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The 48 Points of Movement

Started by Austin McCoy, March 26, 2007, 02:36:25 pm

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Austin McCoy

The 48 Points of Movement.   

--Austin McCoy

While I'm sure others have rearticulated Robert Greene's idea behind his book The 48 Laws of Power, I want to assure the reader that I did not consult his work in this effort. And I do not plan on starting to run business seminars based upon this model anytime soon. So, don't worry. But this list was based upon past experiences as a student with academic interests in social movements, as an organizer striving for social change, and co-creator of the magazine,Spirit of the Nation! (//www.spiritofthenation.org). In the meantime, I, as well as my colleagues, have been, and remain, on the quest to harness any ideas that may help us and could be of some use to others.

With the risk of taking too much space and time I will begin with the first seventeen.

1. There's a War Goin' On...

I must admit--as an avid hip hop fan--there are plenty of moments where particular artists, or lyrics, have inspired ideas in my efforts of assessing (my perceived) state of human relations, and this point is no different. In one of my favorite songs ever--aptly and problematically called "Survival of the Fittest" by group Mobb Deep--then-young lyricist Prodigy uttered "there's a war goin' on no man is safe from." Of course, and without excluding women, this seems to be true. To the dismay of many--the United States is, and has been, embroiled in armed conflicts in the Middle East, rhetorical and ideological struggle in the Far East, in the Americas, as well as on the continent of Africa. And it is safe to say many of you reading have probably picked up the various tactical, material, rhetorical, and ideological weapons to confront the "truth-producing" machine preaching the push for "liberty, freedom, and democracy" across the world a là the imperial nation of the United States.

In addition to this conflict, many people are also waging other wars against particular axes of oppression--racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, religious chauvinism, etc.--in a variety of ways either through mainstream political channels, indigenous movement, and protest.

While these struggles cannot be minimized, losing sight of the day-to-day inner struggles can also be unproductive. As activists and organizers, I hope we do not assume that we are above all of the problems that we study, protest, and resist against.

We all strive for similar goals--the opportunity to define and determine ourselves as well as our own lots in life; the right to access to particular resources and opportunities. I think it's safe to say that--no matter what we look like, what or who we believe in, what music we listen to, or who we love--there is a common cause.

2. There's a common cause.

Although I did not seek list these points according to value, there seems to be moments where this item gets lost in all of the discussions, debates, and even quarrels amongst organizers, activists, and organizations. Whether some may be pragmatists, anarchists, Marxists, syndicalists, or even liberals, at least to a degree, everyone is struggling to achieve a better world. Each person involved in the political process--whether it's "mainstream" or "oppositional" believes they are aspiring to at least change the immediate world around her or himself.  Let's develop creative and innovative ways to harness all of this positive energy for positive movement. And yes, it's still okay to disagree. With this being said, however, I disagree with anyone who will let particular ideological inconsistencies prohibit potential coalition building.

3. A Movement is 2: Move and Reproduce.

Aaron and I developed this idea in our efforts of trying (our hardest) to conceive of an ideological-free structure for the magazine and movement (In which I do not think it's possible). What we came up with was the idea of Moving and Reproducing. Aaron fleshed out the idea this idea in our prior issue--Affluence: What's Meaningful? Essentially, as he wrote, instead of valuing the large-scale, mass mobilizations, efforts and energy should be focused on developing positive individual relationships. We should seek out individuals; reproduce the missions and visions for social change that we each harbor. In turn, each person should aim to replicate similar results in others. While it is intriguing to participate in a mass mobilization, the stronger and most effective mobilizations arise from the interactions between two individuals. And the effect of both mass protests and relationship building lasts much longer than any mass mobilization effort. Without positive interactions between at least two people, there is no movement.

4. Positive Movement.

"True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force--tension, confusion, or war; it is the presence of some positive force--justice, good will and brotherhood." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Nonviolence and Racial Justice"

Right now, it seems as if many of the "progressive" movements are on the defensive; whether it's the civil rights establishment with affirmative action and school desegregation; proponents of free choice defending abortion, or those environmentalists defending mother earth. And the left should continue to defend these causes. However, when one peers back into the history of social movements, one realizes how effective these movements once were--civil rights, feminism, and environmentalism--when they took the offensive against segregation, for reproductive rights, and for the preservation of the Earth. By forcing their adversaries to go on the defensive, these factions for example, were able to gain support.

