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.”