Tag Archive | "Occupy"

Occupy jumps the shark, offers pre-paid debit card

occupyvisacard

This is not from The Onion. An Occupy offshoot is offering a debit card. Hoo boy, that’ll really force the banksters to their knees. And make people wonder, WTF Occupy?

The Occupy Money Cooperative will provide people with access to low cost financial services. The first service will be The Occupy Card. It’s a low cost, full featured pre-paid debit card with a transparent fee structure.

The always savvy Dangerous Minds is not impressed.

Since the Occupy Card will still charge ATM fees for withdrawals and inquiries, what advantage does it really have? Why on earth would they launch an autonomous project with so many cooperatives and credit unions that can take deposits and offer loans already around? Many credit unions already offer prepaid cards, so why not work with existing institutions instead of creating an inferior one from scratch?

Posted in Banksters

Adam Greene and Morgan Gliedman are “well-to-do junkies”

susan gliedman

My initial suspicions were correct. Adam Greene and Morgan Gliedman who were arrested in Greenwich Village over the weekend on weapons and explosives charges with him being semi-linked to Occupy, are probably just idle rich drug addicts.

‘It looks like they’re junkies, well-to-do junkies, not terrorists,’ said a police source.

Gliedman went into labor while being arrested, was rushed to a hospital, and gave birth to a presumably heroin-addicted daughter. As to why they had a tiny bit of explosives and guns, including a sawed-off Mossberg (which is almost certainly illegal to possess in New York City), police said they had a twisted idea of what’s cool.

Officers were tipped off about the explosives by someone who met Gliedman and Greene in Washington Square Park. The couple invited the informant to their apartment to take a shower, which is when he spotted the weapons.

I guarantee this had something to do with drugs.

Posted in News

Occupy for President: 2012 and Beyond

The 2012 presidential race bears no trace of Occupy or the militancy it spawned among Chicago teachers and Wal Mart workers. This is no accident — the U.S. political system is a machine, and this machine smothers militancy. The ugly inner workings of the Democratic part of that machine were briefly exposed when a televised floor vote was held at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to add God and Jerusalem as apartheid Israel’s capital to the party platform at the behest of President Obama. What followed was a charade, the kind of party-line “democracy” practiced at Communist Party congresses in China, North Korea, and the U.S.S.R.:

One DNC delegate stormed out and joined Occupy. Nothing teaches that the Democratic Party does not belong to Democrats better than painful, bitter experiences like this.

But Occupy’s absence from the presidential conversation is neither simply nor exclusively the result of the rigged political system. It is also partially the result of Occupy’s anarchist ethos, a double-edged sword that has proven very effective for preventing Wisconsin-style derailment by union leaders loyal to the Democratic Party but very ineffective in terms of power politics, that is, using the levers of power — elections and elected office — to get things done.

The challenge for Occupy is to become effective at both, something the 1960s left did not achieve. For example, all the mayors that evicted us should be evicted and replaced by occupiers like New York City’s Sergeant Shamar Thomas, Oakland’s Scott Olsen, or Seattle’s Dorli Rainey. Evict the evictors, occupy the vote!

Like clockwork, every four years liberals (and a few radicals) invent ever-more morally, politically, and strategically bankrupt reasons to vote for the Democratic candidate while most radicals attack one other and their liberal neighbors for capitulating to the two-party state.

Neither side of this contentious divide has an exit strategy from the two-party plantation and so American politics remains stuck on repeat, except that the two evils presented become progressively more evil every four years.

Liberals’ perverse ritual of convincing themselves that seppuku is a lesser evil to beheading every four years has weakened left-of-center forces over the past nine presidential election cycles (since the Democratic Party nominated McGovern in 1972) to such an extent that today’s Democratic Party is to the right of the Nixon administration in policy terms on the environment, health care, and workplace safety.

The radicals who correctly reject sepukku as a survival strategy have generally not put much practical effort into building a meaningful third party that could begin to split the Democratic Party’s voting base (workers, people of color, LGBTs, women) from its funding base (big business), citing the American electoral terrain’s tremendous obstacles. Why bother starting to climb when the cliff face is so steep?

Abstaining from electoral work independent of the Democratic Party’s machinery seems like the smart strategic choice, given the far left’s meager resources and the certainty of unfavorable outcomes for an unknown number of election cycles. The problem is that unless and until we start this difficult and treacherous climb, the high ground (meaning control of the state) will forever remain in enemy hands. The radical left’s “smart” strategic choice in the short run has led to the defeat and destruction of left-of-center forces in the long run.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Look at the unions — or what’s left of them.

The failure to create an alternative political instrument or institution, a party more Democratic than the Democratic Party, is the material foundation underpinning the recurring seppuku-or-beheading suicide ritual we subject ourselves to every four years. Fear trumps correct arguments as a mobilizing force and hope trumps fear, as anyone who lived through the 2008 election knows. Telling people to “break with the Democratic Partydoes nothing to break the Democratic Party any more than abstinence education stops anyone from having pre-marital sex or sensitivity training changes how police manhandle people of color.

