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Without a path from protest to power, the Women's March will end up like Occupy


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For the Guardian, Micah White writes about the failure of past protest movements to turn into actionable politics. White argues that if the Women’s March wants to have a lasting impact on the US, its leaders and constituents should think about creating a party and running for office. Read White in partial below, in full via the Guardian.

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.

*Image of Washington Women’s March via Slate