Occupy Wall StreetSeptember 20, 2011 6 Comments
Photo By: Procrastinations
I spend a lot of my time plotting the next revolution. Considering what it will take to usher forth the next movement. Preparing myself to participate. Sifting through the preconceptions of what movement has to look like. Calling forth the evolution of revolution itself. Instigating, prodding, inviting, conspiring, hoping.
My friend Greg Jobin-Leeds likes to remind me that prior to the events of Tahrir Square, there were lots of much smaller, “insignificant,” and high-risk protests. The courageous few, the stubborn few, the relentless few – and then BAM! It happened. And the process continues to unfold.
As I write this post, there is a courageous few who have decided to Occupy Wall Street, they’ve been there since September 17 and here is their invitation:
We need to retake the freedom that has been stolen from the people, altogether.
- If you agree that freedom is the right to communicate, to live, to be, to go, to love, to do what you will without the impositions of others, then you might be one of us.
- If you agree that a person is entitled to the sweat of their brows, that being talented at management should not entitle others to act like overseers and overlords, that all workers should have the right to engage in decisions, democratically, then you might be one of us.
- If you agree that freedom for some is not the same as freedom for all, and that freedom for all is the only true freedom, then you might be one of us.
- If you agree that power is not right, that life trumps property, then you might be one of us.
- If you agree that state and corporation are merely two sides of the same oppressive power structure, if you realize how media distorts things to preserve it, how it pits the people against the people to remain in power, then you might be one of us.
And so we call on people to act
- We call for protests to remain active in the cities. Those already there, to grow, to organize, to raise consciousnesses, for those cities where there are no protests, for protests to organize and disrupt the system.
- We call for workers to not only strike, but seize their workplaces collectively, and to organize them democratically. We call for students and teachers to act together, to teach democracy, not merely the teachers to the students, but the students to the teachers. To seize the classrooms and free minds together.
- We call for the unemployed to volunteer, to learn, to teach, to use what skills they have to support themselves as part of the revolting people as a community.
- We call for the organization of people’s assemblies in every city, every public square, every township.
- We call for the seizure and use of abandoned buildings, of abandoned land, of every property seized and abandoned by speculators, for the people, for every group that will organize them.
We call for a revolution of the mind as well as the body politic.
While I support this action, it may look more exciting from afar then it really is. This was my experience.
I stopped by the protest Monday with some comrades. The people in the camp near Wall Street (Broadway and Liberty) were almost all of them anarchist punk-rock live-off-the-grid types. There was no united message or set of slogans/demands that was obvious to casual passers by. Slogans on signs ranged from dissing bankers, student debt, bailouts, to abstractions like conformity, alienation, and apathy.
The people behind the protest are inspired by the Arab Spring and hoped to recreate Tahrir Square in the Financial District.
However, the revolution in Egypt began as a mass march against police brutality (an every day occurrence that activists of color in nyc have been protesting and organizing against for many years with support from only a sector of these folks). The revolution in Libya began as a march against crummy housing. Actions in both countries were rooted in deeply held grievances and the most pressing needs of the population and began with clear-cut political demands and issues that the majority of the people could rally behind. The only specific demand here was to “occupy Wall Street,” which doesn’t really meet anyone’s pressing needs, economic or political.
This is the tactics-as-politics school of anarchism. The people in the park were mostly white 20-30 year olds. It was bigger (and whiter) than some of the Bloombergville protests but far smaller than the tens of thousands the unions mobilized to march down here some time back.
This is the problem, the lack of connection between the organized forces of labor, the direct action folk, and the community groups of color. Connections like these were critical to the Arab Spring, especially youth, labor, and the secular groups.
I give them credit for trying. The small turnout and the political character of the event reflects how separated these folk are from the working class and people of color.
Saulo – thanks for the view from the ground. When we met 5 years ago I was recruiting you into our effort to bring the Working Families Party to Massachusetts. I say this to stress that I agree with your assessment of the problem “the lack of connection between the organized forces of labor, the direct action folk, and the community groups of color.”
I am under no illusion that September 17 could possibly turn into a mass movement. Nor did I at any point consider it a diverse and inclusive effort. However, I do think there is something happening there and that it is worth lifting up.
The umbrella in Egypt expanded to include the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. Exhausted by the tactical muck of electoral politics and policy advocacy in a thoroughly broken system, I have started to pay attention to these young, white and privileged anarchists and to what they are trying to say. Innovation arises when seemingly opposite things are held together long enough for something new to emerge.
As I wrote in the post, I am interested in“sifting through the preconceptions of what movement has to look like.” And I appreciate any effort that brings to light the idea that “state and corporation are merely two sides of the same oppressive power structure.”
We know that capitalism moves from crisis to crisis; we are going through the worst crisis in capitalism since the Great Depression and [nationally] we have nothing – no narrative or movement that is able to ride this wave. Occupying Wall Street in light of the Arab Spring, of Spain, England, Greece – it’s smart, not “in movement” but smart, and I want to call attention to that.
Finally, we also know that hyper-advanced capitalism has to exercise biopower, it has to turn our beings into markets. One of many outcomes here is the segmentation of markets, the decline of the mass market. These young people come from a “market segment,” an experience, that is incredibly foreign to us, but they might be able to reach a privileged and disaffected group that we don’t seem to be able to touch. Let them. It all adds to the brew.
I hear you, and like I said I support the initiative, that’s why I was there. But I am use to the white anarchists, they are not new to me as I was involved with them since the organizing for Seattle in ’99.
They are not the issue, more of an issue is the views that emanate from particular bodies based on exactly how biopower in a racialized regime operates and their views didn’t resonate with most of the people who live in this city. Many of them in fact are not from nyc, most are students, from suburbs, and part of gentrification.
I hear you, and what you are saying makes sense. That was a BIG victory in 99? Would you say the biggest one since? Or is the Arab Spring and equivalent? Regardless – the good one are big tent efforts. My sense is that they are approaching Wall Street as an Imperial Center and not part of a city with a community – probably a mistake.
Anyway – always a pleasure to engage. Abrazos!
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