We hit a nerve! Thanks to you, Friday's strategy briefing went massively viral.
Now angry women everywhere are wondering, “We marched—what’s next?”
There is only one path to sovereign power: women must lead a social movement that can sweep elections everywhere.
How? Here’s a wild proposal:
LET'S HAVE A WORLD PARTY! 🎈
Imagine: on February 4, we get together and get to work on a women-led hybrid movement-party. We will be disciplined, militant and devoted to stepping forward, winning elections and governing for all.
The women's march was global. Now let's birth a world party, capable of staging an electoral revolution in country after country.
If you’re keen, call up your sisters from the Women’s March and invite them over for a #worldparty on February 4. Then register your event below so we know what's up.
Help spread the word by sharing this call and floating some red balloons:
See you there,
Micah & Chiara
This could be the spark you've been waiting for... To get your insurrectionary creativity flowing, here is an excerpt from Micah's new playbook for revolution, The End of Protest.
The next social revolution will come from an unlikely source. It is the nature of revolutionary moments to take us by surprise. As Naomi Klein observes, “What is most striking about these upwellings, when societies become consumed with the demand for transformational change, is they so often come as a surprise—most of all to the movements’ own organizers.” And although it is true that no one can predict with certainty when the next revolutionary event will flare up, I do believe that attuned activists can develop an intuition as to the likely direction from which the spark will come. Here is one scenario for the direction in which I believe activists of the future should be looking.
It is significant that the initial spark that brought Occupy Wall Street into mainstream consciousness—the pepper-spraying incident on September 24, 2011—was an act of violence against women. The video of this event, two women screaming in pain surrounded by police, catapulted our movement into the spotlight. Looking back, I believe the gender of these protesters was crucial in garnering widespread support for Occupy. Joining the Occupy movement was also a way of fighting against patriarchal authority. Women played a fundamental role in every aspect of Occupy Wall Street, especially the facilitation committee that organized the consensus-based assemblies in Zuccotti, and women will make the next great social movement, too.
A world-historic social movement far greater than Occupy Wall Street will soon emerge from the struggle to achieve equal rights for women and gender parity, a balanced ratio of men and women in positions of power. I can feel that women are on the brink of rising up against a male culture that has been fatally poisoned by pornography and video games. The spark that will trigger this global female awakening could happen anywhere and at any moment: perhaps video of a daily injustice that was previously tolerated may suddenly inspire a wave of organized revolt that rages from city to city. I wager that the greatest social movement of the future will be the fight for global matriarchy—a post-feminist social movement to transfer sovereignty to a supranational government led by women.
How could a handful of small groups of women, and sympathetic men, scattered across the world pull off a global uprising that crystallizes into a permanently new balance of power? One viable revolutionary strategy is the birth of a transnational women-led party that sweeps into legislatures in countries with fair elections and pulls off insurrections in countries where elections are a sham—a World Party that embodies our ancient uprising for people’s democracy with a maternal twist: a global front that respects local autonomy while also moving swiftly to unite women worldwide in order to implement the concrete, bottom-up solutions to the spiritual, ecological, and political catastrophes plaguing humanity.
The vision is global women’s liberation, the strategy is mundialization, and the tactic is a World Party.
Mundialization is the geopolitical strategy of establishing a supranational world government. The origins of mundialization stretch back to the great cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope in the fourth century BCE who, “when asked from where he came, … said, ‘I am a kosmopolitês.’” Diogenes is the first known to have used the word kosmopolitês, which is the source of our word “cosmopolitan,” and whose literal meaning is “citizen of the universal order” (or “world”). Diogenes believed that we are citizens of a shared Earth and not subjects of administrative and political boundaries.
Mundialization re-emerged as a strategy immediately following the Second World War as an alternative to the United Nations. Whereas the UN re-inscribed the nation-state as the foundation of global politics, a people’s movement championed in 1948 by Garry Davis, a recent young American veteran, and Robert Sarrazac-Soulage, a hero of the French Resistance, demanded world citizenship in a unified world state. Many dozens of cities across the world mundialized in the years following 1949 by adopting charters recognizing world governance. The move was mostly symbolic. There was talk of organizing a People’s World Constitutional Convention that would democratically represent the people’s geopolitical will through proportional global voting. In 1948 Albert Einstein sent a telegram to Garry Davis celebrating mundialization: “The worst kind of slavery which burdens the people of our time is the militarization of the people, but this militarization results from the fear of new mass-destruction in threatening world war. The well-intentioned effort to master this situation by the creation of the United Nations has shown itself to be regrettably insufficient.”
