After Detroit: A Suggestion for The After Party

Last month, in a Huffington Post piece, U.S. Uncut cofounder Carl Gibson made a welcome call for the formation of a new political party, populist and explicitly anti-capitalist. Thirty-one days later, Occupy Wall Street and U.S. Uncut announced that founding members of those groups would be launching The After Party on May 2. As of the announcement, The After Party’s website was already up, with a powerful Manifesto and appealing Platform.

Much to Offer

These activists are actually seeking to do what I have been saying we need to do, and there is much that is heartening in their online documents:
  • They proclaim that we can and must go for political power, not just organize protests to try to make a government beholden to the very rich do the right thing.
  • They seem to set out most of what we need to create once we achieve that political power, and they express it simply and elegantly.
  • They stress listening to the voices of those groups who are marginalized.
  • They recognize that strong movement, one with staying power, needs space for creativity, art, music and fun.
  • Following successful revolutionary movements of the past, they emphasize the value of serving the people and supporting self-organization to meet the needs which are neglected by government for the few.
  • Their online presence shows a great sense of design and style.
  • They are savvy about using social media.
  • It looks like they have strong roots in a young demographic.
  • They already have at least one articulate and affable spokesperson in the person of Carl Gibson.
The After Party’s “Launch” The May 2 launch is actually an action, a day of “Flash Mob Mutual Aid” in Detroit, with apparently a few hours before and after to get organized and wind down: “We will work shoulder-to-shoulder under the guidance of local community activists to build urban gardens, clean up debris and serve food to the hungry.” Sounds like a wonderful event, and a great model for one form of service and movement-building.

The founders have not announced what is next, but I have a suggestion: Take a seeming step backward and open up the process of deciding how The After Party describes itself and how it will work. Not too wide open — another strength of these folks is that they are moving way beyond Occupy in their recognition of a need for a certain level of unity in program, strategy, tactics and organization. But for a group with some of its roots in that movement, the initial approach is surprisingly top down.

Where to Begin: Open the Doors I’ve written a narrative with one possible blueprint for creating a movement that can eventually topple — nonviolently — the unbridled reign of corporate capitalism. In that fictional retrospective on how we did it, those who saw the need the need to build a movement massive enough to displace the existing order engaged in a significant preparatory period before holding a founding convention for their party. They used that time to develop unity around program, strategy and tactics, as well as ensuring that their group was inclusive from the start. The initiators encouraged and provided support for hundreds of local study and discussion circles, which eventually gave way to regional conferences and then the founding convention. What emerged from that kind of launch was a true party — a mass membership organization, with affiliates all over the country, ready to do the work of educating and organizing their friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow congregants and growing itself into a force that could win.

Commendably, the After Party’s Manifesto says, “We have much to learn. We listen to each other. We listen first to those whom we’ve ignored. Blacks, Latinos, Arabs, Asians. Gay, bi and trans. Women. Children… [and] those whom we’ve forsaken. Native Americans.” If that listening takes place before the party really attempts to gel, its vision, program, strategy, tactics and ways of conducting its business internally will embody what must be learned from those usually ignored. Moreover, the party Iwant to be a part of will be composed, in significant part, of such folks, not be an us“learning” from them and belatedly trying to find ways to diversify. In addition, there are things that those of us whose roots go back to older movements can contribute as well.

What Can Be Missed by a Few Moving Too Fast None of us sees the whole picture — certainly I have already learned from what The After Party organizers are doing. And as good as The After Party’s Manifesto and Platform are, I suspect they did not result from an inclusive conversation about what to say in the program about
  • American militarism and imperial foreign policy (not mentioned),
  • whether to commit to non-violence or leave open the options of Black-Bloc-typevandalism and provocation and even armed self-defense (seemingly left open, by not being addressed),
  • whether to specially mention the voices and needs of people traditionally considered working-class regardless of race (unmentioned),
  • how to create a multi-class and multi-ethnic movement (the flash-mob tactic is suggestive, and parts of the program might attract an inclusive membership, but what else will we do to prevent those with more resources and education from dominating even our perspective on what needs to be said and done?),
  • the tricky question of how we participate in reform struggles while always building a movement for deep systemic change (unmentioned),
  • and the basic overall plan for building a movement (only a couple of pieces are addressed).
So far there is no means to communicate with the organization about these and other questions, other than posting comments on its Facebook page, or perhaps in informal conversations while being part of the Detroit flash mob.

Yet I am nearly certain that these creative, energetic and good-hearted folks don’t mean to exclude those of us who need agreement on some of the points noted above, as well internal democracy, in an organization we can commit to. I dearly hope they invite us in — not only to support what they are planning, but to be part of the conversation about what needs to happen and how to organize to do it.

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