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Your feedback is solicited before I publish this 
as part of my pamphlet, "What Is Direct Action?" 
Feel free to add to the list of "opportunities" herein. Thanx.

- Mitchel

Introduction to the 2011 edition
We are the 99 percent!
Another World Is Possible

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Direct actions involving ordinary people 
targeting the apparatus of capitalism and 
globalization are sweeping the globe. The Wall 
Street Occupation is a hopeful and necessary form of direct action.

Until now, we’ve boxed ourselves in. We’d allowed 
our own movements to be sidetracked into the 
electoral arena, on the one hand, and, on the 
other, into meaningless protests over this or 
that injustice that neither gets to the root of 
the issue nor exacts a price from the capitalist 
system in which we live. We become complicit in our own impotence.

We break out of that by participating in Direct Actions.

For the first time in recent memory, challenges 
to capitalism itself has been placed onto the 
historical agenda. Think of the opportunities:

- Wall Street bankers receive bailouts to the 
tune of trillions of dollars while homeowners and 
renters receive no bailouts and are evicted from their housing.

- Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to 
destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of 
people, while those profiting from those wars go unscathed.

- Politicians are afforded the finest health care 
and retirement packages, while they vote to cut 
health care and social security for the rest of us.

- The government cuts taxes for the rich, and 
increases taxes and the cost of social services 
(hidden taxes) while reducing services for lower and middle-income people.

- Students are up to their ears in debt, which 
has been part of a strategy by those running the 
capitalist system for the past 20 yeas as a means 
of avoiding raising wages by extending access to 
credit (at exhorbitant interest, that sends the 
entire working class into enormous debt) to most 
working class people to fill in the difference.

- Oil companies create the greatest environmental 
catastrophes in modern times and the government 
subsidizes them and provides huge tax abatements 
to other corporations while thousands of working 
class people lose their jobs and homes.

- The earth itself is being ravaged in a vast 
orgy of accumulation of wealth by a few, while 
the rest of us have no say over economic policies.

Appeals to the morality or consciousness of those 
in power are futile. They know exactly what they 
are doing and in whose interests they are doing 
it. All of these are life-changing issues. And all are ripe for Direct Action.

So, what is "Direct Action"? Direct Action is not 
simply an aggressive street tactic; it's a way of 
organizing ourselves and our relationships that 
pre­figures the new society we hope to create. At 
the same time, the direct action movement strives 
to win real victories in the here-and-now. So, 
Direct Action is both a tactic for winning 
immediate goals as well as a strategy for 
societal transformation, which means that we must 
take a much more "future focused" view of how 
things change and our role in bringing change 
about. These different aspects of Direct Action 
often conflict with each other and play havoc with our movements.

How are we to resolve the contradictory pulls 
between direct action as a militant street tactic 
and direct action as strategy that prefigures a future worth living in?

We are not free to pick and choose the one or the 
other like hot and cold sausages from the 
supermarket counter of history, in Rosa 
Luxemburg’s salient phrase (no offense intended 
to vegetarians in using the meat metaphor). Not 
ANY new world is possible. The "realm of freedom" 
is delimited by what we are trying to accomplish; 
if we are trying to accomplish contradictory 
goals our movement pays the chaotic price. The 
kinds of structures we build are driven by how we 
view our "mission." That "mission" in turn 
narrows and shapes the kinds of organizations we 
need as well as our ability to create them.

I published an early draft of this essay in 1981, 
then called "Turning Motion Into Movement." 
Though it has gone through many revisions its 
basic thrust remains unchanged. Upsweeps in mass 
resistance to the structural adjustment programs 
of neo-Liberalism (which have nothing to do, 
actually, with "liberal" views, per se), the 
successful anti-apartheid struggles of the 
mid-1980s, the women's liberation, ACT UP and 
ecology movements each provided new tactics, new 
possibilities. ("What Is Direct Action?" spawned 
a separate pamphlet focusing on logistical tips 
for activists in those movements, which I am 
updating for today’s Occupy Wall Street movement. It should be ready shortly.)

Then, in 1987, the Network of Alternative Student 
press convened a gathering at the State 
University of New York at Stony Brook. I was 
asked to deliver "What Is Direct Action?" as the 
keynote address, along with Jeff Cohen of FAIR 
and Robert Knight of WBAI, and copies of that 
speech began finding their way through the 
Alternative Student Press network to campuses across the country.

In more recent years, mass direct actions have 
followed the "leaders" of the world capitalist 
economy wherever they met: Seattle (November 
1999), Davos Switzerland (Feb. 2000 and again in 
2003), Boston (anti-genetic en­gin­eering mass 
uprising in March, 2000), Washington DC (April 
16, 2000), Prague, Czechoslovakia (September, 
2000), the Republican and Democratic Party 
national conventions in Philadelphia and Los 
Angeles (Summer, 2000), Gotenberg (Sweden), and 
Canada at the Organization of American States 
meeting, the Oil Congress in Calgary, against the 
G-8 meeting in Quebec City, and in Victoria, 
where activists forced NATO to find a different 
venue for their big meeting in October 2001.

But the “anti-globalization” movement (and when I 
use the word “globalization,” I mean 
“globalization of capital,” also known as 
“Neo-liberalism”) did not start in Seattle. The 
fights against the IMF and World Bank’s 
structural adjustment policies took their 
earliest and most consistent shapes in the form 
of mass rebellions in Africa, Latin America and 
Southern Asia beginning in the late 1970s. 
Seattle was, in a sense, a continuation of that 
movement, a bringing of that war into the urban centers of the empire.

Our movements are crucially important for 
creating a living alternative to the 
globalization of capital and the exploitation and 
expropriation that comes in its wake. But they 
also provide the State apparatus with a giant 
laboratory of activists in which to test its 
latest weapons of war, police configurations, 
nerve gases and more effective methods of repression.

During the Seattle protests, I saw new weapons 
utilizing light beams (lasers?) to destabilize 
people and knock them off balance. (Would 
carrying small mirrors or giant mylar sheets 
protect us from those beams, and reflect the new 
weapons back on the forces using them?) 
Neurotoxins were mixed into teargas and mace -- 
the same neurological gases sprayed 
indiscriminately over New York and, indeed, the 
entire Eastern sea­board to combat the 
non-existent West Nile viral “epidemic” a few 
months earlier. Social protest movements are met 
with increasingly updated mechanisms of 
repression. We are trapped in a death tango with 
the police state – our increasing numbers, their increasing technology.

How can we minimize their power and provide our 
movements with the greatest advantage? This essay 
wrestles with such questions. It asks “What is 
Direct Action?” and “How do we structure our 
actions, and our organizations, to bring about 
basic social and economic transformation despite 
the State's bent on repressing such movements – 
and to do so without betraying our moral 
principles?” As this is a living, ever-changing 
document, your feedback is requested.

Mitchel Cohen
October, 2011




http://www.MitchelCohen.com


Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen