Sefat: Top 10 ways OWS can Excel: Counsel from Iran’s Green Movement

Kusha Sefat writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

Following the disputed Presidential election in Iran, our Western compatriots gave many suggestions on combating state oppression. Various tactics and strategies were devised for Iranian protesters, some on this very blog. It seems that most of those recommendations were ineffective within Iran’s particular social and political context. It may be worth outlining some of the tactics that were in fact useful to Iranian protesters particularly as the OWS movement kicks into high gear (assuming these tactics make sense within the American socio-political context). The following are the Top 10 most effective tactics for the OWS, stemming from the experience of mass social movement in Iran.

1) Pick a color to represent your movement and wear it daily in public places (work, restaurant, etc.). Remember, this is a numbers game. You want maximum visibility, and to bring your movement into everyday life.

2) Have an all-inclusive strategy. Accept people with different views who are willing to join you in protest. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to know what you want as a movement yet. The goal at this stage is to point to your opponents and say that they have been lying to you; that the show they have constructed is false and that you are sick of it.

3) Demonstrate peacefully. Committing violence during demonstrations leads to ruptures within your movement, diminishes public sympathy, and gives the security forces a reason to violently suppress your protest.

4) Be rigorous. Security forces, dressed as civilians, may commit public acts of violence in order to have an excuse to squash protests. Find footage of those that police accuses of acting violently. Make sure they are legitimate protestors. Expose them if they are not.

5) Be creative. During demonstrations in Iran, security forces dressed a male protester in female attire in a bid to embarrass him. The next day, hundreds of male protesters came out in female attire.

6) Record protests with your mobile phones and send to television stations. Many broadcasters are owned by the very people who are in the 1%. But every now and then, there are producers and news workers who are willing to get in trouble for showing the truth. This happened in Iran on many occasions. News websites have an e-mail address and they generally ask you to send them footage. Do IT.

7) Send your footage of acts of violence committed by the police to foreign television broadcasters like Al Jazeera, RT, etc. When they show the footage, it puts pressure on American broadcasters to do the same. (Iranian protestors used BBC very effectively, even though it is a British outlet).

8) Write, “I am 99%” or “OWS” on all dollar bills that you circulate. Remember, you are fighting on the plane of the symbolic, and cash circulates widely and quickly.

9) Do not let politicians co-opt your movement. Many politicians, domestic or not, may hope to use your movement to their advantage. Allow them to join your movement, but DO NOT let them lead or act as spokesperson.

10) Write arguments and op-eds that aim at the logic of the system that has robbed you of opportunities and comfort. Do not aim at a particular person. People can be replaced; it is the system that is hurting you.

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Kusha Sefat was a media consultant in Iran and is now a Doctoral Student in Sociology at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge

11 Responses

  1. I would suggest that the Occupy movement tell the professional left to take a long vacation. Haven’t we heard enough from these blathering careerists?

  2. [Send your footage of acts of violence committed by the police to foreign television broadcasters like Al Jazeera, RT, etc. When they show the footage, it puts pressure on American broadcasters to do the same. (Iranian protestors used BBC very effectively, even though it is a British outlet).]

    Knowing the Iranian Greens, I was eager to find something like this. Basically, they are a lot like CPUSA during the Cold War, so GOP types just dream that OWS will listen to such “friends” and start active cooperation with external hostiles. What about using the foreign funds?

  3. Green means environmental,. means DOLLARS, and means Islamic (to me anyhow): what would be a good color for OWS?

    Maybe bright RED (we are bleeding; STOP wall street, stop Wall street control 0f government).

    • Red. Red banners.

      I don’t think American viewers would think “Stop signs” if they saw lots of people in red marching against “corporate greed” and “Wall Street.”

  4. I really am afraid you may be operating on a couple of weak assumptions.

    One is that at some level these regimes, in a given case, have a sense of shame. Another is that they do NOT believe that ends (THEIR ends) justify the means (ANY means). The best you can hope for in such a case is that, as in Syria today, the net effect of such an approach is to modulate the degree of ruthlessness shown by the regime.

    With a more “civilized” (ie, media-savvy/sensitive) regime, this modulation can be important, because the regime is not going to want to come down so hard as to incite a more serious problem than its already gotten. Ergo, let the people vent, then send out tax rebates, etc; Retain Hill & Knowlton or the Lincoln Group; take their advice seriously.

    So, yeah, if you want kinder, gentler, and more sensitive regime sodomizing you, this is a good play book. But when you are facing an entrenched oligarchy, or a family that’d rather die than let go of (some) sovereignty, you have to meet that particular energy with your own; that you may have to go through several iterations to get it right is to be expected: you have to find some founding fathers/mothers who are not corrupted by the power they’ll initially need do have to get things done. Think Attaturk (and even his case is arguable). The scenarios we see today are not analogous to Gandhi getting the Crown to finally let go of India.

    Smell the coffee. With all due respect.

  5. I think the most important demand the protesters should make is to clean up politics. At present the politicians are wholly bought by the rich and powerful by their huge contributions to the election funds. In any “western democracy” it is impossible to win an election without the support of the corporations and bankers and all the rich people who provide the funds and then receive the benefits when their candidates get in power.
    Just today it has been in the news that the top 1% of rich Americans receive 17% of income and in the UK, the top company directors have received 49% raise in their income in the last year. What action have the politicians taken? Of course none. The politicians belong to the corporations and the other “haves” and work to increase their master’s wealth.
    The only way politics can be cleaned is for all contributions to be stopped and election to be funded by the state to create an environment where ordinary people can take part in the elections. There is no hope of any change as long as our rulers remain in the pocket of the rich.

  6. Despite occurring in several cities and getting television coverage, the Occupy Wall Street movement is small in numbers, barely articulate in many cases, and cetainly does not represent 99 percent of the American public. Just because one does not fall into the One Percent does not automatically translate into OWS representing one. It is not that black and white, and it is presumptuous and arrogant for the OWS to claim to represent everyone who does not fall into the One Percent. When winter sets in, they will fold their tents and go home.

    • And then the One Percent grows its income to 20% of all income in the US, then 30%, then 40 and 50%…

      So do you have any idea how to stop America from become Big El Salvador at all? Because at that point we will have perfectly replicated what Marx said would happen in the later days of capitalism, and as JFK pointed out, when peaceful revolution becomes impossible, all that’s left is violence.

      • Your comment may or may not have validity, but it does not address my claim that the OWS movement is small in numbers, in many cases is barely articulate, is presumtuous and arrogant in claiming to represent 99 percent of the population, and will fold up when winter sets in.

        • Since you’ve already decided that they will lose, my claim is that it is therefore time to consider violent revolution. I would rather die than live in what this country will become under corporate feudalism.

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