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Protests won't stop Trump. We need a movement that transforms into a party

Posted 3 months ago on Feb. 2, 2017, 4:12 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: trump

The astonishing triumph of Donald Trump can be traced to the bitter defeat of Occupy Wall Street, a pro-democracy movement that transcended left and right, sparking unrest in hundreds of cities and rural towns in 2011. Occupy’s consensus-based encampments demanded that President Obama get money out of politics. Instead, we got mercilessly smashed by his progressive administration. Now the dark irony of history is bashing back.

Trump – an uber-wealthy, partially self-financed candidate who promises to “drain the swamp” – was elected president just one week before the fifth anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg’s eviction of the Zuccotti Park encampment. President-elect Trump, a charismatic strongman with an autocratic temperament, is not what millions of Occupiers were dreaming of when we took to the streets against the monied corruption of our democracy.

Now, as the nation experiences a disturbing rise of hate crimes against the groups singled out by Trump during his campaign, protests descending into riots are rocking our cities. These visceral protests will undoubtedly continue into 2017. Celebrated progressive Kshama Sawant, a socialist councilwoman in Seattle, has already called on people to disrupt Trump’s inauguration in January.

At the same time, despite the excitement of seeing militants marching in the cities, leftist activist networks are buzzing with the painful realization that contemporary protest is broken. The dominant tactic of getting people into the streets, rallying behind a single demand and raising awareness about an injustice simply does not result in the desired social change.

Nominally democratic governments tolerate protest because elected representatives no longer feel compelled to heed protest. The end of protest is not the absence of protest. The end of protest is the proliferation of ineffective protests that are more like a ritualized performance of children than a mature, revolutionary challenge to the status quo.

Activists who rush into the streets tomorrow and repeat yesterday’s tired tactics will not bring an end to Trump nor will they transfer sovereign power to the people. There are only two ways to achieve sovereignty in this world. Activists can win elections or win wars. There is no third option.

Protest can play an important role in winning elections or winning wars but protest alone is insufficient. Just think of the three years many activists spent on Black Lives Matter versus the 18 months it took Trump to sweep into power. It is magical thinking, and a dangerously misguided strategy, for activists to continue to act as if the masses in the streets can attain a sovereignty over their governments through a collective manifestation of the people’s general will. This may have been true in the past, but is not true today.

What is to be done now? American activists must move from detached indignation to revolutionary engagement. They must use the techniques that create social movements to dominate elections.

The path forward is revealed in the rallying cry of the people in the streets: “Not My President!” This protest slogan is eerily similar to the one used by Spain’s 15-M Movement of indignados who set up anti-establishment general assemblies in May of 2011 and chanted “No Nos Representan!” (“You Don’t Represent Us!”) during their election. Their assemblies inspired the birth of Occupy. But when the refusal of the indignados to participate in the election resulted in a shocking victory for Spain’s right wing, the movement’s activists and supporters quickly internalized an important lesson that Americans must now embrace.

Realizing that new forms of social protest are better equipped to win elections than disrupt elections, many of the indignados transformed themselves into Podemos, a hybrid movement-party that is now winning elections and taking power. A similar story can be told of the Pirate party in Iceland, or the 5 Star Movement in Italy or the pan-European Diem25. Focus on the form, not the content, of these hybrid movement-parties: their organizing style is the future of global protest.

Concretely speaking, activists must reorient all efforts around capturing sovereignty. That means looking for places where sovereignty is lightly held and rarely contested, like rural communities. Or targeting sovereign positions of power that are not typically seen as powerful, such as soil and water district boards or port commissions. Protests will remain ineffective as long as there is no movement-party capable of governing locally and nationally.

This is a struggle for sovereignty. The endgame is a populist movement-party that wins elections in multiple countries in order to carry out a unified agenda worldwide. The spark for this electoral movement is bound to emerge from an unexpected place.

It could start from a women-led backlash against the pack of patriarchs governing the globe: Putin in Russia, Erdoğan in Turkey, Duterte in the Philippines, Xi in China and now Trump in America. Or maybe activists will start moving into neglected rural cities – low-population areas of America – and prepare to sweep city council elections. That is the strategy I’m pursuing in Nehalem, Oregon, where I recently ran for mayor. In any case, avoid falling for the exhausting delusion of endless urban protest or the nihilistic fantasy of winning an insurrectionary war.

The difficult path of merging innovative protest, social movements and electoral parties is the only viable way forward. And with only two years until the next election in America, there is no time to waste.

— Micah White is the author of THE END OF PROTEST. This article originally appeared at The Guardian

18 Comments

The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution from the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street

Posted 9 months ago on Aug. 27, 2016, 10:58 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Micah White, The End of Protest, Innovation

“Micah White argues convincingly that established modes of protest are outdated and sketches the outlines for how activists can and must innovate. His book is a love letter to activists of the future.” — Michael Hardt

Is protest broken? Micah White, co-creator of Occupy Wall Street, thinks so. Recent years have witnessed the largest protests in human history. Yet these mass mobilizations no longer change society. Now activism is at a crossroads: innovation or irrelevance.

