The ‘Occupy’ movement

October 2021 Forums General discussion The ‘Occupy’ movement

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  • #86330
    Cesco
    Participant

    I agree with ALB…the lack of a concrete knowledge of the causes of the crisis of the Captalist system, and the lack of social awareness, makes an interesting movement like the Occupy-movement to be reactionary and reformist. Its spontaneity, which is the good news, reflects what has already happened in the past with the soviets in Russia, the councils in Germany, the ‘consigli di fabbrica’ in Italy and so on. But the lack of consciousness determins their lack of structure and the lack of structure it’s the bad news. So, I think that the SPGB should try to show what the real core of the social-economic problem is, and what Socialism really means, to the Occupy-people. However, I am a bit pessimist about the outcome, since I see this as a middle class movement rather than a working class movement. I am afraid that the working class, in particular in the so called rich countries, has no bargaining power whatsoever so they won’t openly follow this movement. It is true that if unemployment keeps growing there won’t be any other choice, but occupying every possible place. But again is it matter of convincing a few occupy-people or the large majority of workers and unemployed?

    #86331
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I am glad the comrades above found the same as what I had concluded, that of the woolly no real direction and the fact that despite some truly awful BBC and SKY reporting, it is in fact not an anti-capitalist demonstration but more a ‘lets-have-nicer-capitalism-with-honest-politicians-and-less-greed’ protest.I also think that most working people are doing just that, working and trying to keep their heads above water.

    #86332
    DJP
    Participant
    Cesco wrote:
    However, I am a bit pessimist about the outcome, since I see this as a middle class movement rather than a working class movement. I am afraid that the working class, in particular in the so called rich countries, has no bargaining power whatsoever so they won’t openly follow this movement.

    I’m curious to know what you actually mean by ‘middle class’ here, please explain.

