From Occupation to Revolution II
On this, opinions vary widely. While everybody wants more people to join and support the occupation, there is presently little agreement about what "joining and supporting the occupation" should mean in practice. What, exactly, do occupiers need to do in order to achieve a more equal and democratic society?
Some believe that if occupiers keep their tents at the various parks around the country long enough, then the desired changes will happen. Others believe that if enough people get themselves arrested in civil disobedience actions to demonstrate the sincerity of our convictions, that will exert "moral suasion" (as Gandhi called it) on the rulers and make them change their ways. Some think that if everybody can agree on a few realistic demands and communicate them clearly, that will do it. And some believe that electing different politicians to office will solve our problems.
None of the above actions, however, will achieve the desired goal, because these actions don't remove from power the plutocracy that holds the real power in America and that wants America to be undemocratic and unequal, and these actions don't abolish the capitalist system from which the plutocracy derives its power based on concentrated wealth.
Tents in parks won't stop a ruling class that commands the greatest military force on the planet.
The plutocracy already knows we are sincere, and they don't care if we offer ourselves to be arrested to make the point.
Any "realistic" demands we make will have to avoid challenging the power of the plutocracy or the capitalist system from which it derives its power, or the demands will be dismissed as "unrealistic." Defining our goal as a set of "realistic" demands means declaring that we will stop bothering the plutocracy when it makes the demanded changes. Our movement will then be over; the plutocracy will remain in power, able to take back whatever it gave; and before long we'll be back where we are today.
The plutocracy was never elected, and cannot be un-elected. Politicians in our society only have the power that the plutocracy delegates to them; they most certainly do not have the power to remove the plutocracy from power.
It will take a revolution to remove the plutocracy from power, and to begin creating a new kind of society based on equality and mutual aid and genuine democracy. The strategy and tactics of the OWS movement should be directed towards building a huge, popular revolutionary movement, one that explicitly aims to remove the plutocracy from power, that has a vision of a new and better kind of society that can inspire hundreds of millions of Americans to fight for it. This kind of movement can win the support of soldiers and sailors so that, when the ruling class orders the military to attack the revolution, they will disobey and instead join and help defend the revolution with their weapons. This is how a revolutionary movement, when it reaches critical mass, will be able to prevail even in a contest of violent force with the ruling class.
The world does not have to be a capitalist one, based on class inequality and the glorification of self-interest. Most people want a very different kind of society. We can create a society that is the way most people want it to be, in which products and services are created to satisfy real needs and reasonable desires consistent with sustainability and environmental wisdom, not to make a profit for the few at the expense of every other consideration; in which the economy is based on sharing, from each according to ability and to each according to need, where products and services are provided according to need, not according to who has enough money to buy them; where there are no rich and poor because everybody has an equal right to enjoy the benefits of the wealth that society produces.
The key to building this revolutionary movement is to first explicitly declare that building a revolutionary movement is the strategic goal. Then tactics can be evaluated with respect to how well they serve that goal. The chief element of the strategy is spreading the revolutionary ideas--that the ruling class has no legitimate right to rule over us, that revolution is necessary, that it is possible, and that it is the way to create a far better society based on equality and mutual aid and democracy. Tactics would emphasize communicating these ideas to the wider public: chants during demonstrations, leaflets passed out wherever the public is, talks by us where people live and work, teach-ins, interviews given to whatever media will do them. And tactics would include various creative ways to involve the public in actively discussing and developing revolutionary ideas, and recruiting others to help spread the message.
What about confrontational actions? These tactics also should be evaluated the same way. Do they spread the revolutionary message? Sometimes a confrontation with authority can indeed bring wider attention to our revolutionary message. But this depends on how we engage in the confrontation. A confrontation that exposes the illegitimacy and immorality of the rulers, for example when people pack a courtroom to protest eviction proceedings against a family, is good. A confrontation that gives the rulers what the public will perceive as a legitimate reason for using police force against our movement is bad. Confronting the police, in and of itself, does not help, and can backfire if it enables the rulers to paint a false picture of us in the public eye.
We need to keep our eye on the revolutionary strategy. Let us not get deflected from it by wishful thinking of the sort that says that "moral suasion" or "enough tents" or "better politicians" or "reasonable demands" will make the rulers change their ways.