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ten commandments of effective struggle… (interview with Mike Davis)

November 14, 2011

Last week (November 12) RAIN had an email interview with Mike Davis.

Rest of the interview will appear in the printed version of RAIN (coming out later in December) but below is one of the answers. 


rain– What do you see when you compare the youth-led movements of the 60s with what has occurred since, i.e. the anti-corporate globalization movement and now the Occupy movement? Do you think the Occupy movement will have a long lasting impact? Will we see some profound radical change?

Mike Davis:

Right now the Occupy movements are candles in a storm.  Can they kindle real social fires?  Especially when so many dark forces are being released by the global depression?

I have no profound answers and the Sixties are, at best, only a partial template, if that.  But I would advocate ten commandments of effective struggle, synthesized from the experiences of both the 1930s and 1960s.

First, the categorical imperative is to organize or rather to facilitate other peoples’ self-organization.

Second, leadership must be temporary and subject to recall.  The job of a good organizer, as it was often said in the civil rights movement, is to organize themselves out of a job, not to become indispensable.

Third, protesters must subvert the media’s constant tendency toward metonymy – the designation of the whole by a part, the group by an individual.  (Consider how bizarre, for instance, that in the USA we have’ Martin Luther King Day’ rather than ‘Civil Rights Movement Day.’)  Spokespeople should regularly be rotated.

Fourth, the same warning applies to the relationship between a movement and individuals who participate as an organized bloc.  I very much believe in

the necessary of an organized revolutionary left, but groups can only claim authenticity if they give priority to building the struggle and keep no secret agenda from other participants.

Fifth, as we learned the hard way in the 1960s, consensual democracy is not identical to participatory democracy.   For affinity groups and communes, consensus decision-making may work admirably, but for any large or long term protest, some form of representative democracy is essential to allow the broadest and most equal participation.  The devil, as always, is in the details: the necessity of rotating positions, ensuring that any delegate can be recalled, formalizing rights of political minorities, guaranteeing affirmative representation, and so on.

At the end of the day, good anarchists, who believe in direct self-government, will find much of value in Roberts’ Rules of Order  (a useful technology for organized discussion and decision-making).

Sixth, an ‘organizing strategy’ is not only a plan for enlarging participation in protest, it must also be a strategy for aligning protest with the constituencies that bear the brunt of exploitation and oppression.

For example, one of the most brilliant strategic moves of the Black liberation movement in the late 1960s was to take the struggle inside the auto plants in Detroit.

Today, ‘Occupying the Hood’ is a similar challenge.  And the Occupy movements must especially respond to human rights crisis in working-class immigrant communities.  The immigrant rights protests five years ago were amongst the largest mass demonstrations in US history.  Perhaps next May Day we can hope to see a convergence of all the anti-inequality protests  on a single day of action.

Seventh, building movements of poor and working-class people require organizational infrastructures to deal with elementary survival issues (food, shelter, childcare) and to overcome unequal educational and skill backgrounds.

In the long winters ahead, survival collectives which enable lives of struggle are more essential than ever.

Similarly we must rebuild the apparatus of movement-committed legal professionals (like the National Lawyers Guild) that played such a vital role in sustaining protest in face of mass repression in the 1960s.  Likewise we need to establish local and national bail funds.

Eighth, the future of the Occupy movement will be determined less by the numbers in Liberty Park (although its survival is a sine qua non) than by the boots on the ground in Dayton, Cheyenne, Hattisburg and El Paso.  The geographical spread of the protests is in many cases equivalent to growing inclusivity of people of color and trade unionists.  The advent of social media has dramatically accelerated such growth, as well as creating a space for discussions between (non-leadership) activists all over the country and the world.   But Occupy Main Streets need more support from better resourced and mediagenic metropolitan groups.  A national speakers and performers bureau would be invaluable.

