Left Forum 2017
June 2-4, 2017
- 1 Friday, June 2nd
- 2 Saturday, June 3rd
- 3 Sunday, June 4th
Friday, June 2nd
Stepping into the Future: Technology and Revolution
Alfredo Lopez, Maritza Arrastia, Jerome Scott, Alice Aguilar, Samir Hazboun
The session begins with an interactive exercise. Alfredo asks "tell us one element of a society you envision". This is a "popcorn" exercise, where people take turns answering. It's like brainstorming. Here are some of the answers that people offered:
- No boss
- All basic human needs are provided for
- Gender equality
- Care work should be fully shared and valued
- People should be able to make a living doing what they want to do.
- Restoration of the planet
- Justice for all
- Doing away with prisons as a response to crime
- Fracking is suicide
- Unrestricted civic participation
- Individuals and selves are valued
- Lots of time to chill
- Access to knowledge, without corporate filters
- Where power is not based on money
- Enjoyable, productive work for everyone
- No philosophy of white supremacy
- Media that is not beholden to advertisers
- Cultivate our spirituality
- No borders, no deportation
- Wisdom to know what we can and cannot change
- More cross-cultural language and communication
- A society that meets people's needs
- Developing our full human capacity
- Where science is used for the common good
- Free love
- Innovations that are sustainable from and environmental perspective
- Religious freedom
- A society that values the arts
- The ability to travel anywhere in the world, without harming the environment.
- Where everyone has access to the arts.
- A society where we can unite to do all of this
- No uncurable diseases
- Freedom from oppression, retaliation and violence
- Where we value community over individuals
- Minimal employment, maximum enjoyment
(Alfredo) Most of this is doable, with technology we have today. All of this can be reduced to a simple perspective on the world.
(Jerome) Can we do this within the framework of capitalism? Three people in the room agree; the rest don't. I don't believe it's possible within the framework of capitalism, since maximizing profit is the main goal. That notion corrupts everything else.
Technology is a double-edged sword. One of the most devastating things it does is to eliminate jobs. I used to work at an auto plant with 2000 workers. Today, they make ten times as many parts with 190 people. Coal mining is done by taking the tops off of mountains, and not digging in tunnels. A major coal operation might employ 250 people, rather than thousands.
Technology is also disrupting capitalism. Capitalists maximize production with fewer workers. Eventually, these workers will not be able to buy back the goods they produce. Ford has a new auto plant in China. It's highly automated, and there are only 200 people in the entire plant. Capitalism brings anarchy to production. There's no planning, which leads to overproduction.
Politically, capitalists have the power to use this technology any way they want. By organizing, we can seize this power for ourselves. Capitalism created all of the scarcity
we see today, in an effort to maximize its bottom line.
(Alice) Technology is an ambiguous word. We think of it in terms of what we have today. Technology has been around for thousands of years. Grass roots technology isn't seen as valuable, though corporate technology is.
Work with people that are already politicized, and share knowledge. How can we organize, so that we're not in competition with each other for resources (like money)?
Don't let the corporations tell you how to communicate. Don't let the corporations be the demise of your communities.
Try to avoid binaries. For example, technology vs non-technology, or capitalism vs anti-capitalism.
Focus on sharing knowledge instead of hoarding it.
(Maritza) I consider myself an activists and a worker writer. I've lived through the Cuban revolution. We experienced life thinking "this is the way it's always been, and this is the way it's always going to be". With the revolution, Cuba experienced an incredible transformation of consciousness.
As human beings, we know what we need to defeat US imperialism. What gets in the way? Capitalism - it takes over our ability to think well, and leads us to do things against our own best interest. We can with concerted actions. We are always figuring out ways to expand our facilities.
There is a difference between capitalist use of technologies and human use of technologies.
None of the things we think is "the thing" really is. Otherwise, we we'd have already done it. We can move forward by having vision, and communicating with one another.
(Samir) Technology cuts across all lines in society: race, gender, generations, and geography. Capitalism has trained us to think in a particular way, and we have to get around that.
In 5-10 years, truck driving will no longer be a viable job. Under capitalism, those workers are screwed. Under socialism, it would be no big deal.
It's really hard to get WiFi and broadband at the Highlander Center. AT&T won't serve the area, but they still fight to protect their local monopoly. They're fighting municipal internet.
SEAD: Supporting Educational and Agricultural development.
Technology has a lot of potential for liberation, but we have to work with it.
(Alfredo) In the late 1960's, there were student uprisings all across the US, and all across the world. We had no idea how big a deal this was. I wonder what would if happened if we'd realized how much power we had. Today, we would have known. There'd be no way to keep it a secret.
Comment: How can we harness open source technology? Tech CEOs in California are pushing the idea of a basic income.
Question: What is the left? Is it people with specific ideas, or specific groups?