If anyone has the guts left to arrest the cyclical sepukku of the left, it is occupiers. Most of them were enthusiastic Obama voters in 2008 and were forced to be the change they wanted to see starting in fall of 2011.

There have been efforts to occupy the vote, to translate direct action in the streets into political action at the polls, to occupy the point of corruption.

After the eviction of the Zuccotti Park encampment, George Martinez challenged Wall Street Democrat Nydia M. Velázquez for the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District’s Democratic primary, calling his campaign “Bum Rush the Vote.” He polled 2.7% in a four-way race, reflecting the stiff competition and Occupy Wall Street’s weak mobilizing power in the district. In Washington state’s 43rd Legislative District, Occupy Seattle activist and Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant won close to 10% of the vote in primary races against two entrenched Democrats in the state legislature, allowing Sawant to run against one of them in November in the general election, a real red-versus-blue race!

On the national level, four socialist parties are following the time-honored socialist tradition of fielding four competing candidates against one another. Self-proclaimed socialist Roseanne Barr is running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket that has ballot lines in only two states, Iowa and California. Former Democrat Rocky Anderson’s Justice Party has ballot access in 11 states. The Green Party’s Jill Stein is on the ballot in 38 states and hopes to reach 44 by November, a first for the Green Party since it had 44 in 2000 and a comeback from its low point of 24 in 2004. In a historic first, the Green Party qualified for federal matching funds in the 2012 election cycle.

The plethora of presidential candidates to the left of the two parties in 2012 is an indicator of the left’s recovery, not simply the depressingly familiar tale of a squabbling, frustrating, self-defeating, American left. This becomes easier to see when we we step back and look at the results of the past few presidential cycles.

 

Party/Candidate 2000 2004 2008
Democratic 50,999,897 (48.38%) 59,028,109 (48.27%) 69,456897 (52.92%)
Republican 50,456,002 (47.87%) 62,028,285 (50.73%) 59,934,815 (45.66%)
Nader 2,882,955 (2.74%) 463,647 (0.38%) 738,475 (0.56%)
Green Nader 119,862 (0.10%) 161,603 (0.12%)
Peace and Freedom Nader 27,607 (0.02%)
Socialist 5,602 (0.00%) 10,822 (0.01%) 6,528 (0.00%)
Socialist Workers 7,378 (0.01%) 11,119 (0.01%) 7,571 (0.00%)
Workers World 4,795 (0.00%) 1,656 (0.00%)
Party for Socialism and Liberation 6,808 (0.01%)
Socialist Equality 1,857 (0.00%)

The above table shows that the only significant or meaningful electoral political expression of left opposition to the two parties in the past three presidential election cycles is the candidacy of liberal consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Nader’s vote peaked in 2000, collapsed in 2004, and recovered in 2008 in terms of absolute numbers by winning almost twice the number of as in 2004, but his sliver of electoral support barely increased with the tremendous turn out of new, young Obama voters that year.

Over the past three presidential cycles, the socialist parties to Nader’s left have gained no traction with any segment of the population and continue to waste their time, money, and extremely limited resources running national campaigns not only against the two enemy parties but against each other. They have gained nothing for themselves nor contributed to the recreation of a broader socialist movement through these ill-advised efforts despite the fact that socialism is more popular than capitalism  among young people.

The 2012 race will be a crucial test for the Green Party and a smaller test for the new Justice Party since Nader is not in the race. This test will be especially difficult since the close race between Obama and Romney strengthens the appeal of the lesser evil “strategy.” Stein will be lucky to match Nader’s vote in 2000 when the alter-globalization movement was in full swing and icons like Michael Moore and Rage Against the Machine campaigned for him. This is her first national run and she does not yet enjoy a fraction of the name recognition Nader did in 2000 after three decades of activism and lobbying. However, part of building an effective opposition to 1% rule is ensuring that our efforts do not depend so heavily individuals or celebrities like Nader. Stein’s campaign should be seen as a (small) part of that longer-haul process.

As the Republican Party dismantles the New Deal and the Democratic Party produce excuses instead of action to stop them, the task of creating a viable left organization that can use elected office against the 1% is more pressing than ever.

As the liberal Matt Stoler put it:

…if a political revolution came tomorrow, could those who believe in social justice and climate change actually govern? Do we have the people to do it? Do we have the ideas, the legislative proposals, the understanding of how to reorganize our society into a sustainable and socially just one? I suspect, no. When the next crisis comes, and it will come, space will again open up for real policy change.  The most important thing we can use [the 2012] election for is to prepare for that moment. That means finding ways of seeing who is on our side and building a group with the will to power and the expertise to make the right demands. We need to generate the inner confidence to blow up the political consensus, against the railings of the men in suits. …

[T]he task starting after the election is to build this network of organized people with intellectual and political integrity into a group who understands how to move the levers of power across industry, government, media and politics. We need to put ourselves into the position to be able to run the government.