    #86333
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    Just to stir things up and fully aware that there is no real consensus i wrote the following:-First the boring history bit to remind ourselves of the origins of the SPGB,  the product of lessons its founding members had learned within the SDF from which they concluded that a socialist party had to be leader-less. A truly revolutionary position for its time and for today. The SPGB structure was designed to avoid the rise of leaders like Hyndman, and became an organisation that made individual leaders superfluous. It denied aspiring leaders any dominance by such means as private ownership of the party’s journal or executive powers of the offices elected to. They instituted a knowledge test to place all members on an level footing.Yet in many ways the SPGB remained tied to social democracy, the primary objective for the working class being the capture the state machine using the SPGB as a tool to exercise political power through elections and parliament. Thus it differed from other working class groups and possible allies by denying the economic direct action of the syndicalists/industrial unionists and, also from pre-SPGB experiences of  the negative influence of anarchism within the Socialist League, that  strand too was also rejected. However,  through the course of history events occurred that required the re-appraisal and re-accessment of the party position of its role and its function. Russia and soviets, the failure of the German Social Democrats and the rise of council communism cumulating with Otto Ruhl and the anti-political party/ trade union non-organisation organisation. Then later as an evolution of the anti-craft unionism of the Big One Union, became in the 30s the birth of the CIO and the strategy the sit-in strikes which in turn encouraged the wildcat non-union-controlled wildcat strike tactics, a  development promoted by Pannekoek which then became synthesised with class struggle anarchism to become a hybrid anarcho-marxism. In the 60s we had the counter-culture and the student movement, the New Left, high-lighted in Paris 68 by the Situationists, and elsewhere by the affinity and consciousness-raising groups. For a period  the party was beneficiaries of those processes since we could display our anti-authoritarianism and anti-bureaucratic credentials, demonstrate our no-compromise with the establishment and expouse our picture a future libertarian society. We experienced a growth of membership, the creation of new branches and the furthering of the World Socialist Movement concept. Sadly there has been gradual decline in the party’s fortunes.(but perhaps not its coffers!)In its beginning the early members of the Party had the confidence and optimism of being the vehicle for the working class to capture political power but when the over-estimation of the Party’s promise and influence failed to materialise the party proceeded to concentrate upon education  – acquiring the reputation of “the working class university” but as also seen with the WEA that role disappeared with the arrival of further and higher education opportunities for workers and the accompanying liberalisation of curriculum in the social sciences by “progressive” lecturers.Thus with no more education role that left the Party with just propaganda and we all understand how we are unable to maintain an effective voice since the loss of street meetings, and the  saturation of the mass media and nowadays the drowning-out noise of web. We are a political party in limbo, and in a sense have lost meaning and purpose which may account for the recurring obssession over HO house-keeping.  Some members remain true to the original social democracy aspiration of the party, that we must stand in elections to eventually gain propaganda exposure if not political power.But other members now question this political party role of contesting elections, doubting its practicality or fruitfullness, for at least the time being.If the attitude that we no longer engage in political activity prevails then the present branch/national structure of the party is no longer required, and we can transform it to be more like Zeitgeist or Z-net/ Parecon, an internet presence.Other members have expressed a wish for the party to gravitate around the Socialist Standard and then the outcome would that party branches become somewhat similar to readers groups and its members street-sellers. In the past there was the Clarion, and in the modern day, the Big Issue. The paper becomes the movement. Once again the result would be a redundant role for the party, but also it would raise the threat of elitism which we always guard against, due to the risk of the magazine becoming the vanity press for aspiring and accomplished writers if the editorial control becomes less constrained with an independence from a party’s collective ownership.As mentioned previously, actual events in the real world has confronted the party case in the past and it appears that the Occupy movement may be another, particularly since it echoes much of the party’s own criticisims of vanguard political activity and shares its demands for a peaceful democratic world revolution. Despite the criticism, or alleged skepticism  to the actions by a few members there is an acknowledgment by all of us that a protest is going on which could be a sign of a potential further political awakening. Nobody is born a socialist and people start protests with lots of the ruling ideologies in their heads. It is a learning process. So first let us be clear that we all stand in full solidarity with the protesters, their actions have inspired some much-needed debate. But each of us in the party differ on our expectations of its outcome.In many regards the Occupy Movement has fundamentally challenged the view that the party has any role whatsoever and that it is for the SPGB to learn, not the other way around. “What was inspiring and encouraging to me was that the group’s efforts to ‘reach out’ to the wider community in which they work is not focused exclusively on propaganda (“you’re wrong, here’s why, come join our weird little group”).” as one Party blogger has described his experience of similar groups.The protesters may be asking all the right questions, but have they discovered the right answers and if not, should we decline to supply the answers in fear that we would do not have the right to intervene as an outside organisation,  and hence abdicate the educational component of the SPGB’s purpose.New people and new generations, have to re-learn old lessons but do they necessarily require to re-invent the wheel? Should the priority for our party be to facilitate a proper understanding of the system we live in, to offer people a proper understanding of capitalism/socialism or leave it to ther own self-discovery?Or do we simply place faith in the protesters as does BillM who holds the view that the Occupy movement’s generalised slogans will lead to socialist conclusions. As BillM posted  “We don’t need to waste time on discussing what socialism will be — if we’re right the logic of their anti-capitalism will drive any movement towards socialism…”StuartW goes to the ulitimate, to provocatively declare we should disband the party and fund OWS (maybe his over-reaction to what he read on SOYMB) but he demonstrates the resurgence or revival of the Ruhl position that is now reflected in some measure by likes of Chomsky and Greiber. We read of the latter  “…Soon after the magazine Adbusters published an appeal to set up a “peaceful barricade” on Wall Street, Mr. Graeber spent six weeks in New York helping to plan the demonstrations before an initial march by protesters on September 17, which culminated in the occupation… Three days after the protests began, Mr. Graeber left. Since then, he has kept a low profile because he wants to avoid what he calls an “intellectual vanguard model” of leadership. “We don’t want to create a leadership structure,” he says. “The fact I was being promoted as a celebrity is a danger. It’s the kids who made this happen.” “http://chronicle.com/article/Intellectual-Roots-of-Wall/129428/That we could and would alienate ourselves by advocating the old trinity of “Education, Agitation and Organisation”. So why exist? Stuart’s slogan on his blog “The socialist parties are dead. Long live socialism! ” is the obvious conclusion .Yet could the whole phenomena it all be just a style of populist Bernsteinism, the movement is everything, the objective nothing.”