There are already people using technology for struggle, like Fight for 15. They're all about gaining control over who benefits from technology.
Question: What about intellectual property vs intellectual commons? What can we do to free intellectual property?
There are groups that believe in and prioritize open source. FOSS is not marketed aggressively like corporate technology. We have to do that through mentorship. That work has to be done by us. Surveillance technology has really gotten people's attention.
There's also human technology behind how we organize. Technology has made it very easy for us to communicate, but it hasn't made it easy for us to organize.
Regarding technology companies and a basic minimum wage - Nixon pushed for the same basic idea. Capitalism won't accept the idea of setting a side a group of people that cannot be exploited. Organizing is the key, and political education is the key to organizing. What will it take for us to utilize this disruption? Organizing allows people to demand what they need, and what they want.
A revolutionary looks for ways to change society, rather than looking for ways to fit into society as it is.
In order to solve problems, you have to understand what the problems are. This is where political education helps.
Comment: We can't solve problems using the same mindset that created them. We need to think of new ways to promote new values.
Question: It takes forever for people to get through mental shifts. For example, it took a long time for people to accept that the world isn't flat. How can we accelerate these shifts?
Question: How can we have access to the internet without corporate control.
Question: What advice do you have for communities that are broken up or displaced. By gentrification, for example.
With respect to communities, try to be a supportive person. You can help without taking over.
About 80% of the US governments R&D is spent on the military. What if that 80% went towards researching things that could improve people's lives.
On the acceleration question, I'm less concerned with pace, and more concerned with direction.
Saturday, June 3rd
Technology And Revolution: A convergence
Melanie Bush, Rob Robinson, Alfredo Lopez
These convergences are a conversation. We want people to talk about the role of technology in the revolution. Technology is critically important to where we are as a human race, and where we can go.
Question: Tell us one element of the society you want to construct - the product of this revolutionary activity. People raise their hands and give a long list of answers.
- Everyone lives well; not just a few live better
- Things get easier
- Economic justice
- Decolonization of knowledge
- Technology should enhance humanity
- Mutual respect
- Everyone's needs are met
- All medicine is free
- All education is free
- Freedom of movement
- More time to pursue one's passions
- Food for everyone
- A decentralized internet
- Preserving the Earth
- Peace, no more wars, no more nukes
- Free and fair elections
- Celebration of life and death cycles
- Freedom to be myself without fear of retaliation
- Free of racism
- Many centers
- Better transit
- Respecting others
- Adequate housing
- Organic agriculture
- Science-based decision making
- Public consent to emerging development
- Trust and truth
- Emphasis on sustainability rather than growth
- Routine redistribution of wealth
- Technology is connected to society
- The opportunity to participate in decision making that affects my life (i.e., real democracy)
- Technology servicing happiness rather than consumerism
- A people-based mass transit system.
Today, we have the technology to do all of these things. I'm stating this as a premise, but is it true or not? (People in the group raise hands to debate the premise.)
It seems to me that our first task is to raise consciousness. If technology can be trust to put people ahead of profits, we can do this.
Technology allows us to produce wealth. Fifteen years ago, the engineers developing industrial automation thought this was possible.
Three premises make this possible. First, we already have consciousness. Second, crowd acting (as opposed to crowd funding). Third, organizing.
The technology exists to do these things objectively. But subjectively, who holds and controls power? To solve these problems, people need to have control over the technology they use.
Our economic system has a small number of people with a lot of power and control. They'll fight to keep it that way.
You have to remember the human element. People tend to gravitate towards expert persons. Technology won't solve that.
Almost everything on this list could have been done fifty or a hundred years ago. Only a few items require modern technology.
I'm not sure if technology would help solve the problem of racism.
Technology exists to expand our basic human facilities. Many of the things we want to do require human connections, the ability to listen to opposing views, and the ability to unite around things using consensus. We need ways to arrive at decisions, and that's something we're currently struggling with.
We need to think about free software as a way to protect privacy. How the software treats end users is important. Software needs a social responsibility contract.
We have to be unified, which means having a set of shared values and principles. Capitalism has taught us to be individualistic, and we need to change that.
Technology has always existed, and has always been a part of what we do. Just as technology can be organized to support the system, it can also be organized to support humanity.
We fund technologies that are unsustainable, like the way we use energy today. That has to change.
Maybe it's not technology that keeps us from coming to agreement. Maybe it's all the things we've internalized from capitalist culture.
Achieving these goals is going to require the deconstruction of capitalist culture. We should have our own definition of technology, rather than accepting the capitalist's definitions.
Think of technology as a set of tools. As humans, we've always been good at developing tools. We should go back to basic human connections, and the human building blocks in our society.
There's a school of thinking that separates technology and tools. Tools help you do your work. Technology takes your place.