Conversely, it is essential to bring the stories from the heartlands and borders to national protest audiences.   The narrative of protest needs to become a mural of what ordinary people are fighting for across the country, e.g., stopping strip-mining in Mingo County, West Virginia; reopening hospitals in Laredo; supporting dockworkers in Longview, Washington; fighting a fascist sheriffs’ department in Tucson; protesting death squads in Tijuana; or global warming in Saskatoon; and so on.

Ninth, the increasing participation of unions in Occupy protests – including the stirring mobilization that forced the NYPD to back down from its attempt to evict OWC –is mutually transformative and raises the hope (unrealized by the anti-Vietnam student movement) that this can become an authentic class struggle after all.

Yet at the same time, we should have no illusions that the majority of the union leadership is still committed to its disastrous marriage to the Democratic Party, as well as to internecine union wars that have squandered most of the promise of a new beginning for labor.   Anti-capitalist protesters need to more effectively hook up with rank and file opposition groups and progressive caucuses within the unions.

Tenth, one of the simplest but most important lessons we learned during the Civil Rights era was to learn to speak in the vernacular.

Thus a good starting point for an agenda that would unify the greatest number of people in the current rebellion is FDR’s 1944 campaign platform: An Economic Bill of Rights.  This was the most advanced reform idea to arise from US labor and democratic forces in the twentieth century.

It is a clarion-like definition of the essential rights to employment, housing, healthcare and decent life.  It should be the existential minimum demand for any movement proclaiming to oppose inequality.  It also embodies every neoliberal and reactionary’s worst fear: a foundational entitlement to economic justice.

When the famed writer Upton Sinclair undertook his sensational and nearly successful campaign for Governor of California in 1935, his manifesto, ‘End Poverty in California Now,’ was essentially the program of the Socialist Party translated in New Testament parables.   FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights, by the same token, is incontestably the legacy of the mainstream but objectively anti-capitalist.



October 31, 2011

Deadline for Issue #5 is November 10th, 2011. Don’t be late!

Calling all artists, writers, and zine enthusiasts!

Some of the themes of this issue are: creating counter-institutions, radical social change, decolonization and deschooling!

be part of this issue! here’s how:

1. send us something: an essay, poem, interview, art, etc., that is about the themes above or something you think would be awesome for RAIN!

2. make it with us! join us with the layout, editing and design (do let me know soon if you do want to do this)

3. Please send us your stuff by November 10th

radical social change

Want to be a part of RAIN? Look no further than this very website!

First, read rain so you know what we are all about! In short, we like offbeat, critical discussions, rants, counter-culture, independent, emerging writers (first time writers). We are keen about Vancouver living;  ideas and dialogue about how to make it a better city. Global perspectives are also welcomed.

See Here for further information

Slug! the newest zine published by RAIN!

September 28, 2011



We’ve taken the RAIN zine template and done our own thing! still a RAIN production, but a new flavour. We call it Slug Zine.


Amazing Local Poets

All about Cascadian Black metal

Backyard Mutual Aid by Derrick Jensen

A Radical Critique of Veganism

Social Change from Below… creating counter institutions

DVD: Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside

Beautiful local artists

and much much more!

pick up a copy at your local rad book/zine store or at the purple thistle centre!

under the umbrella!

February 14, 2011

hey rain friends!

The past few months have been pretty exciting for the rain crew.  A bunch of youth have come together at the purple thistle centre to make a new zine called SLUG!!  The current collective is a mix of former rainers and a few brand new folks.   Maya and Mike Jo have stepped in to co-ordinate the making of this issue, which is fucking awesome of them!  As the process went on it was evident that this group was imagining something a bit different from RAIN’ZINE, so we put our heads together and decided that the best way to make this zine represent the folks making it was to re-name it.  And they did, it’s called SLUG! check it out. This new issue and launch party will be coming our way early March!

With the changes going on at RAIN, I realized that RAIN, while still small, low-to-the-ground, has moved beyond a one zine project, and that’s fantastic.  It is now a guerrilla art project, and with the soon out new zine, Slug – one under the umbrella of RAIN – I think we may have a radical micro (super micro) media/publishing project emerging and I couldn’t be happier.

in solidarity,


RAIN’ZINE is back!

