Leaping Into a New World

Universal Uprising – Leap Day 2004

Crafts and Insurrection Convergence (and various independent troublemakers) are calling for a spontaneous universal uprising on Leap Day – February 29, 2004. Leap day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed into a spontaneous, inspirational rebellion against dreary business as usual. Every other day, the wheels of global industrial capitalism spin around, running over our freedom and the earth in the process. It’s up to us to try to make leap day a little different.

Leaping is an uplifting, explosive, hopeful action. Try it right now. Do you feel better? I thought so. Leaping is how you get from where you are stuck, across a wide creek in the forest, to the other side and new possibilities. You leave the ground and fly free into the unknown.

In the radical milieu, far too much of our energy goes into tired, ritualistic protests. Usually, a protest is focused on being against something. As such, many protests are inherently reactionary, not proactive. They allow our rulers to set the agenda, and then we predictably turn out to try and stop it. The best that can be achieved in this model is the status quo, and the worst is that the protest is a failure and the rulers get their way.

You can’t build a successful movement to create change and build a new society by just being against something, or everything. When do these oppositional protests ever allow us to put out our vision for the future? You know you’re in trouble when conservatives — whose agenda is literally to turn back the clock — accuse you of supporting policies of the past because you’re spending time fighting to defend gains made in the 1930s or the 1960s.

Always protesting makes us come off as whiny and negative. People don’t always want to join the losing team or identify as the underdogs or oppressed. In a lot of left circles, it feels like a competition to see who is the most oppressed and fucked over — you win if you lose the most. This is not going to be a successful strategy to organize a movement to win gains and change society — it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and oppression.

Recently, Berkeley anarchists started a soccer club, and named it Kronstadt, after an incident in post-revolutionary Russia in which the Soviet Army defeated and massacred rebellious anarchist troops. This is telling in terms of how we see ourselves — we too often worship failure, defeat, and even our own slaughter! You don’t ever see our rulers celebrating the time they got their ass kicked.

So Leap Day is an opportunity to have an action for something and not against anything. Leap Day is a totally arbitrary day, and thus it puts the onus on radicals to think about what we want, and figure out how to communicate and promote our goals.

The proposal for a universal uprising on Leap Day is totally open-ended in terms of tactics, goals and strategy. The idea is that folks across the universe will get together and figure out how to use their extra day for something exciting and new. This could range from individual actions of sabotage, disruption, art, music, or enjoyment, to more organized forms of rebellion or building and development.

The hope is that people will let their imagination run free and wild, incorporating forms of expression never seen before. Why should every protest have the same signs, the same puppets, the same chants? Maybe there could be an action at rush hour of totally silent mimes or scary clowns. What does our vision of the future look like, and can we build a little piece of it right now to show around? How can we go beyond involving the same young-ish, white-ish people as always?

Leap Day is about breaking down the separation between activism and living our lives full of enjoyment and freedom. Living full joyful lives must ultimately be the same as building a new world.

You don’t need permission to celebrate Leap Day, and there is no organization, no structure, no email list! There is no success or failure. This is about taking matters into your own two hands and seeing what might happen.

The first radical action specifically inspired by leap day (that I’m aware of) happened on Feb. 29, 2000. There was only one meeting to organize the action because we wanted it to be long on action, inspiration and leaping into the future, and short on the typical boring meetings. We decided that we would make puppets, but not the huge kind you usually see at street protests. Too heavy to leap in. Too bulky to run from the cops in. We decided to make finger puppets, and then have puppet shows in front of all of the chain stores and banks in downtown Berkeley.

We had a sound system on a bike and really cool finger puppets representing all the factions present in Seattle when we shut down the WTO: police, protesters, turtles, jeerleaders, even a John Zerzan finger puppet to talk to the media. If you want to shut down a business district, try doing finger puppet shows right in their front doors with a bullhorn. What are they really going to do but shut down? The cops were too confused to really do anything, and after smashing a TV and VCR in front of the local corporate video rental place Blockbuster, the mob dragged old mattresses out into the streets and simulated sex acts in the road. Happy Leap Day Berkeley!

Leap Day is the only day of the year that hasn’t been declared “national carpet installer day” or whatever. In 2004, it’s our day to start building a new world. Use your extra day wisely and joyfully. Maybe when you wake up on March 1, it will be different, too.