Our space to have human interactions is becoming smaller. It's being invaded by algorithms.
It's important to reclaim our humanity. Capitalism is using technology to take that away from us.
Technology is very controlled by white men. Trying to depersonalize and discuss racism takes a conscious effort. Can technology help us with that?
We can look at technology in terms of our relationship with nature.
Technology was invented by human beings, and the nature of human beings is to control other human beings. Technology can be used to help us, and it can be used to hurt us.
Yes, the technology exists to do these things, but it's more effective at achieving some goals, and less effective at achieving others.
We have all of this technology in place, but what we're really talking about is human nature. Technology has created an intense level of confirmation bias.
Sometimes people don't assert their values because they're concerned it won't align with their friend's values.
There's a book called "To Save Everything, Click Here". Technology is a double-edged sword, and has to be controlled by people. This is about gaining collective power. When is technology appropriate, and when should we decide not to use it? When is it helpful, and when is it harmful?
Next, we break into small-group exercises. Each group should try to find three things our movement needs to do in order to get to this place. This is a strategic discussion.
Here's what our group came up with:
- Secure private communications
- Tools for local organizers
Ideas from other groups:
- Take advantage of technology throughout our movement
- Own and control our own infrastructure
- Mentorship and political education
- Work on a definition of the term "technology"
Antifascism in Theory and Practice
Alexander Ross, Mark Bray, Whitney Mallett
(Alex) Fascists and far-right groups seek revolution as a way to overthrow parliamentary democracy and return to a "natural order". This natural order is often rooted in some form of hierarchy. In the United States, these groups tend not to identify with fascism outright. Instead, they're trying to fill in the area between mainstream conservatism and the radical right.
Fascism developed from a combination of far left and far right ideas: syndicalism and nationalism.
Fascism started to appear in Italy, around 1914. Mussolini talks about it as a convergence, getting Italy into World War I, and eventually overthrowing Italy's democratic government. There was a similar situation in Germany, with the National Socialist German Worker's Party. Hitler had a vision of freeing Germany, Austria, and parts of Czechoslovakia. This was ethnic nationalism that transcended the nation state. Otto and Gregor Strausser were leaders of the Nazi party after Hitler was jailed during the Beer Hall Putsch.
The Nazi's gained a foothold in German politics after the great depression. Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933 and had several political opponents assassinated. Then came World War II. The left wing of the Nazi party became the leading faction in the National Socialist Party.
Increasingly fascist ideas tend to spread with a combination of left and right subcultures and countercultures.
After the cold war, the National Bolsheviks became a bridge between Russian fascism and European fascism. This was Eurasianism. Putin drew from these ideas when he came into power.
Today's alt-right represents a large set of ideas from European fascism. They're trying to pull the left wing into a right-wing movement for inequality.
(Mark) Antifa: The Anti-fascist handbook is coming out in August. It's a postwar history of fascism. Historians often talk about anti-fascism as opposition to fascism, but there's a socialist view that distinctly different from mere opposition. Today's antifa is really pan-socialism with direct action. They're a set of groups that oppose white supremacy. Antifa has been around as long as fascism itself.
Fascism (as a name) started with Mussolini in Italy. Earlier groups, (like the KKK) had similar ideas, even if they didn't call themselves fascist. Mussolini's first fascist group had 100 members or so. The SDWP had 54 members when Hitler joined. It's easier to fight these organizations when they're still small, because they may not stay small for long.
The emblem for anti-fascism has three downward arrows. It came out of the iron fist, an emblem of the German socialist party. The Nazi salute came as an alternative to the communist's raised fist. Hitler wanted Nazis to have their own salute. When Hitler first came to party, the German communist party didn't take him very seriously. This changed in 1934.
In Spain, the raised fist became and anti-fascist symbol.
In 1936, the British Union of Fascists tried to organize a march in London. Jews, Socialists, and other groups used direct action to disrupt the march. (Q: was this the Battle of Cable Street?) Antifa groups became larger during the 1970s, in opposition to the National Front.
Autonomous political groups developed during the 1970s and 1980s. These were the first groups to use black bloc tactics. British antifa preferred to dress in plain street clothes, rather than black. Plain street clothes made them harder to identify. In the 1980s anti-racist groups became influenced by anti-fascist groups.
(Whitney) I'm a journalist who's followed alt-right and antifa groups. During the Occupy movement, there was interest in antifa tactics, and we see this interest returning with the presidency of Donald Trump. The Richard Spencer punching is an example of this.
On March 4th 2017, there were a series of pro-Trump demonstrations, and a series of antifa counter-demonstrations. There's lots of confusion in some of these brawls. For example, in Berkeley one fascist clubbed another fascist who happened to be wearing a black tee shirt.
Pastel Black is an LGBTQ groups that's supported by antifa.
