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First Thoughts on OWS

By Various Authors

First writers and readers – Amiri Baraka, Jeremy Brecher, Benj DeMott, Diane di Prima, Mark Dudzic, John Fullerton, Dr. Donna Gaines, Ty Geltmaker, Lawrence Goodwyn, Adam Hochschild, Staughton Lynd, Greil Marcus, Deborah Meier, Dennis Myers, (AKA) Nolemonomelon, Jedediah Purdy, Aram Saroyan, Fredric Smoler, Tom Smucker, Scott Spencer & Richard Torres – comment on OWS.


Begin the Beguine

By Dr. Donna Gaines

As economies and societies transform and reconfigure, how thrilling it is to witness a social movement in formation. One so uniquely 21st Century; leaderless, open-ended, global, propelled by social media; Arab Spring meets Burning Man. The OWS movement is oft criticized by the mainstream dorkocracy for being unformed and vague, unable to articulate a clear agenda. But honey, don't ya know the USA is one of the most difficult places for peeps to penetrate the veils of oppression. So skilled, invisible and entrenched are the ideological and repressive state apparatii, who knows WTF is going on. So dulled are we by malnutrition (dead animals and corn syrup), illuminati hegemony, false consciousness, reality TV, consumerism, Bad Religion, faux democracy, etc. what would you really expect? Hell, the metaphysicians have seen this one coming for years, as Pluto in Capricorn (oligarchy) collides with Uranus in Aries (youth revolt ). The corporate era gobbled the wealth, the food and water supply, and the imagination, leaving us fat, stupid and terrified. But we're waking up from the collective coma, and life will never be the same, the kids are the harbingers of change, let's Begin the Beguine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJ_Y3AGYRs8


Happy Together

By Deborah Meier

Of course, one enters that square already knowing that it has helped ignite many more similar gatherings, and signaled to others around the world that we are standing with them. But it also is just a happy place, smiling chatting people, willing to answer difficult questions about their beliefs, reasons for being there, and even their doubts. The place is also well organized – a big blackboard with the week's schedule, a daily General Assembly, food well organized along with other possible needs. I expected to just look-in, but...it was hard to leave. Even at 80 I didn't feel out of place. I also saw a few former students of mine who are now all grown up, doing great things – including being at Zuccotti square. I think someone should organize choral singing!


Zuccotti’s Elementary Republic

By Jedediah Purdy

As an approach to library science, anarchism is at its strongest and its weakest. The volunteers at the Occupy Wall Street library in Zuccotti Park “shelve” no book into the waterproof bins that serve as open-air shelves without first cataloguing it online and branding it with a Sharpie. This procedures creates a complete catalog of the books that sympathizers have donated, thanks to a small knot of natty book-lovers, some of whom unroll their camping gear at night amid the stacks of political theory, alternative economics, polemics on the financial crisis, bodice-rippers, and spiritual charlatanism of every kind. Once catalogued, the books go into an anarchist lending system, which is no system at all: take it if you want it, return it if you will, keep it if you need it. The catalog says nothing about the library’s present holdings except what has been there. It is an instantly obsolete memorial produced by tirelessly fastidious people who refuse to turn their fastidiousness into a rule for anyone else. It sits at the meeting-place of the database, the civic institution, and public art.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, philosophers often tried to understand society by imagining people without it – in a “state of nature.” Philosophy developed a genre of just-so stories in which hairy, under-dressed women and men meandered through forests and deserts, careening into each other and producing fistfights and couplings. Although rightly wary of one another, these semi-sociable monads soon find they do better together than alone, and through a series of crises and discoveries they create language, law, property, government, and the division of labor. Their natural freedom is gone, but the ambiguous benefits of civilization have replaced it. Voila!– a natural history of how we live together.

The old stories have been coming back to life, in diorama form, in Zuccotti Park. Friday night featured a four-hour debate on how Wall Street’s Occupiers should govern themselves. The constitutional crisis came out of a very state-of-nature problem. It had rained for days, and although the sun was back, there was a hill of wet laundry just west of the Information and Press tables, across the path from Sanitation’s collection of brooms and dustpans, and blocking the street from the orthodox-Marxist encampment that calls itself Class Warfare. Revolution may require patience, but wet laundry does not tolerate delay. The only way to requisition a couple of thousand dollars in quarters and detergent money was by consent of the whole community, or, if that failed after full debate, “modified consent” – a vote of 90 percent. It naturally seemed to the Structure Working Group – a kind of constitutional drafting committee – that this was an apt moment to give say-so over the quarters to some body less unwieldy than the whole people assembled.

Every exchange in the debate would have made good sense – with a little idiomatic translation – to the propertied men who drafted the United States Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. It turns out that, whenever you try to merge a loosely self-governing multitude into a sovereign body, the same practical problems and acute fears arise. If all power lies in the people, and they give it to a Congress or committee to use, how can they control the government they have created? What if it becomes corrupt, or turns around and tries to control them? What happens if the bigger groups use the concentrated power against smaller ones? (Class Warfare was already grumbling that some of its tents had been “expropriated” – an ideologically awkward point made nonetheless with heartfelt pissiness.) Who will watchdog the committees in winter, when it’s too cold to sit through a General Assembly outside? If we just worked harder and were more virtuous, couldn’t we deal with the laundry ourselves?

Most people know by now about the community microphone, the no-amplification technology for holding an open-air debate among 500 or more people: the speaker speaks, a circle around her shouts her phrases in unison, and, when necessary, a second circle repeats it again. This technical fix to a ban on amplified sound has major side-effects in moral education. It has a liturgical quality: the speaker has to break every ten words or so, to match the limits of short-term memory. The crowd intones together for hours. Every position argued in the assembly is literally embodied in the voice of everyone participating. What’s most striking is to see those who disagree sharply, and palpably dislike and mistrust one another, reciting each other’s attacks. Even when the speaker was agitated, an audible care governed the phrasing, as if the anticipated echo of the crowd and the memory of other voices in one’s own mouth dissolved the ordinary narcissism of oratory.

***

There is a geography to Zuccotti Park that looks like a Victorian ascent-of-man exhibit. At the eastern fringe, a tree has been designated the community’s sacred space, where all gods and sentiments are welcome. Icons, devotional cards, beads, incense, and a poster of John and Yoko were prominent at the end of last week. The drum circles work nearby, to the east and northeast, and their rhythmic neo-tribalism throbs on into the night, indifferent to what the General Assembly is debating on the other side of the park. A third or so of the park now belongs to long-term campers, unkempt, tired, and often sick or asleep during the day. There is some panhandling. Idealists are hard to pick out from professional transients and freeloaders. At night this is a faceless field of blue tarps and camping tents.

In the middle, the division of labor has arisen to meet the most pressing human needs. A kitchen runs at nearly all hours, and there is always a long line for whatever is on offer. The medical tents and sanitation supplies are here, and on the edge of this zone the mound of laundry gave its mute call for constitutional reform. These volunteers are the salt of Zuccotti Park, and they present a challenge to radical democracy: they are too busy to spend five nights a week in self-government. As long as the place is run by spontaneous action, they are as good as anyone else – indeed, they are leaders, because they are the first to pick up soup pots and brooms when the community needs those. The more decisions get concentrated in an efficient government, the more they will be carrying out orders and doing someone else’s work.

At the western end of the park, across from the Harriman Brothers banking house and just down the street from the Federal Reserve, human history emerges into Athenian democracy and learning, circa 500 B.C. The General Assembly meets here, with its back to Broadway, and the library huddles into the park’s northeast corner. The General Assembly is not particularly a gathering of the campers, let alone the drummers. Many of the debaters go home late, then return to the park. Many of the campers are under their tarps during the constitutional convention. Like Tolkien-esque tribes, the different populations identify themselves by their hair, their dress, and their manners. The stroll across the park feels like walking from Bonnaroo to Debate Club, if Debate Club met in an alternative universe designed by the Anarchist Gospel Choir.

***

The only articulate demands coming out of the park for now are on the buttons stamped out at an artisanal and unofficial table between the General Assembly space and the library, and these are in the broadest terms – democracy and equality. Participating for a couple of days, though, can bring home a subtler insistence. Plenty of Occupiers are vain and pleased with themselves, but most of them are also trying to live out an ideal of equality and personal freedom while making their little society work, albeit on a tiny scale with cops, subways, and wifi provided from outside. When someone dropped and shattered a piece of plate glass near me, I hurried to tell the sometime drummer pushing a broom, a mark that she was working with Sanitation. With perfect equanimity and sweetness, she pointed me to the Sanitation station, not so that I could tell a responsible person, but I could grab a broom and dustpan. By the time I got back to the site – no more than 90 seconds later – the glass was gone.

Do it yourself – DIY – is an aesthetic and also an ethic, which the Occupiers are trying to take from the personal to the social scale. Our world is rich, convenient, and often efficient because we parcel out tasks – governance, library science, cooking, sanitation – in a set of more or less hierarchical roles. Things get done, and there is time for private life and play. At the same time, we often deal with one another as representatives of these roles and tasks: you make my food, process my book, clean my floor, run my government, and, though I try to show a polite interest, that pretty much exhausts my interest in you. In Zuccotti Park you realize that the person pushing the broom is not Sanitation, but someone it would not be so bizarre to call by one of those old liberal-revolutionary terms, like citizen, and that you, too, citizen, might need to grab a dustpan right about now. Then it is easy to accept that things are lost in our usual efficiency: equality, and also intelligibility, a sense that you have to know how everything works – cleaning, cooking, shelving, governing – because you, too, might have to take responsibility for it at any moment. Nothing is someone else’s job, and – it somehow follows – everyone is more than the job they happen to be doing.

