paul engler

paul enger

intro’d to Paul here.. via michel fb share.. article from 2014 – should we fight the system or be the change:


Paul Engler is a co-founder of the Momentum Training, which instructs hundreds of activists each year in the principles of effective protest. He is the co-author, along with Mark Engler, of the new book on the craft of mass mobilization, This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (Nation Books). He can be reached via the website

Paul Engler is founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, based in Los Angeles. He worked for more than a decade as an organizer in the immigrant rights, global justice, and labor movements.

from (2014) article:

It is an old question in social movements: Should we fight the system or “be the change we wish to see”? Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?

For those who wish to both live their values and impact the world as it now exists, the question is: How can we use the desire to “be the change” in the service of strategic action?

This split between “movement” and “counter-culture” is vividly illustrated in the documentary Berkeley in the Sixties… Melton’s passion was for something different, a “politics of hip,” in which “we were setting up a new world that was going to run parallel to the old world, but have as little to do with it as possible.”

Where strategic politics favors the creation of organizations that can marshal collective resources and gain influence in conventional politics, prefigurative groups lean toward the creation of liberated public spaces, community centers and alternative institutions — such as squats, co-ops and radical bookstores. Both strategic and prefigurative strategies may involve direct action or civil disobedience. However, they approach such protest differently. Strategic practitioners tend to be very concerned with media strategy and how their demonstrations will be perceived by the wider public; they design their actions to sway public opinion. In contrast, prefigurative activists are often indifferent, or even antagonistic, to the attitudes of the media and of mainstream society. They tend to emphasize the expressive qualities of protest — how actions express the values and beliefs of participants, rather than how they might impact a target.

Alternative communities developed “within the shell of the old” create spaces that can support radicals who chose to live outside the norms of workaday society and to make deep commitments to a cause.

yeah.. not deep/free enough.. always the raised eyebrow

Another strength of prefigurative politics is that it is attentive to the social and emotional needs of participants. *It provides processes for individuals’ voices to be heard .. t and creates networks of mutual support to sustain people in the here and now.

*no one has done that to date ie: not for all the people.. so not for one of them – (none free if one chained et al) – won’t work if not for all

but again.. we have the means to do what those words we keep repeating are saying..

we just can’t seem to let go enough to give it a try

But what works well for small groups can sometimes become a liability when a movement tries to scale up and gain mass support. Jo Freeman’s landmark essay, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” makes this point in the context of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Freeman argued that a prefigurative rejection of formal leadership and rigid organizational structure *served second-wave feminists well early on when the movement “defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising.” However, she contends, when the movement aspired to go beyond meetings that raised awareness of common oppression and began to undertake broader political activity, the same anti-organizational predisposition became limiting. The consequence of structurelessness, Freeman argues, was a tendency for the movement to generate “much motion and few results.”

yeah.. i think we’ve read that wrong .. ie: *who’s been served well? it was a tragedy of the non common from the get go.. structure.. yeah.. but nothing like what we’ve ever tried so far..

freeman structurelessness law et ali think sh ie: 2 convers as infra.. to facil all of us.. rather than some number of us under 150 et al

The challenge for those who wish to produce social change is to balance the competing impulses of the two approaches in creative and effective ways — so that we might experience the power of a community that is committed to living in radical solidarity, as well as the joy of transforming the world around us.

2 convers as infra


next read .. march 2020 article – corona historic trigger needs response:

Brother Paul with an important article, now up at @wagingnv: “Coronavirus is a historic trigger event — and it needs a movement to respond”

Original Tweet:

Trigger events can create confusion and unease. But they also present tremendous opportunities for people who have a plan and know how to use the moment to push forward their agendas.

The New Deal’s emergence as a response to the Great Depression of the 1930s is one example, as is the more recent Occupy Sandy’s mobilization in New York City to support hurricane-ravaged communities in 2012. Rebecca Solnit’s 2009 book “A Paradise Built in Hell” contains myriad more examples of humane, collective efforts that responded to disaster.

non deep/simple/open enough .. no? otherwise we wouldn’t be in the state we’re in now.. we keep spinning our wheels with bandaids/responses.. rather than a legit new ‘plans’

ie: short bp et al

In my writing on social movements, I have argued that triggers create liminal spaces that mass protest movements can use to mobilize the forces of grassroots democracy. ..t

yeah.. what if the idea of ‘democracy’ keeps getting in the way.. ie: curiosity over decision making; listening to all the voices everyday as it could be; et al