At the same time, the constituent elements that could and should constitute such a formation are scattered, divided, and isolated from one other. The rent strikers in Sunset Park have no organic link with the occupiers of Oakland’s Biblioteca; the Working Families Party of New York and the state’s Green Party work at cross-purposes with each other; the Vermont Progressive Party occupies the space where the Green Party should be.

Building bridges between initiatives that, in the big scheme of things, are up against the same enemies is no easy task, as the examples of the Greek left and, in very different circumstances, the Free Syrian Army show, but it is unavoidable and indispensable if we are going to start winning instead of continually losing.

Posted in News

Occupy and Black Bloc debate on violence and nonviolence

In the immediacy of mass protest and non-violent civil disobedience, how can one differentiate between the disruptive violence of Black Bloc anarchists and the disruptive violence of undercover police agent provocateurs?

“The Black Bloc anarchists… are the cancer of the Occupy movement,” wrote Chris Hedges in Truthdig, calling them “a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state.”

The Occupy movement, like non-violent protest movements of the past, struggled with this question in advance of the September 17 first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City.  Over the weekend, there were more than 40 arrests at peaceful protests in Manhattan, where police policy requires officers to refuse to talk to protestors.

Last week, in a packed auditorium at the City University of New York (CUNY), Hedges faced off with Brian Traven of Crimethinc. Ex-Workers Collective, in a two-hour debate carefully managed for civility, with the title: “Occupy Tactics: Violence and Legitimacy in the Occupy Movement and Beyond.”   The mainstream media ignored this public event in the so-called media capital of the world, as did most other media as well.

The debate poster featured a hooded woman with her face masked in the anarchist style to conceal her identity, in a style similar to a burka.  One of the ground rules of the September 12 debate was that reporters and others with cameras could take pictures only of the speakers and not the audience.  At least one reporter, who violated that rule to photograph hecklers, was escorted from the hall.

Black Bloc, which its adherents call a tactic, not a group of people, emerges in Germany in the 1980s in response to violent police removal of squatters, among other things.  Black Bloc actions were seen in window-breaking and other property damage in protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 as well as in Occupy Oakland in 2011.  Black Bloc practitioners wear black clothing, including masks, to conceal their identities and appear as a unified group in larger crowds.

Within a context of a shared conviction that the current status quo was unacceptable and must be changed, the clearest tactical agreement between Hedges and Traven was the legitimacy of wearing masks to conceal identity.  While masks might serve to protect Black Bloc anarchists from criminal prosecution, for Hedges there was sufficient justification for wearing a mask as a defense against private or state persecution, such as harassment, eviction, or job loss.

Defining “violence” proved trickier.  There was no agreement as to whether violence was limited to hurting people, or included damaging property, or just throwing things even if they did no damage.  Nor was there agreement whether violence was ever justified, even in self-defense.

“I’m not here to argue for violence,” said Traven in his opening statement, “I’m here to argue for a more nuanced analysis of the use of force than the violence/non-violence dichotomy, which all of us are familiar with, and which, some of us believe, plays into the hands of the state in framing the narrative of social struggles.”

In his opening, Hedges made clear that his problem with Black Bloc was that their tactics in a protest that was designed to be non-violent made that choice impossible, pre-empting any possible choice of diversity in tactics.  He said that, while he would not choose Black Bloc tactics himself, he would deny others that choice, nor would he turn them in to the authorities.

In his view, Black Bloc adherents have used the Occupy movement for their own purposes and thereby diminished Occupy.  He added that: “I have a hard time understanding what their goals are and how they think these tactics are going to achieve those goals.”

Having covered wars and revolutions in El Salvador, Bosnia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, Hedges made clear that he was not a pacifist and understood that, under some circumstances, the pacifist argument was absurd.  At the same time, he noted that the Russian Revolution was “largely a non-violent revolution,” turning on the Petrograd riots when the Cossacks sent in to quell the riots instead fraternized with the rioters, and the czar was gone a week later.

In this light he cited the teachers strike in Chicago, noting that when the striking teachers went into police stations to use the bathrooms, the police applauded.   When the foot soldiers of the state can no longer be relied on to defend the elites, Hedges argued, the elites get “terrified.”

Traven argued that appealing to peoples’ conscience through the corporate media was likely to be futile, and cited the 15 to 30 million people worldwide who demonstrated against going to war in Iraq, to no avail.  A fractions of those millions could have made that war impossible, he argued, “if we had felt entitled to use our capabilities to  do that.  It might have been called violence if we had, but it certainly would have averted a much greater violence.”

Our occupations last longer, and are more effective, Traven said, “when we are not afraid of our own strength.”

Occupy Tactics: Violence and Legitimacy in the Occupy Movement and Beyond from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.

Posted in News

Imagine 200 Occupy Candidates This Year…

Imagine 200 Occupy candidates running for Congress this year –- independent of the Democrats and Republicans.

Imagine if these candidates were not careerist politicians, but activists and ordinary people, running as accountable representatives of a real, fighting movement of the 99%.

Imagine homeowners who are facing foreclosure running against local sheriffs, and pledging to stop all evictions.

