What’s Next for Occupy?

April 1st, 2012

Published on ZNet, by Michael Albert, March 30, 2012.

The world is as it is. If we arrive at a shared vision for a better future, that too will be what it is. But strategy and tactics are different. To get poetic about it, this one time, they aren’t what they are. One place, one strategy or tactic makes sense. Another place, a different strategy or tactic makes sense. One time, do this. Another time, do the opposite. 

Anyone saying what a movement should do in all places and at all times is confused. There is no single correct path for Occupy. Oakland is not New York. Madrid is not Athens. What makes local sense differs from place to place and from time to time.

There is something about strategy and tactics, however, that does stay pretty much constant. It is the criteria we ought to have in mind when we choose among paths to take.

Yes, of course, even those criteria depend on things like the resources at the disposal of a movement, the size of a movement, the character of opponents of the movement, and the state of mind of the population surrounding a movement. Still, for the question “what’s next for Occupy?,” while there is no one right path, perhaps we can at least specify concerns that Occupy should account for in choosing among all possible paths. For myself, here are a few such concerns.

Occupy doesn’t have 99% of the population supporting it, or, far more importantly, 99% participating in its endeavors. Instead, Occupy has some significant support, though not very deep, and still has quite low participation in its endeavors. To win anything, and especially to win a new world, it needs much more support and involvement … //

… Consider Internal Organization and Culture:

All the above is simple. There are simple broad aims. Grow. Deepen. Enrich. One evaluates one’s options largely in light of them, and of proximate aims, in specific settings. One thing that is often not considered, though, is that the internal organization and culture of a movement like Occupy is a part of its strategy and involves tactics. The same thinking works.

Should a movement have means for new people to be mentored into participation? Should a movement share certain assets among its members? Should a movement have provision for participation of people of all sorts – those with families and without, those with jobs and without, those young and mobile and older and not so mobile? Should a movement have mechanisms to elevate minorities and women and guarantee them space and influence? Should a movement provide for its members needs, as one part of what it does – not debilitating them with boredom, or badgering them with holier than though rhetoric – but inspiring, educating, and enriching their lives? Is a movement having libraries and even schools good? Is a movement having areas to play, organized sports, and perhaps dances, good? Does a movement need ways to address disputes and to resolve them?

One could continue. The point is, all these matters and more, are obviously strategic and tactical once one raises the issue. They all can impact the likelihood of people outside the movement supporting it and even admiring it and they can impact the spirt and effectivity of the movement’s members, their likelihood of staying, and so on.

So, Which Way Occupy?

The answer to which way Occupy – or which way any movement – is always the same. Follow a path – and there is no one right path – but a path (and ideally leave open and explore other options at the same time) that by its out-facing actions and statements, and by its in-facing structures and relations, leaves itself steadily larger, stronger, and more appealing – as well as better able to win gains.

It is when movements leave aside these norms, simple as they are, and instead ask only – is this choice what some tract or leader says to do, and then I will, or I won’t – or does this choice correspond to my personal preferences for pleasuring myself, and then I will or I won’t, or will we look sufficiently radical if we do this, or will we like what so and so says about us if we do this, and then I will or I won’t – that movements get off track and devolve from activist sense to factional nonsense. That is what we should avoid. (full long text).

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