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Learning From Each Other’s Struggles Is Vital To Long-Term Success

When we’re up against the state or powerful corporations, patriarchal or racial structures, we can’t take success or even survival for granted. What we do and how — our strategy and tactics, our understanding and skill — matters for the outcome. The stakes are high, and the cost of defeat is severe. This makes movement learning an ethical, as well as a practical, necessity. Reinventing the wheel — only learning when we and our movements go through something ourselves — is a recipe for intensified and prolonged suffering. Meanwhile, a “Do something, anything” mentality is often justified by a macho celebration of action for its own sake, a preference for drama over results, or even our own past suffering. After all, if other people have successfully oppressed and exploited us for a long time, we have the moral high ground of having suffered, resisted and survived.

The Six Building Blocks Of Distributed Organizing Campaigns

As reported earlier, we’re fully embarked on a deep dive into distributed organizing this year. Not only have we been fans of the approach for a while but we’re now seeing that this people-powered strategy has come of age and is being deployed by a growing number of major NGOs: ACLU, Sierra Club, Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists, to name just a few. These “building blocks” are common elements of campaign design and strategy that have helped distributed campaigns scale, run efficiently and score some impressive victories. 

We Must Start ‘Shaming’ Those Who Lie To Us, Destroy Our Climate

By Nick Fillmore in Rabble - Today, when people are being treated unfairly, I see nothing wrong with us expressing our anger. It's the powerful in society who have engineered the belief that expressing anger over social issues is, well, not nice. Remember when the Occupy movement scared the hell out of them? Unfortunately, as individuals we have felt there is nothing we can do to help bring change. But, if thousands of people join in, there is one way we can have an impact. We can begin shaming and embarrassing those in powerful positions who lack decent values and who are ruining our country. Many of them know they are guilty.

Act Out! Episode 14 – Occupy Venice & France

By Eleanor Goldfield in Occupy - This week, we test our math skills in the name of systemic dumbshitedness. Then Occupy Venice shows us how to fight the power while helping the powerless: hosting a people's potluck every Sunday with locally sourced organic foods. Martin Kirk, founder and head strategist at /The Rules talks about breaking them, shifting paradigms and planned poverty. He talks strategy, Occupy Wall Steret and the role of scientific knowledge in campaigns. We ask the Internet, what are we? Oligarchy, plutocracy, oligarch-racy? Even after LA raises minimum wage to $15, too many folks remain homeless. And finally, France schools us on architectural design and food, but not in the ways you’d expect. Eleanor Goldfield performs spoken word for the movement, flipping the paradigms.

Overcoming The Barriers To Developing A Strategy To Win

By Chris Dixon in Writing With Movements - What exactly is strategy? Rahula Janowski, a longtime activist in San Francisco, summed it up well: “What’s your goal? What can you do to get there? What are your plans to get there? That’s your strategy.” In this sense, strategy is something we can develop on many different timelines (from days to decades) and scales (from small groups to global movements). In all cases, however, a strategy is a plan or series of plans for moving us from where we are to where we’d like to be. A major problem in left movements in North America is that we tend to do this sort of planning so infrequently. This, unfortunately, is what a lot of left political activity looks like. As we struggle, Tracy emphasized, there are no guarantees, but we can improve our possibilities of getting what we want if we’re intentional about what we’re doing. It comes down to a question, he said: “Do you want to have a chance at winning something?”

The Dance Of Liberals And Radicals

When liberals align with the power structure, as they did on healthcare we get an abomination -- Obama's ACA -- that does not solve the healthcare crisis. The radicals need to show enough strength so the liberals realize winning is possible. We could not do that over healthcare (even though 80% of Dems were with us on single payer and 60% of the country agreed with us) so we got stuck with insurance an industry dominated market rather than healthcare for the public good. Obama played the Stratfor strategy well. He picked off the opportunists who could be bought with big donations or access to politicians. This led the realists to doubt the possibility of really putting in place an effective health policy, that and the same things the opportunists wanted brought them to the side of Obama and the insurance industry.

Movement Strategies For Moving Mountains

Conversations with Activists Worldwide on How to Use Latin America’s COP to Build Citizen Action on Climate (From the Introduction…) “Mobilizing effective citizen action on the global climate crisis has never been more urgent or seemed more daunting. Across the world’s continents, due to drought, storms and fierce flooding, 2014 may well be remembered as the year when climate change became understood as a current reality instead of a distant projection. This is also the year in which, after stalled progress and dashed hopes, activist energies are turning once again to the demand for international action. [...] To help the climate change movement look more strategically at how to make use of the COP gathering, we undertook a diverse set of exploratory one-on-one conversations. When you speak with people in this way, you not only benefit from the best of their thinking and analysis, you can also push them to think about things even more deeply than they may have before. Sometimes face-to-face, sometimes over Skype, expressed in different ways by different people, we found a strong collective wisdom about a potential set of COP20 strategies. This report offers our best effort to synthesize that wisdom into something people can rally around as planning gets underway for the COP in the Andes.”

