With the election of Donald “Orange is the New White” Trump, there has been a new outpouring of social justice activity across the United States. The Women’s March, airport demonstrations in support of immigrants and refugees, the People’s Climate March, millions of dollars in new donations to the American Civil Liberties Union are all part of this bump in activity. Even Keith Olbermann is now calling his show “The Resistance!”
In many ways this is inspiring and exactly what we need to be seeing as a far-right infant-sociopath takes office. Thousands of people pouring their time, energy and money into movements and organizations that are opposing the agenda of the Trump regime. As we’ve said many times in this paper, it’s the concerted activity of everyday people organizing and fighting back that has any real hope of bringing about a more sane and just world.
That said, when you’re new to the party, there are some things to avoid and some things to learn. And in Rochester, there have already been some real mistakes made by those stumbling into the party, already wasted, demanding their own (shitty) music, and puking on the ones who have been holding down the party. We’re looking at you, Action Together.
Here’s the thing. We probably want you at the party. Especially the ten reasonably chill, kind of confused people that came in behind your obnoxious friend. And, the reality here is that we probably need you.
There have been some impressive movements over the last few years, from Occupy to the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter. These movements have been critical to changing the way many people see the society they live in. They’ve helped win some critical demands that have improved many people’s lives. But ultimately they aren’t enough.
For us to build the sort of real mass movements that we’re going to need to defend against the emboldened far-right, we’re going to need the active participation of a whole lot more people than these movements have brought together so far. But if we do that right, we have an opportunity to build the kind of movement that can go so much father than simply defending. We can begin to advance a new world free of exploitation and oppression.
So, if you’re part of this new crew jumping on the resistance train, we’ve got a few lessons we’d like to share from over the years.
Engaging in resistance movements is not simply about “making a statement.” I know, I know. Your sign is super fucking clever. I see what you did there. What a great pun. Funny how the revolution hasn’t popped off after everyone read it, don’t you think?
Too many people come into this world believing that the statement is all that really matters. The reality is that those in power rarely care about opinions of anyone other than others in power.
Protest is not simply about making a statement, it often has to be about active disruption of the interests or activities of those in power. One striking worker is worth thousands of your awesome sign-puns. If you have hundreds at a protest but only a couple willing to engage in potentially arrestable disruption, those in power aren’t likely to notice you for long. Good messaging is important, but isn’t everything.
We have to build the power of those people fighting for a better world and those people facing the worst attacks from the current system. This means building organization and vision. This means finding what kind of leverage you have against those in power, and guess what: your vote isn’t one of those.
Your candidate sucks.
I get it. You think they’re really cool and totally going to change things. Unfortunately for you and for them, the game is rigged. Let’s assume your candidate isn’t just saying what feels popular to get elected (as nearly all of them clearly are). Even if your candidate makes it into office, the new game of getting a significant enough majority to pass laws is another rigged game. Even if they get there, crafting and enforcing legislation that really benefits all of us is another rigged game.
More often the story of “The Great Progressive Candidate” isn’t even as good as all that. It’s usually some candidate with halfway decent positions on a few questions, awful positions on a few other questions, and a great story about why they just can’t be that vocal on the most important issues of the day.
The short answer is this: the electoral arena is the illusion of democracy and popular power. It’s a distraction meant to keep us pouring effort into campaigns that ultimately don’t threaten the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful in our country and world. Your candidate and your campaign, intentionally or not, are a part of that problem.
So your candidate either sucks or is good and driving loads of energy into a futile strategy for change – and therefore sucks.
The cops aren’t your friends.
The cops love showing up to demonstrations and saying things like: “We’re just here to help keep people safe. We want to make sure you get your message across without any problems. We’re just here to make sure you don’t break any laws.”
What they really mean to say is this: “Let the status quo keep chugging along and we’ll allow you to say whatever you want. Get out of line and we’ll fuck you up.”
Of course, at some point you’ll realize that simply making a statement doesn’t create change. At some point you’ll realize that social change can only come with disruptive action. When you do, you’ll also realize that your city has a local army on standby to take whatever oppressive actions necessary to try and stop you.
The purpose of police has always been pretty clear: maintain and defend the power of the current standing government, its policies and the interests of those that government serves (trust me, this isn’t you).
This underlying mission of the police is all the more clear to some of the most marginalized people in our communities. To Black and Latino communities, the homeless, and undocumented immigrants the police already act as a daily oppressive force, keeping whole communities living in fear.
If you think that you’re working in solidarity with these communities, you’re going to need to quickly destroy the mythical idea of the heroic police. The thin blue line is actually a map to white supremacist and fascist hangouts.
Prioritize poor and marginalized people.
So Trump is pushing forward some new plan to further attack immigrants throughout the country. Maybe, just maybe, you and your wealthy white suburban friends shouldn’t be the primary voices at the rally against the policies. Maybe it shouldn’t be led by politicians that you and yours are comfortable with. Perhaps the message and tactic shouldn’t be determined by you.
What you might find through some listening is that these poor and marginalized communities, communities of color, immigrants, workers and many others have actually been fighting against the oppressive policies that you’re now waking up to for years. You’re likely to find out that they aren’t all that pleased with the past politicians that you thought were the good guys. You’ll probably find out that they often deeply understand the issues impacting them and have a serious analysis of what it will take to change things. Their answers might make you uncomfortable. Good.
Remember, most of us are glad that you’re showing up now. If we have any real hope of massive change, we’re going to need you. But since you’re new to the resistance party, maybe you should take a minute to listen and understand before jumping out front.
Love really doesn’t trump hate.
What a clever sign. It’s utterly meaningless. I know, it sounds good. I get that it’s a nice feel-good line that makes it sound like you’re the good guy here. But really, what the fuck does it mean? Should we go hug Steve Bannon? You first.
Either this is an argument for loving the people around you despite the hateful notions being given a platform by Trump and his goons or it’s an argument that we should come together with the other side, understand each other better, and stop all the political divisions in our country. Frankly both of these arguments are moronic.
The fact that you invite your immigrant neighbors over for dinner doesn’t matter if you aren’t actively standing up against their deportation. When your Black friends get harassed, assaulted, and possibly killed by police your love isn’t saving them. Hate is currently taking the form of an organized political movement. Your feelings aren’t going to do shit to stop them. What will? An organized mass resistance that actively stands in the face of oppressive policies.
If you’re arguing that we need to better understand the far-right to find our common ground and just stop all the divisiveness, go look up Vichy France. The far-right thrives on shallow efforts at negotiation, understanding, and collaboration. The vision of the world that they are putting forward is antithetical to basic notions of justice and equality. Again, organized mass resistance will trump hate.
Fuck the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party is largely to blame for us being where we are today. The policies pushed forward by the leadership of the Democratic Party have created and maintained many of the inequalities and injustices that persist today. In some cases they actively supported the same horrible policies as their supposed opponents (see: corporate globalization, mass deportations, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bank bailouts, etc). In other cases they offered a pathetic excuse for an opposition to the far-right ideas emerging out of the Republican Party.
There are some people that don’t seem to realize how bankrupt the Democratic Party really is. They are trying to rebrand the standard Dem-politics as resistance in an effort to capture the growing movement energy and redirect it to putting Democrats back in power.
If you’re showing up now with hopes of redirecting the new energy back into the Democratic Party, fuck off. We don’t actually want or need you. You’re the problem.