Since 1948, mundialization has largely stagnated. Today, however, mundialization is once again an answer to one of the main problems plaguing politics: how to create a planetary movement capable of taking on the global challenges facing humanity. The Invisible Committee, the anonymous radical collective whose publication The Coming Insurrection anticipated the global uprisings of 2011, explains the problem succinctly in their sequel manifesto, To Our Friends: “With the disappearance of the anti-globalization movement, the perspective of a movement as planetary as capital itself, and hence capable of doing battle with it, was lost as well.” The Arab Spring, 15-M, and Occupy Wall Street succeeded in momentarily reviving the global-movement perspective by rallying the world around the demand for greater democracy. Now I see power in the marriage of mundialization with a planetary women’s movement for political power. The World Party is the key to unlocking the new global politics we’ve been searching for.
I first encountered mundialization in W. Warren Wagar’s speculative novel A Short History of the Future. Here is the way Wagar imagines how strategic mundialization could sweep the globe:
As it grew stronger, the World party lost its early reticence to move from talk to action. It adopted a strategy of “mundialization,” which meant, in simplest terms, winning or seizing power in every country where it had the opportunity and then declaring the country a component province of the nascent world commonwealth. If victory were possible in free parliamentary elections, well and good. If countries had no authentic electoral system, or if the system had been suspended because of the Catastrophe, the party did not hesitate to organize armed revolutions, paralyzing general strikes, or coups d’état. In countries with free elections where the chances of the World Party to win power were poor, the party formed an alliance with the least reactionary elements on the political spectrum and worked indefatigably to convert its new allies to the cause.
This is a beautiful description of the mundialization strategy that I advocate today. The primary modification that I propose is to merge mundialization with the struggle for gender parity: a worldwide demand that positions of power be filled by an equal ratio of men and women. A global women’s movement can achieve the mundialization vision by fighting on three fronts simultaneously.
We win the spiritual revolution by reclaiming our mental environment from commercialism, pornographic toxins that denigrate women, and advertising pollutants that stunt our imagination.
We win the political revolution by taking legislative and administrative control of sparsely populated rural towns and cities. These liberated municipalities vow allegiance to the people, establish gender parity within positions of power, and promise food, shelter, and employment to all who seek sanctuary.
We win the social revolution by mundializing our liberated cities into a supranational World Party that embodies the people’s unified will. We bring the old world’s leaders to the negotiating table and represent humanity’s voice (amplifying women’s voices, if necessary) in geopolitical negotiations.
In concrete terms, carrying out the mundialization strategy would involve building a women’s World Party that wins the elections of the world in chronological order. We’ve become accustomed to social movements that erupt everywhere at once. The mundialization strategy requires a different tactic: the goal would be for the World Party to concentrate its energy on sparking an electoral insurrection in one place after another. For example, the first election of 2015 was in Uzbekistan. Four days later, presidential elections were held in Sri Lanka, and three days after that Croatia’s citizens went to vote. Nine days later Zambia chose its president. In this way, the elections of the world can be organized on a movement timeline. If the World Party were to win in Uzbekistan, the attention of the world would turn to Sri Lanka, sending resources and support, giving local activists a massive boost in time for a landslide. Attention would then shift to Croatia and so on. Each country’s World Party would aspire to gain a higher percentage of the vote than in the preceding election. The electoral social movement would hop around the world from victory to victory.
I am inspired by the Grange, a rural secret society that is still active in Nehalem, Oregon, where I live. The Grange’s motto is “In Essentials, Unity; In Non-Essentials, Liberty; In All Things, Charity.” I would, however, suggest one small change. May the motto of our World Party be instead “In Essentials, Unity; In Non-Essentials, Liberty; In All Things, Mutual Aid.”
— This is an excerpt from The End of Protest: A New Playbook for the Revolution by Micah White published by Knopf Canada —
If you're looking for a path from protest to power then please read Micah's new book, The End of Protest. Get your copy directly from us, at Amazon, an indie bookstore or your local library. Or read it instantly on your kindle! If you are outside of North America, then Book Depository has free shipping. If you are an international publisher, please get in touch—we have translation rights available.
Is protest broken? Micah White, co-creator of Occupy Wall Street, thinks so. Disruptive tactics have failed to halt the rise of Donald Trump. Movements ranging from Black Lives Matter to environmentalism are leaving activists frustrated. Meanwhile, recent years have witnessed the largest protests in human history. Yet these mass mobilizations no longer change society. Now activism is at a crossroads: innovation or irrelevance.