Imagine teachers fighting union-busting; debt-ridden students fighting for free education; low-wage workers fighting for a living wage; and environmentalists fighting big oil.

Imagine them all running with tens of thousands of Occupy activists backing them up: going door-to-door, rallying, protesting, and using these candidates to build the power of our grassroots mass movement.

Last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement showed that when the 99% speaks up, the seething anger of millions can transform into social power and change the whole political landscape.

But, this year, the 1% is making a comeback, using their domination of electoral politics. Had hundreds of independent working class candidates run, it would have been a different story.

And that’s why it’s absolutely crucial to support the few candidates who are running and challenging the two-party corporate duopoly this year.

Credit: capitolhilltimes.com

In Seattle, Occupy activist and Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant – a teacher – is running for State House against the most powerful legislator in Washington State, Democratic Party leader and House Speaker, Frank Chopp.

For the rest of the article, please visit The North Star.

Posted in Politics, Running

It’s time for an American Spring

Dennis Perrin says the changes happening across the world may happen here too in the form of an American Spring.  The world is changing and morphing fast. The US, as usual, doesn’t get it and arrograntly assumes the world must be in our image and follow our dictates. Good luck with that.

I’m not blind to the shifts now occurring. The Arab world is shedding despotic skin, but for what? For whom? When the US claims something is “democratic,” look for the sniper in the room. He’s there. He always is.

Bizarrely, countries like Syria, when they finally overthrow the thug Assad, may not be feeling charitable towards us, just because we backed Assad for decades. Why did we do that?

Less touted is Latin America’s steady extraction from US influence. While not as dramatic as the Arab Summer — though no less violent — Latin America moves in a more independent direction. US power is waning.

This is good. It may also prove dangerous. We are renowned sore losers. Heavily-armed. Favored by God. Simple lethal math.

The US belief is its own special exceptionalism is tedious, threadbare, and becoming laughable.

Resistance from within grows, emerging from the seeds planted by Occupy. That movement has been mocked and mourned, but it had an effect. The state crushed what it could. Yet these weren’t fatal blows.

Mainstream liberals fear that Occupy’s example might hurt Obama’s re-election. Pundits like Harold Meyerson and Sean Wilentz defensively dismiss radical critiques of Their President. I like it that they’re scared, but they needn’t be. Not yet, anyway.

Liberals apparently are a-ok with drone killings and more wars as long as they are ordered by Democrats.

An American Spring at the start of Obama’s second term? As Obama’s predecessor and Terror War influence put it, bring it on. The mission is far from accomplished.

Posted in News

Rent Strike in Sunset Park, Queens

First published here.

My local Occupy group, Occupy/Ocupemos Sunset Park, has been immersed in a local struggle, a rent strike in a series of buildings on 46th street in this Brooklyn neighborhood. Here are some of the flyers we’ve been producing for the actions.

The strike has been receiving terrific media coverage and terrific support from the Occupy network. I will be back in the next few days with a post to detail what’s been happening and put the struggle in context.

The first action ended with an impromptu hour-long occupation of state assemblyman Felix Ortiz’s office, which was truly awesome. Tonight, see the last flyer below, we’re staging a sidewalk sleep-in and people’s inspection of the buildings.

The video below was taken at the first action; it sums up what was happening at the beginning. Yours truly is interviewed at length toward the end. Enjoy.

A terrific account of the strike with interviews with many of the rent strikers can be found here: “Brooklyn Women Make Their Building Theirs.”

Update from OccupyWallSt.org:

Support Rent Strikers: Don’t push the 99% out of NYC + #OWS Events 7/25-8/3

Posted 21 hours ago on July 25, 2012, 4:28 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

Something big is happening in Sunset Park. Tenants are demanding liveable conditions and a response to the 400 documented housing violations in their building. For years residents in these three buildings have been living in fear of fires, electrical blackouts and disease-triggering agents like mold, cockroaches and rats. Despite numerous complaints made to city agencies and politicians’ offices, these violations continue to threaten the lives of dozens of residents.

All over New York City, landlords like Orazio Petito are trying to displace residents from their homes because they can gentrify the buildings and raise rent. Read more about how this courageous community is standing up to defend their home.

Occupy Sunset Park asks you to join them to show ongoing support for the rent strikers by stopping by for a nightly vigil from 6pm to 7pm on 46th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, near the R train at 45th St.

Occupy these Actions and Assemblies:

Friday, July 27th, 3:00pm
March on Wall Street
Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park) to Wall Street
Join us in meeting the bankers and brokers for the closing bell as we issue our grievances and stand in support of workers everywhere.

Friday, July 27th, 7:00pm
Sunset Park Food For Thought Film Series: Broken on All Sides
La Casita, 414 45th Street, Sunset Park
Next Friday’s Food For Thought FIlm Showing will be BROKEN ON ALL SIDES, a timely exploration of mass incarceration and the racist nature of the criminal justice system as explored in Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW Join us for film and discussion! Friday, July 27, at La Casita in Sunset Park. FREE.

