What can happen in 2012 to further the objective of uniting the 99%? Or, as I wrote in my first “Uniting the 99%” column, how do we bring together the 70-75% that “potentially, could come together in support of a broadly-based, independent, progressive popular movement?”
Let’s start with how we will NOT, absolutely not, further that objective:
-Cutting back on independent, non-electoral organizing and independent, visible, demonstrative actions. I might argue differently if there was a powerful, multi-racial, multi-issue, “third force” mass movement that had come together and was running strong progressive candidates for office at all levels in this national election year, but such a third force doesn’t exist, not yet. Accordingly, it is essential that Republicans, Democrats and the U.S. American people see that the up-from-the-grassroots, progressive political shift sparked by 2011’s Wisconsin public workers’ uprising and the #occupy movement is alive and well.
-Engaging in adventuristic, counter-productive and marginalizing actions like what took place in Oakland on January 28th. We are not going to win either the active or tacit support of masses of people if they see us as primarily into fighting the police or rock-and-bottle-throwing. Strategic nonviolence—which is not the same thing as full-out nonviolence at all times and in all places—is the appropriate approach right now when it comes to our demonstrations and direct actions. We need to appreciate the fundamental lesson from the history of social movements that, indeed, the masses make history, not relative handfuls of ideologically-motivated people, including those who may be courageous in their willingness to risk injury in street fighting.
Speaking of courage, activists in the #occupy movement and elsewhere who are interacting with people pushing these kinds of marginalizing actions, often under the guise of “diversity of tactics,” need to speak up in support of strategic nonviolence, refuse to be guilt-tripped or intimidated. THAT takes real courage.
-Finally, we need to resist the already-beginning calls for everyone to rally behind Barack Obama and the Democrats because of the threat posed by the hard-right Republicans.
There is truth to the argument that Obama should be reelected, despite all of his actions in support of the 1% and The Empire, because of how much worse the Republicans are (and the nature of our winner-take-all, non-proportional electoral system). However, as potential Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein recently said, it’s not enough to go from a rapidly sinking ship (the Republicans) to a ship sinking not as fast (the Democrats). We need to get into a boat that isn’t sinking at all and that gives us a chance of finding land.
The bottom line is that not just progressive people generally but committed revolutionaries are going to end up making all kinds of decisions about what they do about the Presidential (and House and Senate) election(s) this year because of the complexities and difficulties of our undemocratic, big-money-dominated, two-party electoral system. Some will support Obama and other Democrats, others will support one of the third party alternatives, and some will have little if anything to do with the electoral scene. We need to oppose those who take rigid, support-the-Democrats-whatever-they-do positions and not let the electoral question divide those of us who get it on how urgent and serious our situation is and the need for a unified, truly progressive movement to address it.
We should support efforts to bring our movement together across racial/cultural, issue, age, gender/sexuality and other lines. One such effort is being undertaken as part of the United States Social Forum process, the organization and linking together of Progressive Movement Assemblies. Gatherings of this kind are often valuable, particularly if conscious efforts are made to make them truly diverse, with anti-oppression practices built in. Perhaps “What Do We Do in 2012 So That We’re a Stronger Movement in 2013?” could be a theme that brings a mix of solid activists together on local levels for substantive and useful discussion.
Over the course of the years that I’ve been an activist and organizer, Presidential election years have rarely been years when the US Left has made major strides forward. One major exception was in 1984 and 1988 when, under the leadership of Jesse Jackson and the progressive African American movement, real progress was made towards forging a third force that had the potential, if it had stayed together and not been absorbed into the Democratic Party, of fundamental change in the USA.
The Rainbow Coalition movement showed that it is possible to forge progressive unity in action with central leadership from communities of color in an on-going way. Developments in 2011 showed that among workers and young people, primarily but not only white people, something is happening at the base of society that holds great potential for the rebirth of a different but similar, multi-racial, politically independent, people’s power movement very soon. Let’s keep that objective in mind as we do our essential organizing, activism and unity-building work in 2012.
Ted Glick has been active since 2004 building the climate movement and since 1975 building the independent progressive political movement. Other writings and information can be found at http://www.tedglick.com, and he can be reached on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.