WHAT IS TO BE DONE NOW?
(What follows is the conclusion of the essay: Something’s Gone Missing in the Resistance: On Revolution, Counterrevolution and Change, by Duane Clinker)At the cutting edge of changing time:
We lost much in the waves and layers of counterrevolution that swept over the long sixties of the last century. Revolutionary organizations were destroyed, leaders lost, people dispersed, issues were narrowly reframed by the economic system, and even the meaning of words used in struggle were sometimes twisted and lost. However, history does not stop. Cracks and ruptures have formed in this monolith system of greed and violence which the counterrevolutionaries tried to cover over with “wars against crime,” “trickle-down,” “ending welfare as we know it,” deregulation, militarization of police, deportations, new prisons, and wars and militarization around the globe.
Now, in the tearing and crumbling open those fissures, light shines which illuminates the necessity and possibilities of change. People begin to think in new ways, and connect things together. Despite the obstacles, protest and solidarity begins to rise.
These are some of the many signs we need to notice.
January, 1994: The anti-NAFTA, Zapatista peasant movement suddenly announces itself in strong actions in Chiapas, Mexico and begins a nonviolent war of resistance against globalization, and in defense of ecology, feminism, farmers rights, and participatory democratic commonwealth.
November, 1999: Young Americans catalyze mainstream labor and environmental groups in the “Battle of Seattle” demonstrations against the World Trade Organization. Their affinity groups reinvent flexible tactics blending free initiative and democracy.
February, 2003: Less than two years after the blowback attacks of 9-11, in over 60 countries, and more than 600 cities, as many as eleven million people participate in the largest anti-war demonstration in history, marching under the banner of “No Blood for Oil.”
September, 2011: About thirty years after Maggie Thatcher declared “There is no such thing as society, only individuals,” the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations begin. Inspired by the Arab Spring protests of the same year, occupations are established in over 100 cities. “Society” emerges again in the public consciousness in its division between “the 1% and the 99% .” Tens of thousands are join discussions and actions for fundamental change.
July, 2013: Black Lives Matter arises to electrify the nation. The BLM pulls the cover off abuses and cultures of white racism in police departments and in the system at large. It catalyzes and empowers a new generation of potential revolutionaries.
November, 2016: The Bernie Sanders Campaign begins. Not revolutionary as such, the Sanders Campaign still brings hundreds of thousands more into political life and reintroduces the words “working class,” and “socialist” into public use, to the dismay of the counterrevolution.
January, 2017: In what is likely the largest protest in US history to date, the Women’s March marks the renewal of a broad women’s rights movement, and massive resistance to Trumpian rule.
None of these events represent the fullness of our organizational needs. But all of these testify to deep hunger, to learning, to development of new leaders, to the testing of new ideas, and to the emergence of real power among the people. All of these are indicators that the system has become unstable, polarized, and disunited.
Capital has begun to feed on its own muscle. It staggers deeper into the 21st century on its tottering Republican and Democratic legs, bloodied and grasping. There is great fear, and the temptation of a great silence across the land. But there is also the rising of outrage, hope, and resistance. The times are pregnant with danger but also with the potential for the rising again of revolutionary hope.
What is to be done:
What is to be done:
This is a time of our testing and we must now demand more than either neoliberalism or Trumpism can offer. Deeper options must be rediscovered. Necessity requires that we do this. . . now.
Crowds of individuals are not enough. They can assemble and protest, and sometimes win short term concessions. But that is generally all they can do because a crowd of individuals cannot think together. They cannot make a plan, cannot negotiate with power, or implement the long-term big systemic changes that are so desperately needed. For that, multitudes of organized groups that can learn, decide, and act together must be built from the bottom-up. We must build them based on real human relationships. Such things are possible because such things are needed.
The organizational work that we need can begin, in part, like this;
Through common connections, find six, or a dozen others who hunger for change. Look for people who are as diverse as possible. Look for people who are put upon, exploited, trying against all odds to hold things together, and who desperately desire a different world. Look for people who are honest, who have open minds, caring minds, and who show a kind of quiet wisdom, courage, and resiliency in life. Look for them in family connections, at your work, in your communities. Against such as these, the system’s greed has no chance.
The social glue of the kind of organizations we must build starts, not so much with the head as with the heart. Right now we don’t need the quick fix of ideologues marching down the street, or those who are satisfied to limit their vision to only voting for “lesser evils,” tweeting, or messaging. We need much more than that! The revolution needed now requires a different kind of currency, and most especially a different kind of hunger.
How do we surface such things? Around kitchen tables. In living rooms. In small and intimate rooms out of public hearing sometimes. But while we start small, this is no small game. From the beginning commit to growing. Learn to live outside of your comfort zone. Positive change requires that.
Remember two key words as you start out: “anger” and “desire.” The root word for anger is “grief.” So when you meet with friends, dare to ask things like, “What hurts you about what’s happening in the world? What angers you?” “Share something about an important time you saw oppression in your life.” And, speak of “desire” too. Desire is a word that we have to recover because it is now usually used in reference only to the surface lust for things to consume. Explore your desires deeper things. Speak of them aloud in community. “What do you really need for a good life for you; for the children?” “What do you really desire for the nation? For the world?” These are not easy questions. Find the hard questions to discuss together.
