The makings of a social movement

By: Nilo Exar, Staff Writer

A self-labeled anarchist, writer, educator and organizer, Chris Dixon spoke at TU’s annual International Studies Symposium on Wednesday about how organizers and protesters can better create a successful movement.

Dixon, author of “Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements,” defined the “anti-authoritarian current,” which he said applies to “the politics opposing the interlocking systems that produce inequality and violence” and “grassroots movements among people who aren’t activists.”

To begin, he provided examples of movements during which ordinary people united and became activists. He referenced the women of color feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, which he referred to as intersectional movement – a movement for the rights in regards to race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.

Towson students also spoke to the value of grassroots movements among ordinary people.

“I’d definitely cling to the anti-authoritarian sentiment of the lecture, specifically the idea that it is a conglomerate of movements. There’s not really one set thing that is going on, it’s a bunch of different people who are politically involved who probably wouldn’t even consider themselves politically involved… that really stuck with me,” sophomore English major John Gillespie said.

“Posting your opinion on Facebook is not ‘organizing,’ it is actually a way of political expression,” Dixon said, noting that social media can be a useful social organization tool, but it often isn’t used that way.

“There is still something crucial and vital about people having real conversations in real places,” Dixon said.

He also said that because technology accelerates events, movements that might have been strong can be quickly forgotten.

To best create a strong movement, Dixon said, it matters how people treat one another.

“One thing that we learn well is how to treat people with rivalry, contempt [and] objectification,” Dixon said. “There are still a lot of people treating each other badly…even in activist groups.”

He said that having an experimental approach in terms of tactics in movement-building leads to more successful activism. He said that often times, movements could do the same tactics and then repeat them over and over, without analyzing how well they are working.

“We should think and act much more dynamically than [using the same tactics],” Dixon said.

Dixon concluded by saying, due to the amount of human suffering in the world today, there is a great need for movements.

“My understanding of right now is that life and life making is being undermined and there is incredible violence… produced by humans,” Dixon said.  “It’s definitely on us to figure out how we are going to work in this very imperfect situation.”


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