In The End of Protest Micah White heralds the future of activism. Drawing on his unique experience with Occupy Wall Street, a contagious protest that spread to eighty-two countries, White articulates a unified theory of revolution and eight principles of tactical innovation that are destined to catalyze the next generation of social movements.
• We Ship Worldwide •
Without a path from protest to power, the Women's March will end up like Occupy
Social activists have succumbed to one of the most enduring myths of contemporary American protest. It’s time to consider what happens the day after, writes Micah White in this urgent strategic briefing.
Shortly after Donald Trump’s shock election victory, I received an urgent call from one of the co-creators of the Women’s March on Washington. She was concerned at a moment you might expect her to be ecstatic. Hundreds of thousands of women in 17 countries had already signed on in solidarity, and the numbers kept growing. Yet despite the tremendous momentum, she confessed a nagging skepticism about the effectiveness of the protest.
“I’m not that interested in the march itself but in what comes afterwards,” Fontaine Pearson confided to me. I admire her candor because I know it takes courage to voice such a concern. It is her difficult question – what comes the day after? – that every supporter of the Women’s March should be earnestly figuring out today.
Without a clear path from march to power, the protest is destined to be an ineffective feelgood spectacle adorned with pink pussy hats.
It is exciting when a protest meme leaps from social networks to the streets, capturing the imagination of millions, prompting this very website to proclaim that the forthcoming protest could be among the biggest in American history and Vogue to commission glitzy photos of the core organizers dressed up like Eileen Fisher models. But it is all too easy to succumb to the false hope that a big splash is a transformative tsunami.
Don’t be fooled. It is not. I’ve been there, as the co-creator of a raucous pro-democracy meme that inspired months of Occupy protests in 82 countries. And I can tell you that raising awareness and getting media attention is never enough. Frankly, neither brings the people closer to sovereign power.
For all those who want the Women’s March to be the start of an enduring revolutionary movement, here is my advice on how to increase the odds.
Know your history: let’s go back to 1789
On 5 October 1789, during the earliest days of what would become the French Revolution, a mob of women materialized on the streets of Paris. Some historians say it was spontaneous, others that it was planned. Regardless, we know that the furious women, desperately hungry from bread shortages in the city, descended on the Hôtel de Ville, the seat of municipal government, and demanded to speak to the mayor. The national guard refused them entry but also refused to fire on them and so the women burst through the police line, ransacked city hall and raided the armory.
Now armed with swords and cannons, the crowd of protesters grew to more than 7,000 female insurrectionaries. Suddenly a far more revolutionary goal was adopted: a Women’s March on Versailles, where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette where hosting a series of lavish banquets for royalist soldiers.
It the first protest march of women in modern history, and it was also the most effective. When the revolutionary women arrived at Versailles, they broke into the palace, murdered two guardsmen and attempted to enter the queen’s bedchamber before ultimately forcing King Louis XVI and his entourage to march with the crowd – now 60,000 strong – back to Paris.
The Women’s March on Versailles was a literal and forceful assertion of the people’s sovereignty over the king. It was a defining moment in the revolutionary history of democracy. As the historian William Doyle explains: “Louis XVI never returned to Versailles … All open attempts on the king’s part to resist the reform of France now came to an end.” The National Assembly was led to Paris shortly after and legislative decision-making power was eventually fully captured by the people. Democratic revolutionaries executed King Louis XVI by guillotine less than four years later.
The day after the women marched on Versailles was the definitive point of no return for the French Revolution. And let’s not forget that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was also initially sparked, as Leon Trotsky recalls in his definitive history, by a defiant women’s protest.
The lesson here is that protesting grandmothers, daughters and mothers have the unique power to do what male protesters cannot – such as break through a line of national guard bayonets without being fired upon. And for this reason, women will always play a foundational role in the great revolutions to come, but only when they take matters into their own hands, act unexpectedly and viscerally, and focus their collective energy on the only target that matters: concretely establishing the power of the people over their governments.
Ignore repeated failures and change tactics
The original Women’s March on Versailles involved women using direct action to force the king to listen to the people’s demands. Today’s Women’s March is entirely symbolic.
No one would ever dare to call for an insurrectionary march on Trump Tower with the goal of physically dragging the president-elect and his family out of their penthouse. No one says the Women’s March on Washington should ransack the White House or occupy Congress and appoint themselves legislators. Instead, we organize a well-publicized spectacle and hope he will listen from within his palatial accommodations.
