Friday, September 30, 2011

All Righty Then -- A Contrasting View

Inside the Jacobin Club, Paris, c.1789

Most of the anti-Occupation screeds -- from the "left" or the right -- are simply vitriol and venom, spewed for no good purpose, and because they do not serve as any form of constructive criticism, they are either ignored or laughed at.

A few are fairly transparent as a form of job hunting: "Hire me, and I'll show you how to do it right!" [Toothy grin.]

But this one, from Jacobin posted at Occupy California, I think, makes some good points to ponder.

[As a side note, I was watching the choppy Livestream of the Chicago GA this evening, and oh my. There is truly no more difficult political form than participatory democracy. These people, as well meaning as they obviously were, had little experience with the process, though they seemed capable enough -- and certainly willing and adaptable enough -- to muddle through. But the process nearly came to a dead halt because they could not achieve sufficient consensus to carry on. They went round and round and kept trying, bless their hearts, and they tried several different ways of getting past the blocks, and I don't know whether they were successful or not. The feed deteriorated to the point where it was essentially frozen. In New York, if someone blocks a measure, that person, generally, has to be prepared to leave the group. In Chicago, they hadn't quite figured that out yet, nor had they come up with some alternative means of working through dissent. But they were trying, and that's what mattered. It also looked like it was freezing cold.]

Back to Jacobin's points about New York and the Occupation Movement which is sweeping the nation and the world.

Jacobin has some issues with what is going on. I'm going to assume for the purposes of this analysis that Jacobin is a "he," but with the proviso that you never know, and I would not make such an assumption in life. It's merely a convenience to get through the next few paragraphs. (Personal Gender Pronouns -- PGP -- were a big issue at one of the New York General Assemblies, don't you know.)

He's been to the demonstrations at Zuccotti Park (the official name) but hasn't stuck around, because, even though he's met some swell people, he's just not into what they're doing. Nevertheless, he believes in the intentions of the participants, so...

He's noticed the overwhelming police presence (since lightened quite a bit, but still...) and how they are the ones causing most of the mischief, harassing the demonstrators and making their lives in the park miserable. At any rate to the extent they can.

He does not consider sleeping on the pavement in the rain any kind of "victory" in a rational sense, and thinks it's absurd for demonstrators to declare a "victory" when that is what they have: penned in by club-and-gun wielding police, sleeping on the pavement, in a rainstorm (actually, I added the rainstorm business because the rain has come up since the last time Jacobin was there, and it was apparently a deluge tonight.)

He's trying to puzzle out the purposes of the action, and he's pretty well convinced that what the demonstrators are doing isn't achieving those purposes: 1) to sabotage or interfere with what the denizens of Wall Street -- both literally and figuratively -- are doing; 2) to take control of space and use it purposefully for further action/gain at "Wall Street's" expense. (Jacobin calls it the "enemy's" expense; I wouldn't use that kind of terminology, not at this point.) He says that neither purpose is being fulfilled. He says that the denizens of Wall Street don't give a fuck what the demonstrators do or don't do; and as for controlling the space, the demonstrators don't. He's convinced the park is heavily infiltrated with plainclothes police, their every thought and action is monitored, and the park could easily be cleared in seconds if the authorities so ordered.

All of which is probably true. In Chicago, the difficulty of getting past the blocks was such that many of the participants suspected infiltrators and provocateurs were the cause of the problem, and it could be. I don't doubt their presence, nor should anyone else. On the other hand, an open process should never fear either infiltration or provocation. Both should be relatively easily neutralized by the effectiveness of the process.

He's impressed by the amount of cash the Occupation has raised and how much food and other supplies have been donated. He's intrigued with the actions of Anonymous to out Officer Bologna and he wonders what else they know -- for example about the owners of the park ( Brookfield Properties). He's not, however, impressed with the Occupation itself (cause to him -- or to an alien who dropped in on the scene -- it looks like the Occupiers are being encaged by the police.)

His suggestions include drop kicking the General Assembly process because it is too unwieldy on the one hand, and too easily infiltrated on the other, such that just about any cop in a Che t-shirt could capture control of the Assembly. (That's not quite how it works, but it's not necessarily as far-fetched as it seems.) He suggests splitting into what amount to committees or working/affinity groups, which is what I believe is the model they've been using all along. (See the chart at the head of the "Participatory Democracy is Hard" post.) But what he may be thinking of is "cells," rather than working groups. That would be worth discussing, but I don't think the consensus would agree. The participants are trying for something else altogether.

He suggests that if a large enough group of people (such as those expected to come to the not-happening Radiohead concert) could be attracted to the park such that it would have to overflow into unclaimed territory, say on Wall Street itself, then productive collusion (?) would be possible away from police scrutiny (amid the chaos and all.) What I saw today was a huge crowd that did obviously overflow the park, but that crowd didn't go to Wall Street, they went to Police Plaza and there held a rather moving demonstration against police brutality. I have no doubt that it was certainly possible for splinter groups and meetings to take place at Police Plaza, or anywhere along the way, or...somewhere else. While surveillance is pervasive (and one has to learn how to work within a surveillance context) when the crowd is that large, it is quite impossible to keep track of everyone all the time.

He thinks we should be paying attention to how long the Revolution is going to have to go on. At the very least, he sees it continuing through next year, and he apparently isn't sure the nascent revolutionaries have thought it through that far. But I think most of them have. This will not be an easy or quick task by any means. Nor will anything we think of now actually transpire or endure in the by and bye. Revolutions have a tendency to go their own -- and highly unpredictable-- way. Which is why I laugh at those who are demanding to know what the "end point" will look like. Hint: Nobody knows.

He wonders what it would mean to strangle a corporation to death. Hm. That's not really the attitude most of the participants are bringing to this effort, so it's probably a good thing that Jacobin isn't sitting still for much of the to do at Liberty Square (or Plaza, as the case may be; interesting that he will not use that name...)

He doesn't want to raise his issues at Assembly, and I understand that. But he does want... well, to subvert what so many of the others are doing. Yes, subvert I think is the right word. He doesn't see it moving forward well enough, securely enough, or purposefully enough, and as far as I can tell, he wants to find out if there are others who will join with him to... push things in a different and an edgier direction. As it were.

Well. What I think is good here is Jacobin's recognition of the nature of a Revolutionary organization and the intrinsic vulnerability of the participatory direct democracy model chosen for the initial phase of this Movement. But I get the distinct impression that those who are most deeply involved in the process and development of the Movement understand these points as well as or better than Jacobin does.

What happened today -- with the thousands and thousands of additional people and the march to Police Plaza -- was a catalyzing event. Even if many of those who came down to the Plaza did so to see Radiohead, they ultimately got sucked into or involved in something much bigger than themselves and their need for entertainment. The Occupation is never going to be the same again, and tomorrow, October 1, kicks off a whole series of new Occupations; the whole effort has metastasized in a twinkling. It's enormous.

Now that it is suddenly huge, of course there will have to be adaptations. Whether they will turn in the direction Jacobin wants, I can't say, but just from the superficial outsider view I've had of the operations of the Occupation movement, I'd say that behind the scenes something very much like the structure he suggests is an established fact, and as the Movement develops, it will become more forceful.

How forceful? How much discommoding will take place? That remains to be seen, and as far as I can tell, it is way too early to become too ...assertive. I see it as a gradual -- though not necessarily slow -- strengthening, which in turn leads to more and stronger efforts at... building a better future.

I don't see anything too strenuous, in other words, until sometime next year.

But the growth of the Movement over the last two weeks has been startling. The next phase may come much sooner...

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