“The Flea bites, hops and bites again, nimbly avoiding the foot that would crush him. He does not seek to kill his enemy at a blow but to bleed him and feed on him, to plague and bedevil him, to keep him from resting and destroy his nerve and morale………… All this requires time. Still more is needed to breed more flees. What starts as a local infection must become an epidemic, as one by one the areas of resistance link up, like spreading ink spots on a blotter”. (Robert Taber, The War of the Flea)
Sun Tzu lived 2500 years ago. In his “The Art of War” he described how to fight a seemingly invincible enemy. Carl von Clausewitz, Mao Tse-tung, Vo Nguyen Giap, Ernesto Che Guevara and many others promoted and developed guerrilla warfare by studying The Art of War. “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak” leads to the idea “be where your enemy is not” and to the conclusion that “great results, can be achieved with small forces”. In the last decades these ideas were hardly applied in actions. The emphasis was on mass actions not on guerrilla-type actions. No wonder the 1% still rules.
Imagine a huge demonstration with a hundred thousand participants. It is hardly possible to organise such events more than once a year. It cost a lot of energy and money to get so many people in one place. Making advertisements and placards, caring for transport, organising food, drink and health care at the demonstration etc. Not to mention the time and the money spend by participants to go to the meeting place and back home. Did the demonstration achieve its goal? Was there a small change in decisions that were taken by decision-makers who live somewhere high-up where the 99% are not allowed to come and not allowed to take part in discussions? In most cases the answer is no, the results are mostly very disappointing.
Such mass actions do not belong to a War of the Flea, they are in contradiction to the simple guidelines of Sun Tzu, “let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt”. A mass gathering is openly planned at a known time and place, the enemy can make preparations to control the action. By following the advice of Sun Tzu “attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” a more successful action is possible that penetrates in the centre of power.
Imagine that only one per cent of the participants of the big mass gathering, one thousand people, throw within a period of one month each one rock through the window of one 1% who lives nearby. One thousand broken windows …… Not much of an effort, no costs, no time spilled, no arrests when you are careful. A surprising and unexpected series of small actions. Small is beautiful. Thousands of small actions have more success than one big action. Small volatile and elusive Autonomous Clubs using the creativity and individuality of its members can apply the idea that “the whole secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom our real intent”. The result is tremendous, use your imagination and you perceive a shock going through the higher echelons of society. It is a first small step on the road to change the world!
Many small actions in a War of the Flea are fundamentally different than mass actions. It are offensive actions in contradiction to defensive mass actions. A War of the Flea consists of a multitude of decentralised small actions on the initiative of individual members of the 99%. Sometimes they act alone, sometimes with a few friends. This War forces leaders to change decisions, mass actions only ask or even beg leaders for change.
Participants in mass actions want to air their dissatisfaction. In such defensive protests the initiative lies by leaders of organisations, activists are followers. Offensive actions during the War of the Flea are resistance actions carried out by small, temporary and more or less homogeneous groups of creative individuals that disturb the private living sphere of people with power. The initiative lies by individuals.
Massive protest actions need consensus about action tactics. Small actions can be carried out anytime and only a few people have to agree with the tactics. No consensus meetings are needed. It starts as a brooklet that will turn into a river that wipes away the 1%.
It is fun to carry out surprising small actions. By participating once in a while in a big protest you only can hope for a favourable echo of the action in the media. Creative and individual actions by small Autonomous Clubs increase the self-esteem of the members. Because the 1% live in an exclusive world where the 99% only may enter as servant, traditional actions do not penetrate in that world. The War of The Flea is an excellent action method to disturb the life of the greedy, criminal and corrupt leaders in the background.
Mass actions want to get attention of decision-takers and above all of media. Organisers distribute pamphlets and give press conferences. When the media do not write about the action, participants are disappointed and think twice before participating in a next mass action. You may also wonder if media articles penetrate the minds of decision-takers. The results of such mass events are hardly tangible and the energy of protesters is mostly spilled in vain. Media play an important role. In small actions of the War of the Flea media are hardly involved but sometimes the 1% complain about their difficulties. Their reflections in the media on offensive guerrilla actions increase sympathy of the masses for the struggle by showing that the 1% are under pressure. That is not the case with the one-time media reports after big demonstrations.
Mass actions do not penetrate in the power centre of the 1%. To take the power and the money away from the 1% you have to destroy their basis, their safe and comfortable eliteworld. Because they have hardly been attacked, the centre of power is not well defended. When defences are strengthened, concentrate on supply lines and disturb the supply of resources to the centre of power.
When the private living sphere of the 1% is disturbed they will be flabbergasted because it never happened before. The 1% does not understand why this happens. They start to whine and complain about their predicament and the 99% become amused because they see the 1% have the same difficulties as they have had for ages. The same status paradigm is coming nearer. The 99% are often disturbed by police officers, tax officers, house owners, bankers, civil servants, etc. It has become part of their life and it gives them a feeling of powerlessness. That feeling disappears when they become active and transfer the feeling of powerlessness and uncertainty to the 1%.
The 1% is protected by servants. Not only security personnel but also lawyers, cleaners, advisors, etc. These servants regulate any difficult and annoying item. Small War of the Flea actions go around this wall, they “make them toil when relaxed, starve when they are full, move when they are settled”.
In the War of the Flea people are autonomous, independent of leaders, choosing themselves when, why, how, where, with whom and against whom they become active. A new kind of humans comes into being who are creative, individualistic, caring for their neighbours and knowing how to combat and defeat any injustice or restriction of their freedom, privacy and well-being by greedy leaders who put the interests of the own group over the interests of all people. That leads us to a world without a 1%.
Because of their individual involvement and their responsibility for the own safety activists take care that they do not get damaged too much, that they are only active against targets that are undefended. The War of the Flea complies with the Golden Rule for Actions to avoid clashes with the police who are also part of the 99%. As the French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat already remarked a few centuries ago, “Revolution will be a kind of guerrilla in which we can attack the enemy in all places where the army cannot be used. This means that we can deprive the enemy of all his advantages”.
Joost van Steenis