The financial crisis, and the self-satisfied and esoteric industry behind it, underscored not just how unfair our social life can seem, but also how opaque. How many really understand what happened, and, of those, how many understand what we might do now about where the crisis has brought us? The Occupiers are experimenting with the thought that inequality and opacity are optional, or, at least, that there can be ways of living together that are much more equally free, and much more intelligible, than those we have accepted. Their contribution, for now, is to invite others to pursue the same thought. It is really no more, or less, than the thought behind the Declaration of Independence: that societies are erected by naturally free and equal people, who are entitled to change the rules when they believe a different arrangement would serve their freedom better. History shows that this principle is dangerous, but also that we cannot do without it.


Public Happiness

By Benj DeMott

The Declaration of Independence – though it blurs the distinction between private and public happiness, at least still intends us to hear the term pursuit of happiness in its twofold meaning – private welfare as well as the right to public happiness, the pursuit of well-being as well as being a participator in public affairs. But the rapidity with which the second meaning was forgotten and the term used and understood without original qualifying adjective may well be the standard by which to measure, in America no less than in France, the loss of the original meaning and the oblivion of the spirit that had been manifest in the Revolution…

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution


OWS is full of compassion for miseries of hard-hit Americans but it’s also about “public happiness.” That democratic emotion Hannah Arendt once celebrated in her hymns to the Founders' success and failure. Jedediah Purdy (see above) does a better job than I ever could of elucidating links between the experience of modernity's original revolutionaries and the pathos of novelty in Zuccotti Square. With a little help from Arendt, though, I’d like to add a footnote on the fun (and the pity) of it all.

Arendt notes American revolutionaries betrayed more feeling for the pleasures of active citizenship than their French counterparts:

The Americans spoke of “public happiness,” where the French spoke of “public freedom,”…the point is that the Americans knew that public freedom consisted in having a share in public business, and that the activities connected with this business by no means constituted a burden but gave those who discharged them in public a feeling of happiness they could acquire nowhere else.

John Adams formulated that knowledge time and again. What moved America’s natural-born democrats most, according to Adams, was “the passion of distinction”: “Wherever men, women or children are to be found…every individual is seen to be strongly actuated by a desire to be seen, heard, talked of, approved and respected by the people around him and within his knowledge.” This passion had a virtue, which Adams called “emulation” – the “desire to excel another” – and a vice which he called “ambition” because it “aims at power as a means of distinction.”

I’m sure the virtue and vice of the passion of distinction are alive in Zuccotti Square.

Arendt noted that America’s originary revolutionaries lacked the “passion of compassion” that defined Continental revolutionaries who had no choice but to deal with issues of economic inequality. 99 Per Centers are not likely to look to the Founders (with their 3/5th compromises) for inspiration when it comes to what was once called “the social question.” But (as per Arendt) John Adams had something to give on this score. She quotes the following passage from Adams noting it’s more than worthy of Marx at his best:

The poor man’s conscience is clear; yet he is ashamed…He feels himself out of the sight of others, groping in the dark. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles and wanders unheeded. In the midst of a crowd, at church, in the market…he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar. He is not disapproved, censured or reproached…he is only not seen. To be wholly overlooked, and to know it are intolerable. If Crusoe on his island had the library of Alexandria and a certainty that he should never again see the face of a man, would he ever open a volume?

I wish I’d had Adams in my back pocket when I came on an OWSer holding up an “Impeach Obama” poster. It might have helped him grasp the deep pride in being seen at last that animates Obama’s black base. I asked the young OWSer if he thought his message would help his movement recruit the great mass of African Americans (whose support for Obama remains “remarkably steady and strong” according to recent polls). He claimed black Americans "are learning.” I was put off by his cluelessness about the flow of American history and underground wisdom. (His foreign accent no doubt amped up my irritation.) But I got a lift when other voices in the crowd picked up on our exchanges and talked back to him. On my next visit to the Square, I ran into the same guy. He was having a civil discussion – no...it was actually friendlier than that – with two African Americans. One of them – a tall, handsome brother – seemed to embody Adams’ virtue of “emulation.” He’d attracted a crowd as he gently resisted the wannabe impeacher’s anarchist rhetoric. I shut my piehole and listened to him speak up smartly for voting and reforming capitalism rather than smashing it. And I wasn’t the only one who was all ears. The anarchist was listening too and…learning? I got the name and email of his exemplary teacher after the fact. If anybody is searching for a good candidate down the line – let me try to hook you up with one Shawn Collins. He's got the skills to add on to John Adams', OWS's, and, yup, Barack Obama's revolutionary tradition.


SOS

By Staughton Lynd

REMARKS, at Occupy Youngstown, Oct. 15, 2011

I want to say a few words about three things: 1. Solidarity; 2. Demands; 3. Life among the 99 PerCent.

I. SOLIDARITY. We feel solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and rejoice that they maintain their physical presence at their chosen park.

We feel solidarity with the many, many Occupy This Town and Occupy That Town that have sprung up, spontaneously, all over the United States: all over this land that suddenly seems more like "your land" and "my land," like our land, again.

We feel solidarity with the occupation protests taking place today all over the world.

There is also solidarity over time. As a representative of Survivors Of the Sixties – acronym, SOS – I feel this kind of solidarity strongly.

Many of you have heard of Abbie Hoffman. He was in Mississippi, in 1967 he promoted the levitation of the Pentagon, and together with Jerry Rubin he started the Yippies.

I met Abbie twice. The first time was during the Chicago Democratic Party Convention, when I saw him wearing a black T shirt, lying face down on a cot, in a Chicago city jail. The second time, more than twenty years later, was in a Franciscan church in Managua, Nicaragua. There is a part of the Catholic liturgy known as the "peace of God" when each congregant greets every other. At the church of St. Mary of the Angels one circled the floor, greeting elderly women, small of stature, many holding photographs of their sons who had been killed in the contra war.

Suddenly a bearded figure bounded across the floor from the other side of the church and embraced me. It was Abbie.

Not long afterwards he committed suicide. Tom Hayden commented: "We are all waiting for the new Movement. I guess Abbie couldn't wait any longer."

Try to imagine what the past three weeks, this moment of awakening, this vista of new hope, would have meant to the trailblazers of the Sixties, to Dave Dellinger and Howard Zinn, to Stokely Carmichael and Jim Forman, to Barbara Deming.

Think also of Youngstown, Ohio, in the 1970s and 1980s, and the men and women who fought to substitute worker-community ownership for capitalist greed. Think of Bishop James Malone, of Ed Mann who led us down the hill to occupy the US Steel administration building, and his comrade, John Barbero. Think of Delores Hrycyk, wife of an LTV Steel retiree. Long before facebook and twitter, when LTV declared bankruptcy Delores called all the local radio stations and said there would be a retiree rally, here in Federal plaza, just as today at noon on Saturday. A thousand people came. A retiree direct action movement, Solidarity USA, was born.

Think of Bob Vasquez, president of Steelworkers local union 1330 at US Steel. Bob said: We lost, but my members told me over and over again that we fought, and because we fought, we preserved our dignity.

Finally, in the 1990s there came, first, the Zapatista insurrection in Chiapas, and then, from 1999 to 2001, what Naomi Klein has described as "the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power." Back then I felt that our protest activity was "summit-hopping." Two young men stayed overnight in our basement who had been in Seattle, went back to Chicago but were unsure what to do next, and were on their way to Quebec. Speaking to the general assembly at Occupy Wall Street, Naomi Klein described how the new movement is different.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

II. DEMANDS. As of course you know, the pundits, the commentators, the talking heads, have one fundamental criticism of Occupy Wall Street: What are its demands? How can you have a Movement without a specific program of things you are demanding?

They know not what they ask! Speaking for myself, I don't demand a list of specifics, I demand a qualitatively different kind of society. I seek the Kingdom of God on earth. I want to go back to the Book of Leviticus, chapter 25, declare a Year of Jubilee and wipe out all debts. But since I am a practical, moderate sort of fellow, I say: Let's begin by declaring an end to student indebtedness, so that young people can pursue their dreams rather than go to work for corporate law firms in order to pay down their loans.

I think Jubilee is a practical program. Twenty years ago, my wife Alice and I were in some of the few Syrian villages that remain in the Golan Heights, occupied in 1967 by the State of Israel. People there make a living by growing apples. And the villagers told us: "We don't understand this idea of fixed property boundaries. Families vary in size from one generation to the next, and therefore, we adjust the amount of land allotted to a particular family, depending on the number of mouths to be fed."

At present, although few of us live in gated communities, this whole society lives with gated imaginations. Each of us is encouraged to build a little island of personal financial security surrounded by an electrified fence. The fence keeps others out and keeps each of us imprisoned.

But OK, we might agree to postpone the Kingdom of God for a little while longer. It's already been delayed 2000 years. And there are a couple of things that need to be done right now, in Ohio, that we should demand.

The first, of course, is to vote No on Issue 2 and repeal Senate Bill 5.

The second is to abolish the death penalty. Friends, the ice is breaking. Not long ago, Ohio executed more men every year than any other state except Texas. In 2010, Ohio was the only state in the nation that deliberately killed more human beings than it had murdered the year before. Presently, with to be sure a pause for Christmas, executions in Ohio are scheduled every month or two into the year 2013.

