22. Actions of the past have not changed the world. Out-dated actions gave hardly change and damaged the 99% too much

Why participate in actions when fifty years of (mass) actions have proven that successes are small or not existing? From about 1960 to 1985 people were active in movements. The Women’s Liberation Movement and the Squatters Movement had some successes. But women have still an inferior position to men and the housing situation is still abominable. Positive results of many other movements as the Anti-Nuclear Movement were hardly visible. After 1985 movements virtually ceased to exist. In the last fifty years successes of mass actions were disappointing.

Actions of the past hardly benefited the 99%. The abolition of slavery was partly achieved because some of the 1% from the North needed black workers in the factories and not on the cotton fields where they produced next to nothing. The Civil Rights Movement was a small step in the emancipation of blacks but many coloured people still live in ghettos and racism has not disappeared. Upper layers of the black population profited most.

Women got a better place in society but higher echelons of the female power pyramid profited most. Students profited more from squatting houses than working youth. Still these movements were fairly successful. But we need other action methods to get a world in which all people have the same status, a world without racism, with real equality of men and women, with a decent living place for everyone etc. Therefore we must take the power and the money away from the 1%.

Most actions are short-term actions, long-term actions are scarce. Something happens and there is a protest. When the protest dies down another item comes up and again there is a protest. Activists jump from one subject to another. First they support Tunisians, then Egyptians, then Turks but in the meantime the first ones are forgotten because all attention is drawn to the latest incident. To participate in actions seems more important that the result of actions. Past actions are not analysed. Nothing is learned from the past. New action ideas are blocked by people who obviously have an interest in unsuccessful actions.

There are many protests against the NSA. But forgotten are the unsuccessful protests against other restrictions of the freedom and privacy of the 99%. Telephone records are hoarded for years, cameras are everywhere, tax payers are controlled, people in social security nets are harassed. But big crime, corruption by the top or criminal evading of paying taxes are hardly prosecuted. Protests did not slow down the coming into existence of an Orwellian “1984” society.

In the present time with growing unemployment, decreasing wages, rising incomes for the rich etc. there is only protest and no resistance and certainly no pressure on people who caused the crisis for their own benefit. After decades of suppression the Arab Spring ousted some old leaders but the local 1% still rule. Southern European countries saw massive activities on the streets but austerity is just going on and demonstrations disappeared. Why take part when there are no results? The position of the 99% is deteriorating while the position of the 1% and their political lackeys is not disturbed. No new action ideas are advanced and out-dated street actions continue to beg and not force politicians to change decisions. The top of society is never challenged and remains untouched in their quiet privileged mansions.

The right to assemble or to demonstrate did not change the power of the 1%. Protest demonstrations, petitions, strikes, boycotts, elections or the use of justice courts are not sufficient. By these old-fashioned means, granted to them by the 1% the 99% never get influence, never can curtail the power of the 1%. Withdrawing in commune-like organisations, trying to make a better society inside the present one may be nice for the involved people but the masses will not join. Civil disobedience does not work. It is based on the idea that wars will stop when nobody becomes a soldier. That does not happen. These activities do not challenge the power of the 1%. It are reactions on what the other side is doing. Activists show no initiative on which the 1% are forced to react.

The out-dated actions have sometimes small successes. Strikes did increase wages but the incomes at the top of the private and public sector increased more than at the bottom, so you should wonder if strikes have been successful. Boycotts have damaged in the first place the 99% while life at the top was hardly touched. Demonstrations did not achieve much. When activists refuse to analyse past actions nothing will change.

In protest actions too many activists are imprisoned, hurt or even killed. The pressure on the 1% is minimal. In actions on streets in town centres many not participating 99% are hindered. That causes divisions inside the 99%. When actions have the 1% as target, other 99% are not disturbed. Mao Tse-tung said once: “All the guiding action principles or action operations grow out of one basic principle: to strive to the utmost to preserve one’s strength and destroy that of the enemy”. In most actions that does not happen.

