Who could have dreamed we'd be this successful? Occupy Wall Street has spread across the country, around the world. People have taken back the public squares of their own towns and cities. The voice of the 99% is finally being heard against the blare of corporate media. Attempts to vilify, marginalize, and caricature have been turned aside by the bond of recognition -- we are all in this together.
But the history of successful social movements says, we need to be ready to move on. Keep the story fresh, keep bringing more people into the movement, don't get too invested in defense -- stay on offense. So how do we build on what we've already built?
Just in the last few days, there have been hints about what's next: the general strike in Oakland, Cornell West putting Goldman Sachs on trial before a People's Court, Marvinborg's brilliant one-man protest for Move Your Money day. Discussion below the fold for what a mass movement should do to become even more massive, plus some lessons from our old favorite, Saul Alinsky.
I'm a worrier, and a planner. I admit that up front. I worry that the tent cities are going to shrivel and fade, as the weather gets colder, as the police get nastier, and as the corporate media gets bored (which takes about...oh, the length of one of their 30-second commercials). Besides, people like getting swept up in something compelling, something that's going somewhere. We're Americans, we want something new all the time. So part of a social movement's job is to keep it fresh.
Part of the job is also to keep the attention focused on what matters. All the stories about police trying to tear down tents focuses the attention on the tactic of occupying, instead of the needs of the 99%, or the message of taking back our country. What can we do to keep people thinking about jobs vs. obscene profit, about investing in our future vs. mindless "austerity" plans, on the power of the people vs. the power of the banks?
I really loved Marvinblog's story yesterday about hitting banks where it hurts -- telling the truth about what they've done, and taking away their source of profits: us! Handing out those flyers is such an easy tactic to emulate in every neighborhood or small town that has a branch of one of the big banks; and easy for the lazy media to cover; and gets people thinking about the right issues, without a lot distractions about whether the tactic might somehow be illegal / violent / unAmerican or all the other labels they try to throw at anyone who raises their voice. We're planning to print out some copies and walk the sidewalks in front of our neighborhood banks this afternoon.
So that got my thinking...and got me pulling down my Grandmother's copy of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. (Okay, I admit, I got her that copy before she died -- she'd been a communist in the 1930's, and stayed an anti-establishment rabbler-rouser her whole life, so she loved it.)
Here are some excerpts from Alinsky on tactics -- they seem to me like they were written this week, not 40 years ago:
- Tactics is the art of how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves
- Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
- Wherever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
- Ridicule is man's [sic -- okay, it really was written 40 years ago] most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.
- A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.
- A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. [People] can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which one's reaction becomes, 'Well, my heard bleeds for those people and I'm all for the boycott, but after all there are other important things in life" -- and there it goes.
- Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions.
- The real action is in the enemy's reaction.
- The enemy properly goaded and guided in [their] reaction will be your major strength.
- Tactics, like organization, like life, require that you move with the action.
Okay folks, floors open. What's next? What will grab people's attention, keep the focus where we want it, make the 1% furious and make them look ridiculous at the same time, and let people -- hopefully millions of people -- have a ball while doing it?