ORGANIZE OAKLAND! Phase Two: From Occupying to Organizing

Can we harness our collective energy and make this movement of the people?

From Occupy to Organize Phase Two

There is no need to write this as an urgent call to action.  This transition has already begun…we are just naming what we are talking about in meetings, and actions, and booze fueled tirades with our fellow activists, occupiers, and freedom fighters. We have Occupied; we have been pre-occupied with Occupying.

We have begun to forget how to spell the word Occupy because we have written the damn word so many freaking times that we can barely take it no more… Or at least that’s how I feel sometimes. All the more reason to start looking at this as an organizing time.  The Occupation’s got the attention, we will Occupy again, but right now is the time to ORGANIZE!!

I know the word Organize sounds scary, and boring, and reformist, and somewhat monumental, and any other excuse we can find to not get serious about it.  But we all know that we need to reach the folks where they are, and join them in the struggle.  This is tough, though.  Many questions should be thought through deeply. What is organizing?  What is the goal?  How do we organize people we don’t know well?  How do we deal with the undeveloped political minds of many of our folks inside and outside of the movement?  Do we approach all people the same way?  How do we change our approach for different people?  How do we keep it interesting?  How do we delegate responsibility? And many more details of course.  Luckily we have the people here to get the job done; you, and me, and the rest of the community.  Whatever the obstacles, we all need each other, and that is the point that builds the unity.

So what does it mean to Organize Oakland and how would we Organize Oakland?  And why are we trying to organize Oakland?  My initial answer as to the how, is by thinking things through and taking some chances, but most of all by being strategic and ethical.  We are not roping people into things that have little relevance to their daily struggles.  We don’t assume we know more than “them”.  We don’t try to serve them out of some class or race guilt.  We don’t serve crappy food, or bring foul mouthed entertainers to community events.

We don’t get all serious and uptight over politics when we are hanging out.  Find a place where you can have fun.  There is plenty of work for everyone.  But the work needs to have purpose and thought put into it, so that we can reach cohesion and maximize our chances to find a way out of this mess that we are in.  Tactics, actions, events, and strategies should all build ongoing campaigns that lead to tangible changes.  The campaigns added together are “the movement”.

So where are we moving, who do we need with us right now, and what do we already have going?  I have a bunch of ideas of course, and I am sure that many other people do as well.  It seems to me that May 1st  is a perfect vehicle to begin to formulate some of this stuff.  I wanted to put out some ideas, most of which I am not necessarily wedded to but just to possible start some discussions.

Why Organize?

In my view the main goal of organizing should be to increase the participation level both in numbers and commitment of the people in our communities.  So finding ways that we can involve people to help out and even take the lead as quickly as possible makes sense.

We are seeking to build connections, involve people, break down barriers, exert collective power, and change material and psychological conditions that lower our ability to reach our true potentials.  We really have no idea what this will look like, we just know that we have to find a way to empower and involve as many of us as we can to push the inevitable shift forward.  To organize is to bring together.  And we know that the 1%, or whatever term you would like to apply to the shadowy elite that wield insane power over our lives, seeks to keep us divided.  Unity is what we seek.  Unity is why we organize.

I am hoping that this can be built into an interactive conversation that can serve as a manual of sorts for our preparation for the coming months and years of struggle that we hope is coming.  Basically a so-called “living document” which helps us hone our organizational abilities.  Since there are so many different aspects of this undertaking, I figured that for now I would just tackle the issue of effectively organizing for May Day, and put forward some ideas that I have had.

MAYDAY!! MAYDAY!!…. Even more so than the proud history of struggle that the international workers holiday May 1st represents, May Day has meant the international cry of distress or emergency. and that is what we face right now.  I really don’t like using certain language outside of more familial settings but…this is a motherfucking emergency! Right here, right now.

