Little media attention has been given to a new alt left guide to “resistance,” although its message and the support of Our Wisconsin Revolution may be a cause for concern. The 72 paged “Resistance Guide” was released last month provided by members of “The Momentum” who offer their advice on how to “sustain a movement and win.” Looking closer at their beliefs of using division tactics and usage of ambiguous language with “confrontational” protest, gives a glimpse of how the alt left sees itself and their proposed “solutions” to all of the United States’ governmental problems.
The “handbook” begins by attacking President Trump and the Republican party, with the authors seemingly still shaken from the results of the 2016 election, as the preface reads, “Trump is the president. Republicans run our government. How do we fight back?” The authors start with a boilerplate leftist summation of the Right:
Even as investigations are launched into the legitimacy of the election and misconduct by Trump and his administration, Congress and the White House remain united in their support for policies that fuel racism, criminalize protest, deport thousands, eliminate health benefits for millions, overturn environmental protections, and shred the social safety net, all while securing billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthiest.
The authors of the “guide” book reveal that they are leaders of “the Momentum,” a self proclaimed, “training institute and movement incubator,” that points to the study of civil resistance as a source to find answers to better protest, and in the long run, turn the system in their favor.
The proposed strategy is a stark departure from calls from the Democratic Party for The Republican party to “compromise” and “work together.” In fact; they call for the complete opposite. The authors discuss that “polarizing” issues is what will help spread awareness and make the public take action on it. In short, calling for the division of opinions into two “us” and “them” sides:
“For too long, the leadership of the Democratic Party has sought empty compromise positions that claim the broadest possible appeal without upsetting big donors. The only way to defeat the Trump/GOP agenda is to employ a movement strategy that instead heightens the differences between the reactionary Republicans and we who resist them.”
These authors believe that in a democracy protesting is the best way to “seize the microphone in the absence of either money or fame.” The goal of polarizing issues is to “force people to take a position,” and ask, “which side are you on.” While it seems that this tactic would only lead to the violent protests we have seen in the past, the authors have an interesting view on the differences between violent and “confrontational” protests. Looking through the guide, the authors never denounce using violence on a moral basis, rather always point back to research that says its bad for the public image of a protest:
“Research shows that perceptions of protest as violent or destructive of property tend to discourage participation and make a movement less effective. Confrontation, however, is not the same as violence. Confrontational tactics can draw people to a cause, even when the protesters are criticized as too abrasive…”
“…Discourage violence and property destruction. Perceptions of protest as violent or destructive of property tend to discourage participation. The philosophical difference between violence and property destruction doesn’t really matter for the practical purposes of effective protest. Chenoweth and other researchers have shown that public support drops off dramatically when either enters the picture.”
They even promote a more controversial form of protest, blocking traffic. Although disruptive, they believe that the message they are conveying is more important than the consequences of that tactic as they wrote, “Critics argue that traffic-blocking marches alienate potential supporters, but the power of disruption to capture public attention often outweighs its alienating effect.”
The guide then points to the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Keystone Pipeline protests, the gay marriage movement, and the Tea Party movement, as some of the success stories that new protests would benefit learning from. All were evaluated using their polarization method and praised for their varying degrees of success. The authors also made it clear that no one other than themselves and “the people” have to approve of their message and tactics. While one would assume the goal of a protest would be to change other’s minds to support whatever cause they are pushing, the authors of the guide seems to have a different view:
“We don’t need to change the minds of angry Trump supporters to win. We don’t need everyone to like our movement or approve of our tactics.”
It continued: “Research shows that even tactics the public dislikes can increase support for an issue.”
The guide then takes on an almost anarchistic view of leadership as it denounces both the Democratic and Republican parties, and anyone else currently at the seat of power. It claims the Democratic party has been “corrupted” and needs to put new candidates in office that share the authors’ “social movement values.” The authors also criticized the democratic party for their belief that the failure of the party lies in its inability to “push back against the billionaire class,” which they believe led to Trump”s victory:
“The Democratic Party is flooded with Wall Street and billionaire money. Democratic candidates court wealthy donors in order to fund their campaigns, and those donors don’t disappear after Election Day. They exert disproportionate influence on elected officials, making it harder for popular movements—movements made up of ordinary people—to have a voice…”
“…By the time Hillary Clinton ran for president, she was seen as the representative of a failed establishment. This allowed Trump to run against that establishment. Polls show that many of his supporters felt they were casting their votes less for Trump than against the status quo.”
The Republican party was bashed regularly throughout the guide. The author’s solution to all this seems to be to just put people who share their belief in power, effectively removing everyone who doesn’t; that includes officials who would typically be considered allies. It also seems to take on an almost anti-government tone as it says things like, “If the people lead, the leaders will follow,” “Putting our faith in politicians makes us forget the importance of our own power,” and, “Elected officials didn’t drive these changes—they raced to keep pace with them.”
The authors advocate for never getting discouraged, even when the movement seems to stall and to put “movement candidates” into office. By doing this they believe it will create a party that, “legitimately represents the people and our social movements.” They describe a movement candidate as:
“More than a “liberal” or “progressive” Democrat. A movement candidate is a candidate at any level of government who is not beholden to Wall Street funders and who recognizes the critical role of social movements in pushing for solutions. These candidates can energize people and give them hope for change—not only by saying the right things, but by demonstrating that they are not compromised by debts to the billionaire class.”
The website Our Wisconsin Revolution is promoting this “guide” to the people subscribed to their emailing list, praising it saying that it can, “Provide us with knowledge and confidence to continue to engage in our work and see it as part of a larger movement.” They also note that they “may not ‘agree’ on everything in the guide,” although exactly how much and what they don’t agree on isn’t discussed.