[Marxism] Forwarded from Derrick O'Keefe (wheatpasting)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 26 14:41:31 MST 2003

In Defense of Wheat Paste

I remember back last winter and spring, due to the massive anti-war rallies 
occurring worldwide, there was a lot of talk about how the internet had 
been a decisive factor in the size of the mobilizations.  At one point, 
there were a couple of pieces floating about the matrix celebrating the 
fact that the epoch of messy outdoor postering was over.  Wheat paste ­that 
simple yet incredibly effective “revolutionary glue” made with flour and 
water ­was to be relegated to the dustbin of history, replaced by email 
groups, websites and other on-line wonders of information dissemination.

Here in Vancouver, Canada, the internet euphoria extended even to the 
naming of the anti-war coalition, which at a fiery four-hour meeting was 
named StopWar.ca in a democratic vote (over the strenuous objections of an 
indignant minority).  At one point in early spring I even got the 
opportunity to do an interview on a mainstream radio station; not to talk 
about the war or the protests per se, but to discuss the role of the 
internet in mobilizing people.  Going along to some extent with the angle 
the interviewer was taking, I remember explaining that yes, obviously, 
emailing 1000 people at once is more efficient than individual phone 
calls.  And a significant amount of time, postage and airfare were being 
saved by our ability to consult webpages throughout the world to determine 
international days of action, themes for demonstrations, and to obtain 
graphics, slogans, articles, etc.  This I believe has been the biggest 
benefit of the internet ­coordinating nationally and internationally.

As far as local organizing, and local mobilizing, however, I’d argue that 
people (and specifically people willing to do consistent legwork) are still 
crucial.  Postering ­that time-honored leftist tradition unrecognized by 
the MSWord spell-checker and unappreciated by those whose causes receive 
easy publicity in the mainstream ­remains a critical form of outreach.  An 
email is easy to disregard or delete, becoming easier as spam increases 
exponentially.  A few thousand, or a few tens of thousands of posters 
throughout the city are harder to ignore.  Incidentally, a friendly phone 
call from a real person, and not from one of those terrifying recorded 
voice messages, is also harder to dismiss than an email.

Few activists seem keen to poster.  Fewer still are proficient at the 
skill.  Many assume that “postering” consists of taking a couple dozen 
posters and taping them up at bus stops or posting them in popular 
cafes.  The kind of “postering” I have been introduced to over the past 
couple of years involves serious hours (usually very late night) of 
postering, putting up hundreds every night.  For major events, two to ten 
or even twenty thousand posters can be produced and put up.  Aside from 
hitting lampposts in important neighborhoods and campuses, it is also 
important to have people willing to consistently visit shops, restaurants 
and cafes to inquire as to their willingness to post materials.

There are other benefits to postering, including the physical activity it 
forces upon the activists reduced to a sedentary lifestyle by frequent 
meetings.  Instead of having a small, informal meeting or discussion over 
coffee (or beer), have it over a couple of hours of moderate aerobic 
exercise, all the while publicizing your cause.  The activity also 
reinforces unity amongst activists.  Ie. Exchange posters rather than 
exchanging sectarian gossip: put up both anti-poverty and anti-war posters 
at the same time, or better yet poster at the same time for two groups with 
differing positions on the Kronstadt uprising ­it can be very therapeutic.

At the risk of embarrassingly overstating my case, I will conclude by 
asserting that the lack of a culture of postering reflects a generalized 
lack of activist and revolutionary culture.  As valuable and as 
international as the internet activist community has become, it can not 
replace the critical (and often messy) local work, putting up posters and 
putting back together coalitions and movements that can challenge the 
Empire, its junior imperial partners and rivals, and that so-often-unnamed 
dominant system, capitalism itself.

Derrick O'Keefe

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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