…the way they organize and act and treat each other is the ideology. It is the building of the new society in the shell of the old…You won’t need to worry over much about the future society (what it will be like after ‘the’ revolution) because you will be building the future society in the shell of the old.”  from StuartW blog once more paraphrasing GraeberAre we to remain uncritical to the Occupy movement? It will not be the first time that socialists have been confronted by  the fetish of the “revolutionary” forms of decision-making or tactics such as the soviets and workers councils of the past, factory occupations and and what-not. We have been accused of being outside the workers struggles for not participating in reform struggles or involving ourselves as a party in trade union actions. Is our sympathy with the Occupy phenonomen discouraging us to challenge the content and the consequences of its weaknesses?Without spokespersons authority the who speaks for the movement and who stops usurpers from talking for it?Again from BillM “without some sort of organisation you can’t repudiate idiots. In its dealings with the media, the Occupy X movement suffers from the media being able to select the spokespeople.” Already it is a problem for the movement, as the OWS website warnings have revealed. The human mic public meeting style is praised but it is forgetten  that it is simply a localised way of getting around one city’s by-laws, not a universal requirement when a PA system is available. We also begin to wonder if this comment has any truth in it  that it only works when the speaker expresses a message that the audience wants to hear.”He started by saying that the occupation was great and we should all be proud (lots of happy twinkle fingers). Then he began to question the assumptions and strategy of the protest in very comradely terms. All he got off was, “We need to recognize the limitations of this kind of struggle and seek to expand it,” but his full sentence died midway through as the ‘people’s mic’ trailed off after the word ‘limitations’ as downward facing fingers rose up throughout the crowd. Therefore more than half the audience was unable to hear his critique and he was immediately shuttled off so the next speaker could address the crowd. This speaker spouted some self-congratulatory platitudes and his every word was duly repeated by the occupied Greek chorus with twinkle fingers flashing everywhere.”http://libcom.org/news/wall-street-occupation-discussion-updates?page=7″I’ve generally seen veteran activists dominating the discourse little time given to critical voices or people who are unsure of the majority course of action–in other words the consensus has supressed disagreements, rather than allowed them to be debated and discussed.”  http://libcom.org/news/wall-street-occupation-discussion-updates?page=4SOYMB has already posted upon the substitution for democratic structures by the advocacy of structurelessness of the Occupy movement and it seems confirmed by the following remarks from the Libcom Forum”…I’m still not sure how decisions are actually made at all, honestly…” Occupy Pittsburg IWWerhttp://libcom.org/news/wall-street-occupation-discussion-updates?page=6″At the planning meetings they’ve been having here it’s unclear so far how the facilitators are chosen, but surely once the thing gets going, someone could propose a different structure (which the facilitators did emphasize, to their credit) or electing a chair / rotating tasks. Committees are also kinda just done by volunteers at this point (which makes some sense) but it would be good to see them given a mandate by the group”http://libcom.org/news/wall-street-occupation-discussion-updates?page=5Are those expressions of doubts and the airing of criticisms counter-productive?  That the protests should be helped along and not dismissed out of hand, but neither should it be acclaimed uncritically?  It may be that we are at a moment of re-configuration and re-allignment of class power.  It seems so. Starting with the miners defeat then the postal workers and so many other unions, organised labour has become weakened to ineffectiveness (even though there are encouraging recent signs of a resurgence of struggle, particularly to defend pension rights.)The workers “sop” or “social wage” – the welfare state – NHS, education, public housing and the benefits system is being dismantled. The capitalist class has been successfully reversing workers gains. At one stage it looked like that social protest could re-oriented around the environment, a collective concern since it had an effect for the whole of the working class, but now it is the Occupy Movement that it appears to be growing world-wide.  No-one can deny that it possesses a nebulous content of non-demand demands and the inclusive slogan we are the 99% that is resulting in the involvement of a heterogeneous section of the population. Something positive may indeed crystalise from the contradictions that the protest movement experience in its own radical practices of democracy and the demands made upon it by the conventional Left and mainstream political parties.But are they demanding socialism? What the party should not do is to attribute to the Occupiers beliefs and values they don’t actually have and then criticise them for that failing to act on them.It is early days still and class struggle develops from experience and workers engage in new means of resistance when the old and previously tried and trusted methods begin to fail as pointed out by Pannekoek and Mattick and Bookchin – there is an adaptation and evolution of the the class struggle into new forms when the old ways are in the way.Can it transform into something more? Time will tell. Our question is where are we? Do we debate tactics and theory after each person actually understands what socialism is?  If so, this isn’t going to happen overnight and it not likely to arise from one single protest.Perhaps there is an element of truth when Nathan J. Jun, assistant professor of philosophy at Midwestern State University, in Texas, and author of the forthcoming Anarchism and Political Modernity says that anarchism itself has had the greater influence on Occupy Wall Street because, he says, many activists there “regard anarchy as an ideal to be realized.”What i think our aspiration should be is the same, to make the idea of socialism as an immediancy to be achieved and move from occupation to expropriation.Post script”These are exciting times” or “it’s payback time.”This months Standard has 3 relevant articles.One voicing its sympathy for OWS, begun by the likes of the web-savvy Adbusters yet which from all the statements of its participants is confused and contradictory protest. Then there is the London riot article less supportive,  for the violence the rioters engaged in, but which actully shares its main failing with OWS protesters.”They showed no understanding of why they led impoverished, disempowered lives in a world full of rich folk, expenses-grabbing politicians, greedy bankers and glitzy consumer goods. They were seeking payback and a means, individually, to survive.  They were not fomenting revolution.  But at the same time, they understood enough to know that their interests were not being served by the world in which they lived, and felt strongly that they were entitled to something more.”The 3rd article asks “Should we go down the route of fetishising every struggle going as, according to many on the left, struggle in itself is going to magically transform the consciousness of those involved into hardened revolutionaries? But if struggle alone is supposed to incrementally revolutionise us all then what’s the reason why so many workers who’ve gone through a lot of struggle, the miners, construction workers and others, have not reached radical conclusions but sometimes very reactionary ones such as “British jobs for British workers”? [echoed by those involved with OWS about the outsourcing of American jobs to Asia].As the issue’s editorial states “In addition to trade union action socialist political action is needed on the basis of a clear understanding and awareness of our class interests. Unions cannot make revolutions. Only the working class themselves can do that, through clear, democratic, determined political action.”What does the party do when such action is not forthcoming? But more importantly what happens to the struggles when such action is not embarked upon and stagnates at its current level?Don’t we have to take into consideration that possibility and make allowances for it in our approach? It is not being doom and gloom cynical Cassandras and Nostradamuses foretelling the future but being prudent and creating a policy from what we actually witness from what are the protesters present and current positions, not in a faith of what they might or possibly or potentially be.  BrianJ talks about the protesters programme being a hidden message with a subtle content, but does that mean we need to follow suit, instead of,as Marx wrote that socialists must,  being open about our communism. 

