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Addressing Activists

Apparently the World is Going to Have to Wait

Last night we attended the "Bush Step Down" demonstration in Seattle. We woke this morning anxiously anticipating the dawning of a new era. Imagine our disappointment as we opened the morning paper. Isn't it time we started addressing these "actions" with some critical thought?
Addressing Activists

We keep reading and hearing that due to the United States' behaviors the world is in dire straits. Our government is corrupt, the war is wrong, the environment is being destroyed, Bush is an awful liar, our liberties and freedoms are jeopardized. However, we see no critical dialogue on the topic of intervening and attempting to stop these atrocities. We'd like to start a conversation about effective action, using the war in Iraq as a focus.

For an action to be considered effective it must get in the way, prevent, or stop an injustice from occurring. We'd like to state a few things we don't consider to be effective action.

First, the time for marches and protests has passed. We've attended all of the anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-bush, anti-anti marches in the last several years. Frankly, we're a bit discouraged. As fun as the marches are, with all the powerful speakers and awesome artists, we see no indication that the military onslaught has been slowed or that our government has been dissuaded from any of its atrocious behaviors. The president in office was elected on a platform that clearly stated his desire to make war and destroy the world. Public opinion, no matter how many people gather to express it, will not derail the destruction. Stating dislike for something is not action. Marches have become mere symbols of resistance, and promoting them as ways to stop the war is misleading. These government sanctioned peace parades, entirely permitted and in bounds, will continue to be ignored by those who wield power in the political arena.

Bush-bashing is clearly not an action. We're not claiming Bush is a great guy, but we didn't get to where we are as a result of this particular administration. The Senate and House voted to give Bush power to start this war and they continue to vote, often unanimously, to fund the war. The road has been paved by Democrats and Republicans alike.

None of the advertised activist groups are engaged in activities that meet our basic definition of effective action. The primary focus of these groups seems to be education, potlucks, lobbying, and campaigning; events that have no direct link to stopping the war. It's quite apparent that many people, perhaps the majority of Americans, are unhappy with the way the U.S. engages with the world. Education and awareness-raising are no longer effective actions. People need instructions on what to DO based on this information, not more information.

Yard signs and bumper stickers. Come on, "No Iraq War". This is denial and is of no use. Again, simply stating disapproval accomplishes nothing.

In order to move forward in this discussion we need to abandon all hope that marches, political theater, potlucks, education, lobbying, e-petitions, and campaigning are useful. The only possibility of stopping this current military action is to engage in strategies and tactics which severely disrupt the war machine, the U.S. economy, and the overall functioning of the U.S. society.

We must begin with the realization that any and all tactics and strategies must be considered. Once this matter has been examined there is only one question remaining, will each of us become involved and use whatever tactics and strategies are necessary, or will we refuse and continue to engage solely in conduct which serves little purpose other than making people feel better about themselves.

Here are some general guidelines to determine if specific actions are effective. These guidelines are by no means complete; specific actions will begin to manifest only when we turn our energies away from ego serving endeavors.

An effective action will do at least one of the following:

-disrupt the flow of commerce and the functioning of the U.S. economy
-directly disrupt the lives of the legislators who are making more funding available for the war
-directly disrupt the lives of military recruiters
-directly disrupt the lives of the people working for companies who are supporting the war
-cause the U.S. military to deploy troops domestically, pulling soldiers away from the war
-create an atmosphere that does not support U.S. troops who are serving

The war we wish to stop is intense and disruptive to the lives of those involved. Stopping it will require equally intense actions that will be disruptive to our comfortable lives. If this war is to some large extent about oil, then why don't we hear anything about a boycott of oil? Is it because we are unwilling to give up driving, and to suggest to others to do the same? Would it be too inconvenient? Effective actions will be met with great resistance; even from those we would presume to be our allies.

Or perhaps we wait until the 2008 elections with the hope that some Democrat will miraculously get elected and save us?

Please feel free to copy, distribute, publish, and use as your own words.

It is through acting and learning to act that we will open the path to insurrection. Waiting only teaches waiting; in acting one learns to act.
Boycott Oil 01.Feb.2006 09:14

nanenonen@yahoo.com nanenonen@yahoo.com

I also find it kind of odd that many people say they are anti-bush or anti war yet continue to drive as much as they do. I think many of them maybe didn't vote for Bush but buying gasoline for their cars their making a stronger vote and really supporting Bush and the war in Iraq. Boycotting Oil I believe is an excellent idea. I think if people stopped using oil that would definetely help make a difference. But are we able to give up some of the conveniences and luxuries that we have become accustomed to.

