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March 28, 2012 at 8:30 am #86555ALB wrote:It’s not easy from over here to work out exactly what’s been happening in Oakland. Here’s a rather different analysis, from some “ultraleftists” on the spot (taken from one of their discussion forums I’m on). Don’t know if there’s any truth in their allegation that the movement there has been hijacked by a bunch of varied vanguardists (and of course any contacts with the organised trade-union movement would be anathema to ultraleftists even if not such a problem for us and a delight to vanguardists):http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/01/30/18706115.php
“Regardless of the million problems that existed in Occupy Oakland (whether from the abuse of modified consensus, or the lack of willingness to discuss what it means to reclaim public space and move toward disrespecting private property, or the naïveté of most of the regular folks), the active participation of those regular folks was the only thing keeping OO from devolving into yet another absurd Leftist spectacle of half-assed dissent and truncated opposition.”I agree with the authors: this is what is most exciting about the Occupy movement, even in its smallest and most isolated incarnations. If the authors are right that the “regular folks” have abandoned OO, then that would be about the worst thing that’s happened to the movement (in America) so far. That’s not at all what seems to me to be happening more generally, but, as you say, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re not actually there.March 28, 2012 at 9:57 am #86556
Well worth a watch on Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2012/03/201232754252617285.htmlMarch 28, 2012 at 10:07 am #86557stuartw2112 wrote:it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re not actually there.
You’re not saying, are you, that this means being there in a tent? Or can visiting occupations and talking to people there, reading their leaflets, blogs, etc count as well?March 28, 2012 at 11:13 am #86558ALB wrote:stuartw2112 wrote:it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re not actually there.
You’re not saying, are you, that this means being there in a tent? Or can visiting occupations and talking to people there, reading their leaflets, blogs, etc count as well?
No, of course not: I’ve not been there in a tent, most people haven’t, even the most active! I just meant it’s easy to get one impression from blogs, websites, videos; quite another from just turning up. I try to do both, but Oakland’s a bit far to go!March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am #86559alanjjohnstone wrote:Well worth a watch on Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2012/03/201232754252617285.html
Thanks Alan, good piece, well worth watching, as you say. Also, relatedly to what we were just talking about:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/20122261354555340.htmlMarch 29, 2012 at 6:48 am #86560
Something to please Stuart (and us?):http://gothamist.com/2012/03/28/did_you_get_a_free_ride_on_the_subw.phpMarch 29, 2012 at 9:43 am #86561
Yes, cheered me up, thanks!March 30, 2012 at 5:33 am #86562
The question of democracy, responsibility and structure within the Occupy movement has been raised a few times here on this thread. And some say we should not be so critical. This link about Occupy Maine highlights the weakness of those who oppose leadership but also oppose some sort of majority decision-making. http://www.thebollard.com/bollard/?p=9782 “Why are there so few people here?” I asked those assembled. “I thought we had reached consensus that all camp residents were required to attend G.A. meetings.“It was decided that we are a movement of autonomous individuals, and as such, no one has the right to require that anyone do anything.”“Well, if that’s the case, then the “zero tolerance” policy concerning illegal drugs and alcohol is meaningless,” I said.Much to my astonishment, my statement was greeted with nods and smiles. I was told that Occupy Maine considered itself to be an absolutely open and free community, in which people were to be trusted to do the right thing.Other occupations in cities all across the country had instituted loose rules and codes of conduct. These other occupations had rightly come to the conclusion that without some regulation through consensus things would soon fall apart.In adopting this patently insane concept that “autonomous individuals” had no right to institute even the basest of rules, Occupy Maine had turned its back on any concept of responsibility. But the writer however concludes “We cannot get confused and believe that the camp equals the movement. Occupy is, and always has been, much larger than a campsite. The cause of Occupy is still noble and incredibly important. The movement has already changed the political discourse in this country, and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead. It will be an exciting and wonderful thing to see. I look forward to being a part of it.”March 30, 2012 at 5:50 am #86563