That is why I feel that it is truly important to make wise use of this May 1st general strike, (which has global participation, let us not forget).  May Day needs to be viewed in the continuum of activity that precedes it and should be used to further whatever campaigns we plan on building for the summer and beyond.  May Day should build local support and increase participation.  It should be used to clarify our message and our goals.  We all agree that we are not at the point yet where a true General Strike can be achieved merely through our own organizational efforts.

Outside factors, such as changes in the global political climate, could increase or decrease participation, but realistically we know that there are limitations to our ability to bring the system to a complete work stoppage.  A one day work stoppage is not what we want anyway.  We want changes in the conditions, the process, and the mindset, of our society.  We know that only a certain segment of our citizens feel confident about taking a risk in unsettling the balance of our society even though they recognize the dire straits the race is in.

So under these conditions, how do we organize for May 1st?  To me there are a few clear cut approaches.

1) We build on our successes.  What was learned from the OO Community BBQ’s and how can we build on that?  What can we learn from the Foreclosure Defense work?  Those are two areas where the vibe is good, and we may be able to bring more people into an activated state by continuing to build on that.  What would this mean for May Day?  Perhaps we should serve another big meal on May Day, and we can highlight our desire to feed the community healthy food.

Foreclosure Defense helps us in uniting across class and race lines, and reveals the callousness of our system.  We need to bring attention to this struggle and call out the forces that have destabilized communities, and thrown people to the wolves through manipulation of property ownership for pure profit.  How can this be done as part of the May Day actions? Can we tally the amount of people that each bank has foreclosed on in Oakland?  Can we demand housing as a human right in Oakland?  What else can be done to further this struggle?

2) I also feel that we  need to tie our May Day actions into the International struggle.  We need to ask people to Strike in solidarity with the people of the world who are also rising up.  Success should not be determined by the numbers in any one city alone, but by the increase in Global solidarity amongst the oppressed classes.  How can we connect with what is happening on a global level?  Speakers, solidarity marches, live stream global press conferences?  We gain the moral authority when we make this a global struggle, in my opinion.

3) We have a chance to get a clear message out ahead of May Day through strategic use of media and social networking.  This is a chance to re-brand Occupy Oakland.  We should align our goals more along the lines of the anti-corporate message that people want to hear, and redirect our efforts at the most egregious corporate criminals in our midst.  It is time for a series of well-organized, and strategic press conferences.  We should also use May Day as a force to settle some differences and re align our disparate forces so that we can work more cohesively together.  Workers of the World Unite!

4) It is important to look at events leading up to May Day that we can use to get the message out, enlist volunteer support, and survey the political climate in our communities.  There are many Earth Day celebrations coming up which we should have teams of outreach folks attending.  What else is going on?  I know that there are usually some 4:20 events right around now as well.  We need an outreach plan and a push to enlist more help in the May Day activities.  I believe that we might want to focus on getting people from surrounding areas to come out in force and also focus on the unemployed folks and students here in Oakland.   What other groups might we want to target for outreach?  We know that it is tough to ask people to skip work right now, so we should expect that many of our supporters will be at work on May 1st.  Let’s make the discussion about unemployment, cutbacks, and the eroding rights of workers.

5) We need to plan for after May Day now and use May 1st as a launching point for our Spring and Summer campaigns.  What should our post-May 1st focus be, and how can we get people involved?  Personally I think that school closures and education failures is one area that we should pursue.  Can we start a violence prevention campaign for the summer?  Can we continue the BBQ’s and get more community involvement in the planning?  Can we issue surveys to people and get information and ideas from them that can help focus our work?  Can we start a volunteer database?  Can we get the buy local campaign back in gear?  Can we organize nomadic camps for various parts of Oakland so that we can continue to meet outside and exercise our right to assemble throughout the summer?  What else can we do?

I hope that this might be helpful in starting a conversation, getting input, and hopefully actually creating systems and solutions for Organizing Oakland and the rest of the world against the tyranny of a system run amok.  Of course this is only a beginning.  I plan on writing more in-depth about some of this, and to take on more specific issues soon. I invite others to join in, to critique, and to question this undertaking.