But the ice is breaking. Paul Pfeifer, the senior judge on the Ohio Supreme Court who helped to draft Ohio's capital punishment statute, has come out for abolishing the death penalty. Terry Collins, who as head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction witnessed more than thirty executions, has come out for abolishing the death penalty. Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and his wife have written a book about miscarriages of justice in Ohio courts. There has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives a bill, H.B. 160, to abolish the death penalty and substitute life imprisonment without parole. I can only say: Come, Lord, quickly come.

These are objectives of highest priority: repeal Senate Bill 5, abolish the death penalty.

But I want to make a final observation about demands. When our critics use the word "demands," they mean: Tell some legislator or administrator what you want him or her to do for you. Gather your own initiative, your self-activity, and your righteous outrage into a bundle, and give it to someone else to act in your place. Tell somebody else what you want them to do for you.

But I say: Yes, we should vote. Yes, we should support this bill and oppose that one. Yes, we should give President Obama some pressure from what Subcomandante Marcos calls "below and to the Left," and thereby give the President some excuse to do what, in his heart of hearts, he no doubt often would really like to do.

But this is not our highest priority. Our most urgent objective is not to give someone else the authority to act on our behalf. Our greatest need is not to hand over to somebody other than ourselves the responsibility to remake the world.

No, we need to remake the world ourselves, right now, from below and to the Left. I am appalled at the poverty of imagination that has been shown in the last thirty years in the Mahoning Valley regarding what is to be done. A "shrinking city"? What kind of development strategy is that for a community that is already losing its young people? Tearing down buildings without knowing what to put in their place? Give me a break. A bulldozer can do that. It is not a plan of action, a vision, worthy of human beings.

The Chamber of Commerce, besides sponsoring Senate Bill 5 without a democratic vote of its membership, is anxious to obliterate the memory of Youngstown's militant labor history. There used to be a plaque, right here in Federal plaza, commemorating the Little Steel Strike of 1937. When the streets through downtown were reconfigured for the fifth or sixth time, the plaque disappeared. Don't worry Staughton, I am told, it's in a museum. Yeah, I answer, and that's precisely the problem.

The fact is that new ideas are up and about in the Mahoning Valley but not in corporate boardrooms or in the corridors of power. Quickly, one example of a program that needs to be supported and developed is the idea of providing much of the Valley's food with produce grown locally. Let me be blunt: This is a wonderful idea. But it must become an activity that offers full-time employment to young people trying to grow up and survive in the inner city, or it will remain a middle-class fad, and those young people will leave the area in desperation or wind up behind bars.

III. LIFE AMONG THE 99 PERCENT. I am running out of time so I will just say this one more thing. In the late 1960s it was the thing to do to call police officers "pigs." I objected at the time, and I strongly object now. When I visit the state's first supermaximum security prison on Youngstown-Hubbard Road, often a correctional officer will call out: "Hello, Staughton! Remember me? I used to be your client." Steelworkers and truck drivers who have been unable to find work wind up in the Valley's many new prisons.

If we wish truly to be the 99 percent, we cannot call each other names. Nurses, teachers, and firemen want to repeal Senate Bill 5, but so do policemen and correctional officers.

Barbara Deming had a good way of putting it. She said: Nature gives us two hands. With one of them, we must hold up a barrier to those we perceive as oppressors, and say: No further, or only over my body. With the other hand we must reach out to those same persons and say: Join us.


Snapshots from the Occupation

By Dennis Myers

#The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

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As the riot police did a practice run up Broadway (with plastic handcuffs at the ready), the crowd chanted “the whole world’s watching” but no one meant network TV. Sure, on the morning of Bloomberg’s scheduled clean-up confrontation, about a third of the crowd held cameras in hand. Some of them came from the news crews whose trucks lined the street by the park. But the media that matters held the center of the occupation, both metaphorically and in practical location. If you want to know what the occupation’s demands are: listen, listen to the occupiers themselves. The paid press portrays the movement as scatterbrained and violent, but most of the protester conversations I’ve heard articulate considered perspectives. And the lack of a unified message ensures the absence of sound bites and that simply frustrates the media pigeonholing. What fills that blackhole is often ripe with irony. Take Victoria Jackson (of SNL fame)’s trip to expose the stupidity of the protestors. [http://patriotupdate.com/videos/victoria-jackson-takes-on-occupy-wall-street-protesters ] She asks questions that parrot the Fox party line – “you know Obama is in bed with industry” and “you know Obama is a Marxist” – that expose the unquestioned stupidity of these patriots. “Perhaps she’s doing some kinda Andy Kaufman,” suggested a friend.

#Follow the Money

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“Yeah, it’s Friday. I’d love to have nothing to do but hang out in a park all day.” The encampment lies between the PATH train and the Street, so whiteshirted execs stroll past the indictment every day. If they spare any attention to the people and their signs, it’s to complain about the labyrinth of checkpoints surrounding the financial district like an orchestrated warzone. A few are more compassionate and offer the friendly suggestion that the protestors should “get a job.” If the occupation appears homeless, perhaps that’s because these parked people are living like the homeless do: eating from charity and sleeping outside on cardboard, protected by tarps…and not the bailout kind of TARPS. The media right (and some to the left) characterize the rabble as a street mob left over from the French (of course) revolution. “These people,” Glenn Beck characterized the protesters on his radio show one day, “will drag you out into the streets and kill you.” If so, they will have to do with their bare hands, and not with economic policy.

#Thank You for Not Smoking

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The hostile ask, “what do you want?” Everyone else asks, “what do you need?” I watched one interviewer capture a carefully worded, articulate young woman explain her grievances about the corporatization of American values, on how the future has been abandoned to educational debt, and a just society expresses care over anger. Then the interviewer concluded with that last question, about need and the answer came quickly: “Cigarettes. Do you know how much cigarettes cost in New York?” There are centers in Liberty Park for food, for sanitation, for a library, and even for rolling cigarettes. Sustenance and celebration. On the night the Brooklyn Bridge arrestees tumbled back out onto the streets, they were greeted upon their release with cigarettes. One morning I was walking through the crowds, a woman held up four cigarettes in her right hand, offering them for the needy. “Anybody need a cigarette? We can’t have a revolution without cigarettes.”

#Can You Hear Me Now.

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“I’m so pumped right now. Occupy. Wall Street. So pumped." She wears a brown double-knit sweater/skirt. Tight. “I can feel your energy.” He’s dressed in an athletic shirt and blue jeans. “Cause I’m channeling it, channeling it to you.” She bops ceaselessly on the steps leading down into the general assembly area. Still breathless and shouting from her early morning march down Broadway. “I know, I know, I could feel it all night long.” He steps away from talking with his friends, turns towards her. “I didn’t sleep. I was channeling. You could feel it?” She’s talking skyward, still bouncing on her heels. “Yes. Yes, I could. What’s your name?” They pull out their cellphones and exchange numbers.

#Feed the Poor / Eat the Rich

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I’m dropping off a bag of natural peanut butter and organic jelly sandwiches at the food station, located about midway in the park. In front of me, a middle-aged lady holds a small sack of apples, and asks what other food should she bring. “We don’t need more food. We need someone to start to cooking this stuff and bringing it back.” The food volunteer speaks emphatically, “I know it’s asking a lot to keep making trips, but we can’t cook here. “ The lady stands there frozen, unsure what to do with the apples, lowers the bag slightly. Finally, the food occupier realizes her intensity has created paralysis, a moment she breaks with a smile and a nod and a reach for the apples. “We just can’t cook here.” So any given morning, you can see a group of young occupiers, holding paper plates, with a single PopTart on each.

#Keep Moving / Nothing to See Here

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I am standing on the bottom fringe of the stone park, catty-corner from the rising tower in the WTC site. Standing on one the pink granite ballasts, a tall man in roughed-up clothes and late day facial shadow lays a huge sign above his head: Hitler’s Bankers. “Jews own Wall Street. The Jews.” Excessive, yes. Confused, yes. This must be New York so any assembly – whether protesters on Wall Street or tourists in Times Square – presents the perfect opportunity for society’s true fringe to take the stage. And the outside media latches onto the people that everyday New Yorkers would simply smile at and twist past as though they represented the movement. But the occupation has its own answer to all the lunatic fringe. Several people flank either side of the man and they start their own chant: “Whadda we hate? / Hate speech.”

#The People United

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“They show up and that’s great and all, but, you know, they should get their own revolution. This is our revolution. You can have a revolution, but get your own.” The anarchists camp in the west fringe of the park; “we’re not fucking hippies” in tattoos and worn rags live just up the hill from them. There are true Marxists, relaxing under a red-and-black bannered gaze of Che. And working guys in their union jackets eating lunch along the northern wall and a group of CUNY teachers sit in a circle, grading papers. The occupation turns in constant flux: people come, people go. The revolution Liberty Park encamps is more than one revolution, more than one idea, more than one person. That is its ultimate strength.

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Antenna

By Diane di Prima

When First asked Diane di Prima to participate in this roundtable, she sent poems and asked us to note the date of her “Experiment”: “must’ve written it just before OWS began. Poets are the antennae of the human race sd Ez. Or was it 'artists'?"

