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Forum Post: Lessons from Saul Alinsky on shutting down a bank

Posted 12 years ago on Nov. 19, 2011, 4:48 p.m. EST by occupiedinCHI (23)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

It seems we're missing some of the basic organizing principles in going after Wall Street. While I agree that the target (Wall Street) is dead on, we need better tactics. Here is a basic idea for holding the banks accountable and forcing change, based on Saul Alinsky's principles:

First, we have so far failed to personify the problem. For the vast majority of people, systems are too vague. While I think we have to keep our focus on the underlying systems, the masses will be more willing to help if they have a specific focus. So, when we talk about "Wall Street" or the "banking industry" or even specific banks, I suggest we instead make an effort to focus on specific individuals. We would be much more effective to talk about Brian Moynihan (CEO of Bank of America) than to talk more generally about systems or companies. Make him the face of the system. Mention his name every time you talk about our banking system. Highlight specific things that Bank of American has done. General boycotts, like moving our money to credit unions are important, but they are a drop in the bucket and they tend to be ineffective. We will be more effective to take 20% of Bank of America's profit than to take 5% of the industry's profits. This also allows us to focus our action, which has been difficult.

Once Bank of America (and their CEO) are selected as our target, our efforts can be concentrated. We can organize people to stand outside every B of A branch, everyday, and hand out flyers that specifically state why they should choose a different bank. Credit unions would be ideal, but even having them go across the street to Chase will have an effect. We can also legally tie up their business. We can promise to send 100 people per day into profitable, high volume branches in wealthy areas. Send people in 2 or 3 at a time to discuss opening new accounts. All you have to do is sit down with an adviser, discuss all their products from checking to savings to credit cards to money marketing accounts for 20-30 minutes, then say "no thanks" and leave. There is no defense for that. They can get hostile and start interrogating people when they walk through the door, but that will play into our hands because they're going to turn off legitimate customers. We can protest outside the homes of their highest level executives. It won't matter if their neighbors are against us, they will still be telling the B of A execs to make it stop.

This brings me to my last point, which is that we are missing a list of demands. If we don't have demands all we're going to do is improve B of A's service. So far, all we've done is cause them to reduce a few of their fees, which will make them more attractive to customers. No, we need demands that address our systemic issues. Once their business has taken a hit, they need to know what to do to make us stop. We can suggest things like a commitment from them not to hire a lobbyist in 2012, not to make political contributions to politicians, to stop backing immunity for the banking industry, or whatever else we can come up with. You might think it unlikely that they would ever comply with those things, but if we can consistently hit their profits, we improve our chances of winning greatly over what they are today. And if we show that we can do this to one bank, just the threat of doing it to another bank will be enough to force concessions without even doing anything.

I'm sure there will be critiques of this strategy, but I'm convinced that it addresses some of the shortcomings of our efforts so far. It's also a much more concrete strategy, which will make it much easier to mobilize people behind it.



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[-] 2 points by flang23 (47) 12 years ago

Buy stock and actually go to shareholder meetings. Just 1 share of Bank of America (ticker BAC) entitles you to attend a shareholder meeting. BAC is just $6 a share now because of the whole blow up / bail out. If you have enough like minded people attending shareholder meetings and they demand the same things, you will be heard (before being thrown out). Shareholder activism. I know it's like buying a voice in the system and that seems fucked up but that's how it works.

[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

That's great - that's another tactic that can be used with a large number of companies.

[-] 1 points by flang23 (47) 12 years ago

Thanks. Also shareholders are by law required to receive a company's quarterly financial statements. They're boring but they contain the names of executives running the show, as well as a company's operations. If you can get an executive's phone number / email address and contact them with a list of grievances they may not listen to you but it sure as hell will piss them off.

[-] 1 points by cklarer (1) 12 years ago

CHI: You're 100% right. As a movement, we need to spend the winter focusing on spreading basic organizing theory and applying it to what we do. I see the same kind of alienating tactics being talked about in Southern Illinois at Occupy Carbondale and I believe it's because people don't have a foundation in the kind of organizing theory you can get from Alinsky and many others. The need for strategy informed by theory is a meme that needs to spread throughout the movement.

[-] 1 points by mikedenis (49) 12 years ago

Great idea we need more ideas like this and we need a way to put them into action . also boycott Wal-Mart

[-] 1 points by Thinkdeer (250) 12 years ago

I keep loaning out my rules for radical books every time I get a new one. I really enjoy Alinsky's writings a lot.

I think it is important to recognize that Alinsky was was addressing a different set of problems in a different tactical landscape. For Alinsky's tactic was that of a general, he would enter into a specific theater of social injustice attend carefully to the needs of those there and devise specific tactics that would honor those needs and bring attention to the specific problem. He did this however within the context of widespread social unrest, anti-war activism and the demand for civil rights.

The context of now however arises in a slightly different manner. For the most part we as Americans have been tuned in and turned off. We consume information from feed sites like gluttens and with out much critical thinking. And with few exceptions civil unrest has been unapparent and hidden under the surface, and when it does rise up enjoys little coverage by the mainstream media information feed sites.

