You might be among the tens of thousands of well-meaning people who participated in Occupy Wall Street. I was.
So was Micah White, director of the for-profit Boutique Activist Consultancy, whose new book, The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution, is here to offer us “tools for hastening social transformation.”
Some, remembering the activist language of those days, might smile sympathetically and say, Thank you, but I’m not in the market for social transformation tools today. Worry not, White says in his introduction, “this book is for you, too.” And for those who oppose the idea of a people’s revolution? “Uprisings always need people who convert,” White writes, adding, with an unsettling confidence that carries throughout the book: “You may oppose us today but you will join us tomorrow.”
In a tomorrow not far from today, two political anniversaries are due to arrive: the fifth anniversary of Occupy, which arguably began with a call to action on July 13, 2011, and the eightieth of the start of the Spanish Civil War. Along with Hemingway, Neruda, and volunteers from around the world, George Orwell was among those who joined the Republican fight against Franco’s Nationalists. He documented his experience in Homage to Catalonia, an account of his time as a front-line militia officer for the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, just one of many groups that formed the Loyalist’s fractious coalition of leftists and anarcho-syndicalists. Apart from a few dull chapters concerning “the horrors of party politics,” Homage is a cracking good book about shooting fascists. It’s also a book about being shot at by fascists, which happened with increasing frequency toward the end, as the Republican alliance collapsed under the organized weight of fascist and Stalinist opposition. Barely making it out of Spain alive, Orwell returned to England, reflected on the failure of the war, and wrote his book.
Though below Orwell as a stylist and thinker, Micah White can claim a special role in the history of Occupy. As the senior editor for the Vancouver-based “culture jamming” magazine Adbusters, he and its publisher, Kalle Lasn, e-blasted a “tactical briefing” to 90,000, calling on the addressed to target Wall Street and urging them to “bring tent” [sic]. Shortly thereafter, a group of roughly 200 – the founders of Occupy Wall Street – “seized the meme,” to use White’s turn of phrase, and began strategizing. Working independently of White and Lasn (based at the time in Berkeley and Vancouver, respectively), the founders carried out their mission: at noon on Saturday, September 17, around 5,000 people arrived at Zuccotti Park. Three hundred staked camp.