We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Theory and Practice in the "Occupy Movement"

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Global Research. 
 ...true leaders can only emerge in the context of real democracy; both need the other.

There is no blueprint for movement building, but general principles can be erected based on the revolutionary experiences of the past. The key strategies of Occupy should be based on those ideas that unify and promote collective action against the 1%.

Ultimately Occupy needs to organize for power; we need a greater power to displace the current power of the 1%. This doesn't mean that we must adopt the same forms of power utilized by the state, but that new ones must be created, while using EVERY opportunity within the existing structure to organize, educate, and mobilize working people.
The writer seems to be missing the creative work that the Occupy Movement has accomplished in organizing a new type of democratic structure. I am referring to the invention of the Spokes Council and the recent advocacy of affinity groups as a dynamic nucleus for the Movement.

Granted that the Occupiers already have "leaders" of a sort such as Chomsky, for example. However, they represent a very different type of leader than the traditional type. Thus, I don't think that using the same word to label both of them is useful. The difference is very significant. The label that traditional usage refers to is someone who others tend to defer to in the sense of following uncritically, someone who is ultimately empowered with authority and privileges. This inevitably evolves into a vanguard which, in turn, evolves into a ruling class which, I think is clear, is the downfall of all revolutionary movements. 

Traditional organizations are based on a false self-serving premise: that only a few people are endowed with exceptional leadership abilities. The latter are these gifted people. They are the winners, the rest of us are losers. They have a moral right to more power and privileges than we do. With more power and privileges their families are strengthened because their children receive all the benefits. The latter are given better opportunities in education, in appointments to offices and vocational positions, and more monetary rewards. They become divorced from the rest of society. This leads to exploitation. They constitute a ruling class. Their power and privileges insulate them from the consequences of their policies.  And, they engage in power struggles with other elites which often leads to wars. This is where we are today.

Hence the necessity to develop another way to elicit the best talents of the people for the benefit of all the people. The Occupiers intuitively know this and are attempting to meet that challenge.

What the Occupiers are beginning to recognize is that people have a variety of strengths, and all are needed to sustain the movement against the juggernaut of voracious capitalism. Individual strengths must be promoted by giving people opportunities, responsibilities, education, and critical feedback as to how well their particular talents are serving their peers. But, they must never be given uncritical deference. Any authority and responsibility can only be given them by the communities they serve, and can always be removed by these constituents. Chomsky is only a leader in the sense that some of his ideas have been accepted by others. He, and all participants, must always be inextricably connected to rest of society and be subject to their acceptance.