August 4, 2010

hello friends!

After a little break from zine making (but lots of in our community time) we decided that making the zines are super fun! so with  a bunch of new folks – that’s right, there is now a larger, eager, and tremendously talented collective – we are  ready to make a new rain’zine!.

We work out of the Purple Thistle Centre, a youth run arts and activism centre, and  meet weekly and usually Sunday’s (check thistle webpage for current details). All welcomed.

We will update our ‘rainy day people‘ page soon! Then you can all get to know the new rain peeps!

Submission deadline for issue #5 is September 30th !

please see submissions page for further details


the RAIN crew

c.r. avery: “Coroner’s Office and Figure Eights” rain content #4

February 17, 2010

My sister was a figure skater
i grew up in rinks
i know their smell well
combination of compressed ice and popcorn
i used to stand on a chair and draw at the counter of the little rink canteen
i could choose one law bidding sweet treat
a croatian chocolate bar
bag of lick your lips salty chips
or crackerjacks with the treasure map inside
and so on and so forth
i’d peek over the counter
talking with the nice lady who sold the candy bars and hot dogs
spending hours deciding what my choice that day would be
while i drew

for the full poem go here: cravery

Issue #4 Submission Deadline — Oct 1st

September 12, 2009

Got something to say about Vancouver living? Do you care about activism, art, music, and your community? Tell us about it! Write something, draw something, photograph something, wax poetic about something, then submit something. 

Check out our submissions page for more info

Friends of RAIN at the Folk Fest!

July 13, 2009

Hey all!

It’s that time of year again, The 32nd annual Vancouver Folk Fest is just around the corner (the corner being July 17-19, 2009). If you haven’t already gotten your tickets, you should be ashamed of yourself. The Fest this year is teeming with talent, Geoff Berner, Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few, Dan Mangan, and Iron and Wine are playing, and that’s just a drop in the bucket of names for this year’s lineup.

Check out the list at 2009 Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Come on out and support the Folk Festing, can’t wait to see you there.

What is rain?

June 22, 2009

Rain’zine is eclectic — there is a little something in it for everyone: our youth, our elders, the artist, the musician, the poet, the edgy hipster, the old lefty, the anarchist, the deschooler, the freak and the geek (to name just a few). Ultimately, rain’zine is meant to engage all of our parts: our guts, our hearts and our minds. Rain is more than a zine and a collective, it’s an ongoing, ever evolving collaborative community-building art project, and at its core is all of Carla’s passion–her guts, her heart and her mind. Thank you Carla.

love, Dana.

Must Analogue and Digital Compete? by Dorian Taylor

June 10, 2009

We align analogue experiences with warmth, intimacy, nostalgia and tangible connection. We align digital experiences with business, mathematics, science and technology. Analogue is graceful and sensual yet humanistically scruffy. Digital is cold, precise, clinical. Digital is work, analogue is play.

My thesis is that to cleave these two concepts into a dichotomy (a digital notion) is to deny the fascinating, practical and surprising ways they complement and co-mingle with one another. I begin thus by describing the concepts of analogue and digital and follow through with how they interact. It is my goal to show you that they mutually support rather than compete with one another.

Analogue = Experiences

The analogue form is called such because the relationship between it and an original experience is analogous. Analogue is Greek for proportionate, as in there is a direct relationship between the form and the original. An analogue experience entails being there in some way or another.

When it got its start, information and communication technology was primarily analogue: you had to be physically present to produce and consume it. Images and messages were composed one by one, and by hand — there was no distinction between the artifact and what it conveyed. To get from place to place, even abstract ideas had to be physically picked up and carried.

