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14 Rules For Revolt -- Or What I Learned from the Front Lines of the 1960s

In 2011, a new wave of global citizen activism, fed in part by Occupy Wall Street, helped reveal a link between the sixties and the present.

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2. NEVER LOSE THE MEME OF 1% VS. 99%. It exposes the ultimate weaknesses of our society and our enemies. Don’t allow those weaknesses to be papered over. A constant emphasis on how we are all part of the 99% keeps our side together and can reunite us after disagreements. Your focus should be on those with extreme wealth who do not pay their fair share, ultimately the nub of many other problems. That will allow you to recruit unlikely allies. And don’t anyone label this class warfare; it isn’t. Our demand is only that the 1% pay their fair share.

3. DON’T BASH BIG GOVERNMENT. It’s a Republican trap. In the years after the sixties, conservatives made exaggerated complaints about government waste and inefficiency. These distortions undermined public confidence in Washinton, which then allowed the Republicans to dismantle government regulations on finance put in place after the Great Depression. That deregulation brought on the Great Recession of 2008. Remember, it is unchecked bureaucracy that is wasteful and inefficient, not government in and of itself.

4.  GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE OUR TOOL, NOT THEIRS. Without stronger financial regulation than was previously in place, our standard of living will decline further. Americans now face the iron law of unregulated capitalism: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Government is the only means by which working Americans can protect themselves on a capitalist playing field heavily tilted toward the wealthy, the only means by which the 1% can be forced to pay their fair share, the only way to break the power of the oil companies and create a clean energy future.

5. UNREGULATED CAPITALISM IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM. A compelling vision of a progressive society will emerge in the course of the struggles still ahead. Meanwhile, you are stuck with market capitalism and you should focus on bringing its worst aspects under control. Occupy Wall Street helped put financial regulation at the center of political debate. Keep it there. If financial regulation remains a central demand of the 99%, you can keep your focus on extreme income differences and effectively isolate the 1%.

6.  BE THE OWNER, NOT THE REPAIRMAN. Apologists for the 1% will put you on the defensive by insisting that you tell them exactly how to regulate Wall Street or secure the healthcare system. Don’t respond. You own the national house. If they built it for you without beds for everyone or a kitchen big enough to feed all the people, they’ve got to come up with a plan to fix it. Your job is to approve the plan and supervise the construction, not draw up the blueprints.

7. BE NICE TO DEMOCRATS. Democrats are not your allies or even your friends. But you need them. Like Republicans, they depend on big money for campaign contributions, so even if they take complete control of government, they will never enact transformational change on their own. But a popular movement can develop enough power to force elected Democrats to support reform. In the future, you will need elected Democrats to pass your reforms just as the
civil rights movement needed them to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

8. DON’T GET SO UPSET ABOUT VOTING FOR DEMOCRATS. Hold your nose and do it. It’s necessary. Republican governments do far more damage than Democratic governments, both to people in poverty and to the rest of us. They spread false consciousness and make it more difficult for us to organize. Stop fussing about Democratic flaws. They are who they are. Real change will only be driven by citizen activism, not elections. So, when an opportunity comes along to put a Democrat into office instead of a Republican, take it, and then go back to movement building.

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