capital output.
(B) China. Development for all (even for the weakest).
Basis: cooperation, Production is a means, people are an
end (even if efficiency is lowered).

5. The Brain, The Family
"After humans were born, their brain almost trebled in size.
Thus childhood had to be lengthened...This brain, divest-
ed of its precise instinctive responses, would learn how to
utilize what it received from others." (L. Eiseley)

"Pressured to survive, unsure of their instinctual responses,
humans develop neurosis: a mechanism for adjusting to
Neurosis is transferred through generations and is institu-
tionalized. The neurotic-repressive-patriarchal family: a
model for society," (Wilhelm Reich)

6. Capitalism
What is wrong with capitalism? It benefits the few and
exploits the many.
It promotes greed. The stock market: playing Monopoly
with the fruits of people's labor.
It promotes aggressiveness. (In English, "aggressive" is fre-
quently used in a positive sense), USA: world record of
homicides - 6.8 per 100,00 persons). (No. 2: Finland - 3.4
per 100,000). USA: 190 million privately owned guns - an
average of 1.5 per household.
USA: the slaughter of a small country (Vietnam).
The basic paradox: since people are conditioned by soci-
ety, society should be good, or should be changed. But
people are already shaped by no-good societies.
"Thus the existing society is reproduced not only in the
minds of men, but also in their senses, and no persuasion
can break this petrified sensibility," (Marcuse)

7. Gradualism
Recommended by American Social Democrats. Imple-
mented by Labor governments in Western Europe.
The program: by reforms, undermine and ultimately break
The reality: strengthen the Social Democrats and union
bureaucracy, while co-administering the nation with the
capitalist powers. The result is to legitimize and to strength-
en capitalism.
In addition, the myth "we have contained capitalism".
People are pacified with certain reforms and with con-
sumer goods. Payed for with high taxes and prices.
Sweden, After forty years of Labor rule. 6 per cent of busi-
ness nationalized, 5 per cent owned by the cooperative

8. The Knot of Imperialism: Expansion and Racism
The capitalist firm, based on the profit motive, tends to
produce more than can be consumed.
The expansion spiral: more profit buys more machines
that produce more goods. So the corporations "must
strive to acquire new markets in both the product and
the geographical senses. One leads to conglomeration,
the other to multinationalism." (P. Sweezy)
Racism: (white) Americans are the Master Race.
"Without air supremacy, we would be an easy prey for
any yellow dwarf with a pocket-knife." (Lyndon Johnson)
"A Mongoloid Trotskyite" (Time Magazine on Ho Chi Minh)
On the battlefield, the "Viet Cong" are seen as "fanatics".
"VC" is a pun on WC, promoted by the US psychological
"The struggle against imperialism is partly a struggle to see
the Vietnamese as human beings." (Tom Hayden)

9. Three Dictatorships
USA: dictatorship of profit. USSR: dictatorship of the Party.
China: dictatorship of Party and people. On the nationa
l level: complete top-down control. (1970 Cambodia inva-
sion: a million demonstrators in Peking. 1972 mining of
Haiphong: not one demonstrator, Nixon's visit to China:
no discussion of this among the people). On the local
level, extensive participation, especially since the Cultural
In the ideal People's Republic of the future:
1. decentralize most power functions
2. rotate all key positions
3. create channels for participation (videophone
debates? -- homes and jobs hooked into computers for
national, regional and local referenda?)

10. Martians
We are like Martians on this planet, (The industrial nations
in Europe, America, USSR, Japan, etc.)
Alienated: from our body - our mind - our work- society
- elite or garbage culture - nature - the world.
A colossal waste of the energy of people's lives.

11. The Revolt of the Sixties
Palestinians, N. Ireland, Uruguay, Bangladesh and
W. Bengal, Indochina, etc.
USA, The National Guard was called out-1920-30: 78 times;
1940-50: 22; 1967: 25; 1968: 104.
France. Paris, May 1968, workers and students unite.
Factories occupied. But the Stalinist CP and union stall
until it is too late.
"The new sensibility has been the great force in the first
powerful rebellion / Paris, May 68 / for a qualitatively dif-
ferent way of life." (Marcuse)
During crisis, radical consciousness grows naturally.
Thought and action go hand in hand, Personal and social
liberation. National (or racial) struggle and class struggle.

12. Three If's
The Left in "peace"-time: confusion, infighting, and end-
less splits.
The radical groups in USA might become a force.
IF they unite for larger actions (strikes, demonstrations).
And in the future: if they form a coalition Third Party, and
put out a widespread daily newspaper of the Left.
IF they find where their communities are, and how to con-
nect of them. (Women, minorities, interest groups, neigh-
borhood activity).
IF the individuals are able to know themselves. They study
theories of revolution, but in their life they occasionally act
according to patriarchal petty bourgeois values and are
unable to attract new people into the movement.