5. Action over Ideology.

Much related to the former and latter points, positive and constant action should be cherished over the belief in a particular ideology. Granted, it may be naïve to assume that there moments of movement where ideology is, and even should be, absent, however, I would hate to not accomplish a task over a seemingly fundamental disagreement. I don't care what, or who, you claim to be or believe. If you are willing to work, I'll grab the tools and put on my hardhat.

6. Strength in Alliances and Uniting Issues.

"Not only does a single- or even a dual-issue organization condemn you to a small organization, it is axiomatic that a single-issue organization won't last."

"With only one or two issues there will certainly be a lapse of action, and then comes death. Multiple issues mean constant action and life." -Saul Alinsky

The construction of loose alliances and uniting issues where they intersect may seem to have more promise when it comes to harnessing the maximum amount of potential positive force against oppression and exploitation. By exploring all of the contours of racism for example, one will not only begin to develop a critique of day-to-day, micro-level relationships, but also the macro-level processes of oppression (resegregation, disparities in health, economics, incarceration rates, etc.) and how their relationships to other modes of oppression--class, sex and gender, and environment to name a few.

Or, as author Ron Jacobs ponders in his article "Lessons from the War, for the Movement and the Media," developing an umbrella organization that could oversee and coordinate the nationwide, mass demonstrations may prove to be a means where the antiwar movement can pack a greater punch against the already dented American/western war machine. Now, granted, this suggestion may jive at some activists, who deplore centralization, his thought should be one at least worth discussing. Aligning with groups should not mean the potential loss of ones group's, or individuals, organizing identity; it equals strength, versatility, and innovation in the midst of potential internal conflict. The antiwar and any oppositional force in general, becomes tougher to defeat and is less corruptible when particular organizations or "sectarian" groups embrace and learn about their differences within the broader movement rather than retreat in them.

7. Moving Against, In, and Through the System.

This point was another product of collaboration between Aaron and me.

It's no secret. Activists and organizers have always had the ability to effectively oppose the system. However, struggling against the system should not be the only avenue. Due to the past couple of elections many of us want to discard our votes every November, but we cannot and should not. Ignoring particular exploitable avenues in the system only closes opportunities for movement growth. Why? It's simple; because it's there. Now, granted, these avenues are far from perfect--and that's why we participate--but who says we should not be training future politicians to healthily criticize and change the system? It's not about selling out or being hypocritical--it's about being smart and doing whatever it takes to achieve our goals. And the last time I checked there were no rules in fighting.

And I will quote Aaron at length because I could not have said this any better:

Yes, we are aware that total assimilation to the current system means that we may be deformed and marginalized by it just like everyone else who has every tried to affect change completely within the system. Thus, the dual purpose - we will function both within and without the system with the hopes of evolving the system. Practically speaking, we are working within the academic institution which generally requires that leftist organizations be non-profit and focused "purely" on their message. While this is generally thought to be a noble way of working for change, they simultaneously undercut themselves because so much of their energy and time is focused on raising funds to support the message - which is essentially watered-down because they have to placate their financial contributors and dilute their message making fund raising part of what they need to communicate (Beveridge, "A Movement is 2").

8. Situational Democracy and Moving with the Center.

Scholar Barbara Ransby discusses the idea of situational democracy in her biographical analysis of Ella Baker (Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement). Instead of "letting the people decide," Ransby proclaims, Baker's belief was to "let the disenfranchise vote, let the silenced be heard, let the oppressed be empowered, and let the marginalized move to the center" (Ransby, 368). This approach, Ransby writes, meant "Baker had to constantly assess and reassess the power dynamics in any given situation and then tilt the leadership scales in the direction of the least powerful" (Ransby, 368). Based upon her analysis, one can see where this idea fits into the schema. Believing in the power of a few, ideological, and tactical flexibility, situational democracy places the political onus on the community rather than from a traditional top-down organizational structure. It is up to the participants to democratically tackle the most pressing task at hand--whether it is putting pressure on the local government for an improvement in the living amenities or deciding to extend a helpful hand as a temporary ally in another cause. Consequently, whatever the people define as the most pressing task, alongside the particular present context, and existing missions, becomes the center. With this in mind, one of the potential missions of defining and moving with the center becomes the movement's goal.

