Alliance for the Common Good

The organizations pose for a picture as Native People speak.

Within our highly stratified society there exists two trends inside the activist movement: those who advocate for revolution and those who advocate for reform. Sad to say that despite over a decade of Imperialist war, corporate profiteering and increasing levels of income disparities, the latter trend is still predominant. This is not surprising, of course. It takes time for any kind of alternative to present itself and develop.

On the eighth of January the beginning of a possible alternative, the fetus, took shape in the form of the Alliance for the Common Good. Highly reformist and class collaborationist, the alliance was a self-described united front. Environmental, anti-war,  pro-youth, pro-queer and more were represented. The goal of the alliance is to promote an agenda which benefits “one and all” or, as otherwise stated, the common good.

Coordinating with the indigenous population of Maine the organizers of the rally stood in solidarity with the Natives and the “Idle No More” movement; locales from the Penobscot Tribe spoke and sang native songs before and after speakers bellowed slogans and brief speeches against the East-West Highway.

The chosen location for the first alliance rally was in the city of Augusta. Outdoor chanting and co-mingling outside of the state house soon developed into rekindling of friendships from the progressive past. I took part as well. Chatting with some Occupy colleagues, that encased a discussion on my facial fair and organic food preparation,   the atmosphere was warm and friendly. After chatting I wandered some to meet other activist friends and while doing so was ensconced by a reporter from the Free Press. After a brief interview as to why I was there, where I represented the Kasama Project, I listened to the first of many speeches prior to moving indoors.

Once indoors, and done with the lengthy security procedure, I snacked on a doughnut and waited for all the participants to file in. In short order (15 or so minutes) everyone was gathered. Songs began and the natives spoke. Hearing their wonderful chanting was what I considered the highlight of the day.

While there were other activities before my leaving, such as petitioning the newly returned legislators on various progressive causes, the kind woman who I relied on for transportation needed to leave early, so I couldn’t see how that turned out. Yet through it all the event was an auspicious start to what could be a bright future for progressive, and hopefully radical, activism.

Report: Youth Occupy Gathering

Waking at approximately 6:35 A.M I quickly rose from bed, dressed, had a quick breakfast, gathered my belongings and then rushed out the door with sleeping bag in hand. Though normally mornings in my house would be more casual today I couldn’t afford to be so sloth like. Today was the first day of the Maine Youth Occupy Gathering. Because of this I could not risk being late in meeting my contact; agreeing to meet at a local convenient store around 7:30AM as our rendezvous I needed to haul ass and quickly.

Though, as it turns out, I would be nearly ten minutes late, I miscalculated walking time, it was alright; my ride didn’t care, which was fortunate since last time I tried to meet a contact for a ride she never showed (and I wasn’t even late than!). As I approached the store, however, I clearly saw my contact waiting front and center before the store.

As I approached further I could see that he was truthful in his email exchanges and was who he said he was. Young, car ready, and rather cute, we introduced ourselves prior to hauling our crap in the backdoor. After this we were off (though not before stopping at another couple small stores to check for oil. After we did that, we were off!)!

The drive was nearly ninety minutes.  With the event being held near Bangor, and neither of us being familiar with the town, we knew that we were probably to spend a while searching for the place once actually arriving in town. Combining this with the long initial drive and we had ourselves a recipe for monotonous talk.

Fortunately, such wasn’t the case here. With both of us being so close to the same age the drive was standard questions (political activity, how much one has done in movements, family life and personal interests, etc) mixed with the typical teenage humor. Not only did the actual drive turn out well but the directions led us to the location a whole sixteen minutes early. Count ourselves lucky this happened despite originally getting lost.

The location, a building referred to as only the Solidarity Center was a spacious location. Built in gravel wheel chair ramp, well-made wooden steps, and an interior meeting area large enough to comfortable seat everyone, this locale would serve our small group well.

My contact and I went inside, helping an organizer carry in some cooking equipment, and settled in. While he snuggled with his girlfriend I ventured off and familiarized myself with the building (I.E where the bathrooms were). Post pissing, I gingerly waited for more people to arrive.

