First in a series: How Do We Organize a Hundred Million?
How Do We Organize a Hundred Million?
The strategic considerations discussed in this series of posts assumes that it will take a hundred million activist in the US and many hundreds of millions more worldwide to make revolution. Real politics begin where there are millions, many millions.
We will need millions to overwhelm, undermine and dismantle the machine. And we will need millions to create viable alternatives by building communities with independent control over their water, food, energy and incomes. There is just so much to be done.
The corporate power, military-industrial complex, corporate media, mass surveillance, seventeen secret police forces, global empire, and the vast militarized penal system — all coordinated, regulated and managed by the two-party system — is perhaps the most deeply entrenched power structure in world history.
The consequences of this power: the collapse of democracy, environmental catastrophe, endless war and untold suffering. If current trends continue, the established order is likely to be an existential threat to every county, culture and life-form. Oh yes, we need millions to change the world.
But this power structure is a product of our history. It is not immortal or monolithic. The internal division exposed by the election of loose cannon and demagogue Trump and the bankruptcy of the corporate Democrats is on full display for any with clear eyes to see.
When in US history have secret police forces openly chosen sides in a US election? The point of the deep state is that it governs us out of sight and out of mind. When a trusted guardian of the establishment, such as Chuck Schumer, reveals on prime-time TV that the so-called intelligence community has the capacity to retaliate against Trump then the curtain is truly torn. Either the internal divisions are terribly desperate or Schumer feels that people are so profoundly ignorant of the fundamentals of democracy that the illusion is no longer worth maintaining. Or both.
Not since the confusion and disarray caused by the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War has a division within the ruling class been so open. How permanent these divisions are remains to be seen but one things is sure: no matter how bankrupt, criminal, or dangerous the US government has become, that alone will not guarantee the resurgence of pro-democracy movements.
While it is important to point out how deep the crisis goes, objective conditions alone will not create the next American revolution.
Ideas and ideologies do matter, but if we are to contest power then we need to go beyond ideological rigor and moral positions. We need a strategy the can help us build movements large and visionary enough to disrupt the inner workings of the corporate and imperial machines driving us so relentlessly toward social and environmental disaster.
The unspoken assumption of the US left is that the right analysis, correct ideology, precise political definitions, or righteous moral positions on the issues will somehow translate into power. We have devoted enormous energy to all those things for decades yet somehow they are not enough.
Instead, we need to complement our ideological and utopian visions with a more strategic sensibility based on the existing conditions and existing social movements. We should look not just at the goal or ideal we desire but study the movement itself. How and why do people move? How is consciousness raised? It takes more than winning a debate or being right. When we move to contest space and contest power then we contest ideas in ways far more meaningful than by discourse alone.
When we move to contest space and contest power then we contest ideas in ways far more meaningful than by discourse alone. The new civil rights movement, Standing Rock and the environmental movement it is leading, and a reemerging movement of soldiers and veterans are good indicators, among others, that the contest over power and space has begun. The point is not what ideas constitute the right analysis, the point is what strategy will get millions of people to take action. When the multitudes move then school is really in session.
A useful strategy can help us learn from — and guide us through — what will undoubted be a time of immense volatility, fluidity and creativity. We are already seeing natural, political and cultural upheaval and disruption and the trends promise more, much more.
With that in mind, a provisional strategy could begin with the inside/outside strategy as a framework for organizing; universal values as destiny and primary rhetorical strategy; and transformation/reconstruction as the historical measure and most likely mode of revolutionary change.
A working theory of revolution must take into account the deep contradictoriness and abiding contingency that is the hallmark of revolution. It is doubtful whether strict ideological standards, moral striving, or machine politics can produce the kinds of creative strategy and tactics necessary to navigate rapidly shifting circumstances. It is unlikely that the revolution will proceed according to our expectations. We must learn to navigate stormy seas or drown.
Next: Learning From the Bern