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Tactics!?? How About Some Strategy First?!

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There has been much ballyhoo and brouhaha over tactics which has further segmented progressives. I find this tragically quizzical when there is almost no public analysis let alone coherent strains of thought around strategies for our way forward to systemic change. Forgive me for asking, but don't tactics imply that we've established a strategy?

We don't talk about a an alternate system/vision - we have slogans like "a new world is possible"... "Systems change not climate change"? - sure, but a change to what system?! You need a destination or at least a methodology for determining an evolving series of goals (if from the "we create the path by walking it" school of change) to make such declarations and to inform the tactics/objectives which get you there. I haven't heard any coherent articulation that isn't a Swiss cheese block of incomplete logic. It's really neither here nor there what system or methodology for a just society you embrace if we don't actually present our visions to each other and the wider population for vetting and further development (towards common method and/or vision). And I hardly see any such analysis, nor do most of our famous activists I've asked about the lack of discourse about systemic alternatives: whether (we imagine) those famous activists and writers subscribe as social democrats (regulation of markets with some key industries being socially owned), anarchists (libertarian Marxists-socialists who reject executivist organization b/c it prevents the practices for real skills development which allow the people to self-manage their lives) , trotskyist (pure socialists who accept the impositions of a vanguard to guide the masses to their own liberation under a fully socialized system of self-management), reactionary punks with no real attempt at vision, or liberals (who accept markets and believe in the moderate regulation of them because they believe markets uphold personal liberties), etc... the simple fact is that almost no one regularly sets out and argues their overall vision. And so we never grapple with what direction we should be headed in. We are a listless civilization, even though we are amongst some of the worst storms civilizations' ever seen.

We have a lot of critique of how fucked we are, and a lot of band aid proposals, but almost no one regularly stands up and outlines the "logic" of their full alternative vision for how civilization would operate without corruption, with equity, solidarity, open discourse, etc., etc. The most I almost ever hear about are reform band aids proposed on an issue to issue basis.

If you defend this system through allowing it's normative claims to stand, you are clearly complicit in allowing the endemic nature of the systemic horrors to stand in all their structural entrenchment. Simple logic tells us that the "same paradigm that created a problem, can't be what solves it". So right away we can dispense with the band-aiders (apologists) of this system, which is market-capitalism and the corporate, capitalist-state (as was a predicted stage of the development of capitalism in the 1800s). But actually we can't do away with our current apparatus so readily, because there isn't a culture of systemic analysis whereby we achieve enough people who can intelligibly understand the comparative logic of various macro systems, even though such systems govern all other realms of our personal human endeavours. This isn't about one system winning out, it's about what system or systematic methodology will allow civilizations to survive without billions dying off, major resource wars, ecological refugee slaughter, or even just the billion of your fellow humans who currently starve every year.

We are stuck in kindergarten as far as macro analysis goes, because so many are afraid of being labeled ideologues or commies, what have you. Indeed we're in a time when we need socio-economic analysis at the level of  graduate studies. Even our current graduate programs however are lacking in proper perspective outside of two systems (both of which have failed) - market-capitalism and central/command planning. And that is because we don't risk the discussion. We're so pettily concerned with our own personal comfort in not being controversial that no one even explores a vision... "Oh, that's too powerful a discourse, and would result in me at the centre of controversy"... I believe is the basic basis for self-censorship.

Well guess what, there is a much more controversial reality that is a much harder task master than ideology - the objectivity of the bio-sphere telling us that our current methods for macro decision making don't work. If we want to ignore the planet in order to be able to move comfortably between liberal to socialist circles, then we obviously do so at our collective peril.

So, I got a socio-economic vision/methodology, actually it comes from Noam Chomsky' protege from MIT in the late 1960s (Michael Albert) - It's maybe the first complete economic methodology for decision making ever (sad but true), and it goes by the name PARticipatory ECONomics (PARECON). If you haven't spent a minimum of 100 hours with it (unless you're a genius), or with any other proposal for systemic vision/methodology then you aren't serious about destination nor strategy, and thus should have nearly nothing to say about tactics. If you don't find that there is an acceptable alternative system proposed (and you can be forgiven for not finding one), then take the time to articulate a new one based on the lessons of history, and we can discuss your proposal' merits. And challenge the editors of your favourite periodicals to make such debate a permanent feature of their publications.

