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Be the Change: A 12-Point Proposal for the Occupy Movement


By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

This is meant to serve as a proposal for discussions at the General Assembly meetings of the Occupy Movement, in their various cities and countries around the world.

The aim of this proposal is to help the movement maintain and strengthen its grassroots structure, and to keep out powerful elements which may seek to co-opt, control, and steer the movement into directions which are ‘safe’ for the 1%.

The following is a list of important points to consider in helping this movement stay independent, strong, and with a potential to enact revolutionary change:

1)            Financial Independence

2)            Do not accept support from philanthropic foundations

3)            Do not align with political parties

4)            Support solidarity, but protect against co-optation

5)            Don’t make demands, make change!

6)            Create cooperative education collectives

7)            The mainstream media is not your friend

8)            Social media and alternative media are your friends!

9)            The global economic crisis will get much worse, so plan accordingly

10)            Teach practical and applicable skills

11)            Organize for a new economy

12)            Let leaders rise organically, by virtue and respect

Elaborations on these 12 points below:

1)            Financial independence: This is one of – if not the most – important points to remember. If a movement is to remain independent and grassroots, its funding must be independent and grassroots. Several occupy websites already have methods of donating. The money donated should be by individuals, (as in, no organizations, and no strings attached!), and each Occupy group should list their total donations, as well as expenses, on their websites, so that people may see how much money they have and where their donations are going. This is important precisely because it is more inclusive and democratic.

2)            Do not accept support from philanthropic foundations: Foundations and philanthropists have a lot of money, and they represent the 1% as sure as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase do. The major foundations (most notably, Rockefeller, Ford, and Carnegie) were founded by bankers and industrialists. Their boards of directors heavily represent the 1%. Foundation support for social movements ensures that the social movement will not threaten the interests of the 1%. Foundations were originally created amidst revolutionary upheaval in the late 19th and early 20th century with the aim to protect the social hierarchy atop of which the philanthropists sat and continue to sit. Money from foundations form social movements into hierarchical structures and non-governmental organizations, which make the movement easier to control with far less oversight and public participation. Foundations support specific ideologies which promote legalistic reforms to the system, throwing their money behind and organizing the movement around their issues of choice, ensuring that radical and revolutionary elements and ideas are marginalized and ultimately excluded. Foundations professionalize a movement and promote leaders within who profess legalistic, reformist change. The leaders which are promoted run the movement’s organizations and NGOs, receive generous salaries, are invited to speak and be a part of major international conferences, purportedly as a “voice of the people,” but ultimately in an undemocratic way. Essentially, foundations ensure that social movement leaders are integrated within the 1% and become dependent upon the social hierarchy as it exists for their own status and wealth. Foundations take potentially revolutionary movements and transform them into incremental engines of reform.

3)            Do not align with political parties: Political parties may endorse the movement, but the movement should not endorse political parties. Political parties are divisive, and seek to segregate people from one another. If the movement hopes to speak for the 99%, it must be the 99%. Political parties endorse social movements for their own political agendas. Historically, political parties were often created with the aim of siphoning off the revolutionary potential of various social movements from the streets to the voting booth. Parties, by their very nature, acknowledge the authority of the state and the hierarchical structures of our society. Though they may seek to make changes to the aesthetics of our system (treat the symptoms!), they do not challenge the system because they are very much a part of it. Political parties speak rhetoric for the 99%, but represent the 1%. As Emma Goldman said in the early 20th century, “If voting changed anything, they would have outlawed it by now.”

4)            Support solidarity, but protect against co-optation: show solidarity with unions, non-profits, a wide array of causes and social organizations at home and around the world. Yet, guard against leaders of other movements, organizations, unions, and NGOs assuming positions of leadership within this movement. For the most part, other social movements are largely funded and directed by foundation support (including the environmental movement and the anti-globalization movement, among others). A good thing to remember is that where there are NGOs, there are foundations; where there are foundations, there are bankers. As the president of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the Ford Foundation does is to make the world safe for Capitalism.” The Ford Foundation has been one of the most prominent patrons of the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the anti-globalization movement, and funds the World Social Forum meetings, ensuring that the movements become professionalized, organized, and reformist, not revolutionary. The unions represent workers, and the movement should show solidarity with workers around the world. Yet, where once the unions were originally radical and revolutionary, today they only remain because they have chosen to cooperate with government and big business. In the United States, the AFL-CIO, the largest union in America, expressed solidarity with the Occupy movement. Yet, the head of the AFL-CIO is often represented at Trilateral Commission meetings (an international think tank that promotes the agenda of the 1% for profit and power), and the AFL-CIO actively cooperates with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is important to show solidarity with the unions, but do not let them lead the movement. Instead, lead them back to their radical roots.

