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. Leap day offers an opportunity to go beyond protest — merely decrying what we’re against — and focus on living life in a positive, creative, loving, cooperative, sustainable fashion without domination of others or the earth.
The Roots of Leap Day
The first Leap Day Action Night was in Berkeley in 2000, just after thousands of people shut down the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in November, 1999. It was raucous — a mob of finger puppet-armed radicals with a bicycle sound system re-enacted the Seattle WTO protest by shutting down local banks and chainstores, smashing TVs, and simulating sex acts on dumpstered matrices in the street. The police were too confused to control the mayhem!
In 2004, Leap Day went global with actions in several US cities and in England. In Newcastle, UK, radicals played leapfrog in a shopping mall, had a free market and posted official looking signs saying buses were free if you chatted with other people at the busstop. In Houston, TX, guerrilla gardeners planted a garden of veggies and flowers in a public park, served free food and had a party with arts and crafts. In New York City, 50 pirates took over the streets and marched through the lower east side chanting “What do we want? Booty! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, The royal navy has got to go!”
In Berkeley, folks marched through the streets throwing foam “bricks” at plate glass windows of chainstores and banks and running in to sprinkle glitter and popcorn. The doors of a Starbucks were barricaded with tables and chairs and tied shut with a big pretty red bow. The action was everything that big, ritualized ANSWER-type protests are not. It took no resources, no preparation, no bureaucratic structure, no airline tickets or road trips and no mysterious movement superstars with financial backing. There was exactly one meeting of 6 people to brainstorm some ideas, a few hours gathering props, a few email messages and a tiny number of flyers (not glossy postcards). At the event, no one was in charge — there were no communications and no plan. It was amazing to see tactics more in line with our goals working so well — Small, decentralized and local was beautiful.
In 2012, Leap Day Action Night was just after Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Commune’s transformation of Oakland. The action was a Funeral for Capitalism.
A few hundred people carrying a coffin and accompanied by a brass band marched through Oakland on Leap Day at a funeral for capitalism. It was a welcome break from protesting-as-usual as well as a demonstration of how the occupy scene is moving beyond single-issue politics and rejecting the whole rotten system. The procession was short on mourning and long on celebration. It stopped to scatter ashes as Chase Bank and Cigna Healthcare corporation, which is the 5th largest healthcare corporation in the US. At Cigna, a number of medical students read accounts of how the privatized healthcare system hurts patient care. From there, the funeral moved to Lake Merritt Park, where capitalism was eulogized with a diss-ology which we*re publishing, below. Then, the marchers smashed capitalism*s coffin to bits and danced wildly on its grave.
Diss-ology by Paul Dalton
We gather today not to praise capitalism, but to bury it. Rejoice, the great god greed is dead! It lived far too long, laying waste to all it touched. Its chains have been broken, its tentacles severed. The world is free to breathe again — to grow, to flourish — no longer weighed down by this most voracious monster.
Nobody knows its exact birthday. We know it was sired by mercantilism, mid-wived by banking and nurtured by imperialism. From its earliest days, it showed a mighty appetite –gorging itself on the fruits of others* labor. Quickly, it grew fat and strong. It surrounded itself with sycophants, side-kicks, body guards and nannies. Like the royalty it emulated, bards were hired to sing its praises, and historians commissioned to chronicle the glory it saw in itself.
Capitalism*s life was built upon a simple, but powerful, lie. An early acolyte, one Adam Smith, proclaimed that material wealth could be concocted by super-natural forces. Science and history be damned! The economy was not a closed system. Something could indeed be made from nothing. No longer did riches need to be stolen, pillaged, spirited away in the night. Now, through an alchemy of hoarding and investing, material wealth could indeed materialize.
Not everyone was thrilled by emergence of this hungry beast. Many saw Mr. Smith*s lie for what it was. Even as the monster gestated, signs of discontent emerged — textile workers went on strike, farmers claimed the land they worked from its lords, even some men of the churches inveighed against its excesses.
Although it grew large, it was never very healthy. Insatiable, it required ever more and more just to stay alive. Signs of its fragility came early as well- like the Tulip Mania which collapsed the Dutch economy in 1638.
Responding to each bout of illness with a greater resolve, not to mention increasing appetites- it sent its minions out to find new fields to pluck, new forests to level, new fodder for its machines. It found great success when conquering new lands, subduing or dispatching with its inhabitants, taking all it had to give.
Of all of Capitalism*s children, Industrialism deserves special note. With its machines and interchangeable labor — it took what was old and made it seem new. Although it filled the air with acrid smoke and soot, poisoned the water and ravaged the soil — it remained unperturbed — caring only for its meals, not for the ingredients which made it, or the cooks who prepared it.
As it grew larger — always acutely aware of the unsteady base it rested on — it developed great skill in the art of distraction. When it faltered in one place, it shifted to another. Love it, or hate it- one must admit it was as creative as it was destructive. It gave us our bread and our circuses. It let us eat our cake. It assigned value to things where none existed, made virtue from vice, sacrament from sin.
For a brief moment it faced off against some formidable foes. With names like Marx and Bakunin, Goldman and Luxenburg — groups of fighters emerged, shouted the truth, laid bare the lie and said we*d all be better off once we put this behemoth down. Too quickly, capitalism used brute force and ingenuity to turn those visions of liberation into a sad, frightening and sickly junior partner, a sidekick.
But today we can rejoice in Capitalism*s demise- as it finally succumbed to its own weakness and the strength of its enemies, who are legion. The lie rejected, the workers threw monkey wrenches into the gears. The farmers tended to the fields, nurturing rather than ravaging them. We all agreed to plunder Capitalism*s ill-gotten gains, and to share them fairly. We used its machines for our benefit, and dismantled those that couldn*t serve us. We knew our health came not from the endless gorging by the few, but by the nurturing sustenance of the whole.
We slew the beast and now we come to dance on its grave.
And dance we will. We have no reason to mourn, only to celebrate and revel in the joy of possibilities — of a world where monsters don*t enslave us, don*t steal our food, don*t kill us when we object too loudly or get in its way.
We have surely suffered enough, but we know Capitalism*s legacy will haunt us. But ghosts only have the power we give them, and they can be exorcized. Each following generation will benefit more than the last. Our triumph is that we have overcome, our legacy a world free of this scourge.
So, let*s dance, be merry, celebrate, rejoice! Soon we must get to work, begin rebuilding our new world in the shell of the old. Let us remain ever mindful that the germs of capitalism — greed, avarice, violence- reside within us, and must be kept at bay by the medicine of solidarity, mutual aid and love of each other and the world from which we came and which always sustained us, even under Capitalism*s relentless attack.
Let our last words to Capitalism be — you won*t be missed, nor forgotten. Killing you has made us strong and remembering your avarice will help us avoid our own downfall. May you rest forever, in OUR peace — the peace we have made by ensuring your demise. We have felled the beast, let it never rise again!
Rejoice, the great god greed and its monstrous child capitalism are dead. Let the celebration begin! Categories