Marking Time

in jazz and poetry
you gotta keep
just a hair

ahead
...of the beat

or else
you're just marking time


Experiment

Try this, just once. Think of it as an experiment. Tip of the tip of the iceberg, and we ain't even on the titanic. Not that much "safety". But it's a start.. Sit down on a curb with somebody. Break what you got to eat in two pieces. If they don't seem even, take the smaller piece. (It's an experiment, you're only doing it once.) Both of you eat what you got. chewing slowly, noticing the taste. Sit five to 15 minutes together without saying anything, just notice how the world looks. Maybe you feel the same as ever. Maybe not.

—September 19, 2011


Kindling

By Aram Saroyan

What I love about the 99%-ers is that they're not addressing issues, they're changing the conversation.


Social Living

By Scott Spencer

The great social movements of my lifetime – the peace, civil rights, gender equality, gay rights, and ecological movements, were all evidence of the deep humanist strain that runs through American civic life. But the issues raised by these protests conceivably could be addressed within the confines of liberal capitalism – free enterprise does not necessarily need a bellicose foreign policy, filthy air and denuded forests, and unfair laws that punish minorities in order to turn a profit. Occupy Wall Street, however, is the first large movement in my lifetime that has posed serious questions about wealth and power that cannot be satisfactorily answered by any politician with connections to the capitalist class. I have been waiting for half a century for socialism to come to the United States. And no, it doesn't seem as if we are close to implementing socialist solutions to the problems of inequality and exploitation, and We are the 99% isn't exactly Arise ye prisoners of starvation, but as the OWS crowd meanders toward some common ideology, it does seem at least possible that just like in Peru and England and France and Italy and Chile, and India and just about every democracy in the world, socialist theories and values will be part of the American conversation. Halle-fucking-lujah!


Occupy Wall Street and the Unions

By Tom Smucker

At the moment, my union, the CWA, is negotiating a contract with Verizon, my former employer and the current provider of my pension and supplemental Medicare benefits. I care about this contract because I love my union and because Verizon – a big rich company – is threatening to cut retiree benefits to “stay competitive.” In other words, because they think they can get away with it.

About two weeks ago I went down to Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza with another retiree and we held up a big banner about the Verizon negotiations and handed out leaflets to occupiers and curious passersby. In a lifetime of leafleting I’ve never received such an enthusiastic response. Or been photographed so often while holding a banner.

Friday, October 21, after work, the CWA along with other unions and the Occupy Wall Streeters, organized a march from Verizon headquarters at 140 West Street, just north of Ground Zero, over to Liberty Plaza, and then down and around to a Verizon Wireless Store on Broad Street just south of the Stock Exchange. In a lifetime of marches and demonstrations I’ve never observed anything like it. There were CWA, UAW, SEIU, TWU and Teamsters, Occupy Wall Streeters, and many others. It was big.

But this was the most amazing: there was no observable difference between the union people and the other participants. I’ve spent decades around the professional left, permanent protestors, and trade unions members, and in the past, when necessity pulled them together you could always feel the friction. No longer.

I’m not a consensus guy. And I haven’t liked sleeping bags since the Boy Scouts half a century ago. I’m no longer interested in debates between utopians. But something has changed.

Maybe since Wisconsin everyone can see that the right really does want to eliminate unions. And Social Security. And Medicare and Medicaid. And pensions. Maybe Occupy Wall Street just came along in the right place at the right time.

But they have provided an open-ended mental and physical metaphor that lets people make their own connections. The grad with the unbearable student loans. The homeowner with the underwater mortgage. The retiree with the worthless 401K. The teenager and the 55 year old who can’t get a job. The homeless drifter. The Verizon employees who can’t hold on to their wages and benefits without outside allies. The thoughtful power brokers worried about all of the above.

I’ve waited since Reagan went after PATCO for the public to care about the ongoing war against unions, and for the unions to care that the public would care. I don’t know what will happen next, but what’s happened in the last month, at least here in New York City, is huge.


Listening to Occupy Wall Street

By John Fullerton

Excerpted from the author’s blog posting on OWS, which can be found at the website for Capital Institute http://www.capitalinstitute.org/about.

I’m a former banker, a one percenter, and I’m mad as hell too.

Let’s be clear. This movement is not frustration being expressed, as President Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner, and now Eric Cantor have suggested. Frustration is passive; anger is active. Martin Luther King was not frustrated. But beyond my anger is real concern for Democracy, for America, for the people of the world, and for the planet upon which we all depend, and for my children’s future...

This concern led me to Liberty Park Plaza (bought and renamed Zuccotti Park in 2006) last week to look past the rag-tag and to listen, to show my support for the peaceful demonstrators, and to learn first-hand what the occupation is about. I wanted to see if I could build a relationship with some of the organizers, which I did. I was right not to trust what one sees in the press. To understand OWS requires time, not sound bites, and listening not shouting, both of which are missing from the modern media.

“What do they want?” is not the right question. That’s a question for interest groups, working their battle plans within the system. That’s the question the media and our elite politicians from the left and the right want to ask and answer, putting complex issues in pre-existing boxes before they are understood.

The right question to ask is, what is emerging here?...

It is useful and eye opening to go back to see how OWS began http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/occupy-wall-street-international-origins, and to view the original Adbusters blog post dated July 13, 2011. The story and the language is a bit unsettling. Many of the slogans we see in the news are silly – free food attracts many of the city’s most destitute harming and helping the movement's cause all at once, and the drums are annoying. (I learned today they have decided to limit the drummers to two hours a day – we’ll see.) But the first thing to understand about OWS is that it is serious, organic, and uncontrolled, now spreading to hundreds if not thousands of cities around the world and connecting with pre-existing movements in Europe and North Africa. Like the world we live in, the OWS movement is complex and filled with uncertainty.

What is emerging at Liberty Park Plaza is a mass experiment in participatory and deliberative democracy, some will say direct democracy.

I engaged with one of about a dozen experienced organizers of OWS. He was unusually calm, articulate, experienced – a Seattle WTO alum – and well informed. He had read Herman Daly and Schumacher – we discussed how the monetary system relates to biospheric limits. He told me the General Assembly that meets every evening ("mic check") to deliberate the course of the movement had determined explicitly not to develop a set of demands at this time.

OWS is focused on setting up a governance system for the movement, expecting to be around for the long haul. As of today, any list of demands that you may hear, therefore, are unsanctioned by the governing General Assembly of OWS, but that does not stop anyone from creating them. Here’s just one example of a proposal to the General Assembly [https://sites.google.com/site/the99percentdeclaration/home], although not yet adopted as of this writing. But it gives a sense of the direction this movement may be heading toward: the convening of a National General Assembly on July 4, 2012, in Philadelphia. In our uncertain world, nothing should surprise us.

The emergence of the practice of participatory democracy as the movement’s only initial priority says everything. OWS is about taking back democracy...[T]heir strategy is to build the power of the movement before seeking to use that power. A million demonstrators speak louder than ten thousand, just like a trillion dollar balance sheet speaks louder than a hundred billion dollar one. Right out of Goldman Sachs’ playbook I’d say.

I support the non-violent movement "OWS" to restore true democracy in America. While we must speak truth to power on Wall Street (more on this to come, and change is coming), this is not, in my judgment, first about the bankers – there are many good and hard-working people on Wall Street. Nor, I hope, is this about the divisive message “We are the 99 percent.” It’s about the idea of what Wall Street has become, and the corrosive effect it has had on the Republic.

William Blake cautioned that abstraction without the particular becomes demonic. As a society, we became intoxicated with the pursuit of money, and then in our stupor, allowed demonic forces emanating from Wall Street to layer abstraction upon abstraction in the name of “innovation.” This morphed into nothing but leveraged speculation at best, manipulation, conflicts of interest, cynicism, cheating, and fraud. I know; I was there at the creation in the 1980s. It was innovative then, purposeful, productive, and exhilarating, until it metastasized into a cancer, interestingly around the time we were shocked by the attacks of 9-11, although the toxins were in the body years earlier. Free market fundamentalism blinded us to a timely diagnosis, and continues to do so today.

It is time for finance to resume its proper and humble place as servant to, not master of, the real economy – an economy that promotes a more equitably shared prosperity while respecting the physical limits of our finite planet. Such transformation is the Great Work of our age, work that drives the Capital Institute and many other organizations fostering the emergence of a new economy. Restoring our democracy is an essential step, which just may be at hand. Still a long shot, but we shall see.


Hope in Things Not Seen

By Adam Hochschild

The big thrill is at seeing so many thousands of people at last give voice to the frustrations felt by hundreds of millions here and around the world. The big difficulty: the vast and increasing inequality that’s inspired this protest is more complex and rooted than what has driven the great protest movements of the past, where so often there so often there could be one simple demand: Vietnam – get out; legalized segregation – abolish it; apartheid – end it. The big, hope-inspiring paradox: no counter-demonstrators! When was the last time you saw that? My big fear: that people will keep on occupying parks and public spaces, while the banks, the big corporations and the Congress and administration that so serves their interests will keep on doing business as usual. My big hope: that the protests will evolve into other forms of pressure that make it impossible for business to go on as usual and that will actually force change. Don’t underestimate how far we still have to go to get to that point.


You Don’t Need a Weatherman...

By Mark Dudzic

Over the past month, I’ve been by the Occupation encampments in a few cities (though not to the “mother encampment” in Zuccotti Park). Myself and Communications Workers union activist Dennis Serette helped facilitate a labor teach-in at the Freedom Square encampment in Washington, DC. From my limited observation, the participants seem to be a mishmash of anarchists and other “true believers” from various social movements and varying numbers of “lost souls” marginalized by an economic system that efficiently transfers resources to the 1%. At some sites, there is a substantial union presence both with members stopping by and organizational resources. The National Nurses United has helped to set up and staff medical tents at several encampments.