The free-marketeer capitalists appeal to the Occupy Movement to join against the corporate capitalists which will turn them into simply a more radical Tea-party. http://reason.com/archives/2012/03/16/what-occupy-wall-street-gets-wrong “Occupy Wall Street has the banking establishment in mind especially when it rails against the 1 percent. Steve Jobs was a 1 percenter, and so are many sports and entertainment figures, but they are not the objects of anger. Rather it is Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase that get the brickbats. There is a sense that Wall Street is up to no good. In light of the last several years, this is an entirely justifiable attitude. Big, well-connected players in banking and finance were at the heart of the housing and financial debacle , in partnership with the government, of course. Free-market advocates should hold no brief for any of them. It is important to understand that throughout American history no industry has had a cozier relationship with politicians at all levels than banking and finance. The 1 percent as we know it is not the product of the market.”April 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm #86564ALB wrote:Something to please Stuart (and us?):http://gothamist.com/2012/03/28/did_you_get_a_free_ride_on_the_subw.phpQuote:TWU Leader Won’t Disown ‘Occupy’ for Fare-BeatingBy SARAH DORSEY | Posted: Monday, April 2, 2012 5:00 pm John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said March 29 he was “not in any way critical” of the illegal actions of Occupy Wall Street members and dissidents in his own union who, without his knowledge, chained open gates at numerous subway stations a day earlier during the morning rush hour, giving straphangers a free ride.By April 2, however, the union leader added, “They could’ve taken more precautions to make sure [Subway Station Agents] weren’t put in harm’s way.”The protesters, who said anonymous Local 100 and Amalgamated Transit Union members calling themselves the “Rank and File Initiative” told them which stations to target and tipped off their co-workers so they didn’t interfere, said they were angry at the lack of funding for transit.‘Money into Bankers’ Pockets’“Instead of using our tax money to properly fund transit, Albany and City Hall have intentionally starved transit of public funds for over twenty years,” the activists said in a press release. “The MTA must resort to bonds (loans from Wall Street) to pay for projects and costs,” they added, calling the agency “a virtual ATM for the super-rich.”They pointed out that the MTA spends more than $2 billion a year to pay off its debt.“This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the Metrocards we buy and the taxes we pay,” they concluded.Local 100 was the first New York local to officially endorse Occupy Wall Street last fall, and has held several rallies with the movement; Mr. Samuelsen spoke at Zuccotti Park when his members marched there after a November contract rally.When asked if last Wednesday’s actions made him think twice about working with Occupy Wall Street, he initially said not at all.“If these types of actions…bring attention to the injustices that have been doled out to New York State working families, then so be it,” he said.‘On the Same Page’While union officials had no prior knowledge of the protests, “we are on the same page with the Occupy movement when it comes to recognizing the facts that the banks are getting rich off of New York’s transit system,” he said, adding that “if it’s true that members of my union are participating in the protests, that’s their business; this is America. They’re not doing it as a member of Local 100.”MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz declined to comment on Mr. Samuelsen’s response, but said, “We take Wednesday’s theft-of-service activity very seriously and we are working with the NYPD on ways to prevent it from happening again. If and when an employee is implicated, we will respond appropriately.”A One-Time Stunt?The protesters, who created realistic-looking MTA-style fliers that read, “Free Entry—No Fares Collected” told a Village Voice reporter the events had been planned months in advance, and that they were unlikely to repeat the same tactic in the future, though they’d hold other actions.Ken Margolies, a labor specialist on the extension faculty at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said that although the protests took place during contract negotiations, it was unlikely the union would be punished under the Taylor Law for the actions of a few anonymous members.“They’d have to show that this was being done with the union’s knowledge and that the union could stop it and didn’t,” he said. “It would be hard to enforce. They’d have to show that this was really a ruse.”Mr. Margolies said these kinds of wildcat actions were often “unnerving” for management during negotiations.“It could be a form of pressure on the MTA to settle because to the extent that they think this might spread, they will be looking for ways to prevent it,” he said. “If you know the union is doing this, you can get them to stop. But if there’s an elusive group that you can’t identify…it’s a real wildcard for them.”A California Precedent?He pointed to a December Occupy protest that shut down the port of Oakland, California during International Longshore Workers Union contract negotiations; the union said the action, which it didn’t back, was a ‘critical element’ in getting a favorable pact settled.But conditions in Oakland were much different than they are for a public-sector union in New York right now, where a strong Governor successfully pressured two state-employee unions into accepting three years of wage freezes last year and is now pushing the MTA to follow suit. Local 100 is also bound by the Taylor Law, which limits its options by imposing hefty fines on public-sector unions and their members that strike.April 24, 2012 at 10:01 am #86565