5)            Don’t make demands, make change! When a group puts out a list of specific demands, the first thing they are doing is acknowledging the legitimacy of the power structures of our society by asking them to “meet” those demands. Further, by putting out a list, whether the demands are incredibly varied, from the radical and revolutionary to the reformist or conservative, it allows for various institutions to attempt to co-opt the movement by taking what they consider to be the “responsible” demands (i.e., those which propose legalistic reforms), and promote those particular issues, hoping to mobilize the movement behind them, and thereby marginalizing and removing the more radical and revolutionary demands. Do not make demands of our political elite. They are the 1%. They have always and will always represent the 1%. Demand only of yourself, not others. Instead of making demands, make change!

6)            Create Cooperative Education Collectives: One thing the Occupy Movement can begin right away, and in many respects, already is, is to establish small cooperative educational collectives and meetings, where individuals may debate, discuss, and promote particular issues and ideas. The aim would be to help facilitate a better understanding of the world and the system controlled by and for the 1%, so that we may better understand how to change it. Public schools, private schools, colleges and universities are a product of this system and are essential in perpetuating it. These educational collectives, non-hierarchical, non-graded, and non-institutional, may promote new ideas, new discussions, and help build mutual ground upon which we may all stand. Whether you identify as ‘left’ or ‘right,’ we as a people will not be able to move forward unless we move forward together. Education is key, but don’t demand your government to support education, the government only supports indoctrination. They do not want, nor have they ever wanted, nor will they ever want a truly educated and critically-thinking population. It is unrealistic to ‘demand’ the government educate us better. We must begin to educate ourselves. The education collectives can be both in the physical occupation and online, using social media, potentially with each collective having its own website on which they carry articles, essays, promote books, videos, post filmed discussions and debates online, or even produce their own educational books or documentaries, again funded via raising money through social networking (keep it independent!).

7)            The mainstream media is not your friend! Even if they ‘pretend’ to be fair and balanced, they are owned by and represent the 1%, whether they are government controlled or corporate controlled. The mainstream media is a lens of power through which the elite make us define one another, and is thus used to divide, control, and oppress humanity. The movement has often been complaining that the media has not paid enough attention or given a fair perspective on the movement. The media has never been fair, why would they start now? The focus of the media, pundits, and politicians alike in regards to the movement has been to focus on how “disorganized” it is, and how it has no clear single message, no clear demands. The media does this in order to apply social pressure to the movement to organize and make demands, and thus, make the movement more capable of being co-opted and controlled. The media does not like grassroots movements with a diverse array of people with a diverse array of perspectives, interests, ideas and issues, because the media paints a picture of the world for public consumption which is black and white, left and right. The media and its pundits cannot comprehend such a movement because it does not fit in with their world view, therefore they will attempt to shape it to fit within the narrow confines of their world view. Do not bend to the social pressure of media. Be aware of the media, engage the media, attempt to influence the media but do not let the media influence the movement.

8)            Social media and alternative media are your friends! The influence and effects of social media and alternative media have allowed the occupy movement to develop from one city to over 1,000 cities around the world in less than four weeks. This is the media through which the movement should seek representation. Better yet, each occupy group could create their own news sites, producing or re-printing stories, articles and information which the movement sees as important so that it may directly engage with the wider public and provide the information and facts to support the actions taking place. Remember, while we are the 99%, most of the 99% (within Western countries at least) remain asleep, pacified, and complacent. Creating our own sources of news and information allows for the movement to more directly engage with the wider public, and not have to rely upon how the mainstream media represents the movement.

9)            The global economic crisis will get much worse, so plan accordingly: This point may seem out of place, but it has enormous relevance for the occupy movement. The purported ‘recovery’ was a basket of lies delivered by the media and our political elite for the benefit of bankers and corporations to continue their unhindered and accelerated plundering and power-mongering. The economic crisis, while bad for most businesses and most banks, has benefited the biggest of all conglomerates. In crisis, they find opportunity: to profit, amalgamate, consolidate, centralize, globalize, and institutionalize. Our political elite find opportunity to expand state powers in the name of finding a ‘solution.’ Globally, the social, political, and economic elite of our world are using the crisis to expand both the case for and actually construct the apparatus of institutions of global governance, including but not limited to: a global central bank and a global currency. If you think we have problems with our voices being heard now, just wait until power is more centralized on a global scale. Yet, while the economic crisis allows the elite to find opportunity in undertaking power-grabs, the occupy movement also has an opportunity to reach out to the actual 99%. As the crisis gets worse, it will be harder for people to yell at the protesters, “get a job!” because they will need one too. The movement must prepare themselves for a massive increase in support, leadership, action and education. While currently, the rest of the 99% want to hear our demands, in time, they will demand our leadership. Plan accordingly.

