Don’t get me wrong. I want the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa and Charlotte protested, denounced, shamed, nonviolently occupied, and ideally prevented from occurring, at least until they credibly support peace, justice, and democracy — or pigs fly, whichever comes first. I’ve said so and encouraged such organizing for months. I hope to be a part of it.
“Our solidarity will be based on respect for the widest possible diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect and working towards a common goal of peace and justice.
“As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics.”
The latter says:
“The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics. We will commit to respecting each other’s organizing space and the tone and tactics they wish to utilize in that space.”
This is weasel wording for “We will use violence.” When you gather a whole bunch of activists into a general assembly and the vast majority of them favor a strictly and publicly, reliably and credibly nonviolent movement, that just doesn’t mean much if you’ve already prioritized “consensus” over democracy, “respect” for everyone’s opinion over success. So, when a few people favor violence, the “consensus” is to include violence, as if including nonviolence somehow satisfies those who wanted a strict commitment to nonviolence.
As a result, the movement officially backs violence, meaning that violence committed by its members, by provocateurs, and by police can credibly be depicted as originating with the movement. This strategic failure can be fatal to the cause. We’ve been inclusive, but included everyone in a movement that won’t prevail. Who wants to be included in THAT?
Time and again I’ve seen “consensus” result in no decision at all. One faction of an encampment wants to protest entity A on Saturday afternoon, but another faction says entity B must be targeted at the same time. The inevitable “consensus” is to split the group and protest in both places with small crowds that have less impact. We’ve been inclusive and included everyone in ineffective actions. Is everyone then happier or less happy than they would have been had democracy been used?
Consensus is the right idea. Everyone should be heard and considered. Universal agreement and understanding ought to be strived for. But there ought also to be things we don’t ever respect. I don’t respect violence. I certainly don’t prioritize respecting violence over building a movement with the strength to overthrow plutocracy.
I support the nonviolent factions of the occupations of our upcoming politco-corporate conventions. But try explaining that to television viewers.