Saturday, July 28th, 7:30am
Stop the Frack Attack. Rally in DC (bus leaving from NYC)
Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park)
OWS Environmental Solidarity joins other New Yorkers in the fight against Fracking. Now is the time to bring the stories of the people truly impacted by oil and gas development to the legislative and regulatory entities that can—and must be pushed to—make a difference in the way that the fossil fuel industry operates in this country and the energy options the nation pursues.

Saturday, July 28, 11:30am
Premiere of Occupy Brooklyn TV
Brooklyn cable TV & streaming
Occupy Public Access TV is launching a new OWS TV show this week. It will air on TW channel 35, Cablevision channel 68, and RCN channel 83 in Brooklyn, and on Verizon cable channel 43 throughout NYC. A special edition of the show, with extra footage, will be published on occupypublicaccesstv.com.

Saturday, July 28th, 1:00pm
Radical Walking Tours – Gowanus Canal & Brooklyn Transect
Union Street @ Gowanus Canal
Engage the city, your body, and others, by putting yourself in motion to engage the political, ecological, and your embodied urban environment – New York City.

Saturday, July 28th, 2:00pm
S17 Education Planning Assembly
Washington Square Park
September 17th, Occupy’s one-year anniversary, is just around the corner. This is a call for all groups planning education-related activities to come together and coordinate actions, resources, needs, etc. If you aren’t involved in a group, but want to help plan educational events for S17, this meeting is also for you.

Sunday, July 29th, 2:00pm
Strike Debt Strategy Session
33 W 14th St New York
Join us as we strategize about the next steps in this movement to transform, challenge and re-think debt. As Strike Debt gains momentum and as debt emerges as a key theme among many organizers, we gather to ask some major questions about debt and movement-building.

Tuesday, July 31st, 6:30pm
Occupy Astoria Movie Night – The New Jim Crow
Church of the Redeemer, 30-14 Crescent Street at 30th Avenue
Join Occupy Astoria for our ongoing Film Series. The New Jim Crow, litigator turned legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s recent book, challenges us to place mass incarceration at the heart of our struggles for racial justice in America.

Friday, August 3, 4:00pm
Wake Up Wall Street: Money Out, Voters In
The 3rd in a series of condemnations of CITIZENS UNITED. As long as our democracy is hijacked by big corporate money, there will be no business as usual.

Daily #OccupyUnionSq Info Table
@OWSUnionSquare
Every day Occupy Union Square has an info table open and staffed, acting as a hub to promote the constant flurry of events and meetings occurring across OWS.

Posted in populism

Where Is Occupy Wall Street Going?

This is an excerpt of an interview conducted by Andrew Sernatinger (A.S.) with Pham Binh (P.B.) of Occupy Wall Street for Solidarity’s Web zine.

A.S.: Where is the Occupy movement going now, especially with general elections on the horizon? David Graeber, the anarchist anthropologist, has shrugged off concerns that the movement is toast now that the camps are gone saying instead, “Occupy is shedding its liberal accretions and rapidly turning into something with much deeper roots.” Thoughts?

P.B.: People have been concerned that Occupy was toast before it even went into the toaster because of alleged difficulties such as the lack of demands, ideology, or agreed-upon political strategy; then Occupy was too middle class, white, straight, and male to gain traction with workers, women, LGBTs; and now it’s the evictions. Occupy is anything but a one-trick pony, unlike the summit-centric global justice movement of 1999-2001 that many socialists have one-sidedly compared Occupy to.

In terms of where Occupy is going, the difficulty lies in thinking of it as a definite thing with a definite direction. It’s everywhere and nowhere all at once. Occupiers now work closely with previously existing campaigns and organizations in addition to launching their own. There are new activist initiatives in neighborhoods and workplaces that do not call themselves Occupy, are not formally linked to it, but are nonetheless inspired by it and would not exist without Occupy’s example.

These are some of the “deeper roots” comrade Graeber is talking about and he’s right.

The evictions forcibly decentralized Occupy and, to a certain extent, separated the component parts of the encampments. No more one-stop shopping. Direct action, traditional protest marches, discussion circles, study groups, activist training, the people’s library, mutual aid, literature and newspaper creation, organic gardening, General Assemblies, and spiritual activities take place mostly separately from one another.

Posted in News, Politics, Socialism

Doctor Hedges misdiagnoses the Decline of Occupy

The police have raided many of the encampments across the country. Protests and actions called by Occupy are declining in number, with reduced participation. Workers and marginalized people, like the homeless, who were initially drawn to Occupy have, in many instances, departed. It is discouraging, and someone or some people must be responsible.

Chris Hedges has the answer: Occupy has a cancer known as the Black Bloc that must be aggressively treated before it becomes terminal. According to Hedges, the Bloc, its violence, its contempt for collective social organization and its hypermasculinity are turning the public against Occupy. If Occupy is to survive, the Bloc must be expelled. His answer has a superficial allure especially given his skillful elaboration of it. As a consequence, his article has been posted all over the Internet. For those with a legitimate grudge against the Bloc, like Louis Proyect and other Marxists, it is a golden opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of it. Perhaps, that would be a good thing, as I’ve never been very enthusiastic about people who knowingly put others at risk by precipatating violent confrontations with the police. Anyone who does that, Bloc or not, has no place in Occupy or any other movement for social justice.