10)            Teach Practical and Applicable Skills: As the economic crisis continues to plunge into a great depression, it will be necessary for people to find new means of survival, health, and prosperity. Either we die under the heavy burden of debt, or we create something new. This requires practical knowledge and applicable skills to be discussed and taught, especially growing food, but even making clothes, as well as other trades and forms of knowledge. Farmers are your friends! Indigenous peoples are your friends! We are on occupied land taken from the indigenous peoples over 400 years ago, they know the land better than we, and we have much to learn.

11)            Organize for a new economy: As the global crisis gets worse, communities will have to grow stronger. Currencies will crash, countries will default, inflation will soar, debt will shackle us, and governments will oppress us when we try to say ‘no more’. Governments will cut social spending, welfare, and other services while increasing taxes on the population (this is called ‘austerity’), and it is done only to pay the interest on our debt which we owe to foreign banks and central banks. As such, it will be important to experiment with and attempt to construct new communal economies. Do not look to the 1% to save you from the oppression of the 1%. The physical occupations can attempt to create their own independent currency, with which ‘occupiers’ may trade with one another for food, educational materials, clothing, etc. In an economic crisis, the government is not our friend (it never has been), we can only be each other’s friends. We must create economies which are dependent upon us, not the 1%, in whatever public or private manifestation it takes. We need new economies for a new world. This is likely something that is best discussed in the educational, social media, and skill-learning collectives. This is long-term thinking, but it will become necessary sooner than you may think. People need jobs, this is essential. Instead of demanding jobs, why not create jobs? It can start within the collective. Self-sufficiency is essential. If we are able to create collective and communal currencies in which we may buy and sell, if we are able to grow and produce our own food and other essentials, we are well on the way to self-sufficiency. We remain entirely dependent upon the global political economy as it exists, and this is the central reason why we suffer under it. Instead of demanding the system to allow you to suffer less, we could create our own.

12)            Let leaders rise organically, by virtue and respect: Eventually, social movements produce leaders. Do not feel rushed to have any leaders yet. When leaders emerge, let them emerge from the movement itself. Resist the temptation to allow others to assume leadership positions within the movement by virtue of their status and positions outside of the movement. We tend to associate status with respect, let respect be earned, not by virtue of their position, but by the virtue of their individual person. This will help prevent co-optation and strengthen its grassroots nature. If we want leaders to maintain a grassroots movement, let them rise from the roots with the movement. Do not look to other occupy movements for leadership, look to them as brothers and sisters, and study them as examples. Look to yourselves as leaders. Remain in solidarity with occupy movements and other social and revolutionary movements around the world, but remain individual.

These 12 points will help the occupy movement remain grassroots, radical, and become stronger over time, with revolutionary potential.

In short, if we want to be free, we must begin to act free. If we want independence, act independent. If we want to speak for the 99%, we must prepare to become the 99%.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based out of Montreal, Canada, and is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. His blog is www.andrewgavinmarshall.com.

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24 Comments

  1. […] Occupy Movement Posted by american pendulum National News/Opinion Sunday, October 16th, 2011 Posted by Andrew Gavin Marshall ⋅ October 16, […]

  2. Morocco Bama says:

    I understand the sentiment of #12, but there should be no leaders, unless, of course, you want to repeat the past in perpetuity. Also, I don’t see where there is a warning about turning into an impotent umbrella group loosely comprised of fractured and fragmented Special Interests….i.e. the Democratic Party. As I have mentioned, one of the National Groups aligned itself with Indian Rights and incorporated it as part of their manifesto…or whatever they’re calling it. This is the wrong approach.

    • I agree that leaderless is good, but looking at this historically, leaders eventually emerge. While the movement should not be in any rush to ‘find’ a leader(s), it should allow them to rise organically, otherwise the inclination of groups to seek leadership may result in co-optation from other institutions and organizations outside of the grassroots nature of the movement. There is a reason I put this as the last point, because while I do not think it is necessary that leaders be found immediately, we must remain open to allowing them to rise through and with the movement, as it rises too. All social movements give growth to leaders, the point is in helping ensure that the leadership is itself grassroots and remains decentralized, not institutionalized. There is a large difference.

  3. Morocco Bama says:

    This is interesting.

    http://www.anngarrison.com/content/natos-occupy-libya-action-is-not-for-the-99

    Now, if we could only get people to agree that Jobs, Apple, and people/entities like it are not the 99% either, then maybe some progress could be made.