The alt-right relies heavily on memes. "Meme starter packs" have come out of this. For example, Kyle Chapman (aka Based Stickman) dressed up an a costume during one demonstration. Later, he started selling the costume. It's kind of like capitalism trying to subsume counterculture. There's also a series of Taylor Swift memes that mis-attribute Adolf Hitler quotes to her.
Question: What's the relationship between the alt-right and internet trolling?
The threads of hate are there, so it's an easy jump.
Question: Does Norse mythology play a role in this?
It seems like the alt-right has made fun of Norse mythology, but there's very little subversion in it.
Question: Does this speak to an emptiness of subculture?
A lot of antifa organizing happens in subcultures.
Comment: Subtle messages can affect the subconscious through association. It's okay for memes to be confusing; they're still advertising.
Comment: I've seen several memes that say "antifa are the fascists".
You can't have a logical debate with someone who's not using logic or reason.
Question: What do you do when you see people wearing these symbols? The west understood fascism as an individual failing rather than a political failing. Do you try to confront them, or win them over?
There's a way of looking at the world which is particular to fascism. It's like the Nietzsche dichotomy between logic and will. The alt-right is more accepting of will than logic.
Look at free speech rallies. These rallies are used to spread hate speech, incite confrontation, create martyrs, and slash throats. It's like Scott Walker framing "right to work" as being good for workers.
Question: Is there an analysis of anti-fascist organizing?
Most of the past anti-fascist organizing was militant. Anti-fascism is a very understudied phenomenon, but there are some successful case studies.
Strategies for Advancing the Human Rights Movement in Your Community
Colette Pichon Battle, Noel Didla, Shelia Katzman, Carl Redwood
US Human Rights Network: http://www.ushrnetwork.org/.
(Jackie) After Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreements, US cities are taking the initiative to uphold the agreement on their own. We don't need national leadership to advance human rights in our communities. We can build human rights from the ground up. History says that's the only way we'll get them.
(Collette) The US Human Rights Network is trying to build a group of human rights advocates. What are human rights? These are rights that people are entitled to because they're human. They're universal, global, inalienable, indivisible, and interdependent.
Human rights are under increased threats, and human rights violations happen all over the country. In some areas of the country, these threats are not new. (Jean Louis) I moved here from the Congo. I never thought I'd be fighting for human rights in the US, but here we are. Legislators will do the right thing, if we force them to do so. None of these rights will happen without pressure.
Washington DC became the first human rights city in 2008. We urged the city council to make this declaration. Since 2008, we've focused on improving knowledge about human rights. We've also tried to hold elected officials accountable; a human rights city should have policies that reflect that. Every year, we issue a report card for the city and hand-deliver it to all members of city council. We've also engaged in human rights activities in other cities. In 2012, the DC council issued a series of resolutions, one of which explicitly addressed Islamophobia.
(Carl) Housing is our major issue - the forced migration of black people from the cities to the suburbs. This is not a benign thing. It's a set of policies that push people out. Pittsburgh is very focused on neighborhoods, and it's been very challenging to transcend those neighborhood boundaries.
There's a privatization and austerity piece that didn't need Donald Trump to get started.
The United Nations said the US owes reparations to black people. We'd like to raise this up. It's a way to raise local issues to a national level. We have to think globally, because we're fighting for the development of human potential. The UN is an area where we can raise issues, but the UN doesn't have the authority to address them directly.
(Shelia) Our goal is to get 100 cities to pass a women's bill of rights. This is CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (an international treated adopted by the UN in 1979). San Francisco took this up at a local level, and passed laws in 1998. They wanted zero domestic homicides. About 185-190 countries have ratified CEDAW, but implementation is a totally different thing. We'd like to see gender analysis of all city departments, and oversight board, and public feedback.
The US is pushing other countries to adopt human rights, but we're reluctant to do so here.
(Josh) International mechanisms can be used to build up human rights at a local level. The UN is one such tool. You can use the UN review process as a way to raise issues, and this gives you something to organize around. The process is called a universal periodic review.
There are nine UN human rights instruments. The US has only ratified three of them.
Comment: A lot of people in my community wouldn't know what human rights are.
Teaching them would be a start.
Comment: I'm optimistic to see grass roots organizations take on this initiative.
Comment: What else is the UN for, if not for our voices?
Comment: I wasn't aware there was such a thing as a human rights city (like DC), or a human rights state (like Hawaii). I wasn't aware this could be done.
Question: What does it mean to be a human rights city?
Question: How do we claim civil rights without using words like "fighting"?
Human rights are universal rights. If human rights were enacted as they should be, we wouldn't need civil rights and CEDAW, and we wouldn't have to fight for them. How do you ask for something you don't know about?
The UN can't go into a country unless they're invited to come in. But you can embarrass a country in front of the UN, with respect to the treaties they've ratified.