I wouldn’t put a lot of hope in a sophisticated anti-capitalist program and strategy emerging from this milieu. In fact, it is almost unfair to expect that these groups could formulate such a program and strategy. They're just a bunch of motivated activists and victims of the economic system brought together by a visceral desire to bear witness on behalf of the 99%. They are like Cindy Sheehan camping in a ditch in front of George Bush's ranch. And like Sheehan, they have struck a chord with a much broader public.

It is important to remember that, while her actions helped call forth a growing anti-war movement, Sheehan turned out to be a not very effective strategic leader of that movement. And yet we constantly focus all of our aspirational discourse around waiting for that “Cindy Sheehan moment” rather than preparing to respond to that moment once it arises. In fact, in the modern cycle of protest, the description attributed to Gandhi that, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ought to be modified a bit. After the fight part, it should probably read, “then they try to discredit you while you engage in increasingly dramatic actions until you begin to look ridiculous, then they ignore you.”

What is striking to me is how often the commentariat conflates dramatic and moving acts of bearing witness or engaging in symbolic resistance to an oppressive or exploitative system into a full blown movement with the capacity to engage and transform that system. This is the kind of magical thinking that hopes against all past experience that a galvanizing event (Seattle!) or individual (Obama!) can substitute for the real work of building a class-based movement that is self-conscious enough to begin a real political transformation.

And it is equally striking how many people who should know better speak of the Occupy phenomena as if it was unprecedented, new-born and pregnant with promise. “Not since the 1960’s has such a movement captivated Americans...” “Not since the 1930’s has there been such a powerful and sustained economic populist movement...”

Well now. How about the mid 1970’s movements against the New York City budget cuts? In my old Bronx neighborhood, residents "occupied" Fordham Hospital for over 60 days in 1975 to protest its closing and then waged a 6-month battle in alliance with the hospital workers union to prevent the Emergency Financial Control Board from giving away the newly built North Central Bronx Hospital to the private Montefiore chain. Similar actions were taking place all over the city including the famous Greenpoint/Williamsburg firehouse occupation and the squatters movements centered on Tompkins Square.

In fact, in my post-60’s baby boomer lifetime, there have been numerous “moments of resistance” where thousands were drawn to act and millions were inspired to support them. The biggest were probably the labor insurgencies of the early '70's with many actions lasting months at a time involving postal workers, mineworkers, teamsters, municipal workers, autoworkers and many others, and causing widespread disruption and massive state repression.

Then there were the worldwide movements against the threat of nuclear war in the early years of the Reagan administration, the "Decatur-Is-A-War-Zone"/Detroit Free Press/New Directions Victory/TDU moment in the mid-1990's culminating in a very substantial and serious attempt to launch a Labor Party, the anti-globalization uprising at the turn of the century cut short by the events of 9/11/01, the efforts to stop the invasion of Iraq in '02/'03, the immigrants rights May Day movement beginning in 2006 and many others. Each one of them had their boosters who saw them as unprecedented, transformative and on the verge of historic breakthroughs.

Unlike the narratives of the labor and allied socialist movements in the first half of the 20th Century or the mid-20th Century civil rights movements, these moments have all but disappeared from public discourse because, on the whole, they didn't "succeed" in any conventional sense. Nor has there been much sense of continuity from one to the next even though many of the same individuals were participants in more than one of them. Lacking both an organized ideological and strategic center and an institutional base capable of sustaining a growing movement over space and time, these efforts have appeared as episodic rather than as part of a multi-decade movement against neo-liberalism and corporate power. Unless we begin to move beyond drum circle politics and wishful cheerleading, I won't be convinced that this moment has any more staying power than the earlier ones.

But something really is happening out there. The important thing is not so much what will emerge from the tent cities and human microphones. What is important is the awakening of a new class consciousness. That is the genius and the power of the “we are the 99%” meme at the core of the movement

Those of us who hope to see this emerging consciousness become the engine of a sustained and strategic anti-capitalist movement need to give up our millennial wet dreams. The center of world capitalism will not yield to the kind of spontaneous insurrectionary movements that often produce regime change (though rarely any real social transformations) in peripheral countries nor will a new world emerge whole cloth from the utopian communities of occupation. To survive, this movement will need institutional structures, programmatic clarity, ideological unity, depth, sustainability and presence in working class communities everywhere. The labor movement could provide a center and structure for this movement but it itself is enmeshed in a self-destructive instrumentalism and needs to be internally transformed or supplanted. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

And we better get started. Because, to paraphrase old Bobby D, you don’t need a weatherman to know that the cold winter rains will soon melt all of the cardboard in Zuccotti Park.


A Night in the Park: Occupy Wall Street Observed

By Jeremy Brecher

I spent October 12 and 13 at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park. I had already written in a piece for The Nation about the historical background of such movements, but I wanted to get the feel of the occupation on the ground, as well as to add my widow’s mite of support. I was particularly interested to see close up how the occupation’s oft-described organization and communication processes really worked.

There is no way that in just two days I could fathom the complex social organism that is Occupy Wall Street. Rather, what follows is intended to give you some idea of what you might experience if you made an equally brief sojourn to see for yourself.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I arrived Wednesday morning it was just starting to rain and things were moving slow. I was struck that the couple of hundred people standing around in ones and twos and threes represented a wide range of age, race, and apparent ethnicity. They also represented a wide range of the appearances that so often are the markers of class in our society: A few were dressed and groomed as if on their way to the office; a good number had the ragged and unkempt appearance stereotyped as homeless “street people” (an appearance I’m sure I would have shared after a week or two of sleeping in the park); the majority were casually dressed somewhere in between. In short, they looked like a pretty wide subset of the people you would see on the streets of New York.

I noticed immediately that lots of people were giving raps to their neighbors. Listening in, I could hear that many of them echoed the public themes of the occupation: the unfair distribution of wealth, the bail-outs for bankers, the need for direct action and for a movement. It was clear that the people there understood and themselves could articulate the goals of the protest. I listened to the OWS media spokespeople as they were interviewed by reports with notebooks and cameras; it was clear that they and the rank-and-file were on the same page.

A few people with brooms or garbage bags passed by periodically cleaning up the ground. Others laid out bagels and freshly baked bread along a food table. I noticed that both groups wore sanitary gloves. There was an area covered by tarps where media folks were working, but no place to see what they were sending out over the web. At one end of the park a dozen drummers pounded away, occasionally accompanied by dancers and other instrumentalists. Although the park was surrounded by police, I was not aware of any security operation by the occupiers except when I overheard a young man tell a friend, I’m on security right now. Over the course of the two days I occasionally saw people with apparent mental problems who became very angry and belligerent; I rapidly saw people go over to them, engage them in conversation, sometimes give them a hug, and very successfully calm them down. At any given time quite a people were standing alone speaking into cell phones in a way that would have made it look like the crowd was full of autistics if you didn’t know what they were doing.

Occasionally I would hear the famous “people’s microphone” that had been improvised because amplification had been banned in the park. Someone would call out “mic check!” which would then be repeated in unison by those around them. Then an announcement, broken up into chunks of a few words, would follow, again echoed in unison by those nearby.

FACILITATION

There was an information table with a list of events posted, and I noted that there was a “facilitators meeting” at 4:00 at a church-run drop-in center a couple of blocks away. Since I knew all meetings were supposed to be open, I went there and slipped through the door of the conference room where 25-30 people were jammed in. The facilitation working group was preparing for that evening’s General Assembly, the decision-making open meeting for all Occupy Wall Street participants. There didn’t seem to be any one person chairing, but rather several people performing different parts of that function. I saw people accompanying the discussion with a whole lot of rather weird hand and finger motions.

The facilitators were discussing a proposal to make the color purple the emblematic color of Occupy Wall Street. It was brought to the facilitators by an earnest young man who reported on his research about the colors identified various movements and their significance. I gradually began to piece together the protocol the facilitators were following. There was a facilitator and sometimes also a co-facilitator who were sort of running the meeting. But there was also someone else – the “stack keeper” – who was making a list (a “stack”) of those who wished to speak, then calling on them. Sometimes a “progressive stack” was announced in which individuals who had not yet spoken were recognized first.

First people asked questions of the proposer. If anyone else had relevant information they could offer a “point of information.” After questions were finished a new stack was opened for the expression of “concerns.” At a certain point it was indicated that the stack was closed. When all the concerns had been expressed, a facilitator asked if there were any “blocks” – a sort of veto indicating that there was not a consensus. (I learned elsewhere that one-tenth of the participants in a meeting were supposed to be able to block a decision, but I never saw even one person actually execute a block in any meeting.) If there were no blocks, the facilitator declared that a consensus decision had been made.

All of this was frequently accompanied by hand signals. I figured out that hands raised in the air with fingers wriggling upward – known as “twinkling” was an indication of support, a message that “we like what we’re hearing.” The same movement with the hands pointing down meant the opposite. Fingers wiggling horizontally meant uncertainty or ambivalence. A diamond made with thumbs and index fingers meant something like “point of order” or “is this really relevant?” Forearms crossed in front of the chest indicated a block or an inclination to block. Sometimes a facilitator would call for a “temperature check,” and people would indicate with their hand motions their current position.

