Action and Avalanche

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

NightprowlKitty asked:

… then give us some small tactics.  You’d find a lot of folks would join in, well at least I would.  I am not experienced at this.  I’m not even sure I understand it!  But I’m ready to help even if I’m not yet ready to lead in this kind of project. I’d love an essay from you with concrete action items that illustrate these “small tactics.”

I responded to Ground with a tactic for a group of maybe 10 people that begins thus:

Go to your representative’s office, present your demands, and insist on seeing him or her.  Staffer tells you congressperson is in Washington and isn’t available.  You say, we’ll wait here until he/she comes back on the next plane.  Staffer says that’s ridiculous.  You say you’re staying.  Staffer threatens to call police.  Fork:  If police come, you treat them politely, explaining the justice of your position, then you leave, having provoked a response that provides a news hook.  If police don’t come, you stay 5 minutes past closing time, then leave.  You have defied authority, stayed out of jail.  And upset the staffer.

You could also come back when the rep is in town.

Another I’ve toyed with is for a small group of people to prepare a flier and go to a jobs fair (New York State even gives a schedule of them here).  These grotesque spectacles give the illusion that you could get a job.  The flier could say any number of things.  If the small group included unemployed people, the flier could advocate not leaving until jobs were offered to all.  Tactically, you could back down when pressured by security.  Having to be forced out by security or police becomes an issue all by itself.  If the group were all employed, it could have a general statement about unemployment and call a meeting.  Give a phone number and web page (not that expensive since the traffic would not be massive).  The very act of trying to organize at such events could provoke a reaction, and that reaction, however small, then becomes an issue.  Then you could take your group and “Go to your representative’s office …” as above, demanding the right to organize at these events.  (Organize for what?  You’d have to figure that out.)  Some of the fairs listed are for government jobs, and thus the issue would be more sensitive than if the jobs were private sector.

If you had a small group and one uninsured member of the group needed certain medical care, you could park yourselves outside a hospital demanding that care, or outside an insurance company, and whatever happens, “Go to your representative’s office…”

If the rep does something good, that’s an incentive to do more of it.  If the rep does nothing, that becomes an issue.  One feature of the Full Court Press is that, while it calls for a rep to agree to 5 key points or get primaried, it does not preclude the Press candidate from bringing in other progressive issues as applicable.  Thus the Full Court Press COULD become some kind of umbrella tying together a variety of direct action tactics and giving them electoral expression.

[As an aside, this last just occurred to me as I am writing this.  An example of the extent to which the dialogue on Docudharma has helped develop my own thinking.]

In any event, I leave it up to others to flesh out these kinds of tactics.

Fact is, there are all sorts of good actions being taken.  Are they effective?  I don’t know.  I think they are directed at “hard targets” and to a large extent the system’s accountants have factored them in as a cost of doing business.  My suggestion is to aim at the small targets with small impact, because they haven’t been entered into the imperialist ledger.

Another interesting thought has to do with Peace of the Action and Cindy Sheehan’s plans for DC:

We are calling for 5000 people to commit to come to this Nation’s Capitol to participate in daily civil resistance to stop “business as usual,” because “business as usual” in this town is so corrupt and disordered.”

Suppose the homeless started showing up in DC at the same time, approaching their tents, and asked, “shelter us, feed us.”  I don’t know if the Peace of the Action folks would be appalled at my suggesting this, or love it.  Potential social dynamite.

But to go back to my original suggestion, take 10 people and “Go to your representative’s office …”  This raises the question of how one finds that group of 10 people.  That is the key.  Difficult but conceivable, not like “unite the left” or “arouse the masses” or whatever.  Thus I have broad revolutionary schemes, and at the same time I spend a lot of time on the blogs speaking at length to one person at a time.  As a backdrop, I wrote on Everybody is Fucking Crazy that after the nascent industrial unions were generally smashed following WWI, the movement was carried forward by a handful of committed ideologues such as the Trade Union Educational League.  Eventually, they were able to form organizing committees such as the Steel Workers Organizing Committee from the broader union movement, and these organizing committees then launched the mass organizing drives that resulted in the USWA, the UAW, etc.

Circles within circles.  In the 20’s, the ideologues were centered on the Communist Party.  The Bolshevik revolution, for better or worse, was part of their motivation.  We have no such clear inspiration today.  The fact that the sharpest DIRECT resistance to the American empire comes from the likes of the woman-killing Taliban is a fact, but not exactly an inspiration.  The existence of a global electronic community is an inspiration, but not one that indicates a clear direction.

Consider the Full Court Press.  To me, the idea of running to lose 435 congressional primaries and build an infrastructure off that is ridiculously obvious.  But it is obviously not so obvious to most people.  The ActBlue “target the worst” is the default framework of even the most militant-sounding self-proclaimed  radicals.  I have seen a few calls that mix a call for lots of primaries but then lapse into a “win the seat” perspective.  Not to argue the point here, but I don’t believe people are generally stupid, so there must be frameworks in place (see my pieces on method) that lock them in.