Again, i am not sure which thread to post this, since i went for the Chomsky one last occasion, i’ll post here on this occasion.http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/155116/noam_chomsky_on_america%27s_declining_empire%2C_occupy_and_the_arab_spring/?page=entire “Occupy came along at a time which was ripe, and the strategy I thought was brilliant. If I had been asked I wouldn’t have advised it. I never thought it was going to work. Fortunately I was wrong. It worked very well.” answers Chomsky Earlier he explained “I think there’s just been a steady buildup of concern, anger and frustration. You can see it in polls. Hatred of institutions and distrust is all over the country, and it’s been rising for a long time.” This could have been and actually was tapped into by more than just the left. The Tea Party and the Right did so but i think they quickly lost credibility because of that ideological identification with Republicans. (Ron Paul libertarian supporters were i think the only non-left to overlap and interact with the Occupy movement and with a measure of success) Chomsky says “The Occupy movement managed to capture the mood and crystalize it. That’s the way popular movements take off…Things happen that draw in others and all of a sudden you get a popular movement. Same thing happened in the anti-war movement, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, or the global justice movement.” In the interview, he gives no inkling to how these “things” really develop, and much of the debate here is to try and understand this rise of consciousness. But he does refer to the tactical approach that proved fruitful to its growth. But one means should never ever become a template for every possible future situation or circumstance. I think over history we have witnessed new, innovative methods of struggle being employed by workers, but they sometimes create adherents who make them into a matter of principled model rather ad hoc impromptu adaptations often of older forms of resistance, and these improved methods are eventually discarded when the conditions change. I look forward to reading Chomsky’s book and hearing others views upon it.April 26, 2012 at 6:31 am #86566
We have always high-lighted the positve part of the Occupy Movement, the leader-less democracy of it. But WSM has always qualified this by explaining that the Occupy Movement cannot reject formal decision making structures that permits majority concensus and that this would soon become an issue. Our voice was a whisper and for some of us even that cautionary criticism was over-stepping it, but Red Pepper describe the exact problem at Occupy Oakland that we warned well in advance about.http://www.redpepper.org.uk/occupy-oakland-whose-streets-our-streets/ “Without democratically elected leadership or collective accountability processes, small groups have taken the banner of Occupy Oakland in erratic directions. The most glaring example has been the weekly ‘Fuck the Police’ marches, which announce that ‘if you identify as peaceful and are likely to interfere with the actions of your fellow protesters in any way, you may not want to attend this march.’ The inevitable property destruction and police confrontation have not built power for Occupy Oakland. Indeed, these actions have only justified the state repression in the minds of many, alienating the working and middle-class masses that are the key to Occupy’s future.” Yes, i too dislike the use of the words leadership and middle-class but after all it is Red Pepper but i think the essence of the fundamental point is clear enough. What we should be doing is countering the false conclusion made from Occupy’s faults by the likes Red Pepper, such that:” Occupy Oakland and its sister groups must abandon their initial claims to be a movement without leaders and demands.” And to do so means presenting democratic proposals and alternatives which incorporate our own criticism and shared by many others but doesn’t endorse Red Pepper’s solution which is to jettison of the no leaders principle and adopt reformist platforms. Even though our influence is negligible, our ideas are vast and i think it is time not for ad hoc articles or leaflets but the publication of an in depth revolutionary socialist manifesto aimed specifially for an online internet distribution campaign to actually get a hearing and offer the Occupy movement arguments to use against the reformists and re-buff the vanguards. Is this an elitist thing to do? To have the audacity of a couple of hundred impossiblists to set ourselves up as advisers to hundreds of thousands of activists on what to do. I don’t believe it is arrogant. It is the educational propaganda role that we all fully subscribe to and the tactic of class conscious socialists that don’t lead but “pushes forward all others” as the Communist Manifesto declares. The WSM does have “the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement” So why should we remain silent? We are already being proved right in our analysis.April 29, 2012 at 5:23 am #86567