At the facilitators meeting there were virtually no pro or con statements about the substance of the proposals. The questions and concerns were directed to procedural questions of whether the proposal was appropriate for General Assembly decision and how it and its proposer could be best prepared to present it and answer questions and concerns in a way that could be acted on effectively by the General Assembly. As someone explained to another newcomer, “You’ve come to a meeting of the facilitators, so you’ve come to a meeting of process freaks.” They seemed to take very seriously the idea that their responsibility was to create a process that would allow the General Assembly to decide, rather than to bias the decision in the direction they thought best.

In the case of the color purple, someone suggested that the proposer simply hand out purple ribbons and spread the idea virally. Someone else noted that he was indeed already doing so, but that he was seeking an endorsement of the General Assembly so that it would be incorporated in the official communications and symbols of the Occupation. Someone noted that proposals to the General Assembly were supposed to come from “working groups.” Someone else observed that they were operating with a very loose definition of what a working group was, and that the proposer in this case had done enough research that he might be considered a one-person working group. Ultimately it was decided that the proposal would be held over till the next day’s General Assembly.

MY FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY

That night I attended my first General Assembly. A team from the facilitation meeting stood at the wall of the park while several hundred people crowded in front of them in the rain. A facilitator called out “mic check!,” those nearby echoed “mic check!,” and a second wave beyond them echoed “mic check!” again. From then on, each speaker said a few words and waited while they would be repeated by first, second, and sometimes even third waves of echo. Echoers were surprisingly easy to understand and they reproduced the words and even the intonation of the speakers with surprising accuracy. But everything took two or three times as long – like non-simultaneous interpretation, only even slower. Twinkling and other hand motions broke out at many points.

The main agenda items for the General Assembly were motions brought by working groups. For example, the media working group brought a proposal to spend $25,000 for computers and video equipment to immediately upgrade the live feed that ran 24/7 from the encampment and add channels so that movements from around the world could use it for Saturday’s global day of action. There were many questions: Couldn’t it be done more cheaply? Would it be operational in time? What if the equipment were stolen or broken? Would there be diverse producers using the equipment so the messages weren’t all controlled by one top producer? What was the total amount of money Operation Wall Street had? The proposer or others gave detailed answers that fully addressed the questions that were being raised.

After all questions had been addressed, the facilitators “closed the stack” and started a new one for “concerns.” For example, one person said that proposals to spend money had to go through the finance working group. He said he would block the proposal if it didn’t. I think that was the only time I actually saw arms crossed over a chest for real. Someone from the finance committee immediately spoke on a point of information and explained that the finance committee had indeed approved the proposal. Some of the “concerns” were not clearly directed to the proposal at hand; “point of order” diamonds would go up in the crowd and the facilitator would explain that after the General Assembly there would be a “soapbox” session in which people could talk about whatever they wanted. After all the concerns were addressed, the facilitator asked if there were any blocks and seeing none, said that consensus had been reached. A lot of cheers and twinklings of relief ensued.

After the meeting I crawled into my sleeping bag and covered myself with a tarp (tents were banned by Brookfield Properties, the private corporation that owned the park) to keep out the periodic downpours. I was entertained by the drummers at one end of the park and the heavy construction equipment tearing up the road at the other end. As I crawled out in the morning, my respect for the dedication and determination of the occupiers had increased several-fold.

DEALING WITH A CRISIS

My second day I could see a little more clearly the occupation’s low-key but active organizational network. When I stood by the food table, someone working there asked if I wanted to help and when I said yes gave me a series of tasks. When I wandered by the home base of the sanitation working group, someone asked me if I wanted to help and when I said yes gave me a garbage bag and said go pick up. In both cases I was told to first put on sanitary gloves. The instruction were clearly expressing the “authority” of the food and cleaning committees.

That morning gentlemen in suits came through the park and handed out a printed document. The first page announced the owner would be cleaning the park the next day. The second page announced rules for the park, including no lying down, no sleeping bags, and no tarps.

Informal discussions of how to respond sprang up immediately. While many people were initially willing to cooperate with the cleaning, the view that the cleaning was only a pretext to end the occupation grew steadily stronger. Then a hundred or so people gathered for what was described as an “occupier’s meeting” just for those who were actually occupying the park. It was interesting to see that without the trained facilitators, participants had difficulty using the techniques of the General Assembly and focusing on the issue at hand. The meeting also revealed a potential for conflict between the current occupiers and the wider circle of people who participated in the General Assemblies. Someone came by and announced that the legal committee was considering what to do; another came and said the Coordinating Committee had agreed to an emergency General Assembly at noon. Both kind of encouraged the occupiers meeting to disband till then.

I enquired about the “Coordinating Committee” and was told that it was a sort of “spokes council” at which representatives from the various committees met each morning. It was not very much of a decision making body, however – in fact, it exerted even less authority than the facilitators group. There was also a sort of informal leadership network – “something like an affinity group” one of its members told me – that had precipitated out of various street actions in the months that led up to Occupy Wall Street. Many of them were active in the various working groups, and they touched base with one another, but they did not meet or make decisions as a group.

The emergency General Assembly began a little after noon. It started with a reading of the letter from the park owner – a lengthy process over the people’s microphone. Then came committee proposals. The sanitary committee proposed that the occupants conduct an extreme cleaning of the park themselves and asked for $3,000 to buy mops and rent power washers. The assembly filled with twinkles, but it took quite a number of questions and concerns before the facilitators could declare consensus had been reached.

The direct action working group proposed that, when the park owners’ cleaners came, everyone who was willing to should link arms around the perimeter of the park and refuse to move. They also announced two training sessions on nonviolent action to follow the General Assembly. Labor and other supporters from around the city were asked to show up next morning at 6:00 a.m. to help nonviolently defend the occupation. (Later a request was made that supporters start showing up immediately and spend the night, even though “we shouldn’t expect to get much sleep tonight.”)

A working group concerned with community outreach announced that they had been meeting with the Lower Manhattan Community Board and that it wanted to support the occupation and oppose any attempt to suppress it. But they also had concerns that they wanted the occupation to address before they would do so. Above all, they wanted a limit on the incessant drumming. It was proposed that the General Assembly should endorse a far shorter drumming period, then go over en masse to talk with the drummers about it. Question: how would it be enforced? Answer: We’re not cops. All we can do is talk with them and explain what we think.

Discussions with the drummers over the previous three weeks, sometimes professionally mediated, had been largely unsuccessful, and I had heard a lot of expressions of despair about persuading them from various facilitators. But apparently the threat of eviction, or the continuing efforts at mediation, had brought them around. Instead of mass action, negotiations began behind the spot where the facilitators were standing.

Representatives of the legal working group reported that they were exploring the possibility of bringing a suit to prevent the eviction of the occupiers from the park. They emphasized that Occupy Wall Street had never sought a permit or otherwise requested permission for its actions, and they had no intention of doing so now. But they did want to ask the General Assembly to approve conversations – not negotiations – with the police community relations department exclusively about the next day’s events. They pledged not to make any offers to the police without the prior approval of a General Assembly. Their proposal was rapidly passed. As the new mops began arriving, the General Assembly adjourned to begin the occupation’s own cleanup of the park.

I had to return home after the General Assembly, but I awoke to the astonishing news that the park owners and Mayor Bloomberg had abandoned their plans and that the park owners would try to reach an accommodation with the occupiers. The mayor attributed the shift to pressure on the park owners from other politicians. Whatever may have gone on behind the scenes, it is clear that the strategy chosen by the General Assembly – the clearly pro-social (and highly photogenic) act of cleaning the park, the willingness to address the concerns of the neighbors, and the threat of thousands of New Yorkers pouring downtown to defend the encampment – had proven highly effective.

ON REFLECTION

The organization of Occupy Wall Street is radically different from the normal form of representative democracy. Its rules are radically different from Roberts Rules of Order and variants derived from it that order decision making through votes (including the cutting off of debate) by majorities. But that doesn’t mean that it was without rules. Quite the contrary, it was a highly structured process whose rules were explicit and closely followed. It was far different from the revolt against rules of procedure that I experienced in the latter days of Students for a Democratic Society, for example, when those calling for following established rules of procedure were often shouted down.

The process was designed to ensure everybody could speak and that decisions represented consensus (though not necessarily complete unanimity). During the General Assemblies it was easy to feel that much of the discussion was an unnecessary waste of time, and that it would have been good to have some way to “cut off debate” as in more conventional democratic procedure.

But there were counterbalancing advantages. Just about everybody indeed felt their views had been heard – and thereby to some extent their personality and humanity recognized. At the end of the process, almost everybody was behind the decisions that had been made and willing to help implement them. There was no enraged minority ready to storm out. It is not clear that this would be the case if there were real factions like those that tore SDS apart. But for the time being the process seemed to defuse nonfunctional conflict.

I worried that the more important and more political decisions that needed to be made were not being made because the discussion tended to focus on what were more administrative and procedural matters. But the process in fact seemed to produce good decisions, which in fact addressed the political issues the occupation faced – for example, how to deal with the threat of eviction. Perhaps a smaller, more strategic leadership might have called earlier for New Yorkers to come in and protect the encampment. But it is doubtful that such a group could have so effectively drawn the hundreds of occupiers – coming from diverse cultures and experiences – into supporting and conducting the strategy that proved so successful.

I think the hand signals are great and could be adapted for almost any kind of democratic procedure. They provide a way to conduct a continuous straw poll that greatly facilitates the process of consensus-building – and could also be used (far better than booing or shouts of “Here, here!”) to guide more conventional decision making systems as well.