  4. SmfrmrinFrisco says:

    I offer the thought that while the twelve points are themselves reasonable, your justification of them might easily be seen a) as an attempt to co-opt Occupy and b) are not in and of themselves sufficiently broad to speak to many if not most Occupy folk. A thought: keep your 12 points and jettison the justifications and see how quickly they are picked up….

    • A fair point. But I feel it necessary to put forward my justifications so that people may see where I am coming from, and thus my perspective and motives are known, as opposed to being a mystery, which I think presents more of a potential for co-optation. And on that note, I am not attempting to “co-opt” the movement, I attended Toronto’s protest on October 15th, but I was simply observing and listening more than participating. I am a researcher and writer, NOT a leader; therefore I simply am offering my perspective for a movement I would truly love to see move forward and survive as a potentially revolutionary movement, and thereby offer a critique of previous social movements, which I have studied quite a lot. But you are correct, there is a lot within the 12 points that surely a great many would not be willing to adhere to, but is the point to not induce discussion, debate, and new ideas? I put forward the list as a point of discussion, not an expectation that they all be adopted “as is.” I think it would have to be different in each individual case to fit the needs and desires of each individual group, this is simply a point of discussion and what I perceive to be essential areas in preserving the movement’s grassroots nature, and helping it move forward. I do not want to ‘control’ the movement, I want to help it forward. As I said, I am not a leader, I am a writer, so this is what I hope to offer in the hope of helping it go that way. Cheers!

  5. Chats with God says:

    Thank you for your honesty. Your 12 points come from the perspective of a researcher, an intellectual, NOT a leader. You are right! Ghandi was a leader, not a researcher. You are right!

  6. Morocco Bama says:

    13) Keep religion out of it, and realize religion for what it is….a tool used by the 1% Plutocrats to keep the 99% submissive and obedient.

  7. Philip Arbon says:

    Very good points. Every single one of them well thought out. In particular I LOVE the idea of number 12.

    Very well done.

    And thankyou.

  8. Philip Arbon says:

    Also, point 7 is very, very important imo.

  9. Jolene Williams says:

    when you define “mainstream media” what do you deinfe that as exactly? do you termin it as mtv or something along the lines like apple and microsoft ?sorry if it seems as if im babbling or make no sence i truly love this hole persfective of yours swell job.

    • Mainstream media is the whole range of corporate and government controlled media: from TV news to newspapers and magazines. So, that would include the likes of CNN, Fox, New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CTV, CBC, Globe and Mail, Chicago Tribune, ABC, etc etc.

      • Jolene Williams says:

        So the global crisis may get worse butt how bad for example? Is there soon to be another depression, I know the homeless and job rates are going down fast besides the obvious how can we help prevent this before turns to the worse and having another depression and have familys starve to death like many already do in “3rd world” countrys

  10. @ Jolene: yes, the crisis will get much worse, as we are entering the greatest depression in human history. An obvious way to quickly address the immediate effects is to cancel all debts (credit, student, public, private, etc), for everyone, everywhere. But the entire system needs to go, since it functions off of debt. And while canceling all debts is an effective short-term option, it will NEVER happen. Never will politicians, bankers, corporations, or the elite in general, ever agree to such a proposal. Debt is how they control, it is one of the primary sources of their power. They would never give it up. The whole point of this depression (for them) is to consolidate all industries and control over global resources, to speed up the implementation of creating structures of global governance, and to plunge the rest of humanity into abject poverty; essentially, to create a new global feudal order. Nothing governments have done or will do will help prevent the greatest depression from becoming a reality, therefore, people have to look to themselves and their communities to create new ideas and new realities.

  11. PSM says:

    I wonder how this is different from the new world order that Andrew so vehemently opposes in the first place. Fighting for “liberty” to the death has not worked in case anyone has not noticed that pattern. The whole notion that we better have, “freedom” or die is such as religious doctrine that it mirrors those of the, “1%” who are allegedly out to get us who believe that they better get rich or die trying. These, “revolutionary radicals of the 99%” as they fancy themselves say that we better have, “freedom to have jobs” or – you guessed it, die.

    What is the difference? There is none! There is only death, misery, and more duality nonsense.

    Like the pigs who roll in the mud holes of their pig stye, the protestors, police, and people on both sides just get dumbed down ever more. As in an endless cycle of the seasons, both sides are pigs and swine flexing with their DUMB-bells. Now, if this is not lunacy and insanity, I don’t know what is.