A human rights city is set of expectations; it's a set of values that you declare. The
US signed the Universal declaration of Human rights. A human rights city is a city that upholds the values in that declaration.
What has DC achieved so far? We've mostly worked with schools, to teach students about the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
Comment: Since 1948, the US has had a narrow definition of human rights. They focus on freedom of speech, but not on social or economic issues. One of the challenges we face is broadening our elected official's understanding of human rights.
Question: If DC has declared itself a human rights city, is it possible to use legal action to require officials to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Most people use human rights for naming and shaming, but we can also use it for asking and claiming. When a government wants to make a bad policy, you can ask them how it upholds the values in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Framing is important, and there's a visioning piece involved.
Chicago is not yet a human rights city, but the time is ripe to start the process of advocating for it. The Chicago Police Department has a long history of using torture to obtain confessions, especially where black youth are concerned. Chicago was the first city that had to pay reparations for police torture, and this came out of the UN review process.
Question: What are the challenges (and opportunities) for engaging in human rights work at this time?
Human rights resolutions are good, but acts are better, especially acts with an implementation plan and a source of funding. Teeth are important, and they can dismantle the federal government's authoritarian policies.
Human rights bring a lot of issues together in one place. We only have our human rights if we organize around them.
Jackson, MS is one of the most recent human rights cities.
Sunday, June 4th
Tough Crowd: What to do when Emotions Run High
Diane Rubino, Jesse Scinto, Craig Mills
(Jessie) Tough crowds appear when you least expect them to. Even if you can't change someone's mind, you can still speak for yourself.
Topics that might create a tough crowd: reproductive rights, religion, understanding opposing political views, and gender issues.
Why are these tough situations? They can involve a component of anger. You have to care about things in order to engage, and there's emotional involvement. You don't want to resort to avoidance, because that deepens the division. A situation can be tough because of your relationship with the people involved, or because of entrenched attitudes.
If information were the solution, then we'd have an easy crowd. The biggest mistakes people usually mare are not being prepared, or not having realistic expectations for the outcome.
First, know your purpose, and know your audience.
What's your purpose? Are you trying to persuade people? Often, information is not enough. Are you trying to find common ground? Are you trying to speak your truth? Some goals require participation from the other side.
Knowing your audience. This includes things like age, income, and geography. Motivations (what the advertising industry called psycho-graphics) are important too. How important is the issue to them? It's hard to persuade someone about an issue that's tied to their identity.
What are their objections to your position? You can plan for objections, and have strategies to address them.
How do you counter "alternative facts" or fake news? In communication, this is called selective exposure. You can try to bring issues to personal relationships. If you don't share emotions, the other party has no idea what they did wrong.
Exercise: we break into small groups. Each group is given a controversial issue. Half the group will work on a pro argument, and the other half will work on a con argument. Our group got the topic of "death with dignity".
When speaking, there's a fear of being judged, fear of being in front of an audience, and a fear of not having your arguments together. Try to get control over your delivery (for example, try to minimize the use of filler words). Pay attention to how you construct and deliver your message. Framing is pivotal. For example, consider a republican mayor in a republican city that opposed leaving the Paris climate treaties.
This mayor might frame his opposition in terms of risk: flooding, heat, and damage to the economy.
Sometimes, keeping control means saying "I'm not going to take the bait". We deal with a lot of things on a personal level, rather than a political one. For example, asking your boss for a raise. Think through your boss's counter-arguments. This will help you maintain your framing and composure. Prepare, so that you're less likely to be thrown off balance by something your boss says.
Talking about religion can create a tense situation, and learning to get your talking points in order will help. Sometimes this means bringing up uncomfortable points. Don't let anger take over. Anger can make you lose control. The minute you lose control, your well-crafted arguments can go right out the window. Maintaining your composure is more important than proving your opponent is wrong. You have the right to state that you won't accept personally denigrating comments. You can set boundaries. It's often useful to try to work through these boundaries in advance.
If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you always got.
"What makes you say that?" is an excellent question to ask if you're starting to feel emotional.
"I hear you saying" can be an effective way to begin a counter-argument.
Often times, the things people remember are not what the other side said, but what they didn't say themselves.
A few helpful books:
- Giving Voice to Value, by Mary C. Gentile http://www.powells.com/book/giving-voice-to-values-how-to-speak-yourmind-when-you-know-whats-right-9780300181562/1-2
- Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone. http://www.powells.com/book/difficult-conversations-how-to-discusswhat-matters-most-9780140288520/2-19
Co-Opting the Left: Infiltration by the Corporate State to Neutralize Resistance
Cheryl Curtiss, Kevin Zeese, Glen Ford
Infiltration is as American as apple pie. From day one, ununiformed police were mixing with demonstrators in Zucotti Park. I wouldn't be surprised if the planning stages were infiltrated too.
