is the second article of a 7-part series that will focus on the
issues in our radical movements that I think need our immediate and
ongoing attention. I am using the ancient eastern concept of chakras
for the body as a parallel to our movement’s energy
wheel. Healers believe sickness occurs when the body’s
chakras are blocked or out of alignment. Likewise, the U.S. Left and
our social justice movements need our collective introspection,
analysis and adjustments that lead to unblocking our energy/chi
points. A weakened Left, and especially the Black Left, have been
unable to provide this critical guidance over the last twenty years.
I do not have the space to go too deep into my thinking although I
have been pondering and talking about this very subject for a few
years now. I am looking to stimulate a higher level of principled
discussion about how to energize and organize the social forces
coming into play at this pivotal juncture in history and how we can
rebuild a formidable radical movement in this country.
without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
recent years, movement strategy has become synonymous with tactics.
We’ve sunk a lot of energy and resources into mobilizations
that are devoid of strategy. A tactic of the trump administration
and the organized right-wing is to hurl us into a dizzying spin,
mobilizing against every reactionary commentary, policy, legislation
that’s thrown at us. This tactic will effectively quickly lead
to battle fatigue and demoralization - a victory for neo-liberalism.
Sharpening our understanding of strategy will open this movement
chakra. The chi will move us forward in a more precise and unified
the past decade or so, I have watched us running to protests from
one city to the next. We may get a cop fired here or there or
temporarily stop a pipeline. Where’s our vision for state
repression? We don’t have a national strategy on one of the
most persistent and rampant issues in the U.S. Where’s our
vision for the assault on the planet that gives us life? The
corporatocracy is poisoning the air, the water and the land and
making us pay for it. The price is high for being disorganized and
had the occasion to talk with Praxis Project founder Makani Themba
after the trump coronation. Protests were spontaneously happening
across the country in response to his electoral college victory. I
told Makani that I was not going to waste one minute in protest to
which she replied that it is important for people in other countries
know we don’t support the new president. She tempered my
frustrations with thoughtful objectivity and ultimately, we agreed
that mobilizations must be connected to a strategy or minimally a
set of demands to rally people around. There’s always value -
and beauty - to convening people for agitation and solidarity. I
feel strongly that the days of bringing thousands of people together
with no plan beyond the mobe be brought to a screeching halt. Each
mobe/protest must result in a tangible win.
is a movement where historically people’s entry points on the
battlefield are welcomed along with their range of skill sets and
knowledge. This makes for both opportunities and challenges in
managing the diversity of personalities and experiences around a set
strategy. Because of our big tent, there is a need for continual
clarification for common language, especially the difference between
strategy and tactics. I’m sure there's probably some of you
who would be glad to see any semblance of a plan coming out of a
particular struggle at this point. We're in a period that demands
that we be much more sophisticated. Our enemies just took the
struggle up a notch.
I dive into strategy, there are a few elements to consider as we
work towards our shared vision. I think core values like
accountability, integrity, passion and compassion are important when
we are struggling to develop the trust for a collaboration. Values
define your beliefs and dictate your behaviors; the provide the lens
for how you look at vision, mission, strategy and tactics.
be as scientific as possible, getting to strategy requires an
assessment of the material conditions. People in the nonprofit world
use what's commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis.
Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats. Developing a political
analysis means taking a critical and investigative look at the
situation both inside and outside the organization/movement. Factors
to consider in this democratic process include capacity, finances,
laws, relationships, political climate, etc. The more precise we are
about current conditions and trends, the more successful our tactics
describes the destination and can include short-term or long term
goals that we are trying to reach. Strategy tends not to change;
tactics are flexible. Tactics describe the specific actions we will
take to get there. Tactics can be campaigns, initiatives, protests,
boycotts, workshops, etc. The devilish details will include who does
what, what are the deadlines and maybe even how it's going to be
done. The tactics are tangible so that we can measure how close we
are to achieving our goals.
of our movement's perennial tensions is around the participation in
electoral politics. That's because some of us see the electoral
arena as a strategy while others see it as a tactic. Electoral
political is one of many tactics toward the goal of political power.
election of Chokwe Lumumba for mayor was a tactic in the strategy
for black political empowerment in Jackson, MS. The building of the
People's Assemblies is another tactic coordinated by the Malcolm X
Grassroots Movement and the New Afrikan People's Organization to
advance self-determination and power. Sectors of the Black
Liberation Movement were critical of the fact that a revolutionary
like Chokwe was choosing to become part of the system. The election
wasn't the end game. It was part of the plan to get Brother Lumumba
into office to carry out the vision. Because of the untimely death
of Chokwe, tactics had to change but the strategy remained the same.
Antar, Chokwe Lumumba's son, is currently running for mayor as a
continuation of the Jackson strategy. The Jackson experiment is an
innovative model that we should support, assess and critique.
need to build organizations and mass movements to scale. We cannot
do this without a vision and political analysis that informs an
effective strategy and concrete, imaginative tactics. We must be
able to educate and politicize large segments of the population on
why this capitalist system will never work for them. This can’t
be done in 144 characters.
Unblocking the chakra of workstyle.