Direct Action: A Beginners Note

Of late, in any spare time I have between work, being a father, a lover and a friend, I’ve been trying to hip myself to alternative futures. I began with a study of urbanisation and it’s effects on our daily existence and where we – as a collective mass – might likely head if we’re to get out of this mess. (I didn’t publish these findings, though I am now tempted to). I’ve been researching social and political theory in an attempt to, firstly gain a deeper understanding of how it is we got here, and to hopefully find an answer or at least a direction with which to take our/my contemporary woes with a view of lightening the load.

Within this search spanning about 5-6 months, I have of course stumbled upon numerous approaches, and have had to attempt a broad sweep so as to obtain a historical reference point, and be sure that I was on the right track. Some of my favourite potential futures relating to society and politics in general are, and have been Direct Action, Direct Democracy, Socialism and Anarchism. These are all very appealing to me, as I’m sure they are to many others. I would therefore like to begin a short referential directory for those also seeking similar outcomes and those wishing to ponder potential new/rehashed directions. As a small disclaimer; I see myself as a philosopher, so in light of new findings and sound reasoning against any of the above, below and future methodologies I may present I will gladly hear them out and allocate sufficient time to entertaining said alternatives.

So, with that in mind I will note that it’s very rare for me to take a large quote and post it to Paradigm Stretch. I will however as I feel it sheds some light on the direction I wish to take some of these blogs, as well as my own life and it may well help a few others in gaining a deeper understanding of a few of the principles of the systems and/or ideologies acknowledged above. Without further adieu, I’d like to refer you to a quote from Rob Sparrow’s Anarchist Politics and Direct Action, taken from David Graeber’s Direct Action: An Ethnography:

Direct Action aims to achieve our goals through our own activity rather than through the actions of others. It is about people taking power for them­ selves. In this, it is distinguished from most other forms of political action such as voting, lobbying, attempting to exert political pressure though industrial action or through the media. All of these activities… concede our power to existing institutions which work to prevent us from acting ourselves to change the status quo. Direct Action repudiates such acceptance of the existing order and suggests that we have both the right and the power to change the world. It demonstrates this by doing it. Examples of Direct Action include blockades, pickets, sabotage, squatting, tree spiking, lockouts, occupations, rolling strikes, slow downs, the revolutionary general strike. In the community it involves, amongst other things, establishing our own organizations such as food co-ops and community access radio and TV… Direct Action is not only a method of protest but also a way of “building the future now.” Any situation where people organize to extend control over their own circumstances without recourse to capital or state constitutes Direct Action … Where it succeeds, Direct Action shows that people can control their own lives-in effect, that an Anarchist society is possible.
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2 thoughts on “Direct Action: A Beginners Note

  1. There are times to think outside of the box and times to toss the box completely. Direct action is appealing in that it balances tangible statements of collective dissent with viable, alternative methods for moving forward. If the system is eventually torn down one day, there will need to be something to fill the void. For some, it is inconceivable that there are any new ways of living together on this infinite planet than the way it’s alway been. Good information and insights here.

    • I’m often confronted with those you mention unable to process alternatives. The only way I know how, as the old adage goes, is lead by example. Only when the new way is upon them will they shuffle.
      “Viable alternative methods of moving forward”?. Indeed Jeff. I’m looking forward to more readings and applications, or, following the praxis.

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