The people’s mic is a brilliant adaptation to the banning of amplification – without it any kind of democratic procedure would have been difficult at best. It also had some positives in its own right. It countered the bored withdrawal that is characteristic of large meetings by giving everybody something to do. I also had the sense that, because people willingly repeated statements that they might not support, there felt and communicated a sense of respect for those people and ideas they didn’t necessarily agree with. But it is not something you would be likely to do if you didn’t have to – the cost of doubling or tripling the time everything takes is simply too great. It would be worth thinking about whether some of the positives could be realized in other ways.

There remain some issues that could become more problematic in the future.

It is easy to see how conflict could arise between those actually living in the park and the wider leadership group. (I remember conflict developing between the rank and file and the leadership at Resurrection City, the Poor People’s Campaign encampment established in Washington, D.C. after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.) But the openness of the General Assembly quickly diffused such tendencies as everyone received their chance to speak.

There is also the problem of “power in leaderless groups.” In principle, more conventional, if hierarchical, organizations with elected officials provide means of holding leaders accountable. I didn’t see instances where the informal leadership functioned in undemocratic ways during my sojourn with Occupy Wall Street, but it is easy to imagine how they could.

Finally, the current size of the occupation seems to be near the limit that can work with this kind of direct democracy. Even with amplified sound, it is hard to see something like the General Assembly working with thousands rather than hundreds of people. At the least, some kind of “spokes council” or other representative structure would likely be necessary for actions on a substantially larger scale. And that leaves aside the question of how to operate democratically on a multi-site, national, or international scale.

But whatever future problems may be, in the real world of the Occupy Wall Street encampment today I can say: I have seen the present, and it works.


Sideshow?

By Greil Marcus

Originally published in Die Zeit, 7 Oct 11.

I don't know who is involved, what if any hidden agendas are in play (if, for example, the faux-left fascist group International Answer is involved), and what if any concrete demands are being made. This isn't just a spontaneous outpouring of frustration – given what there is to be frustrated about, which is almost everything, why now, and why here? – and it's hard for me to believe it is any kind of left wing analogue to the Tea Party, as some respectable liberal commentators are beginning to suggest. The Tea Party was launched by anti-government, corporate hegemonist Ayn Rand devotees and quickly seized by unofficial Republican money machines, and then funded and organized from the top down by right wing billionaires and their front groups. The Tea Party is full of racists and has given sanction and legitimacy to a spreading racism in mainstream political speech – with Republican presidential candidates referring to Obama as a "dog" and his policies as "dog food" or "dog manure" – and the Wall Street protests are aimed, if they are aimed, rather than flung, at the bankers and their handmaidens in Obama's administration as much as at Wall Street per se. It's an everything-is-corrupt denunciation that, to my mind, can only help the likes of Mitt Romney – who has denounced the protests as "class war" – that is, cynicism only keeps the people who vote Democratic away from the polls.

There is also the truth that Obama is, and always has been, a conservative Democrat, like Bill Clinton (Hillary less so) – that he is far more conservative than many of the people who worked for him and voted for him wanted to believe. I also am convinced that many people who voted for Obama did so out of a sense of self-congratulation: Look at me, I'm not a racist, I voted for a black man! – and then woke up the next day, the next month, and said, in effect, Oh my God! There's a black man in the White House! and that inherent American racism rose to the surface, where it is now legitimate political discourse.

A friend said he hadn't "seen any evidence to back that up." It's not the sort of thing people are going to tell pollsters. There isn't going to be any evidence. But there are dark corners in the American mind, and now what they contain is out in the light. I don't see the Wall Street protests – and the similar actions taking place elsewhere – changing or even addressing that. And I don't believe Wall Street is the enemy – it may be a street of thugs, fools, propagandists, and thieves, but all they really want to do is make money, and they need a solid, stable, national government to do that. The enemy – as the country singer Hank Williams Jr. recently named Obama and Biden, after referring to Obama as Hitler – is the people who want to dismantle the Federal government and replace it with corporate government, which is the only and inevitable alternative to Federal, which is to say public, government. Wall Street doesn't want that; without the Federal government backing it up, it would fall to pieces, as it almost did in 2008 and 2009. The people who want it believe the Constitution was written by Jesus Christ, that Obama is not only not an American but not human, as they believe black people are not human.

Today Romney appeared on a forum with a right-wing activist who, among other things, argues that the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech against government interference, is reserved only for true Christians, and that Mormons, like Romney, are not true Christians. It will be interesting to see if Romney, working hard for every vote no matter how tainted, will denounce him. Given that none of the Republican candidates offered a word of objection, or even demurrer, when at a candidates' debate the audience booed a gay solider, now serving in Iraq, for asking if the candidates would reinstate the ban on gay soldiers serving openly that Obama just rescinded, I would bet not.

In other words, what's going on at Wall Street looks like a sideshow to me, and I hope I'm wrong.


Times Style

By Fredric Smoler

The first demonstrations in Zucotti Park began on September 17, and by the 23rd the Times’ Ginia Bellafante had reestablished her reputation for egregiously misplaced snark, this time at the expense of the demonstrators. At a guess, after Bellafante’s filing date (but if so, unhappily close to her publication date) the demonstrators had been attacked by police, one of whom was filmed pepper-gassing three women already kettled within orange mesh. The Deputy Inspector who without apparent provocation had pepper-gassed apparently helpless women was soon credited with a peculiarly ineffective exculpatory statement: he claimed that he had been aiming at a press photographer. Bellafante’s unlucky timing suggested that Times writers sometimes mistakenly imagine themselves as part of the one percent, and can solidarize with what they take to be their percentile. This in turn suggests a confusion of cultural capital with the other kind, the variety more commonly associated with Wall Street.

If Bellafante had underestimated OWS, overestimating it seems the more common mistake. Leaving aside Iranian mendacity, which conflated the sort of thing that police inspector did with the sort of thing Iranian police are famous for, there was the initially common conflation of Zucotti Park with Tahrir Square. That seemed, and seems, crazy; American electoral democracy has its faults, but they are not the same as the faults exhibited by Mubarak’s version, and while the police in Oakland later put an Iraq War veteran in the hospital (in critical condition), Oakland isn’t Damascus. When it happened, I briefly imagined Obama declaring martial law and sending up Marines from Pendleton, asking them to determine whether Oakland police, so strikingly brave when firing gas canisters and rubber bullets at unarmed Marines, would prove as courageous when shooting at the other kind. But that was irritable daydreaming, not least because Obama isn’t a demagogue with a gift for irresponsible political theater — if he was a bit more of one, he might not be in this mess.

One running thread in the commentary has been the possible resemblance between the Tea Party and OWS, both widely thought to have originated in populist anger at the bailouts in the context of the Great Recession. This seems right, but the Tea Party was very quickly captured by the Old New Right, which reoriented much of its animus toward Culture War battlefronts. By mid-summer the Tea Party was consumed by hostility toward almost all American state action, which it now envisioned as the predatory instrument of both cultural and economic elites; constructive state action was deemed impossible. This new tendency feels connected to the Tea Party’s vertiginous fall in popular esteem, as does, more decisively, its attempt to shut down the government at a moment when most people have again begun to suspect that we need one. It is a bad idea to paralyze the government by repeatedly demanding a radically smaller state at the very moment when a lot of people want the state to do things it is signally failing to do, whether that be spur employment, modify mortgages, regulate very dangerous derivatives, protect consumers from financial predators, support necessary initiatives by increasing taxes on the richest among us, claw back some of the new and pretty savage economic inequality in the context of stagnant or falling real income for the lower deciles, or stabilize social security, still the only retirement income an alarming number of people can count on.

But OWS is also hard to compare to the Tea Party, and for a lot of reasons, one being its unwillingness to state its demands, another its rhetorical hostility to electoral politics as well as particular economic outcomes. The Tea Party sought to capture the state via the ballot box, even if it thought it was doing so to cut the state back, and in 2010 it had in effect captured the House of Representatives. OWS, by contrast, risks turning over what remains of the state — by default — to the very elites whose corruption and predation it decries. What are not unreasonably assumed to be its goals, the ones enumerated above as the widely-desired spheres of urgent state action, are mostly shared by pretty large majorities, and if OWS puts pressure on the Democrats to do those things — if its effect on politicians and voters truly parallels the effects the Tea Party had in 2010 — the outcome could be fascinating (and probably very cheering). Unluckily, some of OWS’s members, and some of its fans, have a gift for mistaking street theater for a route to political power. Scorning any recognizably electoral-political action as fraudulent, either doomed or damned in its very essence, remains the best way to insure that politics is something done to you, not by you. Cantor's hysterical mendacity — when he called OWS mobs seizing our streets — affects to believe that OWS is a violent threat to something. But on much of the evidence so far available, it is neither violent nor a threat — to anything. And if it isn’t, that may be because it draws too many rhetorical resources from an academic Left enthusiasm for a counter-politics, a different thing from a better politics.

Miserably enough, OSW’s fondness for some current academic Left tropes is being now repaid in kind, or at least so the Times asserted on Friday, reporting allegations that quondam-middle class white demonstrators have no right to claim that they are part of any American majority, or have the moral standing to complain of maltreatment. The shabby — even ludicrous — competition for comparative victimhood has deformed American politics for decades. Unfortunately, competing for the privilege of being considered a victim remains a likely route to remaining one.


