June 12, 2017

Jazz Activism

As somebody who both studies revolution, and as somebody who went to school for jazz performance, the interplay between spontaneity and organization is particularly of interest to me.

Leaders exist whether or not we call them leaders.  Events at occupy wall street were organized by teams of people, and did not happen spontaneously, but required days, sometimes weeks, of nonstop planning and organization.

The model of “consensus” is not a particularly anarchist or socialist model of running meetings, it originated in the quaker church and was adopted by utopian idealists in the 1960s.  It’s hung around as a way to run meetings because that’s what people know.  It didn’t spontaneously come about, it was an extant operating system and was deliberately put in place by leadership who felt it was a good system for running meetings. Whether or not it actually is, is another matter that can be debated.

Seemingly spontaneous moments will occur, but the consciousness of those moments will be varied, depending on the level of self-education of those engaging the moment.

There is a difference between stopping a single pipeline and stopping the economic system that keeps building these pipelines.

Jazz uses improvisation, but it also requires structure.  Some tunes, like standards provide a structural foundation with given chords and rhythms that one improvises over. But there is also free jazz, which starts with very little material and is collaboratively created through the interaction between all the musicians participating. The less structure and the less material one starts with, the more intensely studied one needs to be in music theory, the greater the depth of knowledge one needs to have of harmony, rhythm, and melody in order to make it work. Otherwise you’ll just end up playing the same things that you already know over and over. 
There is a difference between camping out on wall street and actually dismantling capitalism and the capitalist state.  If we get too close to actually threatening the functioning of the system, the system will use violence to crush our resistance, as we saw during the eviction of OWS and destruction of our camps on the day that we planned to actually occupy the floor of the NYSE.

In the years ahead the conflicts will be greater and greater, and our ability to resist the violence of the state will need to grow exponentially.  If we’re going to do this, it won’t happen by accident, and it will require extremely thoughtful and organized planning, and the discussion of tactics that we will use, and tactics that we will not use, in any given moment, depending on the strength of our forces.  If we are serious about overthrowing capitalism and the state, we can’t just protest for the sake of protesting, nor can we just throw bricks through a starbucks window for the sake of destroying property.  If we are serious about winning, we need to be cautious about inviting excuses for the capitalist state to crush us using violence, and be serious about building our forces, and building the level of education of the general population.

Spontaneous moments will happen.  Our role as Socialists is to prepare for them.