But if you have spent some real time wrapping your head around broader systemic vision, for which you have a destination, you would by extension have some strategy. Your responsibilty as a rarity would be to speak up so we can all practice measuring visions, determining if it's a good destination to plot some courses for, and then maybe start talking about the merits of the varying courses, and eventually rig some sails designs (tactics).

But until we have some fundamental ideas about where we're going, then why does anyone join a crew, let alone a crew joining an armada, let alone rig tackle for operating in a broad armada (coalition for progressive change)?... They don't bother, thus why most Canadians question the point of protests, and simply want to be knocked unconscious the next time some "activists or progressives" have a bleakly detailed critique of how horrible yet another particular symptom of our system is:  "Ya thanks activist for moving the specificity of just how fucked I am to the 17th decimal point".  How about we focus some energy towards just the 2nd and 3rd decimal point positions on how the constructive, hopeful solutions might be worked out? Maybe then we can talk about tactics and not appear to the rest of the population like we're splitting hairs on an insane head.


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looks like you can't see the

looks like you can't see the forest for the trees.  Maybe you're thinking about it too much. 

the form of society groups seek to establish are present in their methods of organizing and acting.  the authoritarian and bureaucratic, whether they are in government, political parties, unions or NGOs, display how society would be organized through their top-down, centralized structures.  Anarchists and black bloc display the type of social organization they seek: decentralized and autonomous, anti-authoritarian.  Indigenous grassroots groups, with some exceptions, organized in a similar manner (not like the band councils, who are just manifestations of state government at the reserve level.)

Generally it is best to view a group's activities and form of organizing than rely solely on their rhetoric abour 'democracy' and accountability etc.



Thanks Zig for posting, and yes I'm often guilty of over-thinking and/or over modelling. Although that doesn't mean that everyone else's almost total lack of modelling and prefiguring in a consistent way with their transparently stated goals and values can be forgiven. 

I hear you say that because people work in organizations with entrenched coordinator class structures, that that is their default vision. I don't agree with this, that would mean that all the good "anarchist" organizations I work in, where they use executivist decision making on contentious issues are also clear about their values.

No, the fact that we only name call, and almost never fully articulate our visions, our values and methodologies for ensuring the wider and wider application of our values, is the problem. Never pinning ourselves down let alone others, (as you did in your post, you didn't provide an vision, goal, strategy, you just criticized others for their default/lack of vision). So you too stand as guilty of the error I'm pointing to in my editorial.

Not until we establish our values and methodologies to hold us to a cultural practice of those values in our communities do any of us get away from expediency and default practices such as executivist decision making, clique based ousting, knee jerk reaction to the state, etc., etc.

So Zig, what is your vision, goal, and strategy? Until you answer that, or maybe talk about how we don't need a coherent vision which we can use as the basis for consistency (and thus rallying), then you are guilty of the error I outlined.

my goal, vision, strategy:

my goal, vision, strategy: autonomous and decentralized struggles.  how hard is that to figure out, comrades?  people who set up bureaucracies, boards, etc. inevitably become organized in authoritarian, bureaucratic methods.  if you want to live free, how can you do so with a board of directors having the final say on a project, or a union manager, etc.  What's self-determining about that?

The Black Bloc, as controversial as it is in regards to actions, is a good model of autonomous and decentralized organization.  The members of the bloc self-determine their route, activities, duration, etc.  It is far more effective and fluid than the dinosaur labour or NGO groups.

These bureaucratic entities will never get us free because they are structures for controlling their membership. 

There are also many anarchist organizations, such as the federations and anarcho-syndicalist groups, that show the same type of control over members and ultimately serve to maintain the organization itself.  For these reasons, efforts to establish a N. American anarchist federation have not only failed, they met with strong criticisms over the years (especially in the 1980s and early 1990s, with examples such as the Love and Rage federation).

To me, it is obvious that how you organize determines the vision, goal, strategy and tactics. 

Yes and no

The thrust of what you're saying is completely true. More discussion of strategy would help. Too bad then that your post only had one brief paragraph on it, basically just saying "I got a socio-economic vision," and it's Parecon. Let's hear more!

