Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oakland AgitProp and the Pivots of Revolution

Wow! Just stunning AgitProp poster from the folks who bring you Occupy Oakland.

This is what Revolutionary Graphics look like... in my view at any rate. Of course, I am very visually oriented -- perhaps overly so -- and a poster like this grabs me on multiple levels: it's visually powerful and striking, the images are evocative of previous Revolutionary actions (I think most of us know which ones), and they speak to conditions right here and right now.

Break the chains that bind you. Hello?

But of course there are many, many people involved in the Occupy Movement who will recoil at a visual image like that, many who will denounce it outright as "a call to violence" (which it is not, at least not necessarily, but I'll try to get to that), and who will be fearful of the potentials a graphic image like that can unleash. The power of images (and the narratives that go with so many of them) should not be underestimated.

No one should enter into a Revolution mindlessly. Just as no one can predict the start of a Revolution, no one can predict its outcome. Do not do this unless you are prepared... or at least mindful... of unpredictable consequences.

I posted a "somewhat" Revolutionary image on the Occupy Sacramento Facebook page, an adaptation of a poster that was developed by an artist in the initial days of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, and as far as I can tell, it's been taken down after there were some complaints about its being "too forceful" or "too communist" or "too violent." Of course, in my view it was none of those things, but other people did see it as an implicit threat to the established order, and as such, it was "forceful, communist, and violent," by definition.

That should give you an idea of how difficult it is to open minds and consciousness to the possibilities of Real Change, how serious one has to be about it to accomplish any significant Change, and how fearful most people are of actually doing it.

It's justified fear; I won't deny that. You don't know where your action is going to lead. There is no way to know in advance. Even the threat of Action, even if only subliminal, is disturbing to many.

But. If you're going to get anywhere, people do have to be disturbed, their comfort and convenience has to be disrupted, and their natural complacency and apathy has to be overcome.

So it is with more than a little interest that I post this video of the Q&A session after Noam Chomsky's talk at Occupy Boston last week (so long ago now, in Revolution-Time, it seems like decades ago!):

Yes, well.

Listen to the subtext of what he is saying: "Work through the System as it is. Do not do Revolution. Do not upset the apple cart. Do not expect quick results. Do not be subversive. Do not engage in anything but proper political action on established models. Do not do General Strikes. Do not Make Trouble. Do not concern yourselves with the Big Picture. Focus on 'what can be done.' Immediate issues only. The People are not ready for Revolution. Do not do this."

This is one reason I have never had much regard for Chomsky: despite appearances, he is not just part of the Establishment, he is an active defender of the Established Order, an Order which, of course, has given him a prominent Place at The Table. He has free rein to talk all he wants, but only because he is no threat to the Established Order, and he will take no action -- and in fact he will support no action -- that will actually disturb that order. The farthest he will go is to suggest the possibility of making marginal adjustments within that order, preferably on a very long time scale.

His critique of the Established Order is not in any way meant to subvert or overcome it; at best it is meant to "improve." Lots of people resonate with that point of view. It is not just safe, it is passably doable. If you're prepared to wait a very long time, and if you are satisfied with baby steps forward now and then, and much reversion and backsliding most of the time, then Chomsky's approach is just the ticket.

It does work. I know. I've done it. I've worked within the system as an an activist/advocate, as a contractor, and as a direct government employee, and I pretty much know how to get things done within that context. It takes a long time, there are lots of setbacks along the way, and what you initially set out to do is not likely to be realized as you envisioned it (if it is realized at all.) Yet by working within the System, there is at least a fair chance that some of what you're interested in seeing happen will happen. You can have an effect on policy, and that effect will have a ripple effect throughout the System.

This is something that many of the activists in the Occupy Movement are just learning, and they don't know how to do it yet; they had no idea they could do it before this Movement sprang up.

But there is a whole other contingent (now concentrated in Oakland, it seems!) who have already been down that road and have rejected it; or they never had any particular regard for it in the first place.

They know full well you can "get something done" within the System, but it will never be more than an adjustment at the margins; it can't be anything more than that. They aren't satisfied with that, and at this point, after what has been going on to harm the People for so many years, I ask why should anyone be satisfied with that?

I think it is fascinating that the Occupy Energy Center (to give it a name) has shifted from New York to Oakland. What happens in Oakland is now the catalyst for what will happen in the Movement as a whole.

And there are some real Radicals and Revolutionaries in Oakland, make no mistake. They will not sit down, they will not shut up, and at this point, after the unprovoked police assault on the Occupation in Oakland, and the subsequent absurd police overreaction to the protests against it -- an overreaction that resulted in hundreds of injuries, and the severe wounding of Scott Olsen -- they will not be stopped, either. At least not any time soon, nor easily.

There have been these kinds of uprisings in Oakland in the past, many times, and they have either been successfully suppressed, co-opted or they have dissipated, so I won't make any prediction about where this particular activist movement is headed.

It could well be that enough of the Demands of Occupy Oakland will be met that the Revolution will peter out; on the other hand, if Authority continues to dismiss those demands and insists on committing further atrocities, then we're literally looking at a situation that will mirror other uprisings that have happened this year which have turned into full on Revolutions that ultimately led to the overthrow of governments.

Calling a General Strike at this point is a "test" in a way, to see just what kind of public support there is for Occupy Oakland, not solely in Oakland itself -- though that is the focus -- but throughout the Movement and in the general society. If it is as extensive as I suspect it is (though I can't be sure it is), then Oakland won't be just the momentary Center of the Occupy Movement, it will become the "motor" in a sense for the entire movement.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing at all.

There are true Radicals and Revolutionaries involved with Occupy Oakland, and at least from my perspective 80 miles away, all I can say about them is that they know what they are doing and they are fully mindful of the risks and rewards of Revolution (for Real).

If the Energy Center stays in Oakland, we're going to see much more than marginal change from within the System result from the continuing Occupy Movement.

Strap in, the Ride is just beginning.

This is an image from last night's confrontation with OPD:

It may seem kind of cute, but it's deadly serious.

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