Worth a read. Interview with geographer and social theorist David Harvey, professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and one of the 20 most cited humanities scholars of all time. http://www.salon.com/2012/04/28/urban_revolution_is_coming/singleton/ Q. A term that keeps coming up in stories about OWS is the “precariat” (workers involved in either freelance or non-unionized labor). Why are they important to radical movements?A. I’m not too fond of the term “precariat.” It’s always been the case that the people who produce and reproduce urban life look at their condition as being insecure, a lot of it is temporary labor, and have been different from factory workers. The left, historically, has always looked to the trade unions and the factory workers to engage its political base in the age of political change. The left has never thought of the people who are producing and reproducing urban life as being significant. This is where I think the Paris Commune comes in, because if you actually look at who made the Paris Commune, it wasn’t the factory workers. It was artisan workers, and a lot of the labor in Paris at that time was precarious.What you have right now, with the disappearance of many factories, is that you don’t have an industrial working class of the same size and significance that existed in the 1960s and ’70s. So the question becomes, what is the political base of the left? And my argument is to make it all the people who produce and reproduce urban life. Most of those people are precarious, they’re often moving around, they’re not easily organized, hard to unionize, and they’re a shifting population, but nevertheless they have tremendous potential political power….. Q.You say, “The revolution in our times has to be urban.” Why is the left so resistant to that idea? A. I think this is part of the struggle over how you interpret the Paris Commune. Some people say it was an urban social movement and therefore was not a class movement. This comes back to the Marxist/leftist view that the only people who can create a revolutionary movement are factory workers. Well, if you don’t have any factories around, you can’t have a revolution. This is ridiculous.I’m arguing that we have to look at the urban as a class phenomenon. After all, if finance capital is producing the city these days, and it builds the condominiums and it builds the offices, it is producing the city. If we want to resist the way they are doing it, then we have to wage a class struggle, in effect, against their power. I’m very concerned with asking a question like, How do we organize a whole city? The city is where our political future lies on the left. Q. How can public spaces be transformed into more accessible places?A. I look at it in simple terms – there’s a lot of public space in New York City, but there’s very little public space in which you can engage in common activity. Athenian democracy had the agora. Where can we go in New York City, where we can have an agora, and really talk. And this is what the assemblies were trying to define, what the people in Zuccotti Park were trying to do. They made a space where we can have a political dialogue. So we need to take public space… and turn it into a political commons, where real decisions are going to be made, where we can decide if it’s a good idea to have another building project, another bunch of condominiums. Q. Do you think there’s been a growing resistance movement to some of these free-market urban policies?A. What is striking is that if you had a map of protests worldwide which are against aspects of what’s going wrong under capitalism, you would see a huge mass of protests. The difficulty is that a lot of it is fragmented. For example, today we are talking about student debt and all the protests around that. Tomorrow people might be out resisting foreclosures; somebody else might be organizing a protest about the closure of a hospital, or a protest about what’s going on in public education. The difficulty right now is to find some sort of way to connect all of them. There are some attempts to create alliances, like The Right to the City Alliance, and the Excluded Workers Congress, so increasingly people are thinking about how to pull it all together. But it’s in the early stages. If it does all get together, you will find a huge mass of people who are interested in changing the system, root and branch, because this is not satisfying anybody’s real needs or desires. Q. Occupy Wall Street seems to be a coalescence of some of the issues you mentioned, but it still lacks a cohesive message. Why has the left always been so resistant to the idea of leadership, of hierarchy?I think the left has always had a problem, a fetishism of organization, a belief that one kind of organization is sufficient for a particular project. This was true of the communist project, where they followed a democratic-centralist model that they didn’t deviate from at all. And that model had some strengths and certain weaknesses. What we now see are many elements on the left who resist any form of hierarchy. They insist that everything has to be horizontal and openly democratic. Actually it’s not, in practice.In effect Occupy Wall Street was operating as a vanguard movement [a political party at the forefront of a movement]. They’ll deny it, but they were. They were talking for the 99 percent and they were not the 99 percent. They were talking to the 99 percent. There has to be a lot more flexibility on the left in terms of building different organizational structures. I was very impressed by the model of El Alto in Bolivia, where there was a mix of horizontal and hierarchical structures that came together to create a very powerful political organization. I think that the sooner we get away from certain rules of discussion, the better.The current rules of discussion that are currently in vogue are very good for small groups, because you can have an assembly. But if you want to create an assembly that includes the entire population of New York City, you can’t. You have to then think about whether there will be regional assemblies, or a mega-assembly. In fact, Occupy Wall Street does have a coordinating committee. They’re just very nervous