Occupiers: When the Cops Say Clear Out, What Should We Do?
What should Occupiers do when the police order us to clear out?
This is a tactical question that can only be answered by first identifying the strategy we want to advance with our tactics. So let me start by talking about strategy.
Somebody in the Boston Occupation made a great sign: "The beginning is near!" Yes, the Occupation is a terrific beginning. But the beginning of what?
I hope it is the beginning of carrying out a strategy that can win. The strategy is to build a revolutionary movement that grows to include the great majority of Americans, including most soldiers and sailors who will refuse orders to attack it. Such a movement will inspire the 99% with a vision of a non-capitalist society based on equality and concern for one another and genuine democracy instead of the opposite values held by the 1%. Such a mass, popular revolutionary movement, if we build it, will be able to defend itself against all of the violence that the ruling class will try to use to stop it from making a new and better world.
Most occupiers know, however, that we are not there yet. We may be speaking for the values and the interests of the 99% but not all of the 99% fully understand that yet, and they are not all on board yet.
The nature of the verbal and written attacks on the Occupation indicate how far we've come and how far we still need to go to get the majority of Americans on board. When the Occupation first stared out small, the attack on us by the talking heads and mainstream news media consisted of ignoring us. It is a sign of our growth and increasing respect by the public that the media now feel the need to acknowledge our existence. The two main attack themes that I've noticed are the following:
"If they're against Wall Street then they're against capitalism!"
"They're just a bunch of spoiled college kids."
These themes are directed at our current weaknesses, and they should alert us to the need to strengthen ourselves where we are weakest.
Regarding the first one, we are indeed against Wall Street because we are against class inequality, which is what capitalism produces and depends upon. So yes, we are against capitalism. We want a society based on equality, not a capitalist one based on class inequality. We want a society based on democracy, not a capitalist one in which money is power and most don't have any. And we want a society based on people helping each other, not a capitalist one based on pitting people against each other in a competitive race to the bottom.
But the public has virtually never heard capitalism denounced in the name of the values that the public already embraces: equality and mutual aid and democracy. They have only heard it denounced by Communists who are notoriously anti-democratic and famous for creating societies in which "some are more equal than others." And the public is always told that without capitalism we would not have smart phones or anything else ever created during the last several hundred years of capitalism, as if human creativity only exists when there is class inequality. When it comes to engaging the public in this vital discussion, the beginning is near, but only the beginning.
Regarding the second attack, the "spoiled college kids" theme, this will remain our weakness until we have recruited many many Americans who are not college students. We can do this. But we are only beginning.
One way we'll know that we've got enough Americans--a critical mass--on board with us to really start thinking about making a revolution is this. We'll know we're nearly there when the kind of people who today accuse us of being against capitalism start saying something like, "Hey, I'm against capitalism too. Who isn't? But those crazy extremists are going about it the wrong way. They should work within the legal system to make changes, bla bla bla." We're not there yet. We're only at the beginning.
So what will we do when the police, as is very likely at some point in the near future, order everybody to leave the parks that the occupiers are occupying?
It would be a big mistake if, when this happens, we forget what our long term task is--to spread our ideas to more and more of the public and recruit more and more people to joining in that effort. If we mistakenly think that our most important task is to maintain control of the parks where we've been camping, then our movement will suffer greatly.
The police at this time have the ability to win a contest of force--violent force--with us. We should not make it our purpose today to try to win a fight with the police. At the present time, the beginning of our movement, that would be futile. When we have grown the revolutionary movement to critical mass it will not be futile, but very possible. If we delude ourselves into thinking that we can overpower the police today, then the result will be a huge defeat and a terrible demoralization of the movement. The rulers will succeed in sending their most important message to the American public: "Resistance is futile. The numbers who want a different kind of world are and always will be too small to succeed. We have the power. You don't."
If, on the other hand, we make an orderly TACTICAL retreat when it becomes necessary, and continue to take the STRATEGIC offensive by reaching out to the public with our revolutionary ideas, using all the ways we can invent, then we will continue to grow stronger.
Please read "Thinking about Revolution" at www.NewDemocracyWorld.org for in depth discussion of these ideas.