[mgj-discuss] Local vs Strategic action:cutting the Gordian Knot:
lukekuhn at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 9 18:15:40 PST 2008
I have attached the orginal pdf, for those who can open it-had pics as well!
Local vs Strategic action:cutting the Gordian Knot:
By Luke from DC
There has been in recent years two opposite tendencies among activists: One is to focus only on
national/global issues, the other is to focus only on local issues. Both of these are traps, as I have
learned through bitter personal experience.
I will first address the exclusively local focus. This approach essentially
commits a movement or organization to playing defense.
In order to simply stay in the same place, it becomes necessary to win ALL the struggles. The reality of
conflict is you win some, lose some. As a result, any strategy limited to defense will leak, bringing
about an eventual total defeat. Try to play chess focusing only on defense and see what quickly happens.
No matter how many highways or condo projects you kill, there's always next time, so long as the
root cancer(capitalism) remains in place. I learned this on both the Inter-County Connector(ICC)
highway in MD and in defense of Gay institutions in Dupont Circle, DC against gentrifiers. In both
struggles, we won almost all the battles for very long periods.
In Montgomery County, MD, a titanic struggle was waged in 1997-1999 against the ICC, where
teeming hundreds besieged every last public meeting on the highway, and dozens marched over the
planned route monthly. At one meeting, the room nearly had to be cleared after being overrun by people
dressed as trees and trout. The highway was stopped, but the stake was never driven into the vampire's
In 2003, the ICC rose from the grave, shepherded by developer Kingman Gould III, whose Konterra project was
in limbo because the ICC had been stopped. Many of his servants got elected on a "Stop Gridlock" slate, and the ICC was back with overwhelming force.
This time around, public meetings were maybe 2/3 full-but I saw exactly one trout suit leaning forlornly
against a wall. The movement's fire was out, with too many who cared for their Earth and their
community driven away. No matter how many times we "killed" the ICC, it always rose from the grave
for another round, as we never finished the job by removing the developers and their hired hands in
government that were behind it.
In Dupont/P st Beach defense, even a ten-year string of victories over the Park Police and local
yuppies was eventually bypassed by gentrifying everything else around disputed clubs and parks. This
destroyed the base of support and nearly cost everything. In 1988, any presence of Fundamentalist
Christians within walking range of Dupont Circle as besieged by 800-1200 protesters. In 1998, closing
a club or having a Fundamentalist convention would draw maybe 100 protesters. After 2000, virtually
none, as gentrification had expelled from the area those who stood in the path of so-called "progress."
If local struggles are not to die the death of 1,000 cuts, it is necessary to fight and win strategic battles,
to cut out the cancer so no more metastatic sites appear. This will vary from citywide to global,
depending on the targets and issues.
The other error(common to "national" groups)is totally ignore defense, focusing only on major national/global issues.
Victory in this case will put a stop to an abuse, as in both the Vietnam War/Draft protests and the civil
rights eras. The problem is that there are so many strategic issues, and these battles take so long, that
the Enemy can "deep strike" by "redeveloping" neighborhoods where his policies are unpopular.
After the 1968 urban uprisings sparked by the murder of Dr Martin Luther King, Congress
commissioned a report on the "urban disorders." Military and corporate types (Rand style) figured
prominently in this effort. The report that came out suggested "spatial deconcentration" to disperse and
drive apart poor communities, where the uprisings were centered.
Today, it's no accident that the demographics are becoming worse and worse for sustaining protest
movements in cities, where the wealthy and the strategic targets tend to be located. This is a deliberate
"deep strike" effort to deny anyone the ability to stop the projects the wealthy desire, from highways to
condos to all-out wars of aggression.
The result is this: if a long strategic campaign becomes seriously effective but is rooted in any one
population, there is a good chance that those communities will find themselves slated for
"redevelopment." Highways will come through and homes will be demolished, to be replaced by the
smallest possible number of homes for the wealthy.
If, say, college towns were to become the root of, say, a massive punk subculture participating in
aggressive street actions, the response would be to bulldoze the college towns. This would begin with
measures to compel students to live in dorms, and/or to force non-dorm dwelling students to live at
least five miles away. A few years of this would eliminate the college town(but NOT the school itself)
as a useful base of resistance.
