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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Education & Student Activism
Five things civil society must do to win the fight against the Trump administration and its policies.
By Fhyre Phoenix
There are five things civil society must do to win the fight against the Trump administration and its policies:
1. Rather than always talking about what we are against, we must define what we are FOR and then work towards that. Consider the term Commonism, as in The Common Good.
2. Raise a force of hundreds of thousands of highly educated and highly skilled activists.
3. Focus less on protests and more on campaigns.
4. Develop adequate, reliable, on-going streams of income.
5. Recruit, train and run progressive candidates for every available elected office.
Commonism (that’s with an ‘o’ and not a ‘u.’) Our country is divided between two main value sets: Capitalism, which benefits a few, but at great expense to millions of people and the environment; and Commonism, which values Common Sense, nurturing our communities, repairing and sustaining the planet we live on for the Common Good, and standing for the Progressive Movement’s Common Cause – fairness for all.
Identifying ourselves only by what we are against is a losing strategy, yet this is what much of the Progressive Movement has been doing for decades. And we have been losing too many battles for decades.
People follow vision. Being against something is not a vision, it is a complaint.
We must define our vision as an easy-to-understand set of values that we – and most people - already believe in. We believe in Common Sense. We believe in fairness. We believe in doing things for the Common Good. We believe that when the poor are lifted, we are all lifted. We believe that every gender, every race and believers of every religion must be treated with respect and equality. We have Common Cause and a Common Agenda – fairness for all, and a healthy planet.
Being for the Common Good is Commonism and we, the people with these values, are Commonists. Every time that someone likens us to Communists, they have provided us with a teachable moment. We get to define, again, what Commonists stand for - the Common Good, rather than for individual or corporate greed.
Effective Activists are essential to having a winning Movement.
This requires us to educate and train hundreds of thousands of citizens, people with or without prior experience as activists.
One of the fundamental failures of all segments of the Progressive Movement over the past several decades has been our failure to put adequate educational resources into developing effective activists. Instead, organizations have focused on issuing largely meaningless on-line petitions so they can gather e-mail addresses, then ask for financial donations ad nauseam. This does not build an effective movement.
We must now work as hard and as quickly as we can to make up for our omissions and mistakes of the past. We need intense and comprehensive training in all areas of social, political and environmental activism.
We need a mobilization of thousands of organizations to take up the challenge of training a new generation of activists. And we needed this training yesterday, so there is no time to lose.
Campaigns tend to win while protests tend to lose. Protests, marches and rallies are often predicated on the idea that our leaders are fair-minded people who are motivated primarily by serving Democracy. We tell ourselves that they want to do what the majority of people want them to do (that’s Democracy, right?) but just don’t understand that so many of us don’t like something they are doing. Therefore, if we just speak loudly enough to get their attention, they will hear us and surely do the right thing. Such a lovely thought. So not real.
On-going campaigns, aimed at specific people (who have the power to make such decisions), articulating specific demands, and promising specific consequences if our demands are not met, these - and not protests - have historically brought about progressive change.
Specific, sustained actions, such as economic boycotts or workplace shut-downs, have tended to work, while one-day protest marches, no matter how large or loud, have not.
The Viet Nam War ended when key organizers abandoned the strategy of mass protests and instead turned to cutting off funding for the war. This campaign worked, while the largest, longest and loudest protests in history did not.
Mature, reliable funding is essential. Endlessly asking for donations does not fit that definition. Instead, endless ‘asks’ burns out our base. Not a wise strategy if we are in this for the long haul. We need businesses that are created for the sole purpose of funding the Progressive Movement. Many activists have had a poor relationship with money for a very long time. We need to get over that, learn about money, master the flow of money and then get that flow flowing into our Common Movement.
We must recruit, train and run progressive candidates for every available elected office. Once in office, we must stick around to support them through their entire terms, then try to move them up to a higher position. This, in itself, is an on-going, endless campaign and should be taking place in every community.
When we build our base, we build our future. There is so much work to do. Let’s get busy.
Fhyre Phoenix is a writer and activist based in California. He has been the executive director of three non-profit organizations, has a master’s degree in Human Services Administration and has been a social, political and environmental activist since 1967. He can be reached at iamacommonist [at] gmail.com The author retains all rights to this article and requests that it be reprinted freely and widely. [Note to publisher: I am not seeking payment of any kind. Neither am I relinquishing my rights to the article. I want the article reprinted freely and widely.]