Facilitating occupation

In another recent post Chris Corrigan (see our previous post) has also collated a few links to support Occupy protests in facilitation.

Plan to Win have done the same in their #Occupy 101 post, with some specific tools for general assemblies of the kind being used at Occupy Wall Street.

The resources include a fantastic 8 minute video about consensus at Occupy Wall Street, which gives a passionate introduction to the process. I’m sure it’s not all perfect there (where is it?) but it’s a great reminder of the energy and joy that consensus can bring to a movement. I’ve embedded it below. Watch it!. 8 minutes well spent. But that’s not an excuse for not visiting Plan to Win’s site. The other resources are well worth checking out.

In the spirit of signposting resources, here are more links taken from our resources page (many more where these came from). All of these sites have invaluable materials on them on topics like facilitation, but also nonviolent action and strategy:

And of course there’s our own materials.


So many tactics. So little time….

The Academy of Change (credited with a significant role in preparing the ground for the Egyptian uprising) have posted Political activists reveal 65 ways to start a Syrian revolution, which gives some examples of the range of tactics open to activists. Clearly Gene Sharp, and others, have compiled similar lists in the past, but it’s always good to see what’s current and is working in what context. Here’s a significant chunk of the post handily broken down for individuals, groups, and society as a whole:

The first 18 suggestions include ways that individuals can participate in the Syrian revolution, and this includes: providing food and medicine to protesters, utilizing the internet to convince people to participate in the revolution, transferring news and information to those demonstrating and protesting in Syrian cities, putting up pro-revolutionary posters, raising revolutionary flags, conducting dialogue with pro-government soldiers and police to convince them of the merits of the revolution, providing financial support to revolutionary activities, providing financial support to the poor, amongst other suggestions.

As for ways that groups (between 3 – 5 people) can participate in “developing the revolution”, this includes: painting the walls of certain important buildings in pro-revolutionary colors, changing the names of streets so that they bear the name of martyrs of the revolution, carrying out campaigns to convince neighborhoods of the merits of the revolution, defacing and fabricating official state-affiliated newspapers, making pro-revolutionary banners, obstructing certain streets with cars, creating a new constitution, and preventing government officials from going to work.

The website also included 25 suggestions for ways that groups of thousands of people can contribute to the Syrian revolution, and this includes: acts of civil disobedience, marching in the streets, including marches with demonstrators all wearing the popular anti-establishment Guy Fawkes “V” mask, taking part in strikes, bicycle rallies, withdrawing funds from government banks, not doing business with companies or shops loyal to the regime, amongst other suggestions..

As for the AOC’s suggestions for ways that millions of Syrians can join together to participate in the revolution, this includes; refusing to pay electricity and water bills, refusing to pay government taxes, boycotting official state celebrations and events, disobeying unjust laws, and other widespread acts of civil disobedience.

Am I advocating these specific tactics for the Occupy movement or others? No. Tactics are context specific. A tactic that forces the hand of a dictator may not even register here in the UK and vice versa. But we do need to be thinking of possibilities, customising tactics that work elsewhere, finding action that ordinary citizens can engage with, breaking down ideas and making them accessible, and of course getting the ideas out there.

Essentially this is an appeal to be strategic on some level or another. Strategy is a hard one – there are those I’ve spoken to who argue that we simply need to go where the energy for action is, which is as good a criterion to use as any since we can’t ever know the outcomes of our actions. Others advocate understanding theories of change, and planning each and every tactic like moves in a game of chess.

The Occupy movement has of course named itself by a tactic, which may limit its range. But a friend of mine reminded me the other day just how many ways there are to occupy. Clearly there’s the occupation of public space – bridges and squares, but, for example, there’s also the occupation of switchboards and websites (what used to be called phone or fax blockades – a constant barrage of calls, faxes, emails to a corporation or government that strains its communications systems to the point of breaking). I’m sure others spring to your minds as you read.


Post-capitalism – errr, I thought you had a plan?

After my last post on the tactics of Occupy movement an old friend called and berated me (nicely) for not giving an alternative vision to capitalism. So here goes. And before you put the kettle on and settle down for a long read, no need. I’ll be brief:

I don’t know. Nor do I feel the need to know. What I do know is that capitalism doesn’t work. It preys on the worst aspects of the human psyche – limitless greed and the desire to hold power over others.