While in the middle of ice breaker games more people did arrive, with some trickling in some time afterwards, our numbers were fated to be small this weekend. All in all there were perhaps a little over two dozen people in and out on the first day with less permanent numbers the following. Though the organizers were expecting a larger turn out such amounts did not surprise me as the event was quickly advertised with not much youth inclusion.

From arriving I would force myself through the various workshops on the agonizing consensus process, be mildly intrigued when it came to the labor union’s local presentation (reformist but sign of progressive thought here and there), and only be engaged in when came for a Queer activist to give her brief history of the Occupy movement as well as her own personal involvement in the New York City Occupation.

Her mentioning her partner several times actually brings me back to the awesome fact of the heavy Queer presence there. Aside from myself there were anywhere from 3-4 other Queer advocates. From a affirming heterosexual, to a lesbian, and a Genderqueer man, I was in good company. Among these people I chatted often and enjoyed hearing their experience on organizing and life. Eventually I would gain several of these persons contact information.

Throughout lunch and breaks during the weekend I was happy to see the progressive politics of the people I worked with. Though many of them still had ideas that prevented them from being classified as revolutionaries (reformist dreams, uncertainty about what came after capitalism, and so forth) I do not exaggerate when I say the great majority of those present were anti-capitalist. This fact was even further reinforced when I met some contact from my own local occupy who had grown in their anti-capitalist stance since my last visit with them; people who were once “on the fence” about the Imperialist system now only condemned it but called it for what it was: imperialism.

Of the radicals there most were, as previous mentioned, anti-capitalist. There was a single Democratic Socialist, the usual assortment of Eco-Anarchists (who made up the majority of the radicals by far), as well as a young women who aside from some minor comments, I was positive was a revolutionary communist. Though I never gained significant political talk time with any of these people, I did manage brief conversations with each one; most interestingly I discovered a person there not only had read, but upheld, Karl Marx.

Though sometimes these individuals’ conversations would take a major nose dive into a result which I can only call “Facepalm” Overall the level of rhetoric had progressed. While at Occupy there were more libertarians than I could stomach, here there were none to be found. It made me think that if the political climate continued in this fashion than eventually they would be a moderately solid revolutionary base.

Eventually the first day came to an end and sleeping was called for. A sleeping bag and floor was all I needed. Rolling up an extra shirt I had brought with me as a pillow I fell asleep after only being mildly uncomfortable.

Waking up the next day I dressed, rolled up my sleeping bag, had a breakfast bar, and reviewed my workshop. Though this caused me to miss the first part of the second day’s beginning workshop I couldn’t bring myself to care. Reviewing never took too long and I eventually caught the middle of the man’s presentation.

Eventually it came time for my time in the sun. Yet, there were some shadows on this day. What had been my only complaint during the entire weekend was that when it came time for my workshop the organizers had lumped it in with another workshop. This meant that now people could choose which workshop they wanted to participate in. This annoyed me some as previously all the workshops were attended by all the people. Since my competition had been the “Know Your Rights” workshop only three people came to attendance.

I am a pragmatic person, however. Of the attendees there was only a few which I actually wanted to be in attendance which weren’t already. I also realize that knowing one’s rights when being active is a popular event as the possibility exists that those young people may already know how to bring their peers to occupy.

Ultimately, however, I did not mind the low attendance as I knew that even giving a presentation in front of a small audience was still giving me vital practice for the net event. I made some mistakes, created new strategies for presenting, and knew that what I had learned from giving such a lecture would serve me even better in the future.

After this I wound about the complex waiting for lunch to be over and for the final workshops to start. While at this point I was eager to go home, my workshop was done hence my reason for being here was bull and void, I still managed to sit still during the last workshop concerning corporate practices which led to the Occupy movement.

Finally the day ended. My ride and I hopped back in his car and headed back to our home town. The drive back down was more pleasant than the one up as we talked about how we had enjoyed the gathering and what we liked most. Immensely pleased about our train of thought we formally exchanged contact information and agreed that if either of us were planning anything in the future we should give each other a call; the beginning of any great social movement, after all, starts with the most humble origins.

