Last week Adbusters, a publication that was important to the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, put out the following:
TACTICAL BRIEFING #18
Occupy the High Ground!
Hey you creatives, artists, environmentalists, workers, moms, dads, students, malcontents, do-gooders and aspiring martyrs in the snow:
The last four months have been hard fought, inspiring and delightfully revolutionary. We brought tents, hunkered down, held our assemblies, and lobbed a meme-bomb that continues to explode the world’s imagination. Many of us have never felt so alive. We have fertilized the future with our revolutionary spirit … and a thousand flowers will surely bloom in the coming Spring.
But as winter approaches an ominous mood could set in … hope thwarted is in danger of turning sour, patience exhausted becoming anger, militant nonviolence losing its allure. It isn’t just the mainstream media that says things could get ugly. What shall we do to keep the magic alive?
Here are a couple of emerging ideas:
STRATEGY #1: We summon our strength, grit our teeth and hang in there through winter … heroically we sleep in the snow … we impress the world with our determination and guts … and when the cops come, we put our bodies on the line and resist them nonviolently with everything we’ve got.
STRATEGY #2: We declare “victory” and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry.
We dance like we’ve never danced before and invite the world to join us.
Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.
Whatever we do, let’s keep our revolutionary spirit alive … let’s never stop living without dead time.
for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ
After the raid of Occupy Wall Street in New York and the assaults on other occupations across the country, this debate is even more urgent. Turning our attention to San Diego, it would seem that, despite a week of successful and lively actions, the options are:
1) Stay focused on occupying the Civic Center and Mission Bay, stay on the defensive, and perhaps suffer death by slow strangulation as San Diego’s do-nothing City Council watches (and cheers in some cases) no matter how heroic the die-hard occupiers are (I think here of the folks who have been arrested and even gone on hunger strikes).
2) Call a press conference, have a party, and declare victory in phase one and regroup, perhaps with a local, citywide summit that is planned and organized to assure mass participation and formulate an ongoing series of guerrilla actions that emphasize not the right to put up tents in public or sleep in the Civic Center, but the central message about economic inequality and the corruption of our political system by plutocracy.
Over the past few weeks I have spoken to many people, occupiers and supporters alike, and have heard some interesting ideas. Some of these are: the notion of rotating occupations; turning the emphasis towards the issue of homelessness itself as a symbol of the disposable nature of people in our system; squatting in foreclosed homes; creating a mobile strike team; taking a break and planning for a huge, all-out day of action on Martin Luther King day; occupying politicians’ offices; performing increasingly more militant acts of civil disobedience on some of the same as well as new targets; shifting the focus to our local military industrial complex and calling for funding for a new New Deal by ending our current wars and transferring billions of dollars from defense to domestic needs; and many more. They were all earnest proposals by thoughtful people—the best kind of political brainstorming that this movement has inspired.
Perhaps, as the Adbusters’s tactical briefing suggests (and I heard someone say at an OSD general assembly a couple weeks back and seems to be the current direction) activists could maintain a small, symbolic occupation of the Civic Center that rotates between a handful of individuals (with people taking the wee hours in shifts) while the larger work of fighting the 1% as creatively and effectively as we can is not constantly hampered by having to fight one rear-guard action after another in the service of defending a tactic rather than achieving the overall goal.
The crucial thing, in my estimation, is to make even clearer than the Adbusters briefing does that key distinction between tactics (the tools we use or the maneuvers we employ against the enemy) and strategy (what is our goal and what is our long term plan to achieve that goal?). Tents and tarps and sleeping outside are tactics. “Occupation,” narrowly defined, is a tactic. How we plan to reclaim our political system from the hands of the 1% and turn our plutocracy masquerading as a democracy into something closer to the real thing is the end we are seeking the means to achieve.
Perhaps aligning the incredible direct action of Occupy with existing initiatives to reverse the redistribution of wealth from the 99% to the 1% is a place to start. There are also ongoing battles to resist austerity measures in education and vital public services. There is the fight against the banks and efforts to reform our political system in order check corporate power. In sum, there is no shortage of targets—large and small. But, if we are looking toward the long haul, framing a collective vision and then thinking about how all the moving parts connect is essential. This doesn’t mean giving up, losing spontaneity, or being co-opted by any particular agenda or group. It means thinking about the future strategically, together.
The victory that has already been gained is this: Occupy Wall Street has changed the national narrative by forcing the issues of economic inequality and the corruption of our political system by big money onto the center stage. Occupiers across the country deserve praise for doing in a short time what others in unions and activist groups have failed to do despite years of effort. The simple and resonant assertion that we are the 99% fighting against the 1% has won the day. From here on the question is how we move from changing the discussion to achieving political, social, and economic results? How do we change the game itself?
So, is it option one, option two, a combination, or something else? Your thoughts, dear reader?
P.S. Remember only four more days until Buy Nothing Day.
Read more of Jim Miller’s column, Under the Perfect Sun