Backwards Planning for the Revolution #1: Big Picture

As a teacher in today’s public schools, I’m tasked with supporting 100% of my students to meet certain learning goals, and then proving that learning with evidence from student work and activity. There are plenty of political reasons to critique how this plays out in schools, but that’s for another time. A positive that comes from this is that it forces us teachers to think about overwhelming and seemingly impossible educational expectations, and then creatively plan how to accomplish those expectations for our entire, diverse population of students.

This need for planning in the face of seemingly impossible odds is exactly where anti-authoritarians find ourselves, and so I think the teacher practice of backwards planning can be quite useful for revolutionary folks.

Here, I’m going to try an initial draft of backwards planning, by creating a plan for the big-picture revolution. It’s what I personally imagine for a winning anti-authoritarian movement. This draft is mostly just to have fun and get the hang of this, so that my second draft can be a more intimate, individual, and concrete backwards plan for my personal political work.

Here’s what I’m trying: I’m going to sketch a rough backwards plan of what I think the anti-authoritarian movement needs to accomplish to be at the point where it could pull off a successful revolution in the U.S. It’s not a plan for the post-revolutionary society, nor is it a plan for the specific tipping point of transformation (general strike, insurrection, a magically transformational electoral victory, ecological crisis, or defense against an enemy attack that then becomes a revolutionary moment, etc.). It’s a plan for the prerequisites that we need to have so that we can win when a tipping point opportunity shows up.

1) Final Outcome: What do we want the movement to be able to do?

    -At least 1/3 of the U.S. population (about 100 million people) supports and participates in the anti-authoritarian movement; another 1/3 is neutral or sympathetic but skeptical; the other 1/3 may be hostile.

    -We have built a cultural dual-power that provides diverse, rich, and daily whole-life programming at a mass level. This dual-power has made special effort to reach and engage with armed forces personnel stationed across the globe.

    -We have built sustainable, practiced organs for directly-democratic decision-making and the accountable execution of those decisions at workplace, neighborhood, and school levels.

    -We have built an active network of millions of people (let’s say 10,000,000) who can mobilize and use a wide variety of direct action tactics (read: not protest, but direct action) to defend the movement or push the movement forward.

    -Our sources of strength are sufficiently balanced across rural and urban areas and key industries that we could generate the resources to sustain ourselves even if the rest of the world and the country boycotted us post-revolution.

2) Evidence of Success: How will we quantitatively and qualitatively know when the movement has achieved our outcome?

    -In polls and surveys, at least 1/3 show support or sympathy with the anti-authoritarian movement…not just our values, but the movement itself.

    -At least, say, 30 million people have actually signed on to some kind of 1-2 page statement of revolutionary vision or purpose.

    -When asked, 100 million people have at least 1 daily contact point with the anti-authoritarian movement, be it participation in an assembly, accessing anti-authoritarian media, utilizing anti-authoritarian consumer options, or having daily contact with an organizer who they respect.

    -The movement has at least 20-30 highly successful examples of workplace, neighborhood, and school direct democracy, with at least 1,000 more that are at least in embryonic form. If we have at least those good examples, their model can spread fast in a more heated revolutionary situation.

    -On any given week, at least 1-2 million people are engaging in some kind of direct action across the country…and on following weeks, we see a different 1-2 million mobilizing. At least 1/3 of these mobilizations are in rural areas.

    -At least 30,000,000 people have participated in a strike, boycott, or walkout within, say, a year-long period of time.

    -There are GI coffeeshops and alternative institutions established near almost all military bases. If you can’t tell, I think the distinct nature and cultural hegemony of the U.S. military is a unique challenge for U.S. revolutionaries.

3) Key Milemarkers: What are some of important stages or accomplishments on the road to our outcomes?

    -A majority of the most serious, dedicated, and principled anti-authoritarian forces (I don’t give a shit about the adventurists and wing-nuts) have signed on to a 1-2 page statement of unity, which is a foundation for their organizing and outreach. The number of signers goes from 500, to 1,000, to 10,000, to 1,000,000…and rising.

    -We have established our first examples of successful mass-based cultural organizations in both urban and rural contexts. These organizations have weathered the storms of conflict, internal power dynamics, repression, and apathy and have gone on to survive and thrive.