We need to clear the decks, pause and take stock. We need to make space for alternatives. So my alternative is making space for alternatives. Cop out? Stay with me. Whatever exists post-capitalism needs to be defined in its own terms, not with reference to capitalism. Like the black consciousness movement, or feminism, or indeed any liberation struggle we need to refuse to frame the conversation in the language of the oppressor, or with reference to the oppressor’s values. Let’s get rid of capitalism and not rush to fill the void. That void doesn’t have to be a vacuum, sucking in a new ‘system’ whole and complete.

What I do know about my personal vision is that it involves autonomy and diversity. And it involves continuing, and continuous (r)evolution

Autonomy and diversity?

Many folk involved in grassroots direct action will tell you that when we work in affinity groups we’re not only confronting injustice, but we’re living a structure that provides an alternative to the unjust systems we confront. The autonomous affinity group, often working in a collective with many other groups. That’s my picture of the future, but for affinity groups read communities.

And diversity? You can’t impose autonomy. So other communities may disagree, they may organise in ways that don’t work for me. It’s not just likely, it’s an inevitability. If I can’t tolerate that diversity, then life’s going to be tough, because persuading each and every one of you that I’m right and that I have the one truth is going to take more of my time than I’m prepared to give, and the broad beans won’t sow themselves.

And yet one of the biggest issues for groups that subscribe to this same model of autonomous affinity groups working in collaboration seems to be an intolerance of diversity, an inability to use consensus (understood to be the core process of such an approach) in groups with significant degrees of difference. A challenge then for life post-capitalism.

Continuous (r)evolution?

A wise and radical Methodist theologian of my acquaintance once wrote words to the effect of revolution not being the answer. Revolution, to his mind, implied a single turn of the wheel, moving on a fixed point and replacing it with a different fixed point. Regime change. He advocated being radical rather than revolutionary and thinking in terms of a constant motion of the wheel. Doesn’t every generation have its revolution only to find that its children feel the need to revolt against the new world order their parents created? Yet somehow we find ourselves thinking in terms of regime change rather than expecting, inviting and preparing for continuous change.

Only last week I was discussing utopia with Carl, my Rhizome co-founder. We’re meeting in early November with 5 or 6 others who are interested in getting involved in Rhizome (we’ll tell you more about that as it happens) and we’re planning an agenda that allows genuine space for dialogue about what Rhizome is and could be. It was refreshing to agree that we didn’t have a utopian vision that all potential Rhizome folk have to sign up to, and to acknowledge that our own visions and values already differ considerably anyway. I’m enjoying that diversity and look forward to more of it. Hopefully we can do a little bit of modeling the possibilities of autonomy, diversity, and ongoing reflection and change.

Occupy Wall Street

Some interesting stuff over in New York. Good site to look at – Occupy Wall Street for an ongoing story of the occupation and resistance. Some food for your media thoughts in the week running up to the Rebellious Media Conference. And if you’re just thinking of going we’re afraid it’s sold out.

Revolution – a full time occupation

I’m drowning in unread blog posts. My feed reader’s groaning under the weight. Nothing new there. That makes reading posts a bit like a lucky dip. When I get a moment I randomly pick something, and what do you know, tonight it’s a real gem. Over at the Interaction Institute there are musings on revolution and tales of an ongoing occupation of Wall Street that are well worth a visit if you have a revolutionary frame of mind.

Here’s a sizeable morsel to whet the appetite:

My friend Greg Jobin-Leeds likes to remind me that prior to the events of Tahrir Square, there were lots of much smaller, “insignificant,” and high-risk protests.  The courageous few, the stubborn few, the relentless few – and then BAM! It happened.  And the process continues to unfold.

As I write this post, there is a courageous few who have decided to Occupy Wall Street, they’ve been there since September 17 and here is their invitation:

We need to retake the freedom that has been stolen from the people, altogether.

  1. If you agree that freedom is the right to communicate, to live, to be, to go, to love, to do what you will without the impositions of others, then you might be one of us.
  2. If you agree that a person is entitled to the sweat of their brows, that being talented at management should not entitle others to act like overseers and overlords, that all workers should have the right to engage in decisions, democratically, then you might be one of us.
  3. If you agree that freedom for some is not the same as freedom for all, and that freedom for all is the only true freedom, then you might be one of us.
  4. If you agree that power is not right, that life trumps property, then you might be one of us.
  5. If you agree that state and corporation are merely two sides of the same oppressive power structure, if you realize how media distorts things to preserve it, how it pits the people against the people to remain in power, then you might be one of us.

And so we call on people to act