I'm based in Winnipeg, probably the site of the most Parecon-inspired institutions in the world. It's a really helpful model to build alternatives on, and I'm really thankful that the Mondragon and the like exist here, I don't think I could calculate how crucial they've been, but it's still really only one strategy, and it misses out on a lot of other things we need to be doing.

We've been able to build a few businesses that cater to niche markets (veganism, environmentally friendly cycling, local & organic foods, etc.). Some folks around here are essentially hoping that this worker co-operative alternative just grows until it takes everything over, and that's pretty much the revolution.

For that to work, you need to beat capitalists at their own game, which won't happen. They have the capital; they own the means of production. Working class people will never get the money to buy all of the businesses and all of the land to turn it into co-operatives and/or Parecon-inspired workplaces.

At some point, if people want workers in control, the only choice is expropriation, like what we saw in Argentina in 2002 and at that factory in Chicago more recently. Until then, most people are still going to have to work for a shitty boss at a crappy restaurant, in a factory, in a non-profit, be unemployed, or whatever.

When/if the expropriations do come, there'll be a much more serious state backlash than when a bunch of folks with wealthy parents set up a juice bar co-op. When the backlash comes, solid, practical experience with militant tactics and the backlash will come in pretty handy.

But wait- you might point out that no one seems to be heading in the direction of expropriations at this point. True. But in the meantime there are still a whole bunch of other kinds of repression raining down from the state against indigenous folks, recent immigrants, poor people, women, arab communities, the environment, people on the political margins, and on and on. And we really need to defend ourselves right now. We can't wait for there to be enough alternative Parecon going on. It's not even really clear how more Parecon will necessarily address those problems at all. This is why tactics comes up so often. They're the tactics of self-defense.

Even in terms of more forward-looking strategies, there are some being voiced around these struggles ("Status for all"/"No one is illegal" comes to mind) for anyone who cares to listen.


I think we almost entirely  recognize and agree with the same cruxes and base opportunities. Thanks 'Nouveau'. Let me take it to some more places:

First though: I have been prostelatizing parecon (inefectively) for years and anyone can google it after I suggest it requires their own study. Although prostelatizing is a rather hard task, largelyb/c the wider discussions of strategy are usually non-existent (and b/c I'm my own particular kind of asshole). Now after 7 yrs of going on and on about it, SOME people around me spend their own time with parecon - complimentary holism studies and thinking. But still the discussion (not just the parecon discussion but the transitional tactical-strategy to any vision/methodology) doesn't seem to happen outside of a very few  in isolated circles here in Vancouver. That might be changing;  I gotta finish a story on the Vancouver report back from Detroit. A report back which was mostly about returning to insert more coherent discussions of strategy.

Tactics are informed by current circumstances and the ground we stand on, certainly. Successful tactics are usually characterized by being able to choose the ground from which you will do battle. In Winnipeg you are choosing that ground with Mondragon, ParIT, etc.  What's more Winnipeg is building the economic and cultural/processual capacity by which to choose ground even under harder circumstances which are yet to com. That's frickin great! 

When the state comes for you, you'll likely have much greater coherent internal process and culture to repulse infiltration. When the Depression finally hits Canada, you'll have economic-communities that can afford to bring more people into coherent daily processes, feed them, and maybe even house them. ParIT will be able to bring them into a secure communications structure so that they're plugged in across the movement right away. New people that come in who are just totally incapable jerks will get excluded from day-to-day in ways which make everyone only more confident in the community (as has already happened at Mondragon). That base is a springboard for moving to counter the state, it is a base of popularity so that critical masses of people say "hey, why smash that up!?! My cousin works there and it's awesome! Fuck off state!" Now, however, someone smashes a bank window and 2/3rds of Canada sides with the cops. We need to have a stronghold so that people can live, breathe, feel and see what we stand for, and know that it's not just "contrarian, civil-disorder rabble".