13. Three Risks. The Women's Movement
Involution: personal liberation, meditation, therapy, etc. as
an end in itself, i.e. to be contented in a sick society.
Separatism: for instance, Black nationalism, Black political
power, African life-style, etc, as an end.
Fashion; Two weeks after Nixon's visit to China, "Mao-
suits" in New York's Upper East Side stores. Ten months
later, Mao-prints by Andy Warhol.
Could a radical women's movement tip the scale in the USA?
Maybe, since the women's movement (along with labor)
is the only potential mass movement in the USA. Also the
women's will to change grows out of their entire life situa-
tion: an evolving, self-made new consciousness.
It could lead to "a weakening of the primary aggressive-
ness which, by biological and social factors, has gov-
erned the patriarchall culture..In Delacroix's painting, it is
a woman that leads the people on the barricades.
She carries a rifle, for the end of violence has still to be fought
for." (Marcuse)

14. Future Society
No existing socialist nation is a truly integrated People's
Republic, But there are some good micro-societies: col-
lectives in China and in the West, liberated areas in Indo-
china, Africa, etc.
Six points for a future society (based on an article by
P. Sweezy, Monthly Review, 1972:2).
EQUALITY, not only in a material sense, but in access to
education and power. Workers must participate in man-
agement, managers in manual work.
FREEDOM of discussion and criticism, And of creative ex-
pression. Not by creating a state-financed elite of fantasy
parasites - but by artists participating in society, on all lev-
els ("pure" and applied art, social projects, manual work).
COMBINE agricultural and industrial development, and
DECENTRALIZE: break up urban agglomeration.
WORK: must become not only a means - for production,
for income etc.- but be dealt with as "life's most impor-
tant creative activity,"- (And in Utopia: everyone a life-
BALANCE. "Needs like food, shelter, leisure, etc"must be
brought into balance with each other, and with society's
resources and the environment. The absurd and disastrous
bourgeois notion of insatiable wants must be repudiated."
SYSTEM OF DISTRIBUTION. Eliminate the present system
of distribution: services and goods acquired through earning
and spending of money. Free services and goods (accord-
ing to need). An end to all relations between value and

15. A New Sensibility
"The new rebellion is both moral and aesthetic, rather
than a clear-cut class struggle." (Marcuse)
Vietnam. According to Kim Chi, a Vietnamese woman
teacher, the NLF soldier should combine an "imposing
appearance" with a "romantic quality...He shows his
'romantic quality' when he installs a wire on the trees in
such a manner that birds can perch on it and sing on it."
NLF-bulletin: "Soldier, spring in Vietnam is ineffably beauti-
ful. Apricot blossoms cheer your feats, and swallows soar,
waiting for good tidings. Fire your rifles instead of fireworks.
Wave your flags in lieu of flowers and ornament Vietnam's
spring with everlasting beauty!"
USA and Western Europe. The three major trends.
1. Dada. Zen, John Cage. The sixties: new art, poetry,
music, dance, events, mixed media. The Living Theatre.
Counterculture, new life-style, communalism, new drugs.
2. Ways to self-realization. Mysticism, meditation. New
Psychology. Reich, Lowen, Janov, Schultz, Perls, Laing.
3. New consciousness: women, minorities.
USSR: the political (material) revolution that never grew
into a psychological revolution.
USA, Maybe, in the future, USA will generate some kind of
psychological revolution. But will it ever become political?
The dilemma: can you be happy (individual happiness =
the deep and total being in the Now) and still feel
enough outrage to rebel?

16. To Rebel
The rebel/radical
- is not a "fanatic" (brave enemies of USA are at best
- is not moved by the intellectual appeal of an ideology
- is not a pragmatist, looking for success stories (Social
Democrats like Harrington, etc.: US is capitalist, China is
totalitarian, everything so bad, so sad...)
Being radical is about moral commitment. A sense of out-
rage, once your eyes have been opened. And, ideally, it
should permeate every aspect of your life.
Question no.1 for the future: Will "the worms"erode the ex-
isting capitalist or socialist- bureaucratic power structures?
China: local self-management. USSR: underground dissent.
USA and Western Europe: movements of women, minor-
ities, anti-Vietnam war, rank and file, Third World: liberation

17. My Work
"The bourgeois artist paints the hulk of a sinking ship."
(B. Brecht)
Question: isn't it "radical chic" to try to sell paintings criticiz-
ing capitalism to rich people and institutions in USA?
1. As long as you live in a capitalist system you are a part
of it, whether you make art or drive cabs.
2. Supposing I were to sell a work to Mr. X, he would have
to pay my price, thus enabling me to go on with my work.
Supposing I had to drive one of X's cabs, I would have to
take what he offered me, and I would be unable to do
(P.S. Remember, your artworks are purchased with stolen
money - surplus taken from workers.)
3. Only via art gallery shows do you reach out to museums,
print editions, books, etc.
Ideally, I would like to make enough money to subsidize
mass multiples of my works, priced like LP's and books.
Ultimately, a self-supporting alternative distribution system.
4. For me, it has been important to demonstrate in my
works that "heavy" art (not cartoons, etc.) can be critical
and socially concerned. Of course, most heavy art is not a
tool for political change.
But artists can be (could be). Organize. Publish. Speak.
Demonstrate, Strike. Work in community.

Öyvind Fahlström
New York

"S.O.B.M.A. (Some of My Basic Assumptions)."
In Fahlström. Milan: Multhipla Edizioni, 1976.