Get vulnerable. Forget the macho. Do not seek to dominate. Seek to learn. Dive beneath the surface. Respect the stories. Start to peel back the layers of it, in personal history and more. “What do you think has been the hardest thing for your family to wrestle with in life?” “So far as you know it, how has your family earned its living through the generations?” “What is the greatest wrong your family has experienced over the generations? What caused it?” Listen each other into speech. Don’t interrupt each other. Learn to tell the stories. Here, in your own stories connected together, the actual history of oppression, bondage, conquest, greed, and resistance in the country will often appear.
Abandon defensiveness. Look to uncover the white racism, and the spirit of conquest in the system and in ourselves that you may not have seen before. Listen for the forms of bondage you have unwittingly just accepted and taken inside your own mind which have stopped you from fully seeing. When you discover evil, don’t let it stop you. Use it as a stepping stone. As you listen and discuss, understanding grows. You will feel the power will begin to rise. Overcome divisions among those of us who are oppressed based in past history if you can. Find pathways to mutuality with others seeking change.
Respect the stories. The stories will expose the oppression and the desire for justice and change. Listen to the ancient wisdom of Leslie Marmon Silko in the book Ceremony.
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren't' just entertainment.
Don't be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don't have anything
if you don't have stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can't stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then. . .
This is a different method. It is one that respects the human. It builds deep. It is revolutionary because it is based in a common reality. It is revolutionary because it is open-ended. It does not limit understandings to capitalist definitions and pre-conceptions of good and bad. It surfaces the desire and then the reality of community and changes what is possible. It is not the kind of organizing that has been confused with sales.
It is an antidote to counterrevolution.
As the discoveries are made, as the fire begins to burn, discuss holding a larger house party to share your process and discoveries with a larger circle of people. Invite them join or start their own discussion to sample the fearless rooted conversations. Grow.
Next, use the solidarity you are finding, and the understanding you are gaining, to go into action. Identify an issue, a common thing, around which to go into action together. Perhaps it is an evil to be exposed, or a demand to be made to a local person in power, or just something you can do to inspire others to join in with you. Street clean-up? Mini-flash mob at a public hearing? Calling a rally together? Pick it. Do it! Decide and strategize and plan together. Commit and go into action. When you do this you are creating a kind of “body public.” You have ceased to be only a group of individuals. You have become something very powerful, a community of interest that dares to stand up, and which supports each other in the standing up, against oppression.
When that first action is over, celebrate. Throw a little party. But even then, don’t just move on, take time to discuss things fully. Go over every detail. What went right? What went wrong? What have you learned? What’s required next? Discuss what happened. Squeeze that experience like a lemon. Get every drop of learning out of it.
Learn this basic rhythm of a consciously revolutionary life. Learn together, reflect together, act together, and repeat. Invite new people or start new groups at regular intervals if you can.
About now is the time for reading. If you have not already started doing this together, do it now. Start reading the history you don’t know, but is relevant to what you are doing. Read theory. Read current events. Read everything, including the other side of things. Watch documentaries and notice what they miss. Dive into things you haven’t been taught in school. Find radical reading lists. Aways ask what’s here about oppression and liberation that I need to know? Throw away the garbage that is just a defense for oppression.
See. Listen. It will hurt sometimes. Do it anyway. You are not alone.
And if you can, - I speak now from experience and use this term broadly - pray. But don’t violate your integrity. If you do pray, don’t ask for things, ask instead to be able to serve. If you do pray, ask for wisdom. Ask to be able to listen, and to see. In any case, learn humility. A true revolution cannot be made without humility.
Bathe in the awe and wonder of life. Learn the joy of the natural world. Respect creation.
Root yourself in militant love. Sometimes love is warm; sometimes it is cold. Both are necessary in this work.
The time will come to connect groups. We will learn how in time. The fruit does not appear overnight from the seed. A dozen such groups of a dozen have ten times more power in their hands than a thousand strangers in a group. And when a thousand and 10,000 and more arrive in time, they will be in a body that is organized and capable of flexibility and strategy, having much more power than before.
This way of organizing needs to be done at the base of society. The center of gravity and the decision making power of these new body publics must be rooted among common, ordinary, oppressed and diverse working class people.
Recently, I was at a demonstration at the RI State House with perhaps 700 others to defend the DACA Dreamers that the American “nationalists” want deported. Almost all the attenders were young. Many speakers were speaking for the first time in a crowd.
One young person, identified as “they or them” had been chosen by their group to speak. They were a student and a member of an organization of high school students. They were vulnerable and possessed great presence and courage. And they were on fire. After the short witness to justice was made and they stepped back from the mic, screams went up, as the speaker’s friends from their relationship-based community crowded around, hugging and embracing in the excitement of that first powerful public statement of truth.
That is what I am trying to describe. New first steps. Organizing that builds relationships into participatory decision-making organized groups, rooted among those who are outside the “normal” political channels of power, that can think and act for themselves, and discover joy in acting.
This is what I mean by organizing that is rooted in the practice of radical love. It is based in mutual respect. It is the kind that both protests and celebrates; that both hugs and fights fiercely; that dares to look at both history and the present, and then that dares to imagine a different future.
We must organize new “body publics” for the common good, and the commonwealth for all on a shared and balanced earth. This is must become the universal task of many tribes.
At the end of that young student’s speech on the State House steps, we were taught the words of the revolutionary Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Then, we shouted those stanzas back to the young speaker in unison, like a statement of faith; as if they were a creed, which I guess they are.
And here, if you wish, is another such expression, that expresses the spirit of liberation; one you can sing: .Click on it or copy and past it into your address bar on the internet.
writing copyright 2016 by Duane Clinker
You may comment to Duane regarding these ideas at email@example.com