“How To Attract Youth To Occupy”: A Workshop

This workshop is all about attracting young people, your peers, to the occupy movement. This task is vitally important. Without youth involvement any popular uprising is bound to fail; older generations often fail to understand this as they are too mired in the system. Yet for those in the trenches, building a strong youth movement is paramount precisely because with youth comes new dimensions of understanding.

All of you here today probably know this, or are beginning to understand this.  Your participation here is no small event; contrary to what less supportive individuals may have said, you being here mean you have a spark which surpasses those who are “politically challenged.” I cannot say I have all the answers to your struggle but I can help you build awareness among your friends.

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          As I am sure all of you know no one thing can attract a person to any sort of event; there is no pan-political cause which will unite a divided mass. This is why you need to employ a wide range of techniques when you are out propagating. What responds to one person will not necessarily respond to another.

This was certainly true in my case. Some people were complaining about the need to destroy “big government” while others were arguing for more reformist approaches to solving the economic crisis. Appealing to a person’s political, and even idealistic convictions, is one manner an activist can go about attracting others to join the movement but is hardly useful among a crowd of mostly apolitical young people.

To seem even moderately in touch with such individuals you are going to have to employ tactful strategies. Ones which serve your immediate ends without alienating people; especially those who are scared stiff of any kind of activist work (however mild). This becomes even harder when dealing with alienated youth who are chained to parental and guardian figures. Yet, there are some methods that should help you in breaking the ice.

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Be A Walking Billboard

          Proudly and vibrantly show off what you believe in. Wearing T-Shirts, and other clothes which displays your goals front and center will go a long way in attracting attention. Attracting attention is good since that means you are making an impact. Though you might seem a bit eccentric this air of uniqueness will give you opportunities to make contact. Making contact can be done quickly; just a passerby in the school hallways, or on the street is all it takes for the onlooker to ask a question about your choice of political clothing.

This has worked well for me on numerous occasions. First, at occupy Augusta, when I wore my Che Guevara shirt and then a second time when I was walking to the capital.

The first time, at occupy, was the typical reactions: someone sees something that gives them an emotional reaction, in this case the visage of the legendary communist guerrilla fighter, and they wish to uptake that person in political discussion. During such time you will have invaluable moments to argue decisively for your cause. Because of this you might want to think beforehand what you line of discussion will be in regards to what image you are associating yourself with.

The second time, when I was walking to the capital, I was wearing a Code: Pink “Bring Our War Dollars Home” T-shirt. While out near the walking trail I was pleasantly surprised when someone shouted at me “Asshole!” Obviously a moment like this isn’t ideal but it does illustrate the power of symbolic images.

So as long as you wear something-anything-political and keep it on sight within others, chances are sooner or later a person will stop and comment. During this space, when you are engaging them in conversation, you will have your opening. During this opening you will have your opportunity to debate, but more importantly, you will have your chance to recruit your peers to the occupy movement.

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Demagoguery Guidelines

          Effectively engaging others in political conversation is a delicate matter. While anyone can simply speak, and speaking is still better than silence, to be ‘above average’ will get you more places than the typical talk. Because of this there are some basic guidelines which you should be aware of.

First is speaking with confidence. When speaking about a controversial subject it never pays off to appear uncertain or hesitant. An old fashioned public speaking trick which I remember is that even if you are unsure of the exact details, even if you are advocating for a unpopular stance, always use clear, decisive language.

This means getting rid of all the “Umms, eh, ah, and moderate ‘well, it wasn’t perfect but it was still good.’ Any pauses which indicate you have to think of a rebuttal or what to say next means a crack has appeared in your confidence wall. Maintaining a high level of confidence is important because it means that those you are trying to sway will be more likely to listen, in full, to your argument. It won’t guarantee people will take up your cause but it does give you legitimacy to who you are as a social activist; it differentiates you from the ego-mass that is American culture and gives you just a shed of power many other activists do not possess

The occasional smile and joke helps as well, though never sacrifice quality for content. The objective here is to seem versed enough in your area of proficiency, which you already should be, to not only answer every question the others have, with an air of confidence, but also while relating it to current events without a second thought as to how and make it appealing to those who have no deep understanding of your cause.

