Chapter Seven – the Logic of Revolution
This is the last chapter of the book Occupy Strategy – which is the third and concluding volume of the series titled Fanfare for the Future. In coming weeks we will follow up with more excerpts from this volume, but we hope many readers will order it from our Online Store for yourselves, and then to pass on to others. The introduction can be found here.
“A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree or certainty which the evidence warrants.”
– Bertrand Russell
We have emphasized throughout this book that strategy and tactics are contextual. While good in one context, a tactic, or even a strategy, can be suicidal in another–or vice versa. This imposes on revolutionary thought some tight boundaries and advisories.
We must conceive our strategies–our paths from one condition to another and ultimately from where we start all the way to implementing our vision and likewise for the tactics we use within our strategies–with a grounding in what exists and in the limits of our assets, but also regarding their fit to where we wish to wind up and its requirements.
After we weigh the aspects of any strategy or tactic against our assets, can we do what is implied? We tally the implications of proceeding for attaining immediate goals and especially for enriching our prospects of attaining future goals. How will it enhance our numbers, commitment, and means and desires? We address consciousness raising, contestation for gains, and construction of new means and infrastructure, all with these same guides to thought.
All this we have been over, enough, we hope, to have made the relevant points. So what is left to say by way of conclusion?
We Are Minimalist
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
– Malcolm X
Our minimalism is to recognize that every strategy and every tactic is contingent on many variables and that even when we are incredibly confident about our assertions, we could easily be very wrong.
This implies we should modestly be prepared for what we know will turn out to be plentiful errors. When I think path a, method b, and tactic c are ideal, you instead may think path w, method x, and tactic y are ideal. The difference, while it may be great and highly important, is rarely beyond discussion. The gap should not preclude mutual respect, assuming we share broad vision and theory. Most often, indeed, the resolution of such differences is not attainable by endless debate, much less by application of some principle, but depends on reactions and relations among countless variables, not least human perceptions, and so can only be by experience.
The upshot is tactical and strategic minimalism. We try to think carefully. We try to evaluate wisely. We try to account for what matters and not get caught up in trivia. But we know we may err, so we also know it is very wise, whenever possible, to keep alternatives alive, and to experiment with those alternatives even as some other path is currently our main focus. In this way we protect against the possibility that the minority was right and the preferred path was less desirable than anticipated.
We Are Maximalist
“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”
– Antonio Gramsci
There is no winning without trying, and the reason for being a revolutionary is to win. Our maximalism is that we understand that this means while we should hold our strategies and tactics cautiously and with respect for those who favor alternatives, we should nonetheless conceive them ambitiously.
We always ultimately seek maximal gains, albeit usually only a bit at a time. We are not minimal, we are never minimal, about what we ultimately aim for. We are minimal, we are always minimal, in being cautious and reserved.
We always aim for the most we can reasonably hope to attain now, and for a whole new society. This is our maximalism.
Our strategies, tactics, and programs are always part of an overall process, and whatever their proximate aim may be, the ultimate aim is that we want the world, and nothing less. We measure our choices and efforts not in terms of proximate aims only, or mostly, but in terms of the overarching process of winning a new world.
“Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.”
– Albert Camus
Minimalist maximalism is a mindset that bears on theory, vision, and strategy–all three volumes of Fanfare for the Future. Regarding theory, minimalist maximalism realizes that society is way too complex to theorize the way one theorizes a radio, football, or nuclear reaction. Indeed, even calling what we use to think about society and history or about vision and strategy, a theory, is a bit of hubris, at least if one takes the word theory seriously. That is why, in Fanfare, we call our intellectual offering a toolbox of concepts and urge that it be used to guide thoughts and choices, not dictate them.
Minimalist maximalism is an approach that guards against dogmatism and sectarianism and that favors flexibility and dissent. It seeks constant growth–not reflex defense of past claims and views, but their careful and thoughtful improvement.
Minimalist maximalism is modest about what we know for sure, always testing, always proposing variations and alternatives–but it is immodest about what we try to achieve.
The toolbox of concepts rejects a priori pronouncements about focus and importance. It rejects extrapolating our desires into choices that go beyond our what our experience and insights can sustain. It rejects attaching our beliefs to our identities and assessing people by their contingent views and their assessments of contingent variables–rather than by their actions and values.
History is chock full of intellectual systems meant to advance social truths and guide liberating social practice, which, however, have in the past solidified into dogmas causing dead people’s minds to inhabit the hopes and dreams of the living. Hopefully participatory theory, vision, and strategy, can avoid such a disastrous outcome, instead always orienting towards its own continuous development and growth.
Only time will tell.