Monday, May 14, 2012

Can Occupy Use Techniques And Approaches From The Civil Rights Movement?

In a long, thought-provoking piece, Ted Rall says NO, and explains his reasons at length and in considerable detail.

For better and worse, the 1950s and 1960s are long, long past. Many conditions of that era which permitted the civil rights movement to accomplish its goals are either absent or completely reversed in today's federal government.

Read what Rall has to say; we all have some hard thinking to do about what comes next.


  1. Read it. Not convinced in the slightest.

  2. ntodd, on the not unreasonable assumption that somebody else also read it, would you care to share the details of your unpersuadedness? Here or on your own site? After all, you've had the experience...

  3. Constance ReaderMay 15, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    I learned this lesson in 2003, when the Bushies dismissed the consecutive antiwar protests of over 7 million people around the globe as a "focus group". Then went on their merry way and proved that, once in power, they need not worry about consequences because they will face none.

    "Vote the bastards out" is useless - because by the time you can vote them out, they've already gotten in and have done the damage they intended to do. And they know that their legislation will not be reversed by the legislators that will replace them.

  4. Steve - the problem is that we've generally not seen anything since the 60s that had the extensive use of the 198 NV tactics Gene Sharp cataloged (, nor a consistent strategic arc. You need various ways to get people's attention, a way to effectively communicate demands, and escalation points over the long course of the struggle.

    I've been heartened by what I've seen in WI, OH, VA in terms of resistance to state government overreach, and the widespread, continued push by OWS. While the media can pretend to be ignorant of the demands and issues, they have been expressed very well, and I think you see that in the large mobilization, the Overton shift from things like debt vs jobs/needs of 99% and gay marriage is icky v inevitable.

    If you compare OWS and the other strikes, protests, etc, to the civil rights movement, do you choose 1955 or 1965 (or even earlier or later)? When something happened in the beginning of suffrage, civil rights, anti-Vietnam, you name it, the shit was small. Only after a long effort did we see change.

    To judge OWS et al in the earliest stages is pretty silly, especially when we have, in fact, seen tangible results with such humble beginnings. The key will be persistence.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people have only been exposed to the marching aspect of resistance, not the overall tactics that have been successfully used against both the most benign and most tyrannical regimes, including places like the old Eastern Bloc, Egypt and the middle east, etc. I find folks who say "the stuff from the 60s cannot work today" really have a vested interest in it not working, because that would mean we'd have to get off our blogs and do shit.

    That's not directed at you, but I've given up arguing with a number of online "activists" whose notion of action is signing a MoveOn petition and writing screeds about how people doing stuff in the streets (and in the invisible ways that never get attention) are embarrassing or whatever.

  5. "we'd have to get off our blogs and do shit."Exactly so. Rall's 'Anti-American Manifesto.' is an interesting precursor to his later articles. The large argument is change or reformation through 'traditional' peaceful mass movements, but in the back of my mind is the memory of attending SDS meetings that advocated violence against corporate property. I think within the next few decades as the economy buries the middle class that will become the direction. Anarchy and mass strikes are optional. Now where did I put that copy of Marx's 1850 essays?

  6. There is a huge amount of potential energy built up between the 99% and 1% and it will eventually find an outlet(s). There will probably be violence involved as such a large amount of energy can't be effectively dissipated within the bounds of peaceful action. Civil disobedience is a sure thing but what else will happen is up for grabs. It won't be a happy time.

  7. Constance, I was among those 7m protesters. I loathe, detest and despise GeeDubya Bush and his crew; if the Earth were to open up and swallow them all into the pit, I would not grieve for any of them. That said, I do not know how to prevent the same thing from happening again and again... with Republicans and Democrats alike.

  8. ntodd, I've read Gene Sharp's FDTD, though it's been a long time, and I need to reread.

    As to the rest, I feel absolutely worthless these days. Being a cripple means not being able to do even the basic kinds of protest I did a mere few years ago. Protesting in a wheelchair (my only real option) sticks someone else with the responsibility of keeping me out of harm's way, and the cops I've seen at Occupy events don't really care if they bash cripples... I'm too old to recover from even one thorough police beating or spraying; it would mean death for me. Maybe that's how I'll go... but not yet.

  9. karmanot, I am not as persuaded as you apparently are about the effectiveness of violent action as protest. What I remember from the 1960s is that violence mostly gives cops an excuse for more violence and (typically) worse violence, and there's still no reaction to police beatings of horror in the mainstream media. I would see the point in violence if it achieved a goal, but I don't see that it does. As I said, that may end up being inevitable, but it's not what we want to try first.

  10. fallenmonk, I wish I'd passed away before all this crap happened, but the old body keeps hanging on, and it seems likely I'll live to see some of the open conflict. If Rmoney is president, I expect to see various National Guard branches put into service; we can only hope against hope that they will defy illegal orders and not assault citizens. I really, really don't want this to happen, but I don't see a way around it.

  11. Steve,
    I'm not an advocate nor certain of the effectiveness of violence except in specific symbolic focused political goals and self preservation. My concept of violence against property is Marxist in genesis and does not advocate violence against innocent civilians. I realize that this position is ideological and idealistic. Since the bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima state sanctioned murder is always an option. We must face that. The powers realize that and so Obama now has the supreme power to assassinate in that evolution of state mass murder. Any of us who might threaten or challenge that absolute right are vulnerable . That meeting I refereed to back in the pre-Chicago days set me on the path to Buddhist monasticism, However as a historical observer I cannot overlook that revolutions in all their formation or protests include violence and sometimes extreme violence in the undertaking. Rall writes eloquently of this history. I tend toward Clark's view in this matter. I also understand that conditions which described the 'State' in the south of the 60's now exists as a national police state under Obama and that will continue to evolve until anarchy will occur in the collapse of civil society. Both Democrat and Republican fascist corporatism would find an eventual feudal paradigm if not stopped----and by violent resistance if not stealth. My make my case of the underground under Nazi oppression. Have you ever seen the movie, "The Road"?



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