Colleges themselves were once a major powerhouse of antiwar action, but rising tuition has put an
end to that. Anyone borrowing the price of a house to go to school will either feel they have too much to
lose to step out of line, or will decide their vested interests are with the capitalists themselves. Those
who won't commit to becoming corporate lawyers and don't have massive amounts of funds themselves
are driven out-just like gentrification. This, in turn, is why the College Repugnicans are so strong and
antiwar organizing on campuses so weak.
New Orleans is perhaps where this is in starkest relief. New Orleans has for many generations been a city of color in the Deep South, and never have the racists or the wealthy forgotten that.
American Renaissance(suit-and-tie Nazi) style politicians probably see New
Orleans as being to US cities as Cuba is to Latin America-a stone in their shoe and a power base of
their greatest enemies. After Katrina, Bush put Karl Rove in charge of steering funding for New Orleans
rebuilding. Why? So a city that cause all of Louisiana to swing Democratic would "go white"-and
swing the whole state into the GOP column. This, BTW, shows also a fatal flaw in capitalism-the
bosses are divided among themselves.
The Enemy in New Orleans is waging a strategic battle to cleanse the city of all people of color and
the poor. For generations people in New Orleans have resisted redevelopment plans. Now after Katrina
comes the Plan, where national resources and attention flow form corporations and government to the
task of re-engineering a "whites-only," shopping-mall style city.
Now Orleans is therefore both a local issue for it's besieges residents-and a strategic issue of utmost
importance. If we are defeated in New Orleans, whatever tactics our enemies use there will be copied
nationwide, turning all US cities into elite, mostly white shopping malls and gated communities. This
turns New Orleans into a battle that must be won at any cost!
Globally, the issue of the US war in Iraq is a key strategic issue. So long as George Bush cannot achieve an
outcome of the war that unbiased observers regard as both a victory and one with the cost, the US (and its corporations) will be deterred for a generation from fighting any more resource wars.
In addition, while the war is still being fought US troops are not available to invade other nations-and
everyone knows it!
This gives nations like Venezuala the courage to nationalize oil companies without fear. It shows all
nations that repudiating debts to the IMF and World Bank simply cannot bring an invasion, nor a
blockade. Either stalemate or US defeat in Iraq has the same effect-to eliminate the ability of the US to
practice gunboat diplomacy in places like Central America and maintain that supply of sweatshop
goods and raw materials that corporate empires from the US to China depend on. China may have
sweatshops but most certainly not the raw materials to feed them. As a result, an end to resource wars
means an end to cheap consumer goods-everywhere.
This, in turn, will drive down the US and even the European level of consumer consumption as goods
that cannot simply be stolen(like oil) rise in price to what capitalists will have to admit are "market'
levels. That will in turn cause corporate profits to plunge while Southern Hemisphere nations become
stronger. This while expensive and scare consumer goods stir up middle class anger in the US, like what
happened after Vietnam in the 1970's.
As a result, not only George Bush but all other "mainstream" presidential candidates effectively see
Iraq as a war they must not only win, but win in a way that does not leave Venezuala, et all convinced
that the US is unable to launch further invasions of nations that do things like nationalizing their oil
industry, their mines, export plantations, whatever.
It is understood in many nations that allowing the US to "win" in Iraq could mean US troops on their
own doorsteps next! We must also understand that and anyone involved in social activism inside the
borders of the US must understand that any defeat of the trade agreements and the sweatshops is
contingent on an outcome in Iraq that does not include privatizing Iraq's oil or installing a stable regime
that takes orders from the US.
If we lose there, all our efforts to preserve our neighborhoods could go down the drain as corporate
power exults in its victory and goes on an all-out power spree, invading and occupying our communities
with another wave of upscale malls to sell the stolen goods and upscale condos for the bosses of these
Overall, our defenses have to hold on our local communities if we are to have a base from which to
organize-but we MUST win strategic battles or we will eventually be overwhelmed in our own
neighborhoods. This is as true in war as it is in chess.
WARNING-IF THE CAPITALISTS WIN THE GREATER GLOBAL WAR THEY ARE NOW
WAGING, THIS WHOLE PLANET COULD BECOME UNINHABITABLE!
It may take 50 years to defeat these murderers, but if we do not, within 100 years this planet will be
either a slave pit or a polluted wasteland.
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