    We are our own internal foes – not some group outside of us, and trying to fix up the world is a hopeless endeavor. It is just like the old-fashioned, American double-standard: We better love living under the slavery of freedom or we must die. This is simply a massive replay, deja vu of the Hitler-era where everyone wants JOBS so that they can be, “free.” I do not adhere to the religious dogmatic notion that is propagated by Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty or give me death!” Sounds very cult-like to me.

    Oh, and in case Andrew does not allow this post to come into fruition, he is just a hypocrite like the elites themselves and the people he is supposedly, allegedly, “against.”

  12. PSM says:

    We need to understand the REAL Foundation of the Elite agenda for total control of who and what we are.

    Now, the Foundation is not what any conspiracy theorist or self-claimed truther claims – because they are simply regurgitating the mantra of what has been ALLOWED to be revealed. The agenda that has been revealed that has made the masses angry and reactive is part of the agenda – even though the puppets on the Elite side do not recognize this. To compound this problem, the truthers don’t know it either.

    This is because the agenda is not as simply as, “finding” out some well known, “truth” and then, “resisting” against it. They want us to resist in order to have their ultimate plan come to fruition. It would or could not come into fruition without the action-reaction synthesis. As the bloody Bible, Koran, and Torah, and every single religious sacred text has revealed – they need opposition – they need swords to sharpen swords, knives to sharpen knives, brother against sister, children against parents, the poor against the rich, empires against client states.

    Unless we come to the recognition that we have to recognize the Foundation and expose it, then the agenda will go unabated.

    That Foundation is so simple because it is what we all do. We Think. It is the Thinking Process – the process of learning the notions attached to the 3D life experience we have that is the ultimate Foundation of the Elite-Anti-Elite agenda. They need us to cling to the misery and suffering of the 3D existence (they want us to be attached to their thoughts and their attempt to fix up the 3D world which in reality is just a Thought Form) that has no validity whatsoever. Without the Thought Process you would not be able to read this, nor would I be able to type this.

    We are literally living in mythological times.

    Andrew – might I recommend posting this, “dissenting” opinion as well. It is nothing against you. It is the Foundation which must be spoken of – not resisted, but recognized as it is. Take down the Foundation, and you need not worry about the Summit of their agenda which is the New World Order which has been with us since the moment this 3D world came out of the Thought Process.

  13. PSM says:

    In fact Andrew – you and I share a lot in common. We are both researchers, writers, and academics. However, the only area of minor divergence is our worldview and how we perceive revolutions, and the nature of protest itself. We have vastly different conclusions from studying the same thing because of our underlying assumptions and implicit prejudices or personal values and experiences.

    I say from my perspective only that it is crucial that you question your own underlying assumptions rather than just being non-critical of them, and sometimes – you have to go outside of the box of academia to find grains of truth that academia can never provide because that is not what academia does.

    Regards

    PSM

    • Judging by your arguments, I am assuming that you are the same individual who has recently been harassing me and spamming me via several fake facebook accounts. I do not take issue with dissenting comments, but I simply pass along a warning that if you choose to spam my website as you have my facebook, I will mark your comments as spam and delete them.

  14. PSM says:

    Andrew –

    May I recommend asking yourself where your ideas and aspirations come from – where they originate from, and perhaps even what is this thing that you implicitly worship known as, “free-will” is?

    Are you really free?
    Or, is it worst-case scenario – you’re another “useful-idiot” without you becoming consciously aware of it?

    Ponder these questions and many others carefully.

    NOT everything is rational, logical, reasonable, and intellectual.

  15. Jean Howell says:

    Mr. Marshall needs to reconsider his statement that “farmers are your friend”. Where I live, farmers run factory pork growing plants, grow genetically modified crops, infuse their livestock with hormones and antibiotics, spread factory produced, chemical infused pork waste all over the crop fields. Plow those fields as close to the man made ditches and roads as possible. This results in a polluted water shed. ALL THE WHILE accepting HUGE farm subsidies!

    Please modify your statement to “ORGANIC farmers who use sustainable farming techniques are our friends” to point number 10 to make it a statement I could support.

    I have followed OWS since it’s inception at Zucotti park. I have seen flickers of concern regarding our food chain. Once we get the financial, political and media sectors out of the pockets of the 1%, I hope we begin to address agriculture, if we haven’t all expired from super e coli or some other Frankenstein germ they inadvertently create.

  16. […] Greek Translation: “Be the Change: A 12-Point Proposal for the Occupy Movement” Posted by Andrew Gavin Marshall ⋅ April 12, 2012 ⋅ Leave a Comment The following is Greek a translation of my article, “Be the Change: A 12-Point Proposal for the Occupy Movement.” […]

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