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The goal of all this verbal intercourse is to convince someone, or some group, of the need to endorse an issue. More specifically, however, it is to bring them into the Occupy Movement. Bringing people into a movement takes more than simply being a smooth talker though: you do have to have an idea that rallies them to your banner (Occupy).

Dealing with your alienated peers brings in a host of new problems since many of them probably have never dealt with anything political before in their lives (satire from popular shows not withstanding). So, in order to reach said youth you have to speak with confidence, yes, but before you can speak you must have an idea: an idea that relates to them on a fundamental level; such an issue needs to be personal and striking for otherwise they will not be moved enough to participate.

You have to have, in other words, a tailor made cause to each group you are targeting: in this case youth. An effective strategy is appeal to minors’ inability to live alone, to vote, and to drink. Also be sure to include the bias against teen drivers (as many insurance companies discriminate against adults who have a teen driver by raising their premiums).

These issues apply to the whole spectrum of young people regardless of political affiliation, identity or religious beliefs. Yet, this alone will not bring in young people when many are not immediately interested in such causes. Many youth need a more direct reason to attend Occupy. A reason which relates to them on a fundamental level.

To illustrate I will go into detail.

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Oppressed Peoples

  As in any capitalist society (The United States, China, Uganda, Colombia, etc), the ruling class, usually being composes of conservatives, impose White, Christian, heteronormality on the populace through their propaganda outlets (Newspapers, Movies, Television, video games, books and so forth). They do this to divide the working population and redirect energy, which would normally be directed at them, into minorities which pose them no danger.

This is important to remember not only because it is a fact of life but because the bigotry directed towards these repressed social groups manifest themselves as overt discrimination.

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Queer Youth (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender):

If you are a Queer person in the United States, Queer meaning non-straight, or heterosexual, than you may find life to be more hazardous than it is for your non-Queer counterparts. Because homosexuals are, in many states, not allowed to Marry, are not afforded protection from discrimination at the workplace or while at school, and are still commonly disowned and killed by their community, it is vital to recognize that the status of the Queer Liberation movement is still In flux.

Queer youth know how society treats them. As you might have guessed, they hate it. They are looking for a path to freedom. If you know your stuff than this provides an excellent opportunity for you to go into the Gay-Straight Alliances at your local schools and colleges to present your thesis for participation in the Occupy Movement.

Relate the Queer liberation movement to the occupy movement. Find connections among the actions which back up your points and push home the point that Queer liberation can be achieved if enough Queer activists join the local occupy movement. Progressive ideas, such as Queer Liberation, can only be started if there are people willing to talk and debate. Inform them that there are plenty of people to debate with and spread ideas with if they attend occupy.

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Oppressed Nationalities (Black, Latino, Asian and Arab):

Part of living in America means grappling with our extensive history of White Supremacy. While it is fortunate that we no longer live in a time where the Ku Klux Klan has a membership of 40million we still, nonetheless, live in an age of unparalled inequalities. In a recent report, the ACLU reported that Hate groups in America have risen by over 60% in the last few years; that is an annual clime of several points every year since 2001.

Adding to this climate of extreme hate is the rabid Islamophobia gripping society. The wake of the 9/11 attacks brought not only years of interminable warfare in the Middle East, and a breath taking expansion of the military industrial complex, but also heightened bigotries and paranoia.

In a moment very reminiscent of the anti-communist Cold War hysteria a great deal of modern American society earnestly believes that Muslims have a concentrated effort to “Take over” America. While such is, of course, the delusions of mad men it has a great impact on innocent citizens who try their best to etch out a living for their family.

Due to this climate, activists of all strips should actively be engaging the Muslim/ Arab community. It is not an exaggeration to say that a great percentage of Muslims do not believe they have allies. Under such circumstances it is not only practical, but humane, to petition this section of society to join the Occupy movement. Much like the Queer population, the Muslim/ Arab minority is also seeking freedom.