    #86334
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Cesco wrote:
    I see this as a middle class movement rather than a working class movement.

    Apart from the objection that most of those who are called “middle class” are in fact working class since they too are obliged to try to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer to live, I don’t think that it is even a middle class movement in your sense (presumably university-educated people). The people interviewed by the media as their spokespersons seem to be, but from what I saw yesterday most of them are from the alternative lifestyle scene who’ve probably been to various peace camps, climate change camps,etc before (the vegan cafe is a clue). These too of course are members of the working class but a sub-culture that is cut off from the rest of the working class and unlikely to have an impact on them. Still, some of them may be open to socialist ideas.

    Cesco wrote:
    I am afraid that the working class, in particular in the so called rich countries, has no bargaining power whatsoever so they won’t openly follow this movement. It is true that if unemployment keeps growing there won’t be any other choice, but occupying every possible place. But again is it matter of convincing a few occupy-people or the large majority of workers and unemployed?

    Don’t worry. We’ll be present too at the 30 November TUC “Day of action” when the mainstream working class will be more involved.

    #86335
    Nannipieri
    Participant

    I went to the information tent at the Vegans Occupy for Christ Camp (or whatever it is, finally) and was told that the best way to find out what’s it all about, Alfie, is to go on the Facebook page (could have done that from Yorkshire, but thanks!). Edited by me, because it’s long, here is the official explanation of what’s going on outside the church:<<The words ‘corporate greed’ ring through the speeches and banners of protests across the globe. After huge bail-outs and in the face of unemployment, privatisation and austerity we still see profits for the rich on the increase. But we are the 99%, and on October 15th our voice unites across gender and race, across borders and continents as we call for equality and justice for all.In London we will occupy the stock exchange. Reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future. A future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens, and work towards concrete demands to be met.Assemble in front of St Pauls Cathedral at Midday – please try to be on time and not early or late.About #OccupyLSX On October 15th we will be Occupying the London Stock Exchange. At the same time thousands continue to occupy Wall Street and hundreds of cities from Paris and Madrid to Buenos Aires and Caracas are staging actions and occupations together for a global day of action.By reclaiming space in the face of the economic systems that have caused terrible injustices across the world, we can open up and engage our communities into public discussions. These assemblies will allow people to voice their ideas for how we can work towards a better future and help us create concrete demands to be met. A future free from austerity within a context of growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens. So it’s time for citizens to represent themselves. To work together to resist the government’s plans and to do this in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of others around the world on the same day.The problems we face in the UK echoes across the world. We are linked by the same root causes, so we cannot solve these problems in isolation. October 15th will be a global day of action calling for global change.’O-15: Unite for Global Change’ has been called by the ‘indignants’ movement in Spain, where thousands camped out in the squares for weeks, building massive popular pressure on the government. It inspired the current Wall Street occupation in New York, providing a space for the majority to resist the wishes of the greedy minority.Join us at the London Stock Exchange to reclaim space and take part in workshops on topics ranging from Debt and The Spanish Indignants Movement to Fuel Poverty and Climate Justice. Contribute in the Open Assemblies and chant songs of solidarity with Samba bands. Exact times and locations to be announced soon. …… Lets make the UK part of an international movement!>>— So, it sort of repeats itself, but it’s clear from the ‘demands being met’ and ‘political elites ignoring citizens’ lines that the aim is fairer representative democracy within capitalism. Vote Labour. Occupy LSX.