about actually taking leadership and organizing.I think the successful movements always have a mix of horizontality and hierarchy. The most impressive one I’ve come across were the Chilean student movements, where one of the leaders was a young communist woman [Camila Vallejo], who is fully open to being as horizontal as possible, rather than having a central committee decide things. But at the same time, when leadership is called for, it should be exercised. If we start to think in these terms, we’ll have a more flexible system of organization on the left. There are groups within Occupy that are trying to get people within the Democratic Party to sign support for Occupy’s demands, and if not, they’re going to run candidates against them. There’s a wing doing that sort of thing, but they’re not the majority at all. Q. At the end of your book, you don’t provide many answers, but you wish to open a dialogue for how to get out of this gross economic inequality and the multiple crises of capitalism. Do you see this coming out of Occupy?A. It could possibly. If the union movement moves toward more geographical forms of organization, and not just based around workplaces, then the alliances between urban social movements and unions would be much, much stronger. What’s interesting is that there’s quite a good history of those types of collaborations that have been quite successful. I think that if you could just plant that seed, a huge change could be possible. If Occupy Wall Street can see their way to more collaboration with the union movement, then there will be a great deal of political action possible. My book is a groundwork for exploring all of these possibilities, and not dismissing anything, because we don’t know what the successful form of organization will be. But there’s a huge space at this moment for political activism.FULL INTERVIEW AT LINKWe in the WSM have promoted the idea of Athenian democracy as participatory. i think when Harvey talks about hierarchy it is perhaps a difficulty with language and terminology. We recognise delegated decision making and obligations of democratic responsibility and maybe that is what he is referring to. We also have said single issues should be united as component parts of a general struggle under the one aspirational umbrella of the socialist movement. We also hope that the trade union movement transcend their work-place struggles and strive for a change in society and not just working conditions. Not really sure where he stands in regard to the rural working class with this emphasis on the city, after all places like India and China are predominantly country-side, village, small town populations. America, too. And has the work-place really disappeared as a centre of organisation? He may be discussing the democratic features of what type of society he is working towards but he shouldn’t over-look the actual production of the goods we need to useand how that should be organised. Which brings us back to the fact that the city can only be seen as part of a regional geography and part of the world global societyMay 4, 2012 at 6:51 am #86568
Hmmm?? Am i the only one who still posts links and thinks we should still be discussing and learning from the Occupy Movement? Never much comment or observations from others after i leave my messages. Anyways here is another useful article from the excellent if eclectic and occasionally estoteric webside Alternet http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/155227/the_99_movement_has_something_for_everyone_–_but_is_it_occupy/?page=entire Occupy was selected as 2011 word of the year. The article describes a development within the Occupy Movement to usurp 99% into another brand-name but this time to co-opt the protests into mainstream Democratic Party politics particularly by MoveOn, a top-down organisation without a democratic structure that allows the members to vote on who the leadership will be or how decisions are made, let alone have serious input into the positions. Bill Dobbs of Occupy Wall Street, said that “Groups like MoveOn can walk into any Occupy movement and engage in the discussions, but we can’t participate in their strategy discussions.” [once again the example of our open WSM democracy demonstrates how different we are to other political organisations in that we invite participation in debate but reserve actual decision-making for the Party for party-members only, in a very visible and transparent process and can be used in our interaction with Occupy] “The 99% Movement employs the ideas and language of Occupy Wall Street towards ends diametrically opposed to it: support for Democratic Party candidates up to and including President Obama. Protesting corporations but not the politicians who work hand in hand with them is a crafty way to redirect Occupy’s energy away from the Democratic Party, which is as much an object of Occupy Wall Street’s ire as the Republicans… For Occupy, the danger of being sucked into the Democratic Party as its purpose becomes supporting a party that is in the pocket of Wall Street, instead of ending the tyranny of Wall Street.” But perhaps some members and sympathisers now consider it too late for the WSM to even ever so slightly influence the Occupy Movement, and that maybe Occupy itself has become passe.May 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm #86569AnonymousInactive
Reflections on the Ideology Underlying the Failed Occupation of Zuccotti ParkThe Make-Believe World of David Graeber | Marxist-Humanist Initiative
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