There is a big difference between mass actions and a string of individual actions. Mass actions are staged events in which organisers decide when, where, how and about what subject actions take place. In individual actions activists decide why, when, where, how with whom and against whom actions are carried out.
Mass actions ask or beg leaders to change decisions but leaders who took wrong decisions remain in function. They are not pressured and will take more wrong decisions because they put the interests of the 1% before the interests of the 99%. Their mentality is not changed. Individual groups pressure leaders by controlling, vetoing and punishing them when they violate the freedom and well-being of the 99%. These actions influence the mentality of leaders because they are forced to acknowledge that a new power of the 99% is coming into being next to the power of the 1%.
The responsibility and the involvement of individuals is greater in individual actions than in mass actions. Individual actions are actions by small, leaderless Autonomous Clubs. The result is directly connected to the creativity and activity of activists who get the feeling that they accomplish something. It gives participants more self-esteem and more pleasure than is ever possible in mass actions.
Mass actions have some positive affect on the solidarity under the 99% but can only take place once in a while. Individual actions lead to tangible results in the struggle to take the power and the money away from the 1%. Mass gatherings can be pleasant but individual actions have more positive results. They improve the own situation and the situation of fellow-99%. They result in a long series of small victories and successes. When one group has a pause, another group continues the pressure on the 1%.
Mass actions lead to disappointment when the result does not comply with the hope on success before the action started. When Occupy did not “Occupy the Financial Centres”, many followers withdrew from the movement. Other big movements based on mass actions had the same effect.
In Dutch actions against the nuclear plant in Doodewaard a failed effort was made to combine mass actions and individual actions. The mass action consisted of two blockades (a year apart from each other) of the nuclear plant by a few thousand demonstrators. It resulted in clashes with the police and the plant did not close.
The new idea was inspired by the slogan “Doodewaard is everywhere”. Small groups of activists carried out small actions in their own environment, being like a fish in the water. Targets were the veins that connected the plant with the rest of society. The roads to the plant, the power lines, the offices of the owners of the plant, the clients that used nuclear energy etc. Also some propagandists of nuclear energy and some directors of the plant were targeted in their private living sphere. The action period lasted several months but there were not enough small actions. When the blockade stopped individual actions also stopped. The new idea was not carried out in the right way. Most energy was spend on the “decisive blockade”. Many activists were disappointed that the plant did not close after the blockades and the Anti-Nuclear Movement withered away.
The panic and disapproval of organisers of mass actions when autonomous groups as the Black Bloc deviate from centrally imposed guide lines is characteristic. A few self-appointed organisers claim a monopoly on what should happen. They act like the 1% who decide how money is divided, criticism is not allowed.
Humans like being together with many other people. The results of mass actions are mostly very disappointing, it are actions that do not belong to a War of the Flea. Activists want to accomplish something. When there are not enough positive results people stop participating. Walking in a demonstration is not sufficient to remain active.
Looking at sport matches, listening to well-known musicians or interesting speakers together with thousands of people gives a special feeling. It is nice to be in a pleasant place, to have fun and to get new experiences. You meet other people with the same taste, the same idea, the same interest. In mass meetings participants have the same status though there are also organisers with a higher status. Participants have hardly influence on what organisers decide. Mass actions are to a certain extent in contradiction to the same status paradigm that rules in a Humane World.
In mass gatherings people are like pawns in a game. They can hardly use their own ideas, their own individuality, their own creativity. In demonstrations and strikes the goals, transport, clothing and even the texts on placards are centrally organised. Own initiative and own activity is hardly appreciated. People are like a grain of sand in a big mountain of sand.
Participants in mass gatherings in music and sports want to have a nice time. In the political world the goal concerns something outside the place where the gathering is held. If you want to have fun or to ventilate your frustration mass meetings are excellent but it is only complaining and crying out loud and then it stops. Positive results of mass actions are disappointing. It is an important reason why attendance in political mass meetings is fairly low, why it is nearly impossible to organise a longer series of mass actions in a short time. In North Western Europe the number of strikes has fallen drastically for the same reasons, positive results of strikes have been scarce.
What is the function of individuals in mass actions? What can an individual contribute to the success? Most people just copy what others do. They are dependent on others getting enough participants, sufficient publicity and determining when, where, how and about what actions take place. The role of the masses is to participate. Damage to activists in mass actions is much greater than damage to activists in individual actions.
The 1% do not listen to what is said in mass actions. Elected representatives hardly react on petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures. Disappointment lies around the corner. Massive demonstrations and strikes against austerity measures in Spain and Greece had no positive results. The individual contribution of participants was close to zero. There is no fun when nothing is accomplished.
Activists of groups like the Black Bloc use mass gatherings as a shield for individual actions as fighting with the police or breaking windows of banks and expensive shops. It gives some feeling of power and some positive results as shown by the race rioters in the USA in their fight for more civil rights. They combine mass and individual actions. They show that individual actions are more powerful than mass meetings, demonstrations or strikes. But they attack the strong points in the defence of the 1% (the police). They should accomplish more by attacking in small groups undefended weak points in the private living sphere of the 1%. Ten thousand protesters in a mass demonstration accomplish less than a thousand activists who each throw only one rock through a window of a responsible person who violates the freedom and the well-being of the 99%.
Individual actions comply with the new paradigm that all people have the same status. People have to decide themselves what they do and should not compelled by others to do fruitless things.
Joost van Steenis