But it’s all just a little too convenient. Preliminarily, there’s a conceptual problem. Contrary to what Hedges, and even Proyect, would have you believe, the Bloc isn’t nearly as monolithic as they suggest, as this perceptive comment by Black Bloc at Pink Scare demonstrates:

There is no the Black Bloc. A black bloc is a tactic, not an organisation, engaged in by anarchists (yes, even us boring old neo-Platformist anarchocommunists, not just Insurrectionists) in which anarchists show up en masse at a protest, take steps to preserve their anonymity (as defense against state profiling), band together, ignore demands from illegitimate authority (i.e. the cops) and act together to defend participants’ bodies and autonomy against state violence. It does not necessarily include sabotage-style direct action nor confrontation with cops (except for the fact that cops in general *seek* that very confrontation with any black bloc that forms on the ground). In fact there have been numerous black blocs on the east coast that I have been a participant in and that did not result in any property damage nor violent confrontation with cops whatsoever.

Surely, this must be true. Given the decentralized nature of what anarchists describe as the Bloc, the existence of Bloc groups around the country, some that act out violently and others that do not, sounds probable. Accordingly, the question becomes less about the Bloc, and more about why some people gravitate towards violent forms of political activity, and the consequences of such activity for Occupy. As such, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to treat Occupy consistent with Hedges’ diagnosis. There are few readily identifiable people that can be characterized as Bloc (for example, consider this photo of the Occupy Oakland Tactical Action Committee, promoters of the weekly Fuck the Police marches, who’s Bloc and who’s not?), and, even if there are, they may or may not be involved with the violent police confrontations associated with some occupations, like Occupy Oakland. One can read the comment of Black Blocas an implicit approval of Bloc violence in self-defense, but, if so, it is hard to rely upon it to justify a characterization of such Bloc behavior as cancerous, although such an interpretation does raise thorny, but less polarizing, issues of personal responsibility within a collective movement. Possibly, for this reason, Hedges prefers to expound upon Zerzan and Bloc ideology to avoid engagement with them.

indybay.org

Indeed, Occupy Oakland, an occupation that appears to be the target of Hedges’ polemic, illustrates the lack of factual support for his theory. On November 2nd, I participated in one of the several marches during the general strike. Some masked people broke windows at a couple of bank branches, a Wells Fargo one and a Chase one. Interestingly, the media gave little attention to these incidents, perhaps because the vandalism was so trivial in nature. Instead, the media was much more engrossed in the attempted takeover of the Traveler’s Aid Society Building near Oscar Grant Plaza later that night, as the police responded to ineffectual efforts to take the building and defend it with tear gas and flash grenades. A large crowd of young people, still out in the streets, participated, and, as the situation with the police escalated, some of them looted a Tully’s Coffee Shop. Hedges describes them as Groups of Black Bloc protesters.

But were they? I have looked in vain for pictures of the people who did it, but I did find this article about the episode, which questions the utility of describing it within the confines of Bloc theory and practice accessed over the Internet by Hedges:

At the Oakland encampment, Hale Nicholson, who described himself and others as pacifists, said he participated in Wednesday’s demonstration and march to the port and then went to sleep at the camp around 9:30 p.m. Around 1 a.m., he said, he was awakened by the sound of flash-bang grenades.

A group of protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to, as some shouting protesters put it, reclaim the building for the people. They voiced anger over budget cuts that forced the closure of a homeless aid program.

They blocked off a street with wood, metal Dumpsters and other large trash bins, sparking bonfires that leapt as high as 15 feet in the air. Several businesses were heavily vandalized. Dozens of protesters wielding shields were surrounded and arrested.

They voiced anger over budget cuts that that forced the closure of a homeless aid program. Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t sound very Bloc like, does it? Instead, it sounds like a group of people influenced by a variegated mixture of direct action principles, motivated to do something spontaneous by their involvement in the strike. Of course, such behavior can be damaging to a social movement, but it is not something that can be so easily addressed by subsuming their behavior within the repository of a Black Bloc, specifically designed for this purpose.

Susie Cagle, in an article posted at Truthout, refutes Hedges even more categorically:

Hedges condemns property destruction in political protest by condemning black bloc tactics, regardless of the facts. The local coffee shop vandalism Hedges contends was committed by black bloc was in fact one window of a corporate coffee chain smashed in that post-strike fog of war – and by someone not wearing a mask, not wearing black. The people who broke into City Hall on January 28, and many of those who destroyed property there, were also largely unmasked. And both of these acts came immediately after, as in within minutes of, violent mass kettling and arrest actions.