Compare that to some situations going on here, like even last night our meeting in an 'effective organization' was 'interrupted' when a reasonably good member of the community passed by on the street and we said hey! He'd been to our meetings before, so he joined us, he's being ousted from a neighbourhood council in essentially, a clique-executivist manner and even though I kind of agree with both sides of the ouster I know many of us have lost confidence due to the process of the ouster. Frictions, which mounted b/c of some $20,000 a year job, and because there was no membership info-communications tech structures set up. We don't have our own economies to feel insulated by, to not get so petty with each other. All things that Mondragon and Winnipeg is already well on it's way to getting beyond, because of applying vision/process and a strategy for how to get your own turf to stand on, largely because it has Mondragon, ParIT, etc., and they provide some of Winnipeg' own alternative environments and capacity in which to practice and thus truly enshrine higher values and modus-operandi which build solidarity, equity, trust, diversity, etc., etc., most everyday (k, kind of fantasizing about Winnipeg now).

We here hardly even understand the ins and outs of consensus however. Because we don't establish our own environments of practice. Mondragon has staying power, because it has established some ground and internal vision/methodology. %80 of orgs here haven't lasted 3 years in the last 15 yrs, because we don't have great sites of practice for deeper alternative methods and values.

Balanced Job Complexes for example makes it so that even if the fascists come in the middle of the night, arresting half of your crew, the rest of the crew can relocate and still get everything done because everyone knows a little about how to do the others' jobs. I've seen this before actually. The next morning we just repositioned and most of us left  did 2-3 jobs from less offensive position on the field (holding pattern). And we could keep it on lock down b/c we'd established our ground first and weren't walking into a foreign situation (all quite literal I assure you). Even with the violent state totally violating the 6th Charter with helicopters in the air, and snipers and dogs on the ground, we could hold (for a while). If multiple cities and regions have that turf then we spread it out, into a decentralized model, which is our turf, which is where we start to win.

But if all you have is reaction to "their" policies, reaction which we generally organize via methods of the dominant culture, under their cameras on their streets, then you are almost always coming from weakness. It's like walking to the craps table and putting almost everything down, and pretending to yourself and everyone else you got donations from that the odds aren't structurally 28-1.  Although it's not quite like that b/c most of us see the odds clearly enough and don't show up at all because we won't waste our lives in near futility.  "Offense" (not over-extended offense mind you) really is the best defense most often. 

Or let's put it this way, if you don't have a strong-hold, your forays onto their turf can never garner spoils which you can take back and store as capacity by which to achieve the next victory more easily, with less proportionate investment of resources. You have no where to store or adopt the spoils into. 

Let's say Vancouver and Winnipeg have their own complete anarcho food and info-communications-tech industries, with their own capacity. The next corporate fucks who go into receivership looking for a bail-out and to stiff the workers first in rallying their rich creditors to get the government to play ball, we can show up with 2 weeks of food (hey we even got our own truck and just jumped in instead of struck a committee for finding a truck) rocked on up on the 2nd day of the strike, we have some pull because we just pulled up with 2 weeks of free food, we cook awesome food for them talk sit-in, reoccupation, remuneration based on effort and sacrifice, etc., over those awesome meals, all maybe even while one of our lawyers (because we have a few for operating our own participatory co-ops) acts in court as an intervening creditor for the workers to get equity, pay outs, and voting power. 

Sure you can say, "good luck! like they ain't just goin to throw you out of court, or smash you this way or that" to any given example... And I agree, from the weak ass nowhere ground we're on now (and we have to remember where our parents and grandparents were to understand that we've moved backwards - as my Grandma says weekly - and are weak pitiful modufuding whiners), any example I give of exercising real power for real stakes and capacity of our own, seems like a long shot. But when you have the capacity and people who believe, who feel empowered in a power-with process like parecon, all the "ya, buts" start having realistic chances to be answered with a more and more immediate assertions of our own facts on the ground.

For example, who knows that Harper is about to greatly undermine credit unions and make them very easy to convert into commercial banks. Back unti the early '80s there were structures of disciplined movements on the ground that would've blown up over that. Now no one even knows of the moves being taken against us!! Let's not delude ourselves, we have a long ways to go. And grappling with a discussion of tactical-strategy might allow us to travel the desperate ground that we might be in position to do battle in time.

Ya, I dunno, I would love for us to have a rich kid who just had to be disowned and bought out by his family to get us a revolutionary base here in Vancouver like happened for Winnipeg. I saw that kind of work in Sydney Australia too, but the Sydney ganster' kid wasn't as strategic as Mondragon (more to my point), so it went from sublime control of the streets and even the stock market (Martin Place) by "anarchists" to totally fizzled within, shit, about 3 years.

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