There is a desperate need for critical assessment of these protests. Acting out and expressing anger cannot be enough. People have to ask critical questions. Why be in the streets? What's the objective? Is it to remove Trump as president? If so, the only way you will have any semblance of a chance to make that happen is by getting millions of people organized to engage in sustained actions against this system that bring the system to a screeching halt, for an extended period of time. I'm talking about protests that cause commerce to stop, not for a few hours or days, but for months. That's the only thing that will push the power structure to the point where it becomes forced to make serious concessions. And, if people were organized and committed enough to raise the stakes this way, this could and would happen. The problem of course is we all know people don't have that level of commitment in these protests. Not even close. Most people involved in these protests don't even belong to organizations which means they are not engaged in any regular work to fight for justice. If they aren't engaged in any consistent work, then at best, they are just reacting in anger. History teaches us that this approach is never sustainable. As time moves on, the majority of these people acting out on emotion will grow tired and will lose that anger. Within a period of time, most of these folks will go back to business as usual. I can assure you, the capitalist system is built and primed to wait those people out. While many of these angry people just got angry one, two, or three years ago, the capitalist system has been doing what it does for hundreds of years. Its not the least bit impressed with you breaking some windows. It has the previously mentioned insurance sham monopoly to address that. It has its police troops to address you. It has its prison system to filter you out of society. It has its media arm to shape the narrative about you so tightly that your own family members will believe it if they don't already. It has all of these things because it is organized and that's why it wins all the time and the people engaged in spontaneous protest and reaction never seem to make any progress beyond one or two nights of letting off steam.
The other part of the question that the protesters have to raise is if you are out there because you are upset that Trump was elected, are you saying that had Clinton won you wouldn't be out there? Or, if Trump is "not your president" then who is? Would Clinton have been your president? Sanders? Was Obama your president? Bush? Bill Clinton? Because if its just a question for you of who won the capitalist election then we are really dealing with a problem of illusion. Whoever wins the U.S. presidency will have to carry out the agenda of capitalism and imperialism. The chief appendages of those oppressive systems are white supremacy and patriarchy. Whoever wins, none of this changes. In fact, there is a strong argument that its better to know where your enemy is coming from than to be lulled to sleep by a charmer like Obama. Its the same capitalist system, yet in two days, Trump has gotten more of you in the streets than Obama ever did. So, who is your president? Who would it take to make you submit to this capitalist system?
Finally, there is a quite a bit of interest on the left to paying attention to security, learning self defense, firearms training, etc. People are concerned about right wing supporters, white supremacists, etc., being emboldened and people want to be prepared. This makes sense. The concerns here are certainly legitimate. You can never protect yourself against these threats on an individual level though. So, the question here is are people really wanting to create community defense spaces or are people just looking for a way to make themselves feel better about a situation that is spiraling crazily out of control? You cannot confuse your fears and desires to feel safe, on a personal level, to being ready to build capacity for communities to fight to overturn this backward system.
So, we don't condemn any protests, but we do say that spontaneous, disorganized protests, which these protests are, place many people in danger. It may be a night of anger expression for you, but to the state, its a time for them to do what they are organized to do, repress you. And, to continue this way means its only a matter of time before you get hurt or killed. Or worse, you get someone else hurt or killed. Of course, we know that death is unfortunately a part of struggle, but if we are to die, shouldn't we die on the pathway to victory and not just because we were angry and out expressing that anger in disorganized and unprincipled ways? In ways that disregard the safety of those around us? In ways that don't build capacity because we are keeping people from getting to their families? To the jobs they desperately need to feed those families? In ways that are doing more to disrupt the lives of people we should be reaching out to than the system we are fighting against? I can say with confidence that many of the white so-called anarchist people who are active in Portland here are just as racist and reactionary as the police. Just watch them in action at these marches. They behave with the same white arrogance against people that the police demonstrate. That makes it a coin toss between them and the police as to who would be more brutal if in power. No thanks. What we propose instead is that you acknowledge your anger. Acknowledge your fear and frustration. Acknowledge your desire to learn how to defend yourselves. Acknowledge your sense of powerlessness. And then start to seriously recognize that none of those things are going to change until you are ready to step up your game. The people you are going up against are ready for you. So, if you are going to win, you will need to get ready for them. That means getting prepared - yes - organized. For starters, you have to be in an organization to be organized. That's two or more people with the same objectives. That's all. Its not about the structure, its about the mission. For those in organizations, its about getting focused. Not just paying attention 50% of the time, but taking ownership of your organization to hold pieces of it to help build its capacity. Taking pressure off of those in the organization that you expect to do all the critical work. In other words, if you are already in an organization, but you have no specific responsibilities and/or assignments besides the basic aspect of showing up, you are not much different than the person who is not in an organization. Do you give more to the cause than you receive? Or, are you an energy suck? These are the questions of organization that have to be resolved if we want to win. If you aren't interested in resolving those questions, or our true objective is to just find a place where we can feel better about our suffering, than at least find a way to recognize that so you are not draining the energy of those who truly want to win. Finally, everyone who is angry has to grapple with this question. What do you want? Where do you wish to see things go? Your participation has to evolve beyond just what you are angry about. You have to be thinking about how to build community because community building is the only way you are going to win. You won't win as an individual and if you acting as an individual when you protest that is evidence for you that you are not doing anything to advance the struggle. You are just doing things to satisfy your ego. I'm not trying to make you change if you don't want to change. I have better things to do. I'm just trying to help people see through you so they can make their own decisions about how to contribute effectively to real forward progress. So, we will start to build momentum and gain speed towards victory. I don't know about you, but that's much better than just letting off steam.