Lately I’ve started thinking about Occupy as a kit of tools. Some of them are leftover from the 1960s, some are brand new, and some are ancient beyond history. It’s tempting to think of Occupy as an organization. We are organized, but we’re more of an organism than an organization. Occupy forms organically without explicit design or intention and maintains itself as necessary through the actions of individuals and the greater community.
A more precise way to put it is that Occupy is a brand and a portfolio of tactics and strategies. These include but are not limited to:
- Physical occupation
- Civil disobedience
- Online and face-to-face networking
- Consensus-based decision-making
- Leaders without authority
- An open, facilitated public forum
- Working groups capable of carrying out tasks and projects
- Ideological diversity, open-minds and a willingness to make friends and allies
- Public demonstrations
- Autonomous action
- Consumer activism
This is not a complete list, but it covers many of the major aspects of an Occupation. So far these tactics have been successful in attracting new occupiers, gathering media attention, and building coalitions with other marginalized groups. We even got Bank of America to go back on their new fees. OK, we have a movement.
The general strike in Oakland was a huge show of popular strength, but it is essentially non-destructive monkeywrenching. Obstructing the system is a great way to protest, but it does not build anything to get us closer to a phrase I really want to add to our toolbox:
We need to get localized democratic control over the things we need to live: food, communication, primary production of materials, and the like. Cooperatives have been especially successful in the food and banking sectors, but they need our support to grow. Can we build widespread networks of mining, industrial and timber cooperatives? Can we build a cooperatively-owned wimax network? How about shipping? How about fuel?
Lots of people have died because some megalomaniac thought he could implement the vision of Karl Marx, but Marx did have one thing right: “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general.” Basically, the way people get fed and get their things made is going to determine what society looks like. If we want society to look a certain way, we need to be able to provide for ourselves and our communities without relying on unaccountable organizations.
So go found a co-op already.