During a drone protest, two right-wing infiltrators rushed security and caused the guards to use tear gas. It undermined the demonstration. Infiltrators often try to disrupt or misdirect activist groups. During Occupy, General Assemblies were a common place for infiltrators, if not an open invitation to infiltration. Money is a great way to cause disruption.
Beyond Occupy, infiltration has run throughout history: the civil rights movement, human rights groups, the SNCC. The Church committee taught us something about infiltration. A 2011 Guardian article reported that one in four hackers were FBI informants. There were 10,000 protesters at the 1968 democratic convention. Ten years later, CBS reported that one in six were federal agents.
Infiltration has happened in political campaigns, too. It's not limited to activist groups. The people who do this stuff know how to do it, and it's very hard to identify a professional infiltrator. One of their tactics is to get in and become a valuable person. From there, it's easy to get information or misdirect efforts. Local police infiltration goes back to the Red Squads in Chicago during the 1880's. In some cases, the number of undercover police will be equal to the number of uniformed police.
Infiltrators (and COINTELPRO efforts in general) have a general set of goals. Create negative impressions of protest groups; break down the internal structure of organizations; restrict access to resources; collect information; promote violence and property destruction; character assassination, to make people look bad; entrapment, to make the movement look bad.
Infiltrators have a range of tools to use. Social media (especially Facebook) is a great resource for an infiltrator.
The Stratfor documents outlined a divide and conquer strategy. They make the distinction between radicals, idealists, realists, and opportunists. They planned to paint the radicals as the fringe, and prevent them from working with others. Realists were encouraged to seek what they could get, rather than what they wanted. Idealists would be pushed into one of the other groups.
Division is key. The TPP and Net Neutrality struggles are two examples where division didn't work.
Fake arrests, or arrests for minor charges, are another way to cause disruption. How do you deal with an infiltrator? That's a hard question, and there's no single answer. Infiltrators often try to take over an organization's web site or social media. Be careful who gets access to these resources.
Don't get paranoid. Be transparent.
It's very hard to tell an infiltrator from a troubled person. Don't make accusations without real proof. Just work around it the best you can. Bad behavior is not always infiltration.
Let everyone know when you plan to use security culture, and be transparent about why you feel the need to use it.
If someone shows up to a meeting and you haven't seen them before, talk to them. Ask why they came, and what their positions are. Sometimes this will give you clues. Understanding tactics helps. Infiltrators often give inconsistent answers. It's important to compare notes.
Sometimes a group will become so polluted with infiltrators that you have to walk away and start over. This happens and it's nothing new.
We're talking about the state, which has the whole apparatus of law enforcement to work with. There are lots of actors, so what is the state? Are the corporate media the only media subject to state infiltration? Today's corporate media leads the charge against Russia, and often leads the charge for war. We can talk about the corporate media as being a form of deep state.
We should take an expansive view of infiltration and co-option. For example, Jihadi groups were largely created by the United States and Saudi Arabia. There were Jihadists before then, but there wasn't an international network of groups.
What about co-optation by infiltration? The Occupy movement invited infiltration. The FBI and intelligence community campaigned to entrap people in governmentfabricated terrorist plots. Entrapment has to start with infiltration.
We can't talk about infiltration in the black community without talking about mass incarceration. Lock as many people up as possible, or find other ways to get them under the control of the police system. That created a big problem for the Black Panther Party; it was another form of mass infiltration.
The real purpose of community policing is infiltration, and political manipulation of a community. Community policing started out as way to build trust between the community and the police, but now it's all about getting police into community organizing.
Consider the Manchester boys and the War on terror. The Manchester Boys were young Britons of Libyan descent. They were on terror watch lists until the assault on Libya began, then their travel restrictions were lifted. Were they also co-opted?
Question: Infiltration is at odds with our right to assemble. Isn't this a violation of our constitutional rights?
The police won't give this up. They'll just become harder to find.
Question: Can you explain the role of non-profits in co-option?
Non-profits rely on grants and donations, and they can be co-opted by donors. Donors will threaten to withhold funding, or place a lot of restrictions on how their funding can be used.
Question: If you're in an organization and suspect infiltration, can FOIA requests help?
No, that won't work, because of FOIA's law enforcement exception.
Question: Given what we've learned about COINTELPRO, why are people less concerned with privacy?
When people discover how widespread infiltration is, they'll get more concerned about privacy.
When working with a coalition, you need a vision first, then a strategy, and then tactics. Having agreement on vision and strategy lets you have a good discussion about tactics.
Question: I think there needs to be a database and entities and their funding sources. Is there something to help us identify good and bad groups.
