Much thinking in the United States around how work against this system tends to speak as if our tasks are fairly fixed. Generally, people searching for how to organize look to radically different contexts than our own. There is a tendency to compare our situation to times in where people organized into social forces created their own struggles, tendencies, and ideas, and where revolutionaries played a strong role within. The desire for huge numbers, direct influence, and the capacity to leverage large scale social change often distorts perceptions of what we can do today and can lead to counterproductive attempts to find shortcuts, be it through getting powers granted from the state or ruling class, funding staff, winning elections, finding organizing “tricks” that will send thousands into our arms, converting students, running publishing houses, or doing mental gymnastics to find the ideology, oppressed group, or category that with special powers can carry us to a new tomorrow.
Recently a few examples have called into question our relationship and understanding of our present. Occupy, Madison, and perhaps some of the post-Occupy housing and workplace protests created situations in which many were brought into new roles they hadn’t experienced before, and where their prior tools for doing work became outstripped by the appearances of people willing to engage in struggle beyond their immediate needs. Faced with a situation in which thousands or more were openly questioning and seeking ways to move forward, most were challenged to step up to the new possibilities they faced. IWW members in Madison were being asked for direction and had to decide what a revolutionary response was while the Democratic Party and unions were attempting to contain and redirect the new combativeness into institutional means. These kinds of problems are important to understand in terms of how we get there, how to prepare, and ways to respond. Continue reading