Thanks 01.Feb.2006 09:25

these are my thoughts as well

But will the majority of oil-consuming "progressives" join us? Will these same "progressives" finally refuse to support our volunteer troops? Will we continue to treat the American sheeple and their Congresspersons with kid gloves? Will we get suckered into putting our energies into bandaid remedies and persons, such as voting for a t-shirt clad, one-issue, "widowed" mom?

I think that it will take a major catastrophe of some kind to shake most of us loose from our mental and physical comfort zones.

Protest Signs 01.Feb.2006 09:29


We stood in the rain last night in our fair city; I held a sign that had pictures of Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld. It said 'Torture does not belong to Dictators Anymore'. I observed one Christian woman reading the sign and then conflicted within herself that America could do such things. Interestingly, I heard John Perkins speaking as I drove to the protest. I know one woman's conscience was stirred. That was enough for me.

I agree 01.Feb.2006 09:45


These marches and groupings have done their share of awarness and fun, but nothing has changed. For one these protests are nothing like the protests that they had back in the vietnam era. They were much larger, more disruptive, and had a lot more media coverage. If our actions became larger and more disruptive the media will spin it as propagandha, but at least it will be known to everyone, and more people might come out. We need to spit in their face. We need to kick back, and harder. If things stay as they are now nothing will ever change. Nothing has been accomplished. They are laughing at us. I am sick of it and I for one agree with above posting. The question is how far is everyone willing to go to protect their rights, their freedoms, and the lives of not only our country but the world. Who has the strength and commitment to rise up? Who has the willpower and balls to carry this further so we don't fade away without a fight? I can promise you nothing will change with the next election. I am sure a democrate will get elected. It might even seem things are a little better, and a lot of people might shutup because of that. It is like good-cop, bad-cop. But behind the scenes no matter who is elected they will be taking away more rights and will be planning on how to gain global dominance.

So who is willing to go farther and where/when/how do we start planning? Lets do this.

Actions that make a difference 01.Feb.2006 10:19


I am a big fan of Daniel Quinn, the author of "Ishmael". Many people are moved after reading his books and the number one question is "What do I do?". He has an entire a large Q&A section dealing with this issue at  http://www.ishmael.com/ToDo/WhatToDo.cfm.

If you haven't read Ishmael or the other books by DQ I recommend starting there. If you want to change behavior, you have to start in the mind. What we need to do is help change minds. This isn't necessarily easy, but it is doable. It usually won't have an instantaneous effect and we don't need to reach everyone. However, nothing short of a changed mind (hence changed values and beliefs), then nothing else will work. People who think and believe differently LIVE differently.

Here are few answers to Questions on the website. I hope you'll be intersted enough to learn more.

Answer to 584
"Once people understood that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar system, they didn't drift back to thinking that the earth was a stationary object that all else revolved around. Once they understood that the earth was round, they didn't drift back to thinking it was flat. Once they understood that the universe is billions of years old, they didn't drift back to thinking it was created all at once and in its final form in 4004 B.C. (unless they were Christian fundamentalists). Mind changes like these literally transformed the world. And right now we're in desperate need of another mind change.

Like me, you'd like to see a renaissance occur in which "we will stop destroying the planet." But this renaissance is not going to occur among people who imagine that humans belong to a species that is separate from the rest of the living community (and who therefore think, for example, that the mass extinctions we are bringing about are sad but not really life-threatening). Until they know--with the same certainty that they know the earth is round--that humans are intimately bound up with (and completely dependent on) the rest of the living community, why would they "stop destroying the planet"? You can't force them to stop; you can't make them stop by passing laws or by shooting them. Once their minds are changed they WILL stop, just as back in the fifteenth century mariners stopped worrying about sailing off the edge of the earth.

If you want people to BEHAVE differently, then you must make them THINK differently. (For my best formulation of this, see my speech The New Renaissance at  link to ishmael.org.)

