Then we can step back and talk about the tactics to make change happen.
I have been somewhat fixated on the controversy about the black bloc, the whole diversity of tactics debate since the Chris Hedges cancer of black bloc challenge.
My friend Austin Kelley sent along an interesting link this morning that makes the point that while we argue about a single tactic, and while we argue about diversity of tactics as if it is one thing (diversity – doesn’t that mean a bunch of things?) , we neglect the strategy that ties tactics together.
Here is some of what Austin sent along:
What is a demand?
“[A demand] is a goal which is not only a thing but, like capital at any moment, essentially a stage of antagonism of a social relation. Whether the [demand] we win will be a victory or a defeat depends on the force of our struggle. On that force depends whether the goal is an occasion for capital to more rationally command our labor or an occasion for us to weaken their hold on that command. What form the goal takes when we achieve it…emerges and is in fact created in the struggle, and registers the degree of power that we reached in that struggle.”
(Taken from a footnote in The Power of Women and the Subversion of Community by Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James)
Here is a taste of the article:
Strategy and Tactics
Since much of the contemporary debate over the black bloc has revolved around the meaning of a “diversity of tactics,” a concept which actually emerged nearly a decade ago, let’s take a moment to define “tactics.” This means defining “strategy” as well, since the two terms have no meaning outside their relationship with each other.
A tactic, it is often said, is a specific set of maneuvers used to win a localized engagement. A strategy, on the other hand, is the way these discrete engagements are coherently strung together to realize a broader objective. The two therefore form a reciprocal relationship in practice as well as in theory. Without a strategy, tactics only produce isolated skirmishes; without tactics, a strategy is only an unfulfilled dream.
Militant confrontation through street-fighting, which has been personified by the black bloc today, is a tactic, since it represents a specific way to win a specific encounter. It can stand alone or be complemented by a number of other tactics, such as peaceful marches, boycotts, or even voting, to name just a few. Calling for a “diversity of tactics” just means that all such tactics should be left open for future engagements. But this innocuous and seemingly obvious position, which, in theory, could refer to every imaginable tactic, has now come to adopt a highly specific meaning. The phrase no longer refers to the need to pursue a plurality of positions, but rather to the question of the continued viability of a single tactic: street-fighting, especially within the black bloc paradigm.
The obsession over the black bloc in the past few months is a distorted reflection of the very real predominance of this tactic in contemporary struggles. This is somewhat odd, because in our current cycle of struggle, the black bloc has genuinely appeared in only a few areas, mainly the Northwest United States. But while the tactic’s geographic reach is somewhat localized, its presence in the movement’s collective imagination has grown to immense proportions. It seems like the black bloc is everywhere, a palpable reality, something everyone has to take a side on – even, and perhaps especially, those who haven’t actually seen it in action firsthand.
But it’s precisely the continued obsession with this single tactic that prevents us from seriously interrogating the necessary other term in this relationship: strategy. The discussions over the so-called “diversity of tactics” indicate the problem: by focusing all our energies on disputing the merits of a tactic, we end up neglecting strategy altogether. A “diversity of tactics” has little to do with strategy; in fact, it seems to replace strategy with liberal pluralism. The question isn’t whether to pursue a “diversity of tactics,” but rather: what kind of strategy allows us to effectively incorporate a diverse range of tactics?
Here is a link to the entire article:
On the Black Bloc – Salar Mohandesi
I think it is worth a few minutes to read.
What is our strategy for creating change? I am knee deep in tactics: street theater, organizing, direct action, politicking, pamphleting. I feel good about all the tactics that I am using, but I am not sure what the strategy is. The goal is change. Changes that would shift power and wealth from the 1% back to the 99%. I am pretty sure that getting Obama re-elected is not the strategy or solution, Obama is not the engine for change. He is just another political opportunist.
Going to hear Jill Stein talk tonight. Going to event to hear Rocky Anderson speak tomorrow night. Thinking about strategy for change.
One Reply to “What is our Strategy to Create Change?”
I don’t believe that violence is productive as a tactic in the sorts of protests the Left has been engaged in during the last 40 years. Did violence ever help at all? Does it ever “win” an engagement? I don’t think so. Violence harms more than it helps, both by the destruction it directly causes and by the backlash it indirectly causes — though I do admit that often protests get little media coverage unless there’s violence.
Of course, the US Revolutionary War involved violent tactics, but that’s a different story.
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