Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan for Domesticating Your Anger

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A report from the Revolution Tour

The Tour went to a major rally in Washington Square Park in downtown NYC for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Media reported that 30K people turned out. Most were early thirties or younger, with a significant number of college age. Majority white, but with significant diversity mixed in.

We were not able to have the kind of outsized, viral-creating impact we were aiming for. That is worth summing up in its own right—how to develop plans that are actually capable of really becoming “the thing” that everyone is talking about afterwards. But, I mainly want to focus on the interaction and impact we did have on maybe one or two thousand people and what can be learned from it.

We had a small BEB banner and some BEB and 5-2-6 broadsheets, flyers for the Club meeting, and printouts and enlargements from the provocations from BA. We went in the middle and set up and when organizers told us to leave, we filmed and challenged them that Warren’s campaign was calling cops on speech in the park. When pigs came, we persisted and they backed off.

The sound system of the campaign was extremely loud playing music so it was difficult to agitate, but we were drawing a steady trickle of people and small clusters (5-10 at a time) intrigued by the banner and when they got close they could hear our agitation. Going after the fascism and need to drive it out, but Dems are collaborating, then dropping back to how both represent the same system which cannot be reformed and must be overthrown. Warren had just released a major piece on her plan to take on “corruption” and this was the major theme of her speech, so all night we hammered on this: “The problem is not corruption of the system, the problem is the system of capitalism-imperialism itself. The system can’t be reformed, it must be overthrown.”

  • There was a minority, but steady trickle of young people and students who immediately “vibed” with the idea that the Dems were also war criminals. They were still into Warren, but they couldn’t argue with the centerfold and they appreciated it. There is a recognition—if it is fought for—among a section that the problem is the system, this country, and the Dems are part of the problem even as those same people are still trying to make the Dems what they are not.
  • A young Bernie/DSA guy asked why revcoms don’t think Bernie is at least better than the rest. He immediately said, “I know there is his foreign policy, but besides that.” I asked what is objectionable about Bernie’s foreign policy and he acknowledged he supported the military funding and overall... “BUT he is doing stuff for workers here.” I challenged him that the wealth Bernie wants to share with some workers here is a direct result of the brutal exploitation the U.S. carries out around the world and, which is enforced by that military. It’s not two separate issues, he is trying to buy you off with blood money. He kept saying, “That is wrong, but at least we should do some good for people here...” I kept posing back, “You can’t have it both ways. Decide, do you really care about the people of the world, in which case you have to get out of Bernie and into the real revolution. Or, do you really just want to be a disgusting American?” The guy each time tried to evade, but eventually his friend blurted out that I did have a point. This American chauvinism is thick—but it has a real impact to challenge it.
  • There was a section that got very angry at us, “You are the reason Trump won!” “You are going to get Trump re-elected!” Which often mixed with a very different question, “Well, what is YOUR solution?” As well as the question which was just completely trapped and unable to even hear or imagine what we were saying, “Well, who are you voting for? If you are not voting you are out of it, have no right to complain, that is the game and if you don’t play you are nothing.” A lot of this latter wasn’t even nasty, just completely mentally imprisoned. The stuff this section starts with was often quite nasty, but none stuck around, they yelled while walking by.
  • The official rally began with the national anthem. We chanted, “1,2,3,4 slavery genocide and war, 5,6,7,8 America was never great!” Probably a couple hundred people heard us. Many were visibly angry, but not one said a peep to us. No one wanted to be the defenders of the flag on those terms. A small number were actively attracted to this and came over.
  • After the rally, we agitated with a bullhorn but there was still music so it was still hard to hear us. This drew a very engaged shifting knot of people—half dozen young people hanging on every word and loving the back and forth (we’d share the mic with people to agree/disagree/etc.). A couple Black students were drawn in by the weak objections and our answers (a guy from Uruguay argued that this country is more free than his, so we should all thank god we are here; elections vs. resistance to drive out and organizing for overthrow; and more).