 9. Listen to Women.

I have heard both musician Stevie Wonder and organizer Al Haber utter similar thoughts about this point. In the last song on his latest album, A Time to Love, the ever present musical wunderkind, Stevie Wonder tells the listener--and I am paraphrasing--that in order to end war and conflict, we, men, will have to appeal to the grandmothers, mothers, daughters, friends, and companions (and vise-versa) of those serving. Mr. Haber also echoed a similar sentiment during the opening plenary at last year's SDS National Convention. And if we couple the thoughts of these minds with historical evidence from the modern Civil Rights Movement, one only knows that much of the hard, day-to-day planning and organizing was on the shoulders of the many women whom we are only beginning to unearth their names today (besides the Diane Nashes, Fannie Lou Hamers, and Ella Bakers of course).

And most importantly, women--just like every oppressed group in society--have created spaces where issues of masculinity and femininity have and continue to (and should) be questioned. These questions subsequently leave open spaces for the antiwar, as well as other, movements to exploit and craft more effective arguments. Ultimately, historical evidence has proved that women have been the backbone, the leaders, and the soul of movements for social change.

10. People Lead, Organizers Follow.

"There go my people; I must catch them, for I am their leader." -Gandhi and often quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We know leaders are selected by the masses, and if s/he does not adhere to the masses then their position will be revoked. One can only ask the Republican Party about the truth of this statement. However, one thing people often fail to realize is they also have a responsibility, not to just hold their leaders accountable, but to lead the leaders themselves. That is democracy. There is not a vast difference between group appointed leaders and public. The public within a particular community possesses a world-view that is often distinct from the so-called leadership. The only thing they do not appear to have is power. The key word in the sentence is: appear.

11. Organize the Organizers.

After this the next step seems to be to organize the organizers. What? Is not this more centralization? Not necessarily. This is not a call to form another organization--necessarily. But, there should be more tangible ways in which we can discuss, debate, and trade tactical, ideological, and material ideas amongst one another. If some of us are visiting a particular area, it would be nice to know exactly who to contact and visit in order to assess the terrain in which one is working. This could be through a pamphlet, list serve, message board, blog, or even via conference call. This thought will be delineated more in future points. And if this is already being done--and not at a conference where the fees are as much as my books per quarter--then contact me (a1mccoy@gmail.com) so I can sign up!
12. Everyone Has a Place in the Movement--Even Opponents.

In the course of organizing a past issue for the magazine, I remember belly-aching to Aaron about the adverse views of someone else. His reply was classic and wise: "he has a place." Aaron was/is correct, even those who may disagree or consider themselves as willing adversaries serve a purpose in organizing efforts. Use them. If one were to take the nonviolent approach utilized by Lawson, King, Nash, and other activists and organizations during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s, the likes of Bull Connor and the overtly racist antics of whites proved to be a testament to why racism was such a deep-seated problem in the United States.

But before this can take place, one must be aware of his or her own actions as well as crafting an argument where people are hard-pressed to deny. The situation at hand must become so overwhelming to the people that even when one comes out against the progressive action in a seemingly progressive manner, it can be manipulated into an argument supporting the action or view. Ultimately, the production of the opposing view becomes a source of reproduction for the progressive movement.

13. Time for a "Google" Approach to Digital Communication and Pertinent Information?

This point has arisen out of much contemplation and discussion of how and where to take our talents and the vessel of our magazine, Spirit of the Nation!, Aaron, I, and a couple of others have decided it was necessary to build a more formidable web presence.

This realization has thrown me into a tailspin when it comes to conceiving what I would like to see in a future website. First, participation is a must. This goes back to the previous point. The more people participate and steer the conversation, the easier it is for all of those involved. Whether one agrees or disagrees, lets us know what we should be talking about and mobilizing against. Second, and this has been one of our goals, I would like to know of all of the organizing efforts of various organizations. This could be a great resource for those heavily connected people who may be able to marshal a group of people to appear at your next meeting or protest. Third, I hate to be disconnected from the larger world, so I would love to see a site that can pull together all of the pertinent news headlines and links from other news sources (and none of the celebrity and total pop culture nonsense!). And to add on, some commentary about how particular headlines relate to a/the particular issue at hand would be nice. Of course, calendars, contact information, a whole database for organizing would be great.