But I know I haven't really addressed what's on your mind. If I read your letter rightly, you're saying, "Changing people's minds doesn't produce any immediate, practical result. What can I do that WILL have an immediate, practical result?" To counter the first of these, I'd refer you to a dialogue on this point ( http://ishmael.com/Education/Writings/dialogue.shtml) in which the story is told of a single individual, Ray Anderson, who transformed a global industry--because his mind was changed by reading Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce and Ishmael--a very immediate, practical result. The second I have to answer the same way I answer it for everyone: only you know what resources you have and only you know how to make the best use of those resources. I couldn't have told Ray Anderson what was possible for him to achieve, and I can't tell you what it's possible for you to achieve. I know a lot, but I'm never going to know what every individual on this planet should be doing. You do what is in your power to do--and only you know what that is."

Answer to 448
"What you seem to be saying is that living as cultural predators (as we Takers do) is GOOD, but living as cultural parasites would be BAD. You need to realign your thinking about how creatures in general make their living.

Parasites and predators BOTH get their food from feeding on other organisms. The difference between them is simply that parasites feed on organisms that are LARGER than they are WITHOUT KILLING THEM (at least immediately--if ever). Predators, by contrast, typically feed on organisms that are SMALLER than they are--KILLING THEM OUTRIGHT! So tell me, how does it come about that creatures that feed on larger animals without killing them are BAD, but creatures that feed on smaller animals killing them outright are GOOD? What sense does it make to think that the farmer who kills the chicken outright for dinner is GOOD, whereas all the parasites that live in and on the chicken WITHOUT killing it are BAD?

This is the choice I'm offering in BEYOND CIVILIZATION: if you don't want to CONTRIBUTE your energy to the behemoth that is devouring the world, maybe you should consider DRAINING AWAY some of its energy by living on its back like a flea. Who lives more harmlessly in this case, the person who makes a living by contributing energy to the behemoth or the one who makes a living by draining some of that energy away? Personally, I vote for the flea."

Agreed 01.Feb.2006 14:12


I agree with this article, and have been saying as much in my comments. When I find a group who is will to do CD to achieve the goals above, I will happily join. I seem to be having trouble finding them . . .

Boycotting Oil 01.Feb.2006 14:42

and other lifestyle fallacies

When I see lifestyle "activists" surrounding gas stations with picket signs and bullhorns to stop OTHER people from buying gas, then I'll believe they're "boycotting oil." Boycotting is more than just refraining from buying a product you don't like, and it's DEFINITELY not just buying LESS of a product you don't like. The marketplace can easily accommodate the reduced participation of a cranky minority without production being stopped or even significantly altered.

Strategize 01.Feb.2006 15:09


We need to begin attacking the corporate media as we once did again the WTO and IMF because it's the American media that keeps the majority of the public fast asleep. We already know this, don't we? Then why are we so weak-kneed when dealing with the mainstream media?

We need to put more pressure on the alternative media (an intentional understatement). This includes Amy Goodman and Michael Moore, who, in the last year, have gotten very timid with their reporting. DemocracyNow! is no longer the beacon of radical news reporting as it once was. She won't even broach the issue of 9/11 Truth.

The most intimidating idea (most likely) We need to disrupt the functions of the IRS...come April, we need to formulate a movement that will threaten the very nature and eventually existance of the Internal Revenue Service, which steals our money to further the interests and agenda of United States Imperialism at home and abroad.

We need to build a countercultural movement that embodies the progressive forces from all varying stripes...from Anarchists to the Cindy Sheehans of the world. We need to unite American Indian concerns with anti-imperialist ones. We need to form alliances that were being built during the rise of the anti-corporate globalization movement.

We need to lose our inhibitions when it comes to "outing" infiltrators and provocateurs. We need to build momentum to counter the furious momentum of the Neo-con agenda of world dominion and realize that we are being attacked on many different fronts.

It's time to pick up the pieces and build a countercultural bloc of Revolutionary exuberance. We need to become fearless again my Sisters and Brothers. We need to work together loosely, but united...truly united.

We need to do all this as simultaneously as possible.

The National Conference on Organized Resistance is once again taking place in Washington D.C. this month. Maybe it's time to begin having regional conferences to coincide with the annual one in D.C.

Oh, and last, we need to hone our coordination skills. We need to better communicate with eachother! These are just essential guide posts to ponder over.

In love, celebration, and Countercultural Solidarity...On with the (R)Evolution...

thats kind of what I was hinting at 01.Feb.2006 15:38


I havent been able to find a CD group either. So lets start one.

I'd be happy to 01.Feb.2006 16:21


I'd be happy to. Kind of awkward here on indy. Also, I haven't found any individuals into it either, so it would be great if someone knew people who are ready for these kinds of steps. I am so ready for some strategic thinking a planning . . .

