Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Beyond protest (2016)

Book Review from the November 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

The End of Protest. A New Playbook for Revolution’. By Micah White. Alfred A Knopf. Canada. 2016.

Micah White says he was one of those who thought up the idea of occupying Wall Street in September 2011. His proposed aim for this was to demand that Big Money be taken out of American politics, but the Occupiers’ demands soon went beyond this. According to him, he and others really believed that the occupation could topple Wall Street in the same way that demonstrations and occupations earlier in the year had toppled dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. This book is his explanation of why this didn’t happen, why it was never likely to, and why capitalism is not going to be overthrown in this way. Hence ‘the end of protest’, or at least of this kind of protest with this aim.

We could have told him that minority direct action of this sort is not the way to overthrow capitalism – as he himself points out, the state has the power and the majority-backed (even if manipulated) legitimacy to deal with such protests – but it is good to see someone who once believed this to be the way come to realise that it isn’t.

So what is he now advocating? On the surface, something surprisingly similar to how we have envisaged revolution. He calls for a ‘leaderless world revolution’ in which, among other things, a ‘World Party’ will win political power in one country ‘sparking an electoral insurrection in one place after another’, meaning ‘the electoral social movement would hop around the world from victory to victory’. The people, he says, ‘must capture legislative and executive control constitutionally and legitimately’ because this will assure mainstream support for the revolution. He compares his change of mind to Engels changing his about barricades and also advocating elections in place of an out-dated tactic.

That’s as far as it goes as White envisages that the ‘electoral social movement’ should start by aiming to win control of ‘sparsely populated towns and cities’, declaring them liberated and running them without leaders. He himself is practising what he preaches, standing for mayor of Nehalem (population 291) in this month’s US elections (we can report next month how he fared). He does not say on what platform he thinks elections should be contested. Since he still believes that a conscious minority can express ‘the people’s will’ independently of what a majority of people at one time might think or want, it could well be something other than a full revolutionary programme, just democratic reforms.

He has also gone mystical. At college he provocatively formed an atheist society but he now looks to divine or supernatural intervention to play a part in the revolution. This could lead to his other views not being taken seriously.
Adam Buick

Election result
In our review of Micah White’s book The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution we said we would say how he did in his bid to become mayor of Nehalem in rural Oregon in the election there in November. He got 36 votes (20%). The election was won by his Republican Party rival with 138 votes)

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