OWS appears to be an effort to address the issue of information not getting to the people, and the false belief that people no longer care. They do care, they want to wake up, they want to know and they are angry at what is happening now. OWS is doing a perfect job of that!

Now it is time for brilliant people like you, with specific tactics for specific theaters of injustice to get involved. Form affinity groups, find out whats needed, and get things done. These specific direct actions are already occuring, in Minneapolis for example people are stopping the removal of residents form unfairly foreclosed homes.

Find out what is needed in Chicago, form an affinity group, and get to work. Your wisdom, your ability to be attentive, and your ability to devise specific tactics locally is needed!

[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

Thanks for the feedback - indeed the context is important. I do think we need more focused action than we currently have though. In Chicago I see people sitting down on a bridge and messing up traffic, which does not win the support of the 99%. Someone else who was attending the protest asked me "what's the point of this?" If you can't even win over the people who are attending, then what are you accomplishing? If people are going to get arrested, the principles behind it need to be apparent. Better to get arrested demanding a meeting with the CEO of some large corporation if you're going to go that route.

[-] 1 points by Thinkdeer (250) 12 years ago

I agree, each occupation needs to come up with focused needs based on their own communities. I think you could do a lot!

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 12 years ago

Top Political Donors 2011

  1. National Education Association
  2. Pechanga Band of Mission Indians
  3. Penn National Gaming
  4. Morongo Band of Mission Indians
  5. Community Financial Services Assn
  6. Service Employees International Union
  7. National Assn of Realtors
  8. Lakes Entertainment
  9. Tribes for Fair Play
  10. ActBlue
[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

And what is your source? This list is not remotely accurate.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 12 years ago

Actaually it is very accurate. Below are three sources

  1. http://www.opensecrets.org/
  2. http://www.fec.gov/disclosurep/pnational.do
  3. http://www.followthemoney.org/

There was also an article in the New York Times about the NEA.

[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

According to opensecrets, the pharmaceutical industry spends more on lobbying than anyone else. Check your own references, they aren't even on your list. The NRA is missing too. Show me a link with your specific list. Plus, 2011 is an off year anyway. Tell me what people spent in 2010 or 2008 when there was an election.

[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

This is small potatoes. Corporations funnel their money through lobbyists, PACs, and campaign ads to a large degree. The NEA spending 56 million nationally, spread all over the country, is nothing compared to many industries. The pharmaceutical industry spent 250 million on lobbying Washington D.C. alone in 2010. http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?showYear=2010&indexType=i

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 12 years ago

No kidding that was the other part of my post. There were three components.

Lobbying, Campaign Donations, and Who received them.

Keep in mind lobbying isn't money given to politicians for campaigns, it is given to lobbying groups that have high expenses in Washington DC. They have thousands of people trying to meet with politicians.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 12 years ago

What is it that you want B of A to do?
They are certainly not the largest lobbying group.

Top 10 Lobbying Groups by Spending 2011

  1. US Chamber of Commerce
  2. General Electric
  3. National Assn of Realtors
  4. American Medical Assn
  5. ConocoPhillips
  6. AT&T Inc
  7. Blue Cross/Blue Shield
  8. Comcast Corp
  9. American Hospital Assn
  10. Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America
[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

I only selected B of A to illustrate the point. We can target any of those companies. My point is that nobody is thinking of any of those top 10 companies when you focus on "Wall Street". Name then and name their leaders, then pick one in each industry and target them.


[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

Come on guys, give me some feedback on this one.

[-] 1 points by Gileos (309) 12 years ago

Showing your colors now aint ya. Time to run your ass out of here.

[-] 1 points by occupiedinCHI (23) 12 years ago

What colors? Alinsky was a great organizer against injustice by the elite. Try responding to the content of my post.

[-] 1 points by Gileos (309) 12 years ago

Hes a marxist revolutionary. The elite are the ones prodding you people. Your being used.

[-] 1 points by Rooster8 (49) 12 years ago

Agree, the NWO wants the destruction of the US economy, so that the Constitution is suspended by marshall law. That's when a new form of government comes - Global communism and yes, depopulation - for the future of Earth and Earth's resources. This has taken years to accomplish, but when you have globalist Presidents since JFK, then this is what we get.

JFK warned us of NWO weeks before his death. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fOkx-k8a5c

What's the plan? UN Agenda 21


What's the solution? Peace, not violence. Give them no reason to bring in their 600,000 UN Russian and Chinese soldiers/ "peace keepers". Remember, since we can US soldiers can wear UN uniforms and go to other countries to "assist" when in a state of emergency, right? Then other foreign UN troops can come to the US if we are in a state of emergency.


[-] -1 points by elwad (44) from New York, NY 12 years ago

NOTHING GOOD comes from Saul Alinsky, the father of communim in the USA.

Beware these people. remember the 66 million they killed in Russia at the hands of Lenin and Trotsky, IT will happen here if we do not oppose their lies