Monday, October 10, 2011

Further -- On the Course of the Revolution as It Expands Evermore

Pageant of the "Storming of the Winter Palace", staged on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, October 25-26, 1920 (Old Style).

There will be no Storming of the Winter Palace. No Fishwives March on Versailles. Instead, there will be an endless People's Congress at the Smolny; an interminable General Assembly; and Pageants. Let there be Pageants!

Nevertheless, I think it is important to realize that this IS The Revolution. It is happening in real time, as we watch or participate or ignore. The Occupations are not some casual time filler, though they can be used that way. They are not some closed off con or gambit for malcontents, though I don't doubt there are a plethora of con artists working every Occupation (or trying to). There are plenty of malcontents, too. They aren't festivals of freaks, though there are freaks, and there is a festive air at many of the Occupations.

We could go on and on, but the point is that the Occupations are The Revolution, and they are because they are making physically and psychically manifest an alternative to our current broken and severely exploitative government/corporate social, economic, and political models.

That is the Revolutionary act and it is the key to what is going on and why it is working - and why it will face severe tests and perils very soon. It has become a Revolutionary act to speak up publicly and to insist on the right to do so without interference by the authorities. It is a Revolutionary act to claim public space for the public and use it to create intentional communities that are serving as the alternative models to the broken, exploitative, and literally murderous system in place.

We have desperately needed a genuine Revolution in this country for some time, especially as the self-governing constitutional republic model collapsed into an authoritarian global-imperial model. Government has divorced itself from the People and corporate control of government has been consolidated to the point where the People as such are simply irrelevant to the operations of either the government or the economy.

Because People Don't Matter. (The link is to what turned out to be the final online edition of "Because People Matter", a long time publication in Sacramento focused on Peace and Social Justice -- and always highly critical of the Powers That Be. Jeanie Keltner was the guiding light behind it and she was often in front of the progressive movements for change and for peace in this area. I have seen her in attendance at OccupySacramento, and I have spoken to her briefly about the difference between this effort and what we've known previously and about the importance of what's happening now.)

I was trying to catch up yesterday on some of the other things I've been neglecting during this period of simmering Revolutionary fervor, so I didn't go down to the Occupation in Cesar Chavez Plaza. Instead, I followed the happenings on the Internet and what was on the news on teevee. There has been extensive, but I wouldn't call most of it "in depth," coverage of the local Occupation, as well as