In The End of Protest White declares the end of protest as we know it and heralds the future of activism. Drawing on his unique experience with Occupy Wall Street, a contagious protest that spread to eighty-two countries, White articulates a unified theory of revolution and eight principles of tactical innovation that are destined to catalyze the next generation of social movements. Sweeping from contemporary uprisings to spiritual and pre-modern revolutions, The End of Protest is a far-reaching inquiry into the miraculous power of collective epiphanies.

Despite global challenges—catastrophic climate change, economic collapse and the decline of democracy—White finds reason for optimism: the end of protest inaugurates a new era of social change. He argues that Occupy Wall Street was a constructive failure that exposed the limits of protest at the same time as it revealed a practical way forward. On the horizon are increasingly sophisticated movements that will emerge in a bid to dominate elections, govern cities and reorient the way we live.

In this provocative playbook, White offers three bold revolutionary scenarios for harnessing the creativity of people from across the political spectrum.

White also shows:

  • How social movements are created and how they spread
  • How materialism limits contemporary activism
  • Why we must re-conceive protest in timescales of centuries, not days

Ultimately, the end of protest is the beginning of the spiritual revolution within ourselves, the political revolution in our communities and the social revolution on Earth.

Rigorous, original and compelling, The End of Protest is an exhilarating vision of an all-encompassing revolution of revolution.

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK WORLDWIDE

About the Author

MICAH WHITE, PhD is the influential social activist who co-created the Occupy Wall Street movement while an editor of Adbusters magazine. White has a twenty-year record of innovative activism, including conceiving the debt-forgiveness tactic used by the Rolling Jubilee and popularizing the critique of clicktivism. His essays and interviews on the future of activism have been published internationally in periodicals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian Weekly and Folha de São Paulo. He has been profiled by The New Yorker, and Esquire recently named him one of the most influential young thinkers alive today. White directs Boutique Activist Consultancy—an activist think tank specializing in impossible campaigns. Dr. Micah White lives with his wife and son in Nehalem, a rural town on the coast of Oregon.

27 Comments

#OccupyDNC Communiqué No. 1

Posted 10 months ago on July 27, 2016, 11:57 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: occupydnc, communique

Photos of protestors at DNC 2016

You may remember September, 17th 2011, the fateful night when Occupiers annexed a square block of Manhattan’s financial district. They called it Zuccotti Park—but we renamed it Liberty Square. It was a great victory. We sparked a global uprising against Wall Street tyranny. Now we’re in Philadelphia for the next chapter of our revolution.

We heard the news of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s treachery. We do not view the DNC roll call vote as legitimate. She stole a Democratic nomination that rightfully belongs to Bernie Sanders. She is a true enemy of the people. Her lies have infected the body politic of our global community. Her crimes, revealed by Wikileaks, once punished, will be the end of the Democratic Party.

Last night, July 26th, 2016, we fought this injustice. Our revolution was televised. You may remember the broadcasts of the #DNCWalkOut. These revolutionary delegates walked out on the floor of the Democratic Convention and into the pages of history. They cast a vote of no confidence in Hillary’s autocracy and left the dust of neoliberalism in their wake.

To further escalate the struggle, we have begun a new occupation. Adjacent to the convention, we have pitched our tents in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. This park now belongs to the people and will henceforth be known as Liberty Park.

We call on our comrades to join us. We will work together to shut down the convention and the manipulations of capitalism and racism found in our government and day to day lives. Join us to #OccupyDNC by joining #OccupyFDR.

Our peaceful presence in this beautiful park will help us strengthen our networks to each other and build political power beyond the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

In light of the WikiLeaks’ revelations of top level DNC undermining of the Sanders campaign, we demand a review and possible re-vote in the states with open lawsuits concerning voter tampering.

We are at the end of July, take a day off, take a sick day, take two days, join us in the park and let your presence be your action. Come to the park and sit-in against both Republican and Democratic leadership. One betrays us with neoliberalism and the other with fascism. Today we stand in a world that is dominated by critiques of capitalism and possible alternatives. Today we stand in a world in which a Democratic Socialist almost became the presidential nominee, were it not for the undermining efforts of top Democratic National Committee leaders.

Our tomorrow is up to you.

#OccupyDNC


Location of the occupation

FDR Park, Philadelphia, PA
East Side
Adjacent to the Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center

The City of Philadelphia has informally told us that camping will be "tolerated" around the city, including in FDR Park at night. Please fold/pack up your tents during the day - it will be crazy full with activities at FDR Park.

Photos of the Occupation

Tents in FDR Park at OccupyDNC

Video of the walkout

21 Comments

Dallas

Posted 10 months ago on July 8, 2016, 9:14 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: micah white, dallas

The murder of five police officers in Dallas has killed street protest. Activists are partly to blame.