A skilled activist should be able to quickly link the overseas wars to Arab/Muslim liberation (AML).  As members of the ethnic group currently being persecuted by U.S imperialism Arabs and Muslims have a vested interest in stopping assaults on their countrymen. Appeal to their desire to live as equals’ unpersecuted and to the fact that an end to the wars would mean a reprieve to local persecution.

Such is said of Black, Latino, and Asian individuals. African-Americans have never been truly free in this country; so great as been their oppression that even the much lauded civil rights movement only challenged the visibility of racism, not the actual entrenchment of it. Asians have, ever since the opening of the Cold War, been associated with Marxist principals and, as such, treated as traitors. Latinos, though also contributing much to the fabric of American society, have been forsworn as a “lesser race” by many neo-conservatives.

With such a monumental amount of racial hate it is remarkable to organize proper equality demonstrations. Yet, with the emergence of Occupy, a platform of pre-made equality has been already organized. All you, the activist, have to do is connect progressive race politics with the very real racist superstructure and you will have a great source of recruits ready to attend with you and hand out materials and debate people.

In dealing with young oppressed nationalities it is vital to hit home the fact that without activism, and the need for elimination of Neo-Fascism, they will not be able to live safely. Extremist currents run deep in American society and can seize power at any moment. Linking employment discrimination to the current recession will be a relatable step that can attract minority youth to a great movement.

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Political Ideologies

Now, chances are if you have friends who are politicized and uphold a certain set of ideals they are already going to be at Occupy but sometimes, for whatever reasons, they are not. So your job becomes getting them to occupy.

American media has a way of alienating people from activism. With an overwhelming emphasis on the two conventional parties (democrat and republican) many individuals who hold onto a third party position feel apathetic to become active. This is because the media only ever reports on those groups which empower their interests while many other smaller ideologies become obscured. While this happens the only glimpse the general public has to third parties is when they mess up and something happens. This leads to alienation and restrains people from becoming active as alienation is, by definition, the lack of consciousness.

One manner of forcing these people out into the open of activity is to appeal to their romanticized nature of the world. Being young they are more than likely prone to falling for excited and overblown language. Because of this it never hurts to make your event-Occupy-far more extravagant than it may actually be. Though Occupy is a movement and not a revolution, the alienated youth of America will not be able to discern the difference. Since such kids are going to be attracted to the idea of revolution, of changing the world, label occupy as such and fill your words with enthusiasm. They will need such youthful idealism in order to have the resolve to spend days at a time in constant debate mode with individuals whom they have never before met.

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Organize, Educate, and Agitate

…should be your battle cry. When heading out into the universities, high schools, and other institutions of learning you might be shocked at the general levels of apathy (though if you yourself attend the institution you will probably be used to it).  Because the Ruling Class has used all their efforts and resources to ensure that only their voice is heard you will find that organizing will be challenging, especially when it is organizing for a countercultural occurrence such as Occupy.  For this you may have to adopt some preliminary tactics before hordes of your peers count themselves as occupiers.

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Educate

Once you have set foot within your chosen place of struggle, the location in which you will recruit for the movement, initiate your education campaign immediately. Create and copy some fliers. These fliers do not have to be professionally made; just whatever you can make by your own hand. If you have sympathetic artistic friends that can create a well-rounded flier, than all the better (if you lack artistic friends consider asking around the art clubs first). The point is that your flier should convey a message centered on an eye catching design.  Once you have your flier designed go to the nearest library, print store or office and copy an additional 25, 50, or 100 or however much you need for your campaign. When copying, and pending on your flier, consider splurging for color if you have the resources black and white means you are serious, but color means you are dedicated.  You will need an amount enough to cover your place in its high traffic areas.

Take your fliers and plaster them around your location’s high traffic areas (gymnasium, cafeteria, restrooms, hallways, etc). Talk to your classmates about the movement and educate at every turn. When people see your flier you might have many individuals come up to your and ask what this event is about. You can talk to them there but you can also invite them to another popular tactic: the study session.

