Dispatches has received a communique from an anonymous collective called OBU, announcing a sixteen-part Manifesto. The group has stated that it intends to send Dispatches one section every week over the next four months. The Manifesto apparently meditates on the current conjuncture and calls for the formation of a diffused cultural resistance of a brand new kind. The Manifesto as a whole is entitled OBU Manifestos 1-14 (Plus Two OBU Interludes). Past sections of the manifesto can be found under our Dispatches section tab, where they will be archived as they arrive.
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OBU Manifesto #12
OBU is the movement that does not exist.
If a group exists, it cannot be OBU.
No, that can’t be right, exactly. OBU is One Big UNION.
Therefore it is an amalgam. It is the sticking together of things. The question OBU faces is, what makes it stick?
It is not for lack of feeling that OBU does not exist; it is for lack of proper adhesion.
It is so difficult, OBU laments, to keep everything in order
OBU is nourished by the fantasy that if only every factor could be accounted for, every counter-argument parried and turned to advantage, and no possible retort of “Well, what about…?” able to be wielded, then the Movement would fall into place, would click into place with a well-oiled and satisfying Quod erat demonstrandum and the (entirely non-violent) revolution could begin.
OBU is One Big Union
But OBU has learned through painful experience that the better argument does not prevail. Or it can prevail, but not simply on its merits–there must be other forces.
OBU sees that one group is pretty good at on-the-ground organizing. But the group is run as a hierarchy, almost a corporate model, with committees that report to committees, a central planning unit, an obsession with tactics and a purposeful vagueness reg. strategy and broader vision. It fights for democracy but avoids democratic practice.
Other groups rely on feeling. OBU is told that we wept and prayed for Paris, but no one weeps and prays for Aleppo; and OBU thinks, how are weeping and praying an effective politics? If weeping and praying are the best we can offer, that tells us we’re moving in a fruitless direction.
OBU is Oligarchy Busters United
Oh, then you don’t feel enough?! No! OBU feels plenty. There is providence in the fall of a sparrow, but one can’t do anything about it–nor about Aleppo, at this moment. It doesn’t matter how much you feel; it matters how you use emotion and reason and knowledge to create effective solidarities to battle oligarchy.
That’s what it comes down to, OBU asserts. If you’re not there, then where are you? Weeping for the lost souls of the day, and each day come new ones. And with every election, the oligarchy remains constant. If the new henchman is Secretary of State or merely CEO of Exxon Mobil… what real difference? If he’s not one, then he’s the other, and another henchman will fill the vacancy.
OBU shares Stevie’s fantasy in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: to bring victim and oppressor (who is also himself a victim) together in a “bed of compassion”– if only we could talk with each other, interpret to and for each other, touch each other with heart, mind, and flesh, establish almost a communion or at least a new community or new sense of commonality… a touch… and then justice would begin. We would do this one by one, for that is the only way it can be done. And yet, of course, as Conrad points out, this method has “only the one disadvantage of being difficult of application on a large scale.”
OK, OK, says OBU; well, then, we’ll do it online. “Like” by “Like,” “Share” by “Share.” Solidarity and justice will go Viral! The world will be infected by them and thus redeemed. There is no resisting the Meme.
But the virus passes quicky, OBU notes, and the oligarchic organism emerges in good health. The great digital revolutions could not succeed. Occupy; the Arab Spring.
OBU notes that the Democratic Party is bankrupt–that is, intellectually and ethically… they have plenty of cash and that’s all they want and appeal for. And OBU contends that MoveOn is likewise useless with its endless petitions and outrages and appeals for yet more money.
These organizations exist. How can they be OBU?
OBU is the personal exchange of tongues, OBU is shared food, OBU is feeling good together, OBU is arguing hard questions, OBU is insistent, OBU is the actual allotment of time, OBU is new songs for the movement, OBU is poetry that scatters when you read, then reassembles, differently, behind your eyes, OBU is the urgency of play the way children play as they do a project, OBU is the return to privacy but then the coming back out from privacy, OBU is art but also something not art, OBU is politics but not always politics, OBU is the personal relationship and the slow accretion of relationships, OBU is the war of accretion, OBU is care searching for an economy of scale.