You knew your protest marches weren't working. And yet you failed to acknowledge the crisis. The result was predictable and horrifying.

As I warned in April: “it is dangerous to continue to use tactics that aren't effective. What we don't want is for people to lose hope in the possibility of protest entirely. Because then they become more violent.”

Who will march in the streets now that in the best of cases it achieves nothing and in the worst of cases it is used as a cover for lone-wolf terrorism? This is the end of protest.

Now that protest as we know it is no longer an option, activists are faced with a dilemma: win wars or win elections.

Either we gain sovereignty through an armed insurrection that devolves into martial law; or we gain sovereignty by building an electoral social movement capable of sweeping the people into power.

Those are the only options remaining: nihilism or optimism.

I’m on the side of optimism. Will you join me?

Micah White

July 8, 2016

Nehalem, Oregon

10 Comments

On the taboo within activism: an open letter

Posted 10 months ago on July 4, 2016, 9:42 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: activism, micah white, the end of protest

Five years ago t‌oday, I sent the first Occupy Wall Street tweet.

I wrote: “Dear Americans, this J‌uly 4th dream of insurrection against corporate rule #occupywallstreet” The tweet didn't get liked or retweeted. It didn't trend. No one replied. I must have sounded naive, outlandish and slightly absurd.

Back then Occupy was just a seed in the minds of Kalle Lasn and I. Nine days later we released our tactical briefing and the Occupy meme bloomed into a worldwide, leaderless spiritual insurrection.

Now it is 2016, the fifth anniversary of Occupy is approaching and activism is in a paradigmatic crisis. Here's why:

Contemporary forms of protest are no longer effective. Sincere activists ought to know this now because the great social movements of the past two decades—from anti-globalization to anti-Iraq war to the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, climate change protest, Nuit Debout and many more—have failed to achieve their desired social change objectives. Whatever the people publicly opposed happened anyway. The monied elites are still in power. The economic inequalities have increased. Disruptive protests have failed to halt the rise of Donald Trump. Democracy continues to decline. The months have never been hotter. And, most disturbing of all, frontgroups are proliferating that use the rhetoric of revolution to destroy the possibility of revolution by turning protest into a pre-scripted, performative, springtime farce.

The protest rituals we keep repeating may have worked for a previous generation but the repressive regime has evolved and these nostalgic tactics no longer work t‌oday. We are in, what I call, the end of protest.

What I have just written is taboo within the activist scene. It is practically forbidden to discuss whether the movement’s triumphalist rhetoric might be leading us astray. Many passionate activists are ostracized by their protester friends, and deemed persona non grata by their movement buddies, for expressing these sentiments. And that is one of the most disturbing symptoms of the crisis within activism: anyone who points out that the standard repertoire of protest tactics is not working, and suggests innovations that might break the script, is accused of being anti-protest.

But it is the ones who shun unconventional activists for speaking up against the groupthink of activism that are truly anti-protest.

It is no coincidence that at the same time as a growing consensus of experienced, veteran activists are becoming disillusioned with protest theater, the chorus of giddy pro-protest rhetoric grows louder and louder on social media. With dazzling photographs of thousands in the streets, behind exciting declarations that this is an era of uprisings, riots and general strikes, the protest industry—the well-funded NGOs, marketers, clicktivist frontgroups, corporatized progressives and police masquerading as polyamorous militants—attempt to drown out productive revolutionary criticism with retweets, likes and shares. They exclude dissenting voices from their conferences, use their slush funds to reward conformists with fellowships and deny access to their progressive media channels for any discussion of the ongoing crisis within activism. Why? Because the end of protest is an integral part of the political pageant. The illusion of democracy would be ruptured without the spectacle of dissent and so their purpose is to encourage the simulacrum of protest.

The prohibition on speaking honestly about the dismal state of activism is beyond dangerous: it is suicidal. The stakes are too high for protest to remain ineffective.

When a paradigm is in crisis adherents to the old way of thinking tend to react in one of two ways. Some will deny that the crisis within activism exists. These people usually occupy the positions of power within the hierarchy of the protest industry. They make a lot of lofty noise, get a lot of attention and take up most of the discourse space. But their unwillingness to see the change that is underway ultimately makes them irrelevant. It is safe to ignore the ones who insist that disruptive protest is working: they will be forgotten t‌omorrow. The second reaction is to become an innovator. These are the activists who acknowledge the crisis and embark on a period of wild experimentation. Their attempts to define a new paradigm are often marked by successive failures until one day, unexpectedly, they achieve a massive breakthrough—a revolutionary moment—that rewrites the destiny of activism.

Only a sustained period of soul-searching and innovation can save activism now.

Micah White

J‌uly 4, 2016

Nehalem, Oregon

2 Comments

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