September 12, 2017

Bookshelf: Hegemon How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals

Bruce Levine - Occupy Wall Street insider Jonathan Smucker’s recently published Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals (AK Press, 2017) is the post-Occupy guide for how to be smarter about politics. Smucker, a long-time grassroots organizer, does not dismiss what Occupy did right but is honest about its failures. The 99% remain just as powerless as ever, and we still have endless wars, corporate control, and increasing social and economic injustices.

In the tradition of Saul Alinsky and Antonio Gramsci, Smucker points out that “knowledge of what is wrong with a social system and knowledge of how to change the system are two completely different categories of knowledge.” ...

....Failed social movements, Smucker tells us, often don’t overcome the political identify paradox. Specifically, social movements need to foster a group identify and have a dedicated core willing to put in many hours. But fostering this group identity can lead to isolation and failure to connect with others outside the group. The group that only cares about cohesiveness and maintaining its identity is not going to accomplish anything but just that. Focusing exclusively on creating a strong identify can “create a wall between them and potential allies.” Smucker observes, “Building a community, for example, is a worthy pursuit. But these motivations become a problem when they trump our motivation to accomplish our ostensible political goals.”

One byproduct of focusing too much on group identity is being dismissive of potential allies because they were not radical enough. For Smucker, “Every time a prominent supporter was snubbed, a message was sent to all potential supporters: ‘Your support is not wanted. This thing is ours.’ ”

Successful social movements build a large base of support “outside the choir,” and they put great effort into actively courting influential supporters. Smucker tells us, “Occupy Wall Street had an incredible opportunity to do this—indeed, many influential supporters were courting us—but too often we did precisely the opposite.”



Anonymous said...

"The 99% remain just as powerless as ever, and we still have endless wars ..."

It's amazing how much of the world's population has been conditioned to the acceptance of warfare, dictated by their leaders, as a way of resolving domestic and international disputes.

What fault in the human psyche impels usually sane people to kill and maim others, and risk their own lives, by going to war on the whim of an often demented politician who is too cowardly to go to war himself?

Any politician who initiates warfare should be dragged, by an internationally sanctioned body, to the International Court Of Justice.

Put an end to the insanity of warfare by helping people understand that warfare is insanity, sponsored by the ruling class as a way to increase the size of their bank accounts.
This is true regardless of the propaganda used to promote this legalized form of murder.

See retired marine corp General Smedley Butler's book 'War is a Racket'.
Free download:

Anonymous said...

7:53, imo the fault you refer to is a belief as powerful as it is self-harming; belief that social hierarchy is both right and inevitable - in other words the erroneous belief that people living in relations of superiority to inferiority is the natural order. People thus pitted against each other is the artificially manufactured order - and the entire evil is built upon this error - but anyway I have long been trying to help people understand that militarism is psychopathology, that it is injustice that drives all the violence - primarily injustice in wealth - and that equality is the only cure, equal reward for equal sacrifice to working is the lasting paradise nobody wants - ahem - anyway I have stolen your wonderful post to share in future as my efforts continue to the day I die. When will men grow bold and brave enough to reject war altogether? Who knows - but it will happen or we go extinct. we will end wars via a just cap on personal fortunes or wars will end us - that is a given.

Anonymous said...

I realize that not even Sam Smith can think this far outside the pyramid, but I'll say it anyway as it must be learned if humans are to survive: Protesting sends exactly the wrong message to everybody and needs to be replaced altogether. Protesting sends the message that it is good to fight wealthpower giants for our rights, it is right to fight wealthpower giants for our rights, it is just to fight wealthpower giants for our rights, it is necessary to fight wealthpower giants for our rights, and it will always be good, right, just, and necessary to fight wealthpower giants for our rights.

That thinking - or unthinking - is what is keeping humans locked in the lethal paradigm of existing in relations of inferiority to superiority. Before humans can wake FROM the nightmare of history they must wake up TO what the nightmare of history IS: it is physically impossible for anyone to self-earn the size of fortune that hands them overpower - we have wealthpower giants simply because we have been hoodwinked into using division of labor as an excuse to allow pay to range from a thousand dollars a lifetime to a thousand dollars a second! Pure Insanity! An insane ratio that will be gone as soon as a majority sees the big picture is killing us all and our planet and it isn't on the news!

Anonymous said...

"I have long been trying to help people understand that militarism is psychopathology,"

You've got that right, 9:37 AM.

Anyone who chooses to make his living killing people is not psychologically healthy.

Anonymous said...

Alinsky, Gramsci? The radical Republicans of 1856 get a bit closer to the relevant meaning of the term. As JQA taught, to have any impact in preventing the defeat of democracy radicalism must get elected and then stay radical in office. The sacred texts in this regard are the speeches of Sen. Charles Sumner, particularly that which provoked the assassination attempt on the senate floor in 1856.