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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That Shit'll Never Work

I've been told numerous times that "the tactics of the 60s just won't work now" as people have patted me on the head saying my naive idealism is quaint and charming.  Such statements reflect a great deal of ignorance I'm starting to run out of patience with, quite frankly.  Regardless, I'll post a rant just in case something finally sinks in somewhere, just a little bit.

I would love to see any of the naysayers point to any level of collective mobilization we've tried that would come close to what happened in the United States in the 60s.  Oh sure, we've had a few marches against our wars here and there, and some rallies for HCR, but there has been fuckall in terms of real commitment to consistent, persistent and escalating action.  So how about we actually try "tactics of the 60s" before we declare them ineffective since we've seen just voting for Dems, calling up Congress, signing online petitions and writing sternly worded blog posts have been, oh...less than victorious thus far.

More importantly, the phrase "tactics of the 60s" is really horribly inadequate and reflects the poor state of our educational system.  Those tactics were actually developed over decades of use, not just in the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, not just in Gandhi's India, but in many different countries and eras.  And they have been employed since the 60s, both here and abroad.

Sadly, the extent of people's general understanding of these tactics are apparently limited to marches.  Really, all I see as objections is that the media won't cover the marches and that allowed Bush, and now Obama, to ignore us.  I hear tell there might be roughly 197 other methods we could try.

Marches are a pretty low-level, low-intensity, low-commitment form of protest.  They are wonderful, especially if you can get a real mass to turn out.  What an awesome start to a campaign!

Can't stop there.  All marches do is put our opponents on notice that we have an issue or cause and are willing to physically participate in fighting for it.  After that we must escalate if that's not enough.

And it hasn't been enough.  Clearly.

It's not the tactics (ach, if only we even present a cohesive strategy) that have thus far failed.  If they can't work in the US anymore, they really couldn't work anywhere, could they?  Yet the Filipinos, Chileans, Poles, Czechs and Serbs might be surprised to hear that.

Our biggest obstacle is lack of motivation and a sense of comfort with the status quo, though people definitely bristle at that idea.  Somehow it's always other people who won't get on board, so why should I bother?  But really, if every person who told me a "60s style" approach won't work today because we can't get anybody to go along with it, you know, actually joined in we might reach critical mass.

During the Bush era lots of libs/progs spoke of Bush's refusal to ask Americans to sacrifice for the war effort.  What about sacrificing for the peace effort?  For HCR, which is really the moral equivalent of ending a war, let alone Civil Rights?

Here's my rough draft plan, which in a variety of forms I've shopped around to Members of Congress (current and former), labor, MoveOn, local peace/justice groups, and A-list bloggers to try sparking discussion (no dice, of course):

  • Marches in a dozen major cities nationwide on a weekday.  Combine that with a "sick-in" so there is a tangible economic threat, and allows people to get out during work hours.
  • A massive march on DC as follow-up.  100k would be sufficient for an early step.
  • 10k stay on in DC to blanket Capitol Hill with citizen lobbyists.
  • Some subset of the 10k continue with acts of civil disobedience.
  • In conjunction with all of this, boycott corporatist entities like cable companies to free up funds to support the effort (I'd suggest refusing to pay health premiums, but I suspect that's way too risky for most people).
  • Still no traction?  Further strikes, expanding boycott.  Rinse, repeat.

Ideally, I wanted to start this process in March--that's when I began bothering people about trying to develop an extra-electoral strategy.  Even at this late stage we could use some compressed form of this if we wanted to.

Really, is this shit important or not?  Lots of people are trying to shame Obama and Reid and Baucus and Nelson and Lieberman with statistics about how many people will die next year without insurance, so it seems like it's important.  Well, if it is, I suggest that rather than finding people to demonize and helping this fail, we set our elected employees up to succeed.

The monied interests hold sway, that's just the way it is.  But we have way more collective financial clout than they do, and way more lobbyists, if we step up our game and act as the Ultimate Sovereign we're supposed to be in this Republic.

ntodd

December 16, 2009 in Pax Americana, Why We Fight | Permalink

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Comments

Huelga General!

Bring the country to a standstill for 12 hours. NOTHING MOVES.

It is the only 'peaceful' action of enough potential effect to move the rulers, make them fear us. Because nothing will change until they do.

Posted by: woody | Dec 16, 2009 5:21:14 PM

Excellent. When do we meet?

Posted by: Michael Colby | Dec 16, 2009 5:24:04 PM

If people were putting an nth of the energy into something like this that they do into the feet-stomping they do online, it'd be remarkable.

I remain hopeful (there's that word again, save scare quotes) that if they're this outraged and serious about making this happen, than they will.

Posted by: AndyG | Dec 16, 2009 6:26:10 PM

That shit might be the only thing that has a chance of working at this point.

Posted by: sidhra كلبة | Dec 16, 2009 9:40:12 PM

The spirit and tactics of the 60's are alive and well: http://teapartypatriots.org/

Ironic, huh?

Posted by: ab | Dec 16, 2009 11:25:51 PM

If somebody who was in college in the late 60s can put an oar in: one huge reason the anti-Vietnam student/youth movement took off was, of course, the draft. It was imminent, immediate, undeniable, and it could touch you, or your brother or best friend, or your boyfriend, etc., any old time, and everyone knew it.

Another reason was the existence of the inter-campus organizing bodies, such as SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee).

We cannot duplicate the constant, frightening effect that the draft had on young people in those days. The threat to personal safety embodied in the health-care status quo is just as real, but it is much more diffused throughout the population. Most of those who feel - and are - threatened by it are far less able to put themselves physically on the line than college-age kids are. The group most likely to mobilize successfully in large marches and other mass public actions is exactly the group that thinks itself least vulnerable to problems associated with illness. But anyone who wants an effective national action needs those kids, in numbers!

Which is, I guess, where creating some 21st C. version of those coordinating bodies comes in: a tough row to hoe. I'm not saying that nothing be done to arouse people (of all ages) about HCR and the Afghan war, but it will mean coming up with methods that weren't known or necessary in the old days. Actually, IMO, the fragmented, private, individualistic nature of the blogosphere is not well suited to rousing the rabble, not even our rabble. Whether the social networks can be successfully used, I don't know -- but there's NO substitute for people actually being in each others' physical presence and having a group experience.

The climate change issue has taken a pretty firm hold in kids' minds (it's got that immediate threat thing going for it, like Vietnam). I don't know whose playbook besides Al Gore's one could consider stealing pages from, but investigating that would be a start.

Posted by: Li'l Innocent | Dec 17, 2009 7:46:02 PM

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