Protesting In A Police State: Stay Safe When Exercising Your Rights

If you’re planning on participating in a peaceful demonstration or protest keep one thing in mind, at any time it could turn into a bloody riot. So what should you do if suddenly rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and flash bang grenades are whizzing past you and a hundred Mad Max extras waiving clubs start goose-stepping in your direction? The following will provide you some tips and advice to keep you as safe as possible should you suddenly find yourself in a war-zone. Clothing When the storm troopers make their appearance at your protest march, you’ll notice they came dressed to kill. They typically wear helmets, face shields, gas masks, chest protectors, elbow pads, knee and shin pads, and combat boots. In addition, they will carry shields, batons, Tasers, radios, medical kits, shotguns and pistols. Meanwhile, you are standing there in a t-shirt and flip flops. The first tip is to come dressed for the occasion. Long pants and long sleeves to reduce the exposure of skin to RCAs. (Riot Control Agents)

The Palestinians Can Defeat Israel In A Street Fight

Palestine has always been the underdog, a country slowly being wiped off the map, a society daily and methodically being dismantled by Israel. As a principally unarmed and oppressed indigenous population, Palestinians are perceived as powerless against the military supremacy of Israel's technological death industry, persistently outmanoeuvred by Israel's political cunning and endlessly bullied by a Western world that has made a game of diplomacy and intrigue from our miserable fate. We've lost so much to Israel's boundless plunder. Over and over, we lose. Home, heritage, life, dignity, security, hope, culture, narrative, orchards and olives, history and artifacts, livelihoods, innocence, language and identity. They've excavated our souls, renamed our villages, poured concrete over our ancient cemeteries, made brothels of our churches and mosques, and claimed our hummus, falafel and maqlooba as the traditional food of Jewish foreigners who daily arrive to take our place.

The Ten Commandments Of Movement Solidarity

After a decade of grassroots advocacy, my personal belief is that the greatest obstacle to positive change in the world isn’t corporations, the government, or the 1%, but lack of movement solidarity. And no, I’m not pretending to be some modern day Moses bringing the divine truths down from the mountain. I’m just someone who has participated in the entire spectrum of the environmental movement — from mainstream to “radical,” on both coasts — who has witnessed a lot of unnecessary failures over the years, in large part because people can’t figure out how to work together. Since my work these days focuses on the health and environmental impacts of dirty energy — nuclear, fossil fuels, and biomass/trash incineration — most of the specific examples I give in this article will come from that realm. However, chances are the “Ten Commandments of Solidarity” can also apply to your movement, whatever it is…unless it’s evil. In which case, it won’t, so don’t bother.

Is Social Justice Driven By Emotion Or Reason?

This spring, researchers at the University of Chicago published a study investigating how perceptions of justice and fairness relate to the human brain. As summarized last week by Erin Brodwin for News.Mic, the study’s main finding—or at least that most relevant to those of us who aren’t neurologists—is that “when people who are more responsive to injustice see things happen that they find morally wrong…their minds respond by accessing the sections of the brain responsible for logic and reasoning.” Brodwin’s conclusion from the study is that those interested in social change—especially around human rights and environmental concerns—should appeal to logic rather than emotion. While it’s certainly true that powerful fact-based arguments about climate change have catalyzed the movement against it, it is also true that such arguments have been successful largely in mobilizing those not directly impacted by its effects. Understandably so, researchers were not seeking to simulate lifetimes spent dealing with climate change, let alone the realities of abuse or race-based inequality.

Should We Fight The System Or Be The Change?

It is an old question in social movements: Should we fight the system or “be the change we wish to see”? Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society? Over the past 50 years — and arguably going back much further — social movements in the United States have incorporated elements of each approach, sometimes in harmonious ways and other times with significant tension between different groups of activists. In the recent past, a clash between “strategic” and “prefigurative” politics could be seen in the Occupy movement. While some participants pushed for concrete political reforms — greater regulation of Wall Street, bans on corporate money in politics, a tax on millionaires, or elimination of debt for students and underwater homeowners — other occupiers focused on the encampments themselves. They saw the liberated spaces in Zuccotti Park and beyond — with their open general assemblies and communities of mutual support — as the movement’s most important contribution to social change. These spaces, they believed, had the power foreshadow, or “prefigure,” a more radical and participatory democracy.
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