Debating Tactics: Remember to ask, “What works?”

Our tactical debates should solve protesters’ problems, instead of dividing movements

In the midst of Yet Another Tactical Debrief, this time on the recent Move-In-Day–turned—street-semibattle—then—mass-arrest at Occupy Oakland, I ended up tossing out on Twitter a cluster of successful movement moments, some of which involved fighting back against cops—Stonewall, Cochabamba Water War, anti-apartheid defiance campaign, Tahrir Square 2011—and others of which involved a calculated refusal to fight back, even to the point of enduring direct state violence: anti-nuclear demos, the 1980s Central America solidarity movement, Gandhian salt march. In my estimation, every single one of these was successful, which raises the question of what they had in common.

What these moments do not share in common is their achievement of a universally correct balance of nonviolence and forcefulness, self-sacrifice and safety, or daring and accessibility, but rather their solution to an immediate and tangible tactical problem which had been totally disabling to their movements. Without these solutions, the trajectories of their movements were towards frustration with the possibilities of action, and thereby to spirals of apathy and spurts of ineffective outrage. With them in mind, the trajectories shifted to hopeful emulation, contagious optimism, and surges in new participation, leading to a whole new scale for participation.

The Miami Model is a global problem (as the New York Times acknowledges for Bahrain), how do we work out a solution?

(very long post follows the break)

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Who was on the Gaza flotilla? An Israeli Jew and the IHH speak in harmony

The two most compelling comments on the flotilla tragedy I’ve read came from very different sources. One is an Israeli Jew, Udi Adoni, writing on the Israeli online news service Ynetnews. The other is from IHH, the Turkish aid group that sponsored the MV Mavi Marmara, the ship that saw at least nine of its passengers shot dead. At a time when the Israeli state is eagerly telling the world that flotilla, and especially IHH, is Hamas, Iran, al-Qaeda and terrorists; and that the passengers who fought back were a terrorist ambush, the coincidence of these two voices is striking, and critical to hear. (everything that follows is their words0

Udi Adoni,A view from the Left”: It is not true that among the participants of the flotilla there are proponents of peace and proponents of war. Its beauty lies in the seemingly impossible coalition of contrasts of men and women, homosexuals and clergymen, Muslims and Jews, Christians and communists, anarchists and Hanin Zoabi and Dror Feiler. They all agreed to unite for an unarmed action. They all decided to act for freedom without a fight.

IHH press conference (I’m fairly sure the speaker is Bülent Yıldırım, its president, but it’s not indicated on the page), June 4: Our group was made up of all sorts of people, including leftists, rightists, liberals, conservatives, atheists, muslims, christians, jews, buddhists…Ours was a civil and pacifist initiative created by conscientious, civilian, unarmed people who carried with them nothing but humanitarian aid.

And we set sail to prove to the people of Gaza, who have been under a siege for years which is not unlike an imprisonment in a castle, that human kindness has not yet died.

Keeping our faith in the spirit of civil power, our Freedom Flotilla did not take any orders or any kind of support from any government during its organization. Our power came solely from the conscience of humanity and the courage of our rightfulness. We wanted to be a source of invigoration for the people of Gaza on whom many states turn a blind eye.

Adoni: But I was afraid to stand on board a ship that carries food and hope to Gaza, and to find myself confronting the men of the corps which I had served loyally 30 years ago. Looking back, it is a pity I did not join. I am asked, “Surely you would not have beaten IDF soldiers?” True. I suppose that I would have tied myself to a post and screamed with fear and faith. However, the question is not at all how I would have behaved but whether one has the right to self-defense against maritime terror applied by a state.

IHH: Ours was self-defense. And self defense is legitimate. It has always been legitimate in all systems of law and throughout history.  I am a lawyer. I should know this better than anyone. However, we did not defend ourselves with firearms against these terrorists that attacked us with firearms, we did not have such means anyway

Adoni: There were no firearms on board the ship. There were no suicide bombers. On the practical level, opposing worlds, united against the occupation and for the people of Gaza, to a struggle which was not supposed to bring death…but life.

IHH: Now some people are asking, “Why did you go there?”

We did, because we are humans. We went out there because we are humans. The conscience of humanity has not yet died, this we wanted to prove to humanity itself. For this, we went out there.

We went and we will go again.