Are you against capitalism, or are you for an economically just society?
Are you against sexism, or are you for gender equality?
Are you against racism, or are you for embracing diversity?
Both sides of these sets of statements say pretty much the same thing, but it's amazing how difficult and perhaps reckless it can be to build a social movement on the latter rather than the former. Social movements usually rise in response to what they are against. That is often what unites us. However, when we try with any specificity to define what we are for, divisions arise in spades.
In Occupy Bozeman, there is about to be a campaign against Wells Fargo. The campaign is progressing slowly somewhat stuck in a discussion of whether we should be more negative in tone - screw Wells Fargo - or more positive - put your money here and help our community. We may all be against big banks for instance, but where should people put their money? Some argue that money should stay locally, others argue that the money should go to credit unions, others may argue to put money under a mattress or to burn money and go to a true barter system. And, even if one could agree to a type of solution, there are so many variations in the type. When we try to build solutions, movements will often go awry.
If you are against the war in Afghanistan, what would you like to see instead when you argue for peace. Some take peace to be an inner struggle of the individual in the world. Others see it as only compatible with a world of social justice. Others see some combination of the individual with the outer social world. If one begins describing what such a world might look like, other views in the movement quickly become alienated. We often come at these things in very differing ways.
The examples could go on and on.
I'd briefly urge two lessons from this state of affairs and then open it up for discussion.
1. Social movements should not try to offer specific solutions; the solution rather comes from embracing the result of destroying the injustice that movement strives against. What I mean is that positive visions can be dangerous. When we find ourselves fighting unified against injustice, the injustice often roots from some power imposing a positive view of what reality should be on the world. It starts a war to accomplish some goal, it institutes an economic system, it justifies a class or a race or a gender system. If we think we can replace this world with something else, we often will simply recreate new systems of oppression for those who don't share the vision. We are better off embracing a world without clear norms and goals. Of course, this is a kind of positive vision; it's called pluralism. However, pluralism is a kind of empty positive, one that doesn't impose a specific way of acting. It simply annunciates some boundaries - one being that anything that tends against pluralism should be resisted. It also doesn't pretend that the goal of the social movement is some utopian world where there are no problems; there are always problems.
Not offering solutions can admittedly be somewhat divisive to any social movement as there will always be a group calling for positive solutions against the better judgment I am suggesting. I guess I would argue it's far more divisive to be specific as to solutions. To the extent that we can convince our friends in the movement that we are not united by what we are for and are far more united by what we are against, we can at least urge that the practicality of the situation demands that we not offer solutions where there is no consensus and to focus instead on where there is consensus - i.e., in what we are against.
2. The process of how one is against is itself a very positive thing that should not be discounted. If social movements are committed to stopping an injustice, they should not replicate either the injustice or the grounds that give rise to the injustice. I believe that the logical fallacies that produce hierarchies are at root for so many of the problems of the world today. If a social movement replicates non-hierarchical ways of interacting as a way of combating injustice, then there is a real positive paradigm shift. However, note that the complement of anti-war, or anti-racist isn't the positive side of the apparent equation. Rather, instead, they are again ideas like consensus, listening, and finding voice. Perhaps, that is also the essence of the "for" side. However, the tone is different. We don't find the tone by speaking out for what we are for but rather in the process of speaking out what we are against. That can be a difficult thought to get around, but it is important. The way of being against is positive in a sense different from the way of being for can ever be; there is no critique in the latter, and I'd argue that critique (thoughtful discourse) is always a much more positive result.
That may not be clear; perhaps, discussion can clear it up. It is indeed impossible to annunciate what one is for without it; that is the irony of being for the idea of being against.
second, i would like to point out that the rockymt.org seems to me to have been start as a group of people with the desire for similar positive action. we all wanted a local indy media site and now we have one.
i agree that a large consensus, like that of a nation or even a town, is impossible. i do not think it is necessary. if a small group of individuals were to take positive action, such as starting an alternative economy, perhaps a barter economy even if only for certain aspects of their lives such as food or clothing, and were to actually be happier, because of it, that this coupled with the regular involvement in other societal activities, such as school or work, would draw new people into the positive action, of the barter economy in this case.
finally, as to pluralism, i agree that this is the only anarchist view to hold. i cannot, nor would i want to, force a view upon another person, but this is precisely why i do not think changing our capitalist republican democracy is effective in any way, shape, or form, since it forces it Laws onto its citizens. when an anarchist society exists i would agree to resistance as a more effective method with a fuller heart.