I don't know of any database. It's hard to come up with a list of trusted groups. In some cases, you might have to work with questionable groups. We need all the information we can get; then we can have a conversation. The revolution will not be subsidized. If a donor decides that your mission is no longer in vogue, expect them to drop you.
Question: When does leadership need to speak openly and publicly about tactics. For example, to challenge fringe members of a group?
This depends upon structure. It's hard to do this in a "leaderless movement", but if there are clear leaders, they can take a position. Our overall goal is to build mass movements, and violence is often at odds with that goal. Make sure that what you do pulls people in, rather than pushing them away.
Question: Can you elaborate on the situation with Van Jones and Gloria Steinem? A Brooklyn group was infiltrated, and they're in court now. They found the infiltrator via her Facebook page. A lot of people who are arrested aren't prepared for the pressures of arrest. How do you prepare?
Some of our young people are oblivious to the fact that they're on the record when they post things to social media. Social media is often used as a source of surveillance information, and social media posts are often used in court. It's now standard practice for the police to follow and map out a community on Facebook, even in small towns. Prosecutors have tried to press RICO charges if there was evidence of collaboration on Facebook.
When Occupy Wall Street started, we reached out to Van Jones. He thought it was too radical, and only became involved when the movement gained popularity.
There was a black bloc demonstration in DC on January 20th. The Police arrested people, took their social media profiles, and are charging them with conspiracy. That's a ten-year sentence. Pressure from the criminal justice system is increasing.
Question: Can you talk about corporate infiltration? Do corporations ever bus in counter-demonstrators?
The Stratfor documents contains strategies that corporations could use to infiltrate and disrupt political movements. A lot of intelligence work is farmed out to corporations. Corporations aren't bound to the constitution like the government is, so they're even worse in some ways.
Any analysis of infiltration has to involve a class struggle. The distinction between government and corporation is a false one.
Comment: The government can call you as a grand jury witness in an effort to jail you, especially if they think you're unlikely to talk. You can be sentenced to 18 months for not talking.
Question: How about other countries, Latin America for example. Do the same things happen there, or is the US different?
The US trains a lot of security groups in those countries. I wouldn't expect less than I'd expect here. You also have to consider the US role in regime change, which is another form of co-option.
Comment: Organizations that the left used to consider trustworthy are morphing. Amnesty International, for example. Human Rights Watch has always received a lot of questionable Wall Street funding. Sometimes they're good; sometimes they're not.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International came out of the cold war, and were anti-Soviet. Neither will indict a country that wages aggressive war, like the United States. They wouldn't take a position, even if the war was illegal. How many humanitarian wars has the US been involved in?
From Resistance to Running for Office: How Progressives can Build Working Class Power at the state and local Level
Steve Early, Patrick, Howie Hawkins
(Patrick) I'd like to start with the moment we're in. There's a lot of negative feelings about the Trump administration. There's a lot of instability in the world, and projections for economic stagnation. There's another side to this though. Thirteen million people voted for Bernie Sanders, with a fairly radical program. Within that, there's a whole generation of people looking to fight back. We can tap into that, especially on a local level. People want to support bolder candidates. Sixteen thousand women signed up on Emily's List, to run for office.
In Seattle, Socialist Alternative (SA) didn't join Kshama Sawant. She was already an active member of SA. We were able to tap into changing opinions. We wanted to get 1% of the vote and further a movement. We ran an issue-based campaign: $15/hour, housing, and rent control. We think a new party is needed, to take on big business.
When Kshama was elected, not a single member of the Seattle City Council supported a $15/hour minimum wage. But workers and trade unions supported us. A poll said that 68% of people supported $15/hour.
Some business jumped onto the $15/hour bandwagon, as a way to reform capitalism. Seattle's mayor openly said he wanted to avoid a class struggle between business and workers. We planned to put $15/hour on the ballot, if the mayor didn't support it. Having that as an independent goal was a big help. You can use elections to build new social movements. Whatever victory we win inside city hall comes from movements outside of city hall.
(Howie) I'd like to start with a cautionary note: be wary of fusions which build confusion. We can't rely on the traditional middle class to be consistent allies. The left disappeared in the 1930's, and has been subsumed by democratic liberalism. We need to think about building power from below, from the working class. The traditional middle class is the basis for our two-party system. Bill Heywood said "The treasury of the revolution is in the pickets of the working class". We have to start locally. Presidential campaigns are great, but you need local political parties to sustain your work. A lot can be done at the municipal level. You can set the debate if you have an agenda.
State pre-emption is where the state steps in to override municipal law. Corporations would rather deal with the state legislature than with local municipal governments. From the municipal level, you can run state races and congressional races. In Syracuse, we focused on cooperatives, public utilities, and desegregation. You can see my platform at http://www.howiehawkins.org/.
Question: I'm a member of the democratic party. When I heard criticism of my party, I stopped listening. How do you get me to listen when you're criticizing my party.