Alternative media and alternative tactics 01.Feb.2006 17:55

Marik marik@aracnet.com

The last few days I've been trying to push a project I'm working on. It's a Portland Anti-Imperialist wikipage. Ideally, this could serve as a starting point or a nexus for Portland, and potentially other, anti-imperialists to start discussing topics regularly and in-depth.

I do understand that this takes place on Indymedia (this thread for example). However, eventually this indymedia thread will scroll off and the energy generated from the thread will be lost. So I've been archiving a lot of the portland indymedia posts concerning yesterday's protest, the organization by the reformist WCW group, and other topics.

It is not really anything much right now. Just a statement on my thoughts about WCW, anti-imperialism, and the state of the political left. I greatly encourage other anti-imperialist\capitalists to post their own thoughts or information for getting us all together and communicating.

thankyou 02.Feb.2006 00:46


thankyou for the link to keep it archieved. I dont feel comfortable giving my name or doing much planning if we do start some sort of group on here so we need to figure out a way to get together without informing the people who might be watching this site =).

Security and other thoughts 02.Feb.2006 12:25

Marik marik@aracnet.com

That is a problem. A lot of people are very sensitive to security issues, and unwilling to leave contact info, or even a solid name. How can we get together to combat all this shit if we can't get together to even talk? It's a very big problem, IMO.

We have to get beyond this though. We have to be able to meet and organize on a regular basis, otherwise we will have no foundation on which to stand from. We can plainly see the state of the movement...

Personally, I do not worry too much about that shit. It seems to me, if they wanted to know who I was, or if I was a threat, they would already know about me. But then again, you certainly don't see my name anywhere around here;)

Meet? 02.Feb.2006 15:31


I would meet with folks, but don't want to give out personal info here. I was hoping someone more knowledgeable that I am would make a suggestion, but arranging a meeting time and place seems like the best way.

one sure way 02.Feb.2006 17:28


find out where your political 'representatives' live. send hand written letters to them.

A suggestion. 02.Feb.2006 17:35


Build working relationships around work that helps people in a revolutionary anti-imperialist perspective. Don't assume that because you don't see open groups that the groups you see are inferrior. People here have been systamaticly targeted by the state. There are other ways to get people to events. There are other ways to build community power.
Activist work has been torn apart in this town. People do good work here. They're just not always inclined to have thier process be determined by people who are un accountable to a process that involves shared work, and risks. We're not always eager to have our meetings be flooded by people who start every sentence with "no, but that won't work," our actions governed by the internalized conditioning of the state. A suggestion, think about it.

Trees Splitting Rocks 02.Feb.2006 20:29


As this slides down the page and before it disappears, and after several half-started draft comments have been scrubbed, I'm encouraged that there *appears* to be the outlines of an e-convergence on "going beyond"...the "rally", the "march"...the set pieces that have become ritual chessboard setups. (As an aside, I think that a diversity of tactics is important, so even if it sounds like disparaging organized mass events, NVCD, sit-ins, block-ins, tree-sits, pickets, letter writing...or overt in your face BlackBloc...that isn't my intent.

Ths article and comments look like some effort to step off--into epidemic, low-intensity but continuous disruption (Quinn's flea, but with more of a goal of bringing the host culture down--that's where the metaphor fails, somewhat.)

I don't know that having meetings to discuss this is feasible, as it would sort of be seeking to have the best of both worlds--overt organizing, but for obviously highly individualistic actions that wouldn't meet the "permit" test.

So, before I generate yet another draft to scrub (keep it short!)...I propose that a website/chat board be convened (this seems to have been done, but I'm having novice difficulty negotiating wiki)...and posting ideas in third person renderings (i.e., not "my" idea, but "some pesons" idea I heard about, something I read about...or something to that effect) to provide a menu of actions, tools and strategies, with a view that little by little, one by one, almost imperceptibly, the rivets and nails of the machine are pulled out, the capillaries shrivel. We need hypothetical monkey wrenching scenarios within everyone's day to day affairs (i.e, not getting geared up with face paint)... We would have no illusions that everything is being read and cooked by the state, but if put into hypothetical, "academic" contexts, the info, propaganda and inspiration would still flow.