If you’re showing up at the Women’s March on 21 January in the hopes that the world will be different on 22 January, then you need to think seriously about the goal of marching.
As a general rule, before you protest, ask yourself why this is one of your chosen forms of action. Question your tactics, not your motives. In this case, the obvious first question for any activist ought to be: why deploy a communal march in the streets as a form of protest?
Sometimes, the people march. Other times we hold general assemblies, tar and feather opponents, occupy pipelines, go on strike, dance in a circle, riot in the streets or pray together. In each case, behind every act of protest is an often unarticulated theory of social change: a story we tell ourselves about why the disobedient behavior we’ve chosen will usher in the change we desire.
So why are women marching the day after Donald Trump becomes president? It all comes down to a false theory of how the people can assert sovereign power over their elected president in 2017.
Today’s social activists have succumbed to one of the most enduring myths of contemporary American protest: the comforting belief that if you can get enough people into the streets from diverse demographics, largely unified behind a clear message, then our representatives will be forced to heed the crowd’s wishes.
If this story has ever been true, and I’m not so sure it has, then it hasn’t been the case since 1963, when 250,000 people marched on Washington for “jobs and freedom” and heard Martin Luther King Jr deliver his I Have a Dream speech. Less than a year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment and housing.
But let’s be real: there are countless counter-examples of marches on Washington that failed: the 1913 march of women to demand the right to vote, the 1978 march for the Equal Rights Amendment, the 1986 Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, the Million Man March of 1995, the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the inauguration protests against George W Bush’s second term in 2005 … the list is practically endless. Activists have a tendency to ignore repeated failure in favor of overemphasizing one or two anomalous minor victories.
The absolute failure of the 15 February 2003 anti-war protest, the largest synchronized global march in human history, was the last gasp of this tactic. Today’s nominally democratic governments would be more concerned by the absence of our marches, as that might suggest something darker is in the works.
The only way to attain sovereignty – the supreme authority over the functioning of our government – is to use social protest to win elections or win wars. Either we can march to the ballot box or the battleground; there is no third option.
To the ballot box, then: prepare to govern
That Trump was elected demonstrates that an anti-establishment outsider can sweep into power through elections – a fact activists should learn from and begrudgingly celebrate.
Before Trump’s victory, it was widely assumed that a candidate without the backing of the establishment could not possibly win a presidential election. Good news: now we know that it is possible. It is finally conceivable that a revolutionary movement beholden to the people could take power in America by winning elections and without violence.
I suspect the Women’s March on Washington has a role to play in this unfolding drama, but only if we cultivate a few moments of detachment from the thoughtless excitement to truly take time to consider this question: what happens on the day after the women march?
Right now, in America, there is no pro-democracy anti-establishment party that is capable of stepping forward, seizing power and governing. America needs a protest movement like Spain’s Podemos, Iceland’s Pirate Party or Italy’s 5 Star Movement. These populist democratic movements are the prototype for the future of protest. Each has achieved surprising electoral victories in a short time, but what is more important is how they are changing the way power functions.
Consider, for example, what happened when Virginia Raggi, a member of the anti-corruption 5 Star Movement, was elected mayor of Rome in 2016 only to be embroiled in her own corruption scandal. The movement didn’t make excuses. Instead, the Five Star Movement very swiftly asserted its sovereignty over its candidate and stripped Raggi of the power to make appointments and other “important decisions” without the movement’s approval. This represents a leap forward in people power: a concrete example of a social movement winning elections while still retaining a firm grip on decision-making power. Bravo!
The number one challenge standing in the way of an effective protest in America today is the inability of our social movements to actually govern. There might be a slight chance our protests could oust Trump, but there is no chance that our present-day movements could govern at all, let alone effectively.
That is because leaderless protesters don’t know how to make complex decisions together as movement. Occupy couldn’t even come up with its one demand.
Now we are seeing this capacity slowly develop among protest movements in Europe. However, until we can replicate their successes in America, the people will never be able to take back sovereignty and our protests remain an exercise in infantile futility.
And that is the great gift that the Women’s March on Washington could give us. May the angry women return home the day after the march to lead us toward a women-led hybrid movement-party in every state that is disciplined enough to govern, militantly local and single-mindedly devoted to actualizing a force capable of seizing control of city councils and mayorships during midterm elections across America in preparation for an electoral coup against the presidency in 2020.
Now that would be a goal worth marching toward.
— Micah White, originally published by The Guardian on January 19, 2017