When this died down, we went outside the pen of people waiting for selfies and agitated—calling out how Warren called Trump the “embodiment of corruption” but not a white supremacist or fascist, contrasting waiting for 2020 with driving out now, the problem is not corruption of the system but the system itself and the real revolution we need and are organizing for. People were annoyed, but probably 100 actively listening. When we said, “Look at that disgusting, blood-soaked flag you are about to pose in front of,” lots of heads turned to look. The agitation that most got under people’s skin in a good way was laying into how Trump/Pence are fascist and the Democrats are actively collaborating with that—concretely 4.6 billion for border security, refusal to impeach, midterms didn’t slow him, not one of them (including Warren) will call him a fascist, they are telling you to wait for 2020 when the only thing that can stop this is to drive them out from below, like Puerto Rico or Hong Kong. Also, taking on the grotesque American chauvinism which permeated the speech and the flag and linking this with the fundamental nature of this system and why it must be overthrown. Maybe 20 people in the course of this 20 minutes came to us and listened intently, a few really enthusiastic and signed up, stayed with us as we moved on. Many of them were still into BEB.

From there, we went to the lines and agitated. At first people were dismissive, then annoyed/resentful. But we kept at it, including calling on their better side but challenging them sharply. A Black woman came up on mic and “agreed” with our indictment of the Democrats and the whole system but said Warren is not like the rest, she’s for reparations. We said the demand for reparations is just, but doesn’t come close to what is needed and, besides, we are facing a fascist white supremacist regime. There was some back and forth that was pretty good. After a while a white young woman started SCREAMING irately, “You are being disrespectful! Shut up! Leave us alone! We came here for Warren!” Later she yelled, “You are going to get Trump re-elected!” 40-50 people cheered/clapped. They had someone to mobilize the side of them that wished we would stop challenging them. While we were answering back, the same young Black woman came back up and, on our mic, said very strongly, “These people [pointing to us] are NOT disrespecting you. They are representing their truths. You are hearing the activism that is strong and you have to respect that. These people—and trans Black women—are why you even have the right to stand in a line like this.” This was not how we would answer it, but it was very positive and part of the larger swirl developing. About 30 people applauded and cheered—almost all of them had just cheered for the irate white woman trying to shut us down. Then the Black woman said that people can’t all sacrifice like how we are calling for with driving out, for instance she has to work and other details. One of us pointed to the hardship in Puerto Rico, but they still stood up so don’t tell me people here can’t do it.

The best agitation of the night was very sharp, substantive, and firm, but also very inviting. This is important. We were struggling against the wrong ideas people were in the grip of, not against the people themselves. At one point, we were getting screamed at by someone who had basically said it was not their job to stop the kids from being put in cages, that it couldn’t be done before 2020 anyhow, that we were being unreasonable. One of our crew went off at the backwardness of all this. He was legitimately furious. But it was becoming a screaming match that was giving others an excuse to tune out. Another member of our crew stepped in, “Come on now, people—let’s talk about the reality...” and talked very movingly about the kids in camps and how people came out to stop it, but then it went on and now people are going along. She said something along the lines of, “You know this is horrible, so we are really calling on you to step into this revolution, to check this out, these are our children and there is a way out of this nightmare.” She said more, but was extremely sharp but in an inviting way. It was very sharp, but didn’t give any wiggle room for someone to claim she was being an asshole and dismiss on that basis, and it drew the whole crowd back in.

We moved down the line a couple more times and got different swirls going. At each point, only about 10 percent would take our materials, but this was making a statement because we had really gotten under people’s skin, mainly in a very good way. A few thanked us, even as they clearly were still standing in line for several more hours to get their selfie with Warren in front of the flag. Thousands stood for hours for this! We managed to break down some of the us/them as some masses stepped in to debate and roll with us for a bit. There was also clear polarization and repolarization going on in the scenes we were creating.

There were a number of people drawn to what we were putting out, a definite minority but a really important one. Some who had come for the rally and some who were walking through. Most were still into the BEB, and not seeing the contradiction. Many could not conceive, even if coming from a good place, anything besides voting to deal with Trump. A LOT of people insisted that if Trump lost the election, “Of course he’d leave office. That is the way things work. You have to.” We challenged this, but for a huge number of people it was like we were suggesting a spaceship was going to come down and give us all candy-bars filled with stardust. It was beyond inconceivable. A minority saw this as a real risk, but this drove them more desperately towards BEB.

The Democratic Party: “A Major Instrument of This Monstrously Oppressive System”

From: Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

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