What is Our Movement?

Counterpunch has an article worth reading. I’m not entirely clear on why the author insists on a secondary role for what he identifies as identity politics, but the assertion is there. It’s worth discussing.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/03/the-left-needs-to-be-a-movement-not-a-bunch-of-lobbyists/

I certainly agree we should direct our energies to a few fundamental issues, rather than protesting every single day about Trump’s latest outrage. Further, we should look very hard for ways to make our demands on those issues effective. What the article recommends is pretty much the opposite of the “Indivisible” approach, which does indeed focus almost entirely on mass lobbying; i.e., pressuring rather than challenging elected officials.

In short, I think the author is both right and wrong to say we should have a movement instead of the “Indivisible” approach. The article cites both the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement as models to be followed, as though they were separate movements. They were not. They were distinct, but definitely overlapping and related, to the point where it was sometimes reasonable to say there was essentially one movement.

There were a variety of competing organizations and tactics and issues in the movement (or the movements, if you prefer). Some were violent, though most were not. Some were political, harshly critical of Democrats and Republicans. Some were political, seeking to reform both laws and parties. Some were nominally apolitical, focusing on direct action to change the society rather than elections or any kind of negotiations with parties.

No one person or organization was in control. That’s what made it (them) a movement (movements). If today we need an anti-Trump movement for peace, social justice, democracy and a sustainable environment, then “Indivisible” citizen lobbyists can be a part of that movement just as the NAACP was part of the civil rights movement and Quakers were part of the anti-war movement. In both the examples cited, the organizations were part of the movement(s) but certainly not the only part and generally not the dominant part.

There was some friction between the various parts of the movement(s). In general, all of the elements of the movement(s) “kept their eyes on the prize,” i.e., directed their energies more to the changes they wanted to see rather than to fighting with competing organizations with similar goals. In particular, authentic movement organizations did not in any way help the government’s efforts to suppress people or organizations that were also in the movement. Today, keeping our eyes on the prize is exactly what we still need to do.

That is, we still need a movement. In contrast to the Counterpunch article, I think that when and where various identity groups can contribute to the movement, they should. The same is true for lobbying groups, associations like the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, protest organizers, unions, strikes, opposition political parties, opposing politicians in the major parties ans so forth. If it’s a movement, then everybody with similar goals has a place in it, and no one organization or approach is going to control it.

As a practical person (retired engineer), I believe people in the movement should participate in whatever form of opposition to Trump works for them, and the movement will evolve by doing more of whatever works best. Nobody, including the groups I am part of, knows for sure what will work best or what exact actions are needed. Yet everyone in the movement should agree that peace, social justice, democracy and a sustainable environment – one way of summarizing the 4 Pillars of the Green Party – are exactly what we need.

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