A second default framework is the Unity/Program perspective.  We must all unite first, before we can take action.  We must all work out a full program before we can take action.  Sorry, the left never unites, and it never achieves programmatic unity.  Both are SUBSTITUTES for action.  Both presume a TOP DOWN approach, with the left always outweighing the masses.

Thus the task is to break through what are almost universal ways of understanding and create a new one based on a cycle of action, growth and learning, more action, more growth, more learning.  The beauty is that it can start fairly small.  Action transforms understanding.  The task is to achieve initial critical mass.  Small groups of 10.  Sounds simple.  Very hard to find the 10.  But doable.  Yes, people are afraid.  But I don’t believe they are cowards.  People can be insanely brave when fighting for something they believe in, when there is hope.  Action can generate hope.  Support can sustain hope.  It’s the getting started that’s the trick.  It’s the slightly braver few who move ahead even when there isn’t hope.  Or the few who understand the necessity of action.  Even when there is no visible payoff.

This is the moment we are poised at.  I cannot move the many.  If I owned the New York Times I might, but I don’t.  My hope is that I can show some people that there are more possibilities than is obviously visible.

What I envision is a lot of very small snowballs rolling down the hill, getting larger and picking up speed, merging and finally merging FROM BELOW into a mighty avalanche.  In fact, I’ve mentioned before that some people used the term “general strike,” however imprecisely, as a codeword for revolution, just as “meaningful social change” once served that purpose.  My new codeword is Avalanche.

The wildcard is social motion.  The left has gone sterile in its absence.  But that is a factor in determining whether the few become the many.  Who will take what risks.  I am gambling that it will grow.  The past year has been the year of the Titanic sinking.  The band played on.  This year is the year it goes under.  The band isn’t doing so well.

What about Haiti?  Haiti?  Yeah.  Katrina marked the lame-ducking of the Bush administration.  Haiti?  There’s something about desperate people organizing themselves and building barricades of bodies, digging people out of the rubble without government direction, the system powerless to get them food and water, that I think may reverberate in America’s soul.  We’ll see.

Anyway, if you thought this essay was going to simplify matters, ha-ha-ha and hardy-har-har!  Your request has gotten me down to the bone, and it’s tough.  But thank you, it’s exactly the place to be.


Skip to comment form

  1. Are there any two of us that live within 10 miles of each other needless to say right next door?

    We’re too small, as is, to actually DO these kinds of performance demand tactics.

    Basically you’ve all got me thinking, too.  About the technology of critical mass.

    I have a huge circle of friends on facebook.  Most are politically liberal.  Few are actually radical.  And actually, I think it huge .. but I see others with thousands and thousands of friends.

    Social networking, too, like facebook, doesn’t suffice.  For one thing the format is bad.  For another thing it’s a social free for all as opposed to being focused.  There are certain features one would want to add, like flash-mob-ability.

    Simple blogging like on Docudharma doesn’t suffice by itself either.  There are two few of us, spread too far afield to actually enact pressure tactics like those you describe.  Well, unless we were willing to do it alone – and that’s not something I can completely set aside.

    The next step would be to merge social networking with applications specifically designed to support what you’re talking about, with political blogging.

  2. at is applications like britekite.

    These are geographical add ons to social networking systems.

    It’s when you start getting five, ten, twenty, or hundreds of people in the same geographical area and with the same goals in a big network with anonymizing and mojo features (so that one can be safe and join anonymously, but gain mojo to the effect that one is an integral part of the virtual community) that one can reach critical mass.

    You just need features that are akin to community portal sites with geographical features and blogging features.  The idea would be to bring a certain reality to the virtual community network and join with people close together.

    • RUKind on January 17, 2010 at 02:51

    Go to your local unemployment office and do a little paperwork to “start looking” again. This will help properly adjust the unemployment number. At the very least you will be ONE of the TENS OF THOUSANDS who will be joining the unemployment roll that week.

    In the meantime, if you live in MA like I do – get to a polling place on Tuesday and in no way let that scumbag Brown take Teddy’s seat.

  3. their political skills are crap,

    their sell outs are crap,

    their policies are crap,

    their legislation is crap,

    at least print this sell out / politically incompetent shit on something I can use – shitpaper.

    oops, I mean at least print this sell out / politically incompetent poo on something I can use – poo-paper.

    where do the big sell outs live, and how about chucking it on the lawn at 6:01 p.m. eastern time – the time MLK was shot?

    I’ve gone to seattle democratic party meetings with my roll (I have a few with only a few sheets left on) and told pols that if they pass laws they don’t pay for,

    print it on this ! (whipping out toilet paper roll) cuz I can use this.

    they look at me like I’m nuts, we smile, we laugh, I move on.


    • dkmich on January 17, 2010 at 16:43

    School district employee, not even a dfh, had an appointment with his state rep.  Drove 100 miles one way to see him.  When he arrived, he was told that the rep. called his staff into a meeting and was no longer available.

    This is the pure arrogant bull shit of so called public servants.  

Comments have been disabled.