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The United States is going in the wrong direction on a wide range of social, economic and foreign policy issues and people are justifiably upset and angry. One question we are regularly asked is: “What should I do?” In our last two newsletters, we examined the stages of successful social movements to show how movements can progress toward victories. This week, we attempt to answer the question by describing the fifth class of the Popular Resistance School, “The Roles of Individuals and Movements” and how to be effective at them.
There are many necessary roles in the popular movement at this time, which means there is something for everyone to do. We are at a critical moment when the fifteen core issues of the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace are in crisis and people are organizing to solve them.
As we wrote in 2011, during the preparations to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on a broad range of issues from taxing the rich to getting money out of politics to strengthening the social safety net and more, there is already majority support. In 2014, Josh Sager demonstrated that while in electoral politics the US appears to be center-right (and shifting ever rightward), the people’s positions are center-left. National consensus for solutions to the crises is growing despite the lack of commercial media coverage.
The necessary ingredients for winning major social changes – national consensus on issues and a mobilized ‘movement of movements’ – are developing, but these ingredients merely create the conditions for change. To realize those changes, we need to understand what the various roles are that people need to take on and how to be effective in those roles by avoiding the pitfalls that could undermine our work toward the society we desire to create.
Four Essential Roles In The Movement
There are four basic roles in a movement and each one is needed. Some people can play more than one role or can move from one to another and some will be most comfortable focusing on one role.