    #86336
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Nannipieri wrote:
    — So, it sort of repeats itself, but it’s clear from the ‘demands being met’ and ‘political elites ignoring citizens’ lines that the aim is fairer representative democracy within capitalism. Vote Labour. Occupy LSX.

    I think it’s more Vote Green rather than Vote Labour.

    #86337
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Here is the original banner:and here’s what it’s been replaced by:

    #86338
    Cesco
    Participant

     To DJP & ALB: first of all I did not have any direct contact with the people involved in the occupy movement, so the “label” I gave to them of being middle class was merely based on the impression that I got from the media.  ALB has been there and says that I am wrong and this makes me feel more positive.About the precise definition of what is middle class and what is working class this is a complex and long matter. If it is needed I will explicit it later. Anyway, ALB feeling is right, I inadequately considered middle class, in fact, the reactionary part of the workers, that is, university-educated people, let’s say the ones for which their work should be simplified several times to obtain the unit of simple abstract labour.  My point was, that by being, nowadays, the bargaining power of the majority of workers very very low they cannot afford to demonstrate. Who can do it, so? Unemployed people, people without job uncertainty, pensioners? This does not make this protest less important, but if it was down to reactionary ‘alternative’ people, no-global kind of types, that would make me pessimist. That’s all. To ALB: Please do not get me wrong I was not criticizing the SPGB of being amorphous, but I was just saying like SussexSocialist puts that this movement seemed to me like a ‘lets-have-nicer-capitalism-with-honest-politicians-and-less-greed’ kind of movement. I think you are doing a good job being there and spreading the “Magic” :) 

    #86339
    Ozymandias
    Participant

    I think all of you must read this…http://www.nycga.net/resources/declaration/
    They are evolving. That is all. This phenomenon isn’t going to whither away because Capitalism is becoming ever more grim.  I think the party should set up a department/task force to address this issue because this is going to get bigger and bigger and they need help. The kind of assistance that only the SPGB can give. We cannot pooh pooh this. Please tell me what you think.

    #86340
    Nannipieri
    Participant

    Interesting link, thanks. Not much of a Declaration – for a start they could declare what they want, rather than just what they don’t approve of. Same in London. The allusion is to ‘a system that has been corrupted’ in which people now need to ‘make their voices heard’ to governments – I would rather talk about an essentially corrupt system which can’t be mended by voices, tents, or governments.Are they evolving and not going to whither? I’m happy to take your word for it, but it doesn’t really concern me and I’ll explain why: expecting this wave of protest – in favour of a moral, just, fair, free market economy – to evolve into a movement for socialism smells to me a lot like expecting accumulated reforms to evolve into socialism itself.Capitalism has always been grim, and it can’t be regulated to work otherwise. What would you like the SPGB Task Force to do beyond providing routes and means for people to understand that?

    #86341
    Ozymandias
    Participant

    Oh why do I even bother my fuckin arse with this kind of attitude!

    #86342
    Nannipieri
    Participant
    #86343
    ALB
    Keymaster

    The New York declaration begins:”As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.”This is not bad insofar as it does not single out just bankers (as do many other Occupy statements) but includes all capitalist corporations. It’s obviously based on the US Declaration of Independence, which I suppose has a certain echo in America. In fact perhaps it’s not such a bad tactic to call the US Constitution’s bluff (better than in London where they are calling the Church’s bluff).The trouble is that it suggests that the way out is just effective democratic control. Of course this is part of the solution but on its own wouldn’t make much difference as it would amount only to a reform in the system of government, however radical, that would still leaving the money-wages-profit economy intact. To make a difference it would need to be accompanied by the common ownership of all productive resources.

    #86344
    ALB
    Keymaster
    DJP wrote:
    I wonder what they meant by ‘socialism’ however.

    John from Newcastle says it was mainly the “Revolutionary Communist Group” (who bring out Fight Imperialism, Fight Racism or is it the other way round?) who were behind the vote. Apparently what they mean by “socialism” is something like what’s supposed to exist in Cuba. Oh dear, with friends like these …Meanwhile, here in London, here is what one of the lecturers at Tent City University thinks about “anti-capitalism”. It turns out that he stood in the last election as a breakaway Tory candidate in Wokingham. What’s somebody like him doing at a protest that is billed as  “anti-capitalist” ?I suppose that all this shows that these tent camps are places where wide-ranging political discussions are/can take place.

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