I read Allie O’s piece in the Occupier a few months ago (http://bostonoccupier.com/s17/) with great interest and substantial agreement. In it, Allie painted a grimly accurate picture of Occupiers without an Occupation, going through Occu-motions that had lost much of their relevancy and power, and beseeched us to do better, arguing that we need tactics, and a “damn plan,” to “operate with intention and with efficacy.” I agree completely. We do, indeed, need a plan. I think it would be good if there could be a conversation here about what that would entail.
I think the first step towards a plan is intelligence, as in, systematic information gathering. If any leftist protest movement is going to grow in this city, it will need to grow itself through intelligent, well-thought out, and regular actions. The camp used to attract numbers to events through spectacle and interest in the community. That’s gone. We will need to start small, and that means using our efforts intelligently so as to attract people the way the camp used to. That means we need to know what we’re doing.
If we want a city-wide movement we need to know the city. We need information about the city and the things that the movement seeks to change. We need specific information on problems and those causing (and profiting from) problems and how best to apply pressure to counter these forces. There’s a common thread between the forces that Occupy strives against – neoliberalism, patriarchy, racism, environmental degradation, etc – and that is that they are embedded in our everyday lives. They’re everywhere, and that can make it seem as though they are, effectively, nowhere; nowhere you can fight them, that is. This isn’t the case. These things can be fought, and are fought. But to do that you need to know what you are looking at.
I think a group dedicated to creating a map of how oppressive power works in Boston, and to sharing that map, could be useful towards creating the “damn plan” Allie referred to. The more and better information we have, and the more clearly we can convey that information to ourselves and others, the better positioned we will be to target actions intelligently, to make the best use of our efforts and to attract more people to act as well. We can all rattle off examples of oppression, sometimes drawn from our own experience. Anecdotes are good for outreach but mediocre for planning. Information – actively gathered and rigorously contextualized and analyzed – is good for outreach and good for planning. The act of gathering information itself, if undertaken honestly and rigorously, could have numerous useful effects. It could serve as a form of outreach, and the people willing to put work in to information-gathering would, in all likelihood, be people willing to put work in to other logistical aspects of action-planning. Such a group could potentially grow to be a focal point for actions in this city. If nothing else, if such a group had some kind of institutional continuity, then it could do things like maintain a list of e-mail addresses of people interested in actions… anyone know where the Occupy Boston e-mail list went? I don’t.
The work of such a group would be interesting but perhaps a trifle dull and laborious for some. Most of it would entail fairly anodyne basic research. Who owns what around here? How are they connected? What are activist groups in this city facing? Basic information like this, if collected, collated, and made available to activist communities, would be a great boon to action planning, and would suggest further avenues for inquiry. I think some modifications of the normal working group model would be necessary to make an information/intelligence group work: members would need to be held accountable for tasks they undertake, and things like record-keeping and the maintenance of collections of information would have to be rigorously attended to. I actually think that would be a good thing, for most Occupiers, to have a little more structure in their doings. We don’t need to be authoritarians to realize that the militaries of the world are on to something when they pay assiduous attention to intelligence, logistics, and communications. These are the things that allow organizations and movements to stay in existence and work towards long-term goals, even after the spontaneous upsurge dissipates.