As Cagle relates elsewhere in the article, the challenge presented by some involved in Occupy Oakland is their willingness to embrace more and more confrontational forms of protest, forms that make people like Hedges uncomfortable, at least when they aren’t happening in Greece:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

My, my, Hedges comes across here, does one dare say it, as very much like his characterization of the Bloc, or close to it, certainly more so than the people who attempted to take over the Traveler’s Aid Society building. Here, it seems, we have on old activist stereotype, one who exoticizes political violence in other places, usually lesser developed ones, but finds himself alarmed when it emerges close to home. Proyect, in a post otherwise sympathetic to Hedges, perceptively observes that, to date, the riots, general strikes and attacks upon businesses celebrated by Hedges have failed to stall the ruthless imposition of austerity measures upon the Greek populace.

Consistent with this, while Hedges confined his condemnation to the Bloc, I suspect that the popularity of the piece, the reason why it went viral, is because liberals and progressives, non-socialists, in other words, have become fatigued with the direct action ethos of Occupy. For example, read through the comments to this post, written by someone who participated in the January 28th attempt by Occupy Oakland to seize the vacant Kaiser Center Auditorium and convert it into a community center. Numerous people, who, because of their local knowledge, appear to be Bay Area progressives, posted hostile comments, showing no sympathy for the people who were attacked and arrested by the police, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority were not among the few who threw rocks, bottles and firecrackers at the cops. Confronted with an excessive police response, especially at the end of the day, when officers kettled protesters, subjected them to a barrage of tear gas and flash grenades, and then arrested over 400 in front of the YWCA building, the commenters were either silent, or dismissed it as predictable. Clearly, they objected to the attempt to seize the building just as much as they did the people who threw objects at the police.

wikipedia.org

The reason for this hostility is simple: they, like Hedges, are alarmed at the increasing intensity of the confrontations with the police. Hence, liberals and progressives will be critical of any action, even non-violent ones, like property seizures, if they degenerate into street violence between protesters and cops, while conversely, ones that actually involve property destruction, without a violent police response, like the windows broken during the day of the general strike, or, more recently, the windows broken at an upscale car dealership on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco during the evening of the Occupy Wall Street West action, generate much less comment, except by those who learn of them during the real time livestreams and Twitter feeds or subsequent YouTube videos.

Such a response exposes the fault line that runs between older progressives and the young militants of Occupy. Older progressives live within existing institutional structures, unions, universities, schools and the public sector, and have become, in many instances, middle and upper class. Overall, they have a positive opinion of the police, even as they believe that officers should stop treating poor people and peole of color so badly. In other words, they believe that the police are necessary to preserve social order, and that they can be reformed. Conversely, many of the young militants of Occupy now consider the police to be an implacable enemy, a bulwark of the existing system of social oppression. And, in Oakland, they knew about the predations of the police prior to Occupy, which explains the intensity of the conflict there.

Here, finally, we begin to recognize some of the challenges currently confronting Occupy. On the one hand, we have people who purportedly want to support it, and may have even done so in the initial period of occupations, but cannot do so now because of the violence they perceive associated with it. On the other, we have others, rightly outraged over the conduct of the police, who risk substituting confrontations with law enforcement over direct challenges to crony capitalists responsible for the economic distress experienced by so many. Occupy also initially attracted marginalized people, but they seem to have departed.

Is there a path out of this dark forest? If so, it may lie within the processes of Occupy itself. As Pham Binh and others have observed, Occupy is a direct action social movement where those who dedicate the most time and energy disproportionately influence the outcomes. There is nothing unique about this, it is true of most institutions in this society. But such an approach will not work for a movement that seeks to represent the 99%. As Tiny, also known as Lisa Garcia-Gray, wrote about her experience during a march and bank occupation in San Francisco:

POOR Magazine was in the march on this day, sadly with only three members, we did have four family members but several of our poor parents are houseless and jobless and so our fourth member had his phone cut off the night before and so we couldn’t find each other in the masses of people, and all of our other family members were working one of several jobs and hustles and so they didn’t even have the privilege to be there at all.

At first I was taken by the almost flawless organizing by Bay Area non-profit organizations. From the emcee to the turn-out from group after group, the whole event was wound tightly as a rope on a drum. Each act of civil disobedience, set-off at the mouths of Wells Fargo bank branches, were beautifully orchestrated stages of theatre and action. It was obvious that funded organizations with time and paid staff had organized this event down to the last balloon, slightly like a party we at POOR Magazine had never received an invitation to.

As we left the protest to get our young kids to school on time, Tony and I spoke about the power of the resistance that we had just been part of. I brought up how although I am excited and about all of the issues peoples were speaking and acting on I remain vexed by the fact that as poor peoples of color and indigenous peoples we are constantly in battle, in protest about the genocide and violence perpetrated on us and yet it is a struggle for us to get 50 people to show up for protests, so what is the difference? and what really is our role in all of these resistance occupations as poor peoples of color in struggle who are also in struggle with the occupation of our time due to no-wage and low-wage work, system abuse and ongoing criminalization and why do our resistance movements stay at the margins of what is important to show up for?