I want to challenge democrats.
Question: I echo your feelings about being a democrat, but our voting system creates a false binary. Shouldn't electoral reform be our first goal? If you had popular support for a reform agenda, you could make a big transformative reform.
We have electoral reform in our platform, but our voter's top concerns are jobs, crime, and schools. We'd like instant runoff voting, and proportional representation in city council.
Local public matching funds are a way to augment grass roots funding.
Comment: Outside groups can run candidates in the Democratic party. DSA stands to do so, and they'll even put the DSA logo on literature.
Question: How can political parties be more participatory? Also, we should invite criticism, because it helps us grow.
Seattle's budget process is usually pretty boring, but we politicized it. The budget is where the city sets concrete priorities.
The problem with American parties is that they're not membership based; the state keeps the registration lists. Rotation of office, recall procedures, and earning workers salaries would help parties. Our parties are too corporatized, and too bureaucratic.
Question: The Greens have a great platform. Why aren't people supporting them. Why do people think third-party votes are throw-aways?
Persistence makes a big difference. Especially in local elections.
Question: After the presidential primary, everyone who supported Bernie split and went in different directions. How can we unite them?
There's a lot of polarization in our politics. Having programs to clarify our goals will help. Issues help bring people together.
I don't think we'll get unity from a personality. Local organizations are where you build unity. When you have 50 of these, you can do something at a National Level.
Question: How do you convince (potential) candidates to run for office?
If you see someone who's concerned, ask them to run. If they're not willing to run, try to get them to speak. Work with them and encourage them.
Citizen's assemblies should be the cradle of the next revolution.
Question: Could you talk about Seattle's divestment from Wells Fargo? This wouldn't have happened without Standing Rock. That helped us to organize rallies, and get people to participate. We lobbied and put pressure on the city councilors.
Question: If you're running in an area that's not particularly left, how do you present ideas without scaring moderates?
I focus on issues. In New York, 15% of local taxes pay for state-mandated programs. That rate stays the same, but the state mandates more and more. If people think you care about them, they'll respond to you.
Policies give you something concrete to talk about. We're using elections to say what's needed. You need to understand where the middle is coming from. You want to win a program, not an election.
Question: In New York, fracking was the issue for me. I voted for Zephyr Teachout, and she lost. I voted for Bernie, and he lost. How do you feel about voting for democrats?
There were two big anti-fracking groups that allowed the Democrats to speak with them. But they didn't allow the Greens.
Our revolution has a lot to offer candidates who are facing corporate-backed Democrats.
Question: I like the notion of third parties. What are your thoughts about people unaffiliated with a party running on a republican ticket? People are more committed to their party than to other ideas. Their allegiance is what they were raised with.
Question: I was interested in the difference of opinion about "Draft Bernie". It's hard to find good candidates to run as third parties. What can be done to recruit better candidates.
You have to recruit people that are good. You need motivated self-starters to do it. Socialist Alternative is running a city council candidate in Minneapolis. We ran someone last year, and now the city council is drafting a bill for a $15/hour minimum wage. We didn't win a seat, but we had success elsewhere.
We had to convince Kshama to run. She's not trying to build a career. She's trying to do what the movement needs her to do.
Question: What issues could unite third parties? Perhaps a financial transaction tax on Wall Street?
New York had a transaction tax until NYC went bankrupt. That money went into paying city bonds, and the tax was never put back into effect.
Independence to me, means independence of the capitalist parties.
Question: You said that the largest group of voters doesn't participate, and I believe it's because their human needs aren't being met. What are you doing for them?
There's a lot we need to fight on. Some have to fight more than others. You can raise confidence by drawing people in. Fighting for the homeless and for immigrants is good.
We have big problems with poverty in Syracuse. People don't vote because they're disgusted. The feel like no one's paying attention to them. You have to address these issues.
Question: How could we get California-style propositions in New York?
In New York, we have a referendum to amend the state constitution. Lots of our legislators go to jail, and the state can't manage to pass ethics laws.
Question: Any other specific programs you can use to get people involved, or to be more accommodating?
Have shorter meetings, and do more business in sub-committees. Introduce social events to add an element of fun. You have to make organizations new memberfriendly.
Question: How do groups deal with corporate blowback?
We kept applying pressure, to counter what the corporations were doing. A credible electoral threat is a good way to get traction.
Question: What are some of the tactics that were useful for Kshama?
Our tactics came directly from our goals and strategies. We also met with basketball fans, and worked with Democrats.
Comment: Opening up the New York constitution is a real mistake, because this opens up pensions for assault.
You can't hold the whole constitution hostage to one issue. I'll fight to defend pensions, but I won't hold the entire constitution hostage to them.
When people get to know the candidates, they peel away the party labels.