    -Anti-authoritarians have been key, even majority participants in at least a few large-scale direct action campaigns that directly threaten a major corporation or state apparatus…and we win a significant number of our demands. These victories solidify our credibility with non anti-authoritarians.

    -In at least a few urban and rural contexts, we have established our first successful, lasting examples of large-scale workplace, neighborhood, and school direct democracy.

    -We have established our first anti-authoritarian equivalents to schools and universities, and child and youth participation rises from hundreds, to thousands, to millions.

    -We have established our first 24-hour outlets for news, entertainment, and educational programming…whether these are networks of local initiatives or a national electronic media.

4) Day-To-Day Activities: What specific actions, projects, or other contributions will help make this stuff happen?

    -A 1-2 page statement that is clear and accessible, but also captures all the important non-negotiables that make serious anti-authoritarians who we are…this statement should be the back-page of our leaflets, a sidebar on our websites, and a brief aside in all of our public speaking. Agreement or disagreement with the statement is an empowering and clear decision point for all newcomers to a movement.

    -Experienced organizers should continue to collaborate extensively to synthesize and share lessons for how to problem solve around movement killing dynamics: internal movement violence and failed accountability; repression and infiltration; wars of personality; hyper-identity politics and the opposite, hyper-defensiveness about identity; super-star worship and jealousy; overwork and burnout; and navel-gazing and drowning in process. Actual solutions and models should be proposed, tested, and then energetically advocated for. Let’s figure this shit out and move on, please.

    -Cultural projects, and lots of them. More workshops, trainings, music, theatre, movies, video games. More cultural meeting spaces. You know I’m all about revolutionary congregations!

    -Experimentation, and lots of it. Immediate and constant attempts at mass-based organization building. Experiment, reflect, revise, and repeat again. If an attempt fails, try a different one. Our ideas are already good enough to have mass organizations now; we don’t need to wait for some cadre period first…I’m increasingly convinced that cadres are a strategic error.

    -Do the same experimentation process in direct action work and with attempts at direct democracy at workplace, neighborhood, and school levels. With all of this, we don’t know what is a prerequisite for what, so we kind of need to throw a lot of things at a wall and see what sticks.

    -A constant background context of small victories…a la Seattle Solidarity Network. While we are working and tinkering with bigger-picture stuff, we should be choosing and fighting little fights that we can win.

    -Documentation, and lots of it. Anti-authoritarians should evolve a dedicated, energetic research and polling network—designed to collect ongoing data for movement use about what works and doesn’t for achieving our goals.

    -Hella relationship-building. The greatest way to sustain a movement is for the movement to be infested with positive and healthy relationships. Even though we don’t have the theory and the structures down and we’re not even close, there is nothing keeping us from a friendly and warm vibe with a spirit of openness and experimentation. Lots of potlucks, one-on-one lunches, intermural sports, socials, etc…but boo to always having alcohol involved in social stuff.

    -A patient, multi-generational timeline. It is absolutely true that, given special conditions, all of our final outcomes could ramp up and be accomplished in a matter of years or a decade. However, anti-authoritarian revolution is by far the hardest revolution to actually win—hence our track record of zero. We should be flexible and lithe, ready to pounce on opportunities, but we also need to treat each other with a lot of patience…this will probably take a long time and we are small enough now that the stakes of our individual and small-group failures are actually really low. Let’s take advantage of that by really stretching, playing, and slowly trying to get things right as we grow and evolve.

Wow, that was fun. I love thinking about this stuff. Finally, after this and the last piece, I think I’m grounded enough for the harder work: backwards planning for my own political work, which I can jump right into in the new year.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi

3 comments

This is so good! Also, this really resonates for me: “I think the distinct nature and cultural hegemony of the U.S. military is a unique challenge for U.S. revolutionaries.”

Yay for the comments from friends and comrades that keep me going!

These last pieces where I’ve been trying to get myself out of this long-time political funk have been really exhausting to write, but so worth it. I feel refreshed.

Even better is the fact that while I’ve been writing all this, I’ve been playing sports with family, watching the baby, planning my classes AND a wedding which happens in two days. My time with family in Guatemala is so good for me.

This is great stuff, Jeremy!