But despite the real possibility that a list of demands could allow the occupations to be co-opted and pacified, a more basic point remains: real, tangible concessions from the 1% are important for protesters to strive for, not only to alleviate the everyday violence we are subjected to, but also as campaigns to empower us and attract new bodies to the occupations.
Practically, this means using the occupations as base camps for individuals and groups to organize their own campaigns, with their own demands. The occupations should remain autonomous, free spaces for people to meet, discuss and resist, free from the baggage of needless infighting over what particular demands should “unite” us.
Clearly, although it would avoid the meaningless infighting over creating a list of unified demands, moving that responsibility from the General Assembly to individual campaigns doesn’t solve the issue of being co-opted. Politicians and liberal organizers will be just as capable of co-opting a small campaign as they would be at co-opting an occupation, probably even more so. Although it would substantially reduce the odds that the whole occupation could fall victim to this possibility, we still need safe guards against it.
To this end, we turn to the example of the Seattle Solidarity Network - a Seattle-based organization which has successfully led winning Direct Action campaigns against some of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations – most recently, for example, against CHASE bank.
The Seattle Solidarity Network, or SeaSol, has been able to maintain its own independence and autonomy from politicians and capitalists alike by adhering to a strict set of organizing principles.
1. They don’t rely on paid organizers or professionals of any sort. This means the organization is 100% volunteer run – so no need for grants or large cash infusions of any sort. It also means that its tactics and strategy can be taught to anyone interested in becoming an organizer themselves, empowering working class people to become their own leadership.
2. They use Direct Action. This means that the group does not depend on politicians taking up their cause, or on judges hearing the righteousness of their demands. They put pressure directly on their targets themselves, in the form of pickets, flyering, and more colorful tactics – the goal being to make it harder for the target to give in than to hold out.
3. They are directly democratic: no one speaks for others. One person, one vote. This ensures that control of the group remains in the hands of its participants.
In order for occupy to sustain its growth, it will have to transition to some form of organization and action which can achieve concrete gains for itself and its communities. In part two, we will go into more detail on the winning strategy and tactics of the Seattle Solidarity Network, and how Occupy could use some of its lessons to help itself.