Since you are in a place of learning, and since many youths are turned off by the word “study” consider changing the name to Occupy 101. Anyways, the “study session” is a short gathering in which you lecture the attendees on the basics of the Occupy movement; history, tactics, goals and so forth will all be points to cover. Undertaking such an effort is something you would do with the hope that your brief question and answer session will be enough to convince your attendees on the importance of occupy.

To host such a meeting try and finding a sympathetic teacher for a room or if all else fails host it at your own house. While a school room is most preferable any location will do. Try and spurge for basic snacks so as to have a snack table: the purpose here, the snack table, isn’t to feed people but to have an innocent looking area to place an information sheet; or, a place to place a sheet where those who choose can leave their name, email address and cell phone number. The more contacts you have, the better.

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Organize

Organizing your gathered support can either be a sloppy mess of contacts, names, and phone numbers, or you can centralize everything by having a facebook event. With a Facebook event you will have the cyber space covered and have a convenient place to socialize with your contacts.

When making a Facebook page for your event, whether it is the date when you and your gathered group are going to head down to occupy or just an everyday activist action, it is important to remember that you can only do so much: create the event, fill the page with as much information and pictures as you think will attract people, and then go onto plastering your event all over your most frequented local pages. After that, you need to realize that what will happen, will happen.

If you have a low attendance for your event, do not worry. Many people who might attend will not bother in updating their status to you event. On top of this those people who attend might bring families, friends and relatives, so even if you have only a handful of people saying they will attend so as long as those people bring several others your event will be a success.

Ultimately, however, even if a few people came you still must be unperturbed and maintain a high level of energy. Grassroots activism, especially when you are first beginning organizing, isn’t about drawing hundreds of people every time you have an action; it is, however, about making connections ,one at a time, and building communities of struggle.

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Agitate

Anyone who says that Agitating isn’t fun doesn’t have the soul of a troublemaker. For that is exactly what agitating is: troublemaking which benefits your cause. Agitating is not talking and debating, it is both hardcore, shameless really, advertising, as well as solo actions which stir up people’s emotions and incentive to get politically active.

Agitating is when you spread a message to assembled groups in a professional manner. Sometimes this message may not be appropriate for the event; hence the troublemaker label, but such trivialities will not concern a dedicated revolutionary/political activist. Every turn and opportunity you have to lecture masses on your program is a victory in the long run. Use any such exposure to advertise your event and connected affiliates- I.E your Facebook page and any other such online homes.

Solo actions are not large or even organized events, rather, they are individual excursions you take at your own risk to heighten the public awareness of your event. That being said there is no base guideline for what constitutes an agitation, as the term means different things to different people. This is something you will have to decide for yourself. Leafleting, public preaching ( standing on a corner and mindlessly speaking), and speaking at rallies are all examples of agitation yet by far the most effective forms are when you go in to areas where your peers congregate.

Back in East Germany, within the German Democratic Republic, professional agitators within the Socialist Unity Party, would routinely walk into factories, farms, and other places of production and preach revolutionary doctrine. While you, as a young person unconnected with the Working class, I would not recommend brazenly walking into a factory and begin to preach about your cause. Yet such isn’t what is being advocated. You must find your youth equivalent of factories; skateboard parks, schools, libraries, game and hobby shops, boys and Girls clubs, video arcades, where such still exist; are all potential places of recruitment.

Agitating in such areas you will have to be cleaver and use language, tactics, and ploys that resonate with your audience. In other words, it would be a poor choice to go into any of these areas and immediately start talking about Occupy. Your mission as an agitator isn’t to be a preacher: it is to connect with others and stir up some energy. Ease your way into conversations and gradually work towards the goal of political works; align your message during a segment of talk which connects with something close to them. A skilled agitator will be able to steer the conversation into such realms without it being obvious.

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Well, such is the inside trade on attracting your friends and other young people to the Occupy movement. Use what you have learned here well

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