The idea that big mass actions in the streets give change is problematic. A long string of small actions with many small victories increases the feeling under the 99% to have power. The masses need new ideas to improve their position in regard to the increasing power of the 1%. Action leaders mostly do not trust the masses. They force the 99% to use actions in which they can keep control over the actions. If actions comply to the Golden Rule for Actions does not interest them. Many action leaders climbed up to the circles of the political servants by propagating actions that did not disturb society too much and opposing actions outside their control.

To get a Humane World new people must arise who are creative and autonomous and who interfere when they find that necessary. Now most actions are centrally organised and participants follow rules laid down by a small leading group. Texts on placards are often censured, strikers wear the same shirts with the same texts. Occupy was suddenly declared non-violent. “Actions should be dignified”. Attacks of the 1% on the 99% are seen as inevitable (“the police must use water cannons against the demonstrators”) while attacks on the 1% who caused the crisis are rejected. Most actions are complaining and crying out loud without developing a counter-power. No wonder the 99% refuse to take part. They know this kind of actions will not help.

We need something new!

Joost van Steenis

About Joost van Steenis

My latest book "How to make Revolution, developing the Fourth People's Power", can be downloaded for free from my site http://members.chello.nl/jsteenis. It contains new ideas how to take the money and power away from the most powerful people, the elite. It strives to get a new society in which not money is the pivotal point of all discussions but the idea that all people have the same status. New action means are introduced to reach this paradigm shift (a revolution) that concentrate on direct actions in the living sphere of the elite.
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3 Responses to 22. Actions of the past have not changed the world. Out-dated actions gave hardly change and damaged the 99% too much

  1. Dan Lynch says:

    In the US, the New Deal & Great Society policies improved the lot of the working class, as evidenced by the Gini Coefficient:

    Post WWII Europe did fairly well, in part because the 1% accepted a welfare state as a way to fend off communism. Now that the major communist economies have folded, the 1% no longer feel obliged to maintain a welfare state.

    In S. America, the worst of the Neoliberal policies have been reversed, though they still have a long way to go.

    I agree that there will be no major improvements until the plutocracy is dismantled and replaced with something else. When and how that will happen cannot be predicted. Typically it requires a major catastrophe (like the Great Depression) or a major war (like WWII).

    • I have written somewhere that despite revolutions, earthquakes natural catastrophes and something like that a 1% always came out above the 99%. Marx had also the idea that capitalism produced its own gravediggers but he did not write much how these grave diggers could get power.

      I am not satisfied with waiting for a catastrophe to remove a 1% without that the 99% have learned to remove any 1% that after the catastrophe again takes power. Therefore I try to develop other method of action in which that can happen. Partly based on my personal experience in fifty years of participating in many kinds of actions that did not bring much success.

      Of course the situation for the 99% improved in the rich countries but not because of actions of the 99%. The 1% had some interests in improving the situation of some 99% just as they abolished slavery.
      And in the last ten years the situation of the 99% has deteriorated again also again because of activities of the 1% against which the 99% could not do much, just as the 99% can do not much against the ever growing control of their life by intrusions on their safety.

      I have seen many unsuccessful actions and conclude for the development of society that that kind of out-dated actions give the 99% no power. They remain dependent on what the 1%. does. The decreasing participation in demonstrations or strikes shows that the 99% have become disillusioned with this kind of actions. It is time to think of something new but I see (also via my contacts) that many self-appointed action leaders prefer to use the old-fashioned actions maybe because some of the action leaders see for themselves a future when they are accepted by the political leaders in the higher echelons of the power pyramid. I know of many examples from activists – sometimes in the past very leftist – in my country who choose this way.
      But you do in fact in your first sentences you affirm my thesis that past actions were not very successful.

  2. master412160 says:

    A very interesting article! Thank you for posting this. I’m not sure it will ever be possible to take the power back of that 1%. It has never been achieved in history not sure it will now or in the future. When those who have the power are gaining more every day.

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