Until we are all embedded with chips, always in view of the tele-eye, always heard by the hidden mike...we can still be more places unpredictably. We probably need to recognize that we might not see the fruits of those labors, might not even hear about it in the media...certainly no credit is attributed to any organization! I don't think were looking for spectacular effects, per se--only insidious, continuous, steady degradation of the machinery. Metaphorically, there is a point when pulling out one more nail makes a big cloud of dust and a big noise!

Very sketchy ideas on direction here, but I think I'm hearing what this thread has pulled out... Hopefully this thread will reappear at the top of the page again at regular intervals, as I think there are many who are looking beyond the organized protest theater.

Also, a forum off IMC would be more appropriate for more developed discussion...is that wiki site (linked in a reply, above) the way to go?
Is he aiming for the weak point?
Is he aiming for the weak point?

that group already exists! 03.Feb.2006 11:54


just so folks know, there is already a group in the portland area seeking to organize a conference at the end of next summer to do EXACTLY what everyone weas talking about in this article and the comments. The group is called A World Beyond Capitalism, and has been operating under the radar, but things are looking VERY exciting for the conference next year, and we DEFINITELY need help getting the word out. i'm connecting the website to this post, and i'm also going to post something on the open newswire. YES, it's true- marches don't work anymore. they have been tamed, commodified, jsut another part of the spectacular society, a false, empty act of pseudo-defiance to go along with the pseudo-lives we live in America. come to our next meeting, taking place Wednesday, February 15 at Laughing Horse Books, 3652 Se Division St. we could use the help of the kinds of people posting their concerns here! we are looking for new ways, new goals, and entirely new way of framing the struggle.

check out the website, come to a meeting, and start changing everything.

What a bunch of reactionary bull 03.Feb.2006 22:44


"marches don't work anymore."

So what, in a campaign you go from saying "Hi we have a greivance with you" to full force attack? Have you never walked in on a board room meeting and brought it to it's knees? I've heard it's been done. I've heard of this strategy called "escalation of tactics." I've heard it works.

What kind of organizers are you sitting here telling us all what "won't work." Struggles have won. Struggles have fought and won. The consistant thing that ties all justice struggles together is the fact that they employed a diversity of tactics. Just because some communists stepped out of the fog and did a protest that fucking bummed you out doesn't mean that the rest of the struggle should suddenly have to be paralized by your eletism.

Also, I am just plain DISGUSTED with the way I see older activists treating some of the earnist militant youths that had a role in this. I think this level of condescention borders on nothing less than aegism. Just because you're older doesn't mean you are more effective. You may have good experience. They also may have good expeirence. You may have a lot more bad experience than they do. You may have learned how to be very effective at gaining legetimacy by tearing down others work. I don't fucking know. All I know is that these people tried to do somthing, and the will to act for justice should deserves some respect. I think we should all grow up and try to see if we can hook up and do somthing better. Maybee that would be more effective than assuming that NO ONE including the organizers and the rest of us, will learn from this experience.

I've heard that streets couldn't be taken. I've heard that freeways couldn't be stopped, trees climbed, and walls broken, and have lived to see otherwise. So give us all a fucking break and demonstrate your better plan through ACTION! Quit telling me what tactics are "impossible" and ponder that maybee your possibilities are limited by your nerve, and the context of the action itself. Let the rest of us do as we will, stand for what we stand for, and do our best to find common ground. Thank you very much.


ah but you have one thing wrong 04.Feb.2006 02:05


Peaceful confined protests can only go so far. I am not saying they do not have their purpose. One it allows people to meet other people that have the same state of mind. Two it allows people to start getting involved and then if they want to move up to something more, and among other things as well. Regardless of whether or not I think how much the protests are accomplishing I will continue to support, promote, and attend these protests. I am just simply looking to get more involved with some more serious action. I may be wrong, but that is probaly how most people that have commented on here feel to.

Also, as far as the protests go... they still need to be taken to the next level themselves. A lot of other cities don't have permits to march on the steets but they still do not let themselves be contained and get on that steet anyways. This pay for a free speech zone is the biggest bullshit I have ever heard. Defy them. Meet on the sidewalks of Pioneer Square or wherever... and once enough people get there mass and do as you want. Maybe that would work maybe that wouldnt. I dont know. All I know is that we need something more going on here. Right now all we do is stay well with the bounds of the invisible fence that they allow us to roam in and we need to break out of it.

Good that is a hell of a lot more constructive. 04.Feb.2006 08:34


Now contact these protestors, take the risks, and work in the streets to make them more effective. Thanks.

in common struggle,