Tag Archives | Occupy

Occupy jumps the shark, offers pre-paid debit card


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?

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.