In early recording and replication technology, such as lithography, one would create a master on a durable material like stone and then ink it and take an imprint. In the case of sound recording, acoustic waves emanating from the performers would cause a large cone connected to a metal needle to vibrate, scratching the pattern of the sound directly into a wax surface. In the case of photography, light reflected off the subject would enter a box with a tiny opening in the front and react with a silver halide paste smeared across the opposing surface. Even though these techniques have accrued sometimes centuries of refinement (and often combine with one another), they maintain the same principles: every analogue recording, romantically enough, contains at least a small part of the original experience.

Digital = Symbols

The digital experience, by contrast, is about symbols. A digit, as we know, is a finger or toe, as it would be used (in what would have originally been an extraordinary leap of abstraction) for counting. Therefore, in order to understand the digital form, we must understand symbols.

Symbols are an important part of being human. Symbols carry our language; they are our method of moving abstract ideas from person to person. Symbols are discrete, meaning they are noticeably different from one another. (The English language has conveniently provided us with an apt example: discrete does not mean the same thing as discreet.)

A symbol has no mass or volume on its own, but it is bound in some way to a physical medium. As such, symbols can be made arbitrarily large or small, dense or sparse. Unlike the physical stuff that carries them, symbols can be created and destroyed by changing the shape of the stuff. One symbol can be substituted for another freely as long as we can infer the intended meaning of the original. Symbols can be counted, compared, standardized and operated on in myriad ways, from arithmetic to bold-facing and onward.

We can decompose complex symbols into simpler ones and use the very same to reconstitute them, just as we do with words and letters, or prime factors of numbers. We can do this all the way down to the simplest symbol of all: the binary digit or bit, which can only exist as a “yes” or “no”. The bit was famously referred to by the pioneering systems scientist Gregory Bateson as “the difference which makes a difference”.

The prevailing technology we use to  manipulate symbols en masse is the electronic, digital, binary computer — but not every computer need be this way. That is, there exist analogue computers (like a mechanical clock, sextant or slide rule), as well as chemical, pneumatic and hydraulic computers of both digital and analogue varieties. There is even a digital computer made out of Tinker-Toys and powered by elastic bands. The first electronic computers used decimal numbers rather than binary digits. What we use now is what turned out to be the most convenient and versatile technology to produce, and it is rapidly subsuming every application involving symbols and discrete signals.

The way analogue signals are converted to messages of digital symbols is through a process called sampling. The waveform of the aforementioned sound recording would be sliced up into tiny slivers and each assigned to a symbol composed out of a certain number of bits. Likewise with the photograph, but instead it would be diced vertically and horizontally into dots or pixels, and given a similar treatment.

Analogue Begets Digital (Begets Analogue)

Analogue and digital forms are inextricably connected. While the mechanism of an old grandfather clock may be analogue, the markings on its face (and how they are read) are digital. Gutenberg’s printing press was analogue, but the movable type within, being made of interchangeable symbols, was digital. Enjoying a string quartet playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in a park may be an analogue experience, but the notes on the sheet music that the performers read are part of a digital system.

Conversely, if we listen to the same performance on an iPod, which stores music digitally, the signal becomes analogue by the time it hits the headphones. If we watch our favorite speaker give an address on YouTube, her script, being made of words, is digital. The recording may well be captured, stored and transcoded in a myriad digital formats, relayed across the planet over several digital networks and displayed over a digital signal to a digital screen. Her rhetoric and the way we interpret it, however, is analogue.

The signal that saves the digital data of her speech to our computer’s hard drive is extrapolated from tiny analogue splotches of magnetically-polarized metal. The way the circuitry itself is made for our digital computers is analogue: spread some stuff on a plate and bake it! Our DNA — possibly our most intimate feature — is digital. It gets from place to place, however, in a fashion that is decidedly analogue.

At some point in the system, there has to be real stuff occupying real space and time, and that is inherently analogue. An analogue object can carry any number of analogue or digital channels, which can house any number of messages carrying any number of symbols. These symbols can then be transposed to other analogue objects or commuted onward into new analogue (and digital) experiences.