At last, Tiny, not Chris Hedges, has revealed what ails Occupy, the difficulty of reaching and empowering the people most victimized in this capitalist society. By targeting the ephemeral Bloc as the source of the illness, Hedges evades this much more challenging social and political dilemma. Accordingly, Occupyshould evaluate its internal processes and future actions by the extent to which they bring these people into the movement, and not by simplistic bright line rules about violence and non-violence.

For now, and, perhaps permanently, that means trying to avoid violent confrontations with the police as much as possible, not because the conduct of the police should be considered acceptable, far from it, but, rather, because many of the people that might embrace Occupy most enthusiastically are terrified, and for good reason, of being beaten, arrested, and, if undocumented, deported. I actually accidentally had the opportunity of seeing Tiny request Occupy Oakland support for an immigrants rights march during a general assembly in mid to late November, and someone asked, because of the attempted Traveler’s Aid Society takeover, whether there would be any violence. She emphatically said something like . . No. . No . . absolutely not . . we are going to have families with children with us on the march. In relation to the attempt to take over the Kaiser Center, such considerations might suggest an initially more covert effort to seize it, with a subsequent display of public support, as occurred at Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley in November 2010, instead of a mass attempt to storm police lines at mid-day. Similarly, the manner by which Occupy Oakland organized in advance of the port shutdown, and provided picket line support for striking workers might serve as good examples as well. All three constituted effective efforts to support workers at the base.

(Polizeros welcomes Richard Estes of American Leftist as a contributor)

Posted in News

I.W.W. Advice to Occupy Oakland

It’s quite an exercise in arrogance when the Little Union that Can’t (Industrial Workers of the World) wants to dole out advice to the most popular and dynamic social movement we’ve seen in decades. This article, written by John Reimann of the San Francisco Bay area general membership branch of the I.W.W. illustrates just how out of touch the Wobblies are. This is, after all, a union that after over a century of organizing has approximately 2,000 dues paying members. Reimann specifically complains about the lack of worker participation in the port shutdowns on the West Coast and the need to “make a drive into the work places,” something the Wobblies have been doing unsuccessfully for over a century. As questionable as all that is, what really got me was the list of demands:

  • A guaranteed job for everybody who wants one and a $15 per hour minimum wage.
  • A mass union organizing campaign to win union rights for all workers.
  • No concessions, no concessionary contracts; the unions must fight for their members with mass pickets, work place occupations, etc.
  • Socialized medical care.
  • No support, including union support, for any wing of the Democratic (or Republican) Party
  • Mass funding for clean, safe, renewable energy sources.
  • Stop all evictions and foreclosures through mass action.
  • A mass, publicly financed and run home building program – affordable housing for all.
  • Put the banks and finance capital under public ownership.
  • Link up the Occupy movement nationally and internationally.
  • For a society whose production is based on social need, not corporate profits.

From the union which claims to want to abolish the wage system we have the rather strange idea of a “guaranteed job” at a wage of $15 per hour. I suppose slaves had guaranteed jobs. But this entire laundry list of demands seems to illustrate just how out of touch the Wobblies are. Take the demand to finance and run a home building program, for instance. Why on earth would we do that in a country with nearly 18.5 million vacant homes and only about 3.5 million homeless? We don’t need to build more homes. We need to get people into the homes that have already been built and find uses for the rest of the millions of empty structures. The notion that we need to link up the Occupy movements is nonsense. The Occupy movements are linked up and working together all the time. In fact, the Port Shutdown was a great example of this where we had Occupies up and down the West Coast participating and lots of solidarity actions across the country including here in New York where we staged demonstrations against Goldman Sachs. No concessions sounds good, but you have to be able to exert real power in order for that to happen; and at this point our unions just don’t have that kind of strength. A mass union organizing campaign sounds great, but what would it matter in a nation where labor laws–and laws in general– are routinely ignored as a cost of doing business?

Lastly, Reimann really surprised by actually questioning the leaderless nature of this movement:

One other issue should be considered: Officially, Occupy Oakland has no leadership. We all know this is not really true….Either a leadership will be elected by Occupy Oakland and its role and policies defined, or it will be self-appointed and will tend to do what it wants.

We all know this is true? I certainly don’t know this; and I think thousands of folks who have participated in this movement can vouch for that; it’ is, in fact, the leaderless, horizontal structure that is so appealing to people. This from the little union that prides itself on having no leaders and striving toward a world with no bosses. And yet this really does illustrate just how broken the I.W.W. really is, because while they officially talk about abolishing the wage system and have a horizontal, leaderless union, the reality is much different with routine calls for various wage reform ideas spouted by leaders within the union. This article illustrates not only how out of touch the Wobblies are with the Occupy Movement as a whole, but how far they have strayed from the basic tenets of their own union.

Posted in recession, Socialism

Contact

Bob Morris bob@polizeros.com

310.600.5237

Morris Consulting

  • Legacy PC database migration to Windows
  • WordPress design and support
  • Data conversion

Contact Morris Consulting at bomoco.com.

Categories

Archives