OBU is person to person, person by person. But the personal is too slow.
OBU is the speed of the digital, the depth of the personal.
OBU is searching for its code and searching for its womb.
OBU yearns to exist, even as it does not exist.
But OBU continuously exists in its yearning.
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OBU Manifesto #13
OBU realizes that most of the time, nobody is home.
OBU will soon be blasting out of the probable, out of the possible, out of the plausible.
But when you knock on the door, chances are that nobody is home.
The process could be quite painful. There are powerful G-Forces in the breakaway escape from gravity, in pushing through the thin envelope of atmosphere.
But when you get there, there will in all likelihood be nobody home.
Who did you talk to, OBU? Oh, a couple of people. And what did they say? They seemed sympathetic. Did they fill out the survey? Yeah, part of it. Are they on for the Contra-Trumpista event? Maybe; got to get back to them.
The process could be quite inertial. It may feel like nothing.
The best thing happening right now, OBU suspects grimly, is Alec Baldwin doing his Trump imitation on Saturday Night Live.
The old divisions of the Left, OBU notes, are opening up again in force. More taste! Less filling! Is it a breath mint or a candy mint? Is the fundamental oppression race or class? Is our primary enemy capital or white supremacy? Or wait, isn’t there anyone there to say “patriarchy”? Is feminism so far out of style? And then there’s the very strange and disturbing class/race/public/private rift over charter schools, in which the white bourgeois professional class Leftists hate charter schools and significant numbers of working class African Americans are drawn to them–and hate teachers unions. Yes, that’s happening too.
Clearly, no one is home.
OBU has a lot of work to do just to get the Left to achieve some solidarity among all its branches.
OBU says, yes, it’s complicated, but it’s really not impossible to get a handle on.
OBU says, listen, ok? Respect other people’s opinions and experiences.
OBU is respect for those divergences. OBU is maintaining a certain distance from one’s own experiences and opinions. The differences with one’s allies, with those who should be one’s allies, are the most painful and infuriating. One thinks, Oh really, so that’s the best you can come up with? We’re supposed to go into the battle with capital armed with that set of analyses and tactics?! Bunch of fucking useless morons. No-no-no… dial that back. It’s not like one’s own methods and analyses are exactly turning the tide.
The Movement to be must be able to organize and especially in areas outside the Blue Urban Bubbles (the BUBS). It must be able to play in the Red Zones and come away with some TD’s, not just settle for field goals. Well, ok, if it’s 4th and 5, take the 3. Come away with something. And how is this to be done and who is going to do it? It can be done through religious organizations. If there are anti-oligarchy, OBUist congregations in the BUBs, they have denominational fellows in or near the Red Zones. Strengthen those relationships. Organize exchanges. Make cultures of solidarity and justice come into being across the country.
And the unions are national. Even where they are weak, they still have some presence, or have the resources to create some. It may not be possible to organize workplaces under present circumstances in Red Zones. But unions can work as community organizing units. They can help the churches and other community groups. They can work to change the ideological climate.
For that is what is most needed, OBU thinks: to change the ideological climate. Serious conversations need to be started in lots of Southern, midwestern, western towns; in churches, PTA’s, VFW chapters and VA facilities, town council meetings,. We will not necessarily “win” these conversations, not necessarily convert the people we talk to in one conversation or in ten. But we plant the seed of understanding, of empathy for others, of better economic understanding, of historical knowledge, of knowing other people better.
OBU suggests that the organizers always be in pairs and of two races and/or genders. Black, white, Latino, men, women, queer, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, of different classes and levels of education. When the Red Zone family opens its door, it won’t just be talking about various “others,” it will be talking with them–that is, with us; and gradually they will see, with themselves.
This is assuming that someone will be home.