P.S. I actually want to learn more about the (neo)conservative movement in order to craft sound arguments against it--so I would not be closed to posting headlines from conservative sources. By the way, I learned from one of my professors that Stanford University--one of the (in) famous conservative institutions for higher learning boasts one of the largest archives full of radical sources in the Hoover Institution. How did you think they were able to repress and break the organizations and the movements of the 1960s? The FBI spied and studied them. How do you think the neoconservative movement was able to rise and sustain itself for so long? By studying us; and with dedicated organizers working in think-tanks, but that is for another point.

14. A Movement = A String of Strong and Productive Relationships.

Lastly, productive relationships are vital to the life of a social movement. Like stated above, "A social movement is a string of interdependent, positive, strong, and productive relationships between organizers and/or organizations..." When one really interrogates how social movements, and productive communities, operate, this point should not need an explanation. Unless one can lay claim to an undisputable truth or impregnable power, it would be difficult to mobilize any individuals, let alone a community, for lasting social change with destructive relationships.

15. A Sound Program.

While mass mobilizations and protests are intriguing every organization and cause needs a sound program. Based upon my observations of the modern civil rights movement, morale was built and retained in tangible programs that garnered material results for its indigenous participants. Whether it was the freedom schools in the South, the ERAP facilitated by the SDS, or the various community-control organizations established by various chapters of the Black Panther Party, these programs really gave the people real means of determining and charting the direction of their particular communities. Consequently, the people were not only just being informed about their potential to participate effectively, they were able to see and feel it for themselves, and thus gain the confidence needed to confront their opponents.

16. 2008 Democratic Convention.

Remember the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago? While some may deplore the actual events of the protest, shouldn't we remember the energy that was shown on television screens across the country; across the world? Well next year it will be 40 years since that moment and we, I believe, as organizers, activists, and as a country may be standing at another sociopolitical crossroads. This election could set the course for U.S. domestic and foreign policy for at least a decade. And if a Democrat is elected President and fails, then the only thing I see happening is both an ultraconservative president after four years and our system finally stalling before our eyes. Will the **** hit the fan between August 25 and 28? I guess we will have to see. The convention will be in the mile high city of Denver.

17. Is It Okay to Call a Revolution a Revolution?

This is a question that another editor of ours--Tony Chinni--asked me in an email. My response is: Only if it is a rEvolution. We'll explain that one later...

Austin McCoy is Chief Editor and Organizer of Spirit of the Nation! as well as a graduate student at The Ohio State University. His research interests are social movements and activism, the Civil Rights/Black Power Movements, Race Theory, as well as Urban Rebellion.He can be contacted via email at

Tony Budak

Austin has a lot of great ideas,  I especially like what he says here,
QuoteI would like to know of all of the organizing efforts of various organizations. This could be a great resource for those heavily connected people who may be able to marshal a group of people to appear at your next meeting or protest.
Yes I could not agree more. In fact, that is within the vision of CLNews. There are so many web sites/groups that it seems impossible to keep on top of it all. Here at CLNews is a small beginning to attempt a collection of useful sites and information. So perhaps people that read this would reply with suggestions to improve the site. Please take a look at the recently added links below the left navagation buttons, Nonviolent Struggle, A Force More Powerful, and CANVAS. I feel that they have a lot to offer.

Then Austin goes on to say.
QuoteThird, I hate to be disconnected from the larger world, so I would love to see a site that can pull together all of the pertinent news headlines and links from other news sources (and none of the celebrity and total pop culture nonsense!). And to add on, some commentary about how particular headlines relate to a/the particular issue at hand would be nice. Of course, calendars, contact information, a whole database for organizing would be great.
Again Yes, So Austin if you are reading this and anyone else out there, please jump in and lets hear from you. I don't know the source of this quote, but it is fitting.  It goes something like this, "We are the leaders that we are looking for." And of course, this site is for you to use.
With Respect and Cheers,
Tony Budak, Site Owner and Webmaster

Please do not email or PM me for CLNews technical  support. Instead Post Questions and Concerns Here