No in CAPS

By (AKA) Nolemonomelon

On Oct. 25th, Scott Olsen, a former Marine, two-time Iraq war veteran, sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a police projectile while participating in an Occupy Oakland march. The next night hundreds of demonstrators “ran in the streets” of NYC protesting against Oakland police tactics. #ows posted video of those protestors’ battles with NYC police at http://occupywallst.org/article/ows-takes-streets-solidarity-occupyoakland/ that was meant to be galvanizing. But it led to pushback in the #ows thread where Nolemonomelon posted this critique of the protestors’ night moves.

I do not understand the logic of this. I am wholeheartedly a supporter of the OWS movement. But in MARCHING AGAINST TRAFFIC, and PUSHING PAST POLICE BARRICADES...it needs to be said. What are you THINKING??

OWS has been a largely nonviolent movement. For this, I commend you all. The instances of police brutality, in NY, in Oakland, in Chicago, everywhere, are truly reprehensible. However, nonviolence alone does not insure that your movement remains peaceful. In running AGAINST traffic, in the streets, by the thousands, you are creating a dangerous environment. You are posing a danger to yourselves and others by "taking back the streets." You are endangering cops who walked, rode and scrambled alongside the march, trying to ensure that civilians do not end up in front of moving vehicles. Marches which endanger the lives and safety of non-protestors cannot truly be called nonviolent.

In the video you post above, there are many clips of police brutality, of the NYPD beating, pushing, shoving, kicking, and forcing protestors to the ground. But at the same time, there are also clips of protestors forming body barriers, tightly enclosed circles around policemen attempting to make arrests. There are clips where policemen are the minority, outnumbered, overwhelmed, drawing batons simply because an angry, chanting crowd steps ever closer to their person – clips where I feared for the safety of the policeman rather than the protestors. There are clips of protestors, screaming at the top of their lungs, less than 6 INCHES AWAY from an officer's face – that he was able to suppress any kneejerk reaction, stifle any attempt to create a more comfortable physical distance between himself and the protestor, is astounding.

OWS is a nonviolent movement. It is supposed to be peaceful. It is supposed to represent the rational, the communal, the egalitarian. But that is not what this video shows. This video shows a mob. An angry, loud mob. A mob of people who demonstrate total disregard for the safety of the NY'ers who were behind the wheel the night. A mob of people who are stretching and severely testing the limits of what peaceful civil disobedience looks like, by impeding the free movement of drivers, of law officers attempting to maintain order by confining the march to the sidewalks, who are inserting themselves in officers' physical space in an intimidating, aggressive manner, encircling police officers and actively attempting to interfere with their arrests.

THIS IS NOT WHAT PEACEFUL PROTEST LOOKS LIKE. Yes, you have successfully demonstrated that police brutality is rampant. But you have also demonstrated that OWS protestors are capable of producing and stoking highly inflammatory circumstances of chaos and social disorder, which, YES, puts THE WHOLE DAMN 100% IN PHYSICAL DANGER. This is not nonviolence.

You do not have the right to step in front of a car and expect you will not be hit. When a police officer tells you to STAY ON THE SIDEWALK, do you really think it's because they are opposing your right to march? Or is it because, as this video shows, you are blocking traffic and thereby endangering other protestors, regular civilians, NYC drivers, and cops alike?

You may be leaderless, OWS. But if you truly value consensus, demoncracy, and peaceful and nonviolent protest, you need to rethink your demonstration tactics. You need to review the principles of Kingian civil disobedience. Because this is NOT what that looks like.


Pasta Per Cento

By Ty Geltmaker

Down and back from City Hall delivering pasta late Friday afternoon, the encampment so big gushing toward the streets out over the sidewalks from the lawns with wonderful young people, invisible police politely keeping all comfortable, nothing like hostile scenes from Denver, NYC, San Diego. I delivered our "pasta per cento/pasta for a hundred" the proof of the "village" growing, being that now the City must certify all food deliveries as being from licensed kitchens, ours being temporarily said so delivered from here on in as a "picnic" from our licensed Pasadena commercial kitchen of www.biscottidagiacomo.com. If ever there were a difference between LA and NYC this is it. Tomorrow (Saturday) a big downtown march on the Banks. This is what the ghost of FDR has been waiting for. FDR was willing to hate the wealth born into; Obama and his crowd suck up to it. See the future; Go to LA City Hall for a conversation. These young people will change your mind if you give them a chance.

October 15


Nationalize It

By Amiri Baraka

My wife urged me to go down to the Occupy Wall St. site on a Sunday. We stayed a few hours. Though it is obviously spontaneous, there are signs that the intentions of many are to transform this into a long term stable revolutionary force. There are already hundreds of replicas nationwide.

I was in Minneapolis a couple days later, coming out of a Wells Fargo “store,” when one hundred or so demonstrators swept toward the bank's entrance and then circled the place chanting, “You got the money money, We got the bills!”

We should use this uprising to demand that Obama stand up to the Republicans. Forget his Harvardian brainwash and talk bad to these Klanspeople in mufti. Other than that, let us hope that these demonstrations are the seeds of a bigger badder revolutionary party.


Say “Ocupado”

By Richard Torres

I had an interesting chat with a female friend the other day. We were on Manhattan’s Lower East Side sipping hot tea and talking about the quote-unquote ‘uptick’ in crime – particularly assaults towards women – in New York City’s five boroughs when she launched into a diatribe on the Occupy Wall Street folks. “I am the one percent,” she said, “It’s my tax dollars that’s going to protect those fools in Zuccotti Park instead of those who need it.” Having passed through that area a few times, I certainly could concur that the massive police presence in the area was bordering on the – shall we say – excessive. (At one point, I spotted two police cars and five officers guarding the neighborhood’s famed golden bull statue.) But, as I pointed out to my friend, her anger should be directed at the mayor and the police commissioner who are responsible for the deployment of the officers around the park not the demonstrators who were simply exercising their American right to peacefully protest. “Wait a minute,” she said. “Are you for these protests?” My response was that I didn’t see anything wrong with them and I asked if she had she been down there. She shook her head no. I told her how I was struck by the multigenerational, multicultural makeup of the protesters. It wasn’t only young, white, slumming, affluent professional “agitators” – as some “news” organizations would have you believe – but also college kids concerned about the future. There were senior citizens worried about the loss of hard-earned social security benefits. There were middle-aged men and women who’d lost their jobs because of the financial downturn. There were people who wanted to cease being numbers wiped off of a corporate ledger. From white-collar to blue-collar to no-collar, these were American citizens who wanted to be heard – wanted the powers-that-be to realize that their voices, their lives, mattered. My friend then asked me if I believed everything they said. I explained I didn’t believe everything anyone said. (After all, I am a native New Yorker.) But what was important, I added, was that everybody, everyone gets the opportunity to speak and to be heard. Silently, she nodded. Soon after, we left the restaurant and parted ways. I walked south towards the Chambers Street train station. As I neared it, I decided to take a detour down to Zuccotti Park. The drums were beating. Some of the demonstrators were dancing; others discoursing to onlookers. Television news crews were setting up their equipment for their next live report. Tourists with digital cameras were walking along the metal barricades. Then, every few steps, they’d stop in their tracks for another snapshot as the encompassing police beseeched them to keep it moving. This, I thought, was democracy in action in the year 2011. And, once again, I didn’t see anything wrong with it.


The Social Question

By Ty Geltmaker

Went down to Occupy LA tonight. Still copacetic, with families in kids' village - moms even nursing babies - big library with daily classes in econ, food tent ever more organized, a theatre, security...On that score one burning question now: how to keep a political movement from being wrecked by the sad detritus of skid row roaming into the occupation as a site of free food, etc. In Act Up we always confronted this problem, turning away hangers on and lovelorn people not into the cause we were fighting for but just looking for a fix. What can Occupation do to keep its soul while ejecting (as was done in LA today) hungry, drunk homeless people who defy the rules of the food line? Can a bourgeois revolution maintain its socialist roots if it allows itself to be taken over by an unorganized, opportunistic drunken rabble? There are too many inebriated men roaming around Occupy LA for my comfort. And still, we and our City Council support the encampment struggling with this growing problem: Workers do not want drunks ruining their message.

October 30


A Gift Made of Persistence

By Lawrence Goodwyn

As far as I can see, the evidence is in, its political reach is confirmed, and so is its staying power: the self-organized phenomenon calling itself ”Occupy Wall Street” makes political sense to rank and file people on the streets of America.

And why shouldn’t it? The folks out there know that the economy has been looted and millions of jobs have gone up in smoke, leaviing ten million unemployed men and women picking through the ashes to locate any pieces that might be put back together. Other millions have been told they have to learn a new language of home ownership since their mortgages are now “under water.” The young people who find themselves locked into these chaotic families are desperately trying to become better skilled so they won’t become homeless or jobless or both. Unfortunately, their uncertainty carries them into a crushing new world of student loans that yields yet more anxiety. Meanwhile, in a sordid bit of mockery, a tone deaf media punditry chastises the “occupiers” for failing to supply an instant series of demands.

Indeed, it is the appearance of this grotesque civic malfunction that I find most instructive. The organizers who have been laboring in the little park in lower Manhattan have fashioned an exercise in unrelenting non-violence that surfaces as an enormous offering of American grief directed at the very site of its causality: pompous, condecending Wall Street. The occupiers stay. And stay.

I am quite impressed by the depth of popular intent and the remarkably unthinking content of the official response. If there is a better way to expose the sheer scope of the breathtaking arrogance of American banking, I cannot think what it might be.

There is, possibly, something blowing in the wind.

DSC_9347.png

Thanks to Dennis Myers for the pictures of OWSers.

From October, 2011

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