Many of the great social movements of the past have been born out of these moments. But these moments require skillful navigation, the ability to use “prophetic promotion” to spread a humane vision, and the faith that mass mobilization can open new avenues to change that, at the outset, seem distant and improbable.

yeah.. like something this seemingly crazy/simple: 2 convers as infra

In order to craft a people’s response to the pandemic, we should draw both on the possibilities of new technology that allow for decentralized action and some time-honored lessons from past social movements.

history isn’t that helpful.. ie: most of it is non-legit data from whales in sea world.. and then we keep using research of that history to further coerce/colonize/oppress/enclose (ie: literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things)

Right now, lots of people are formulating action plans and policy demands, focusing on how the government should respond or measures that elected officials might pass by way of emergency response.. What’s missing is a platform and vision for mass participation — a means through which people can join in and collectively take part in a movement to create the type of just response our society needs. A movement can support, amplify, and fill in the gaps left by government and the health care infrastructure.

or maybe we focus on infra for a deeper issue/problem/emergency/healthcare

A social movement *response to major trigger events often emerges from **unexpected places..t

yeah.. again.. less about responding.. more about having a vision in place before the shock (hard to hear clearly during.. too busy responding)

**yeah.. let’s look/listen there..

the vacuum that exists in terms of mobilizing large numbers of people to change what are perceived as needed and possible solutions to the crisis.

what world needs most: the energy of 8b alive people.. let’s focus on that healthcare crisis

The good news is that there are clear historical examples in which social movements have been able to step into the vacuum of a crisis, and we have seen several of these in the past decade and a half.

not yet deep enough.. no?.. people being nicer.. but no solid infra to include everyone..

yet we do have the means for that infra (as it could be).. and we’re missing it.. ie: can you hear me?

(goes on to describe how we could come together to share info about virus)

but.. that is a response (a nice one for sure – ie: trying to take care of people).. not a movement.. no?

Whether the Sanders campaign seizes this opportunity, or an alternate framework for collective action arises, a mass movement response to the coronavirus pandemic cannot come too soon. For our own sake, and that of our society as a whole, let us help the drive toward solidarity emerge.

but even deeper (and where i thought you were going.. when talking about ie: occupy et al dying out).. this is a great opp to get to the roots of healing.. not just bandaids for this virus..  no?


1 hour video – Movement Structure and Narrative – XR talks with Paul Engler (Part 2/2) – ‘Zoom’ Video Conference – 20 March 2019 – Extinction Rebellion []

6 min – if don’t have clear dna.. pre established culture becomes grounds of how you fight..

7 min – helpful to have some level of leadership that is acknowledged.. because tyranny of structurelessness.. great piece.. basically says.. just because you say horizontal.. there are always leaders.. forcing things thru norms becomes more important if you don’t have clear/transparent structures to manage processes

freeman structurelessness law – yeah.. i don’t know if it’s about people in power.. or formal mech in place.. ie: 2 convers as infra.. to facil all of us.. rather than some number of us under 150 et al

8 min – so basically.. a lot of times.. if good process of figuring out problems.. then creating training that disseminate down.. but basically most people don’t like those trainings..

yeah.. perhaps thinking we need training is a red flag we’re doing it wrong..

9  min – a lots of times there’s a slow process around consensus getting people to go for training.. and a lot of that is non coercive

yeah.. not buying that..

ie: no truly free person’s first choice is to be trained

public consensus is a time suck.. and it always oppresses someone(s)

let go

let’s try curiosity over decision making

9 min – sometimes that works.. but some times that a war.. sucks.. so by doing front loading and good initiation training .. movements don’t have to have as many of those bitter fights

sounds like rationale for school/work.. tame us.. (rather than org us in a natural way – which we can now do)

let go

10 min – we have this phrase.. ‘momentum creates alignment.. alignment doesn’t create momentum’.. when moving.. directed outward.. like a hooneymoon..  a lot of alignment.. then wares off.. and becomes less directed outward.. insular.. natural process.. that challenge is hard when don’t have front training

nah.. you’re looking at whales in sea world

12 min – still need lots of training that upgrades people on skills.. one of most healthy ways to get unity/alignment

oh my

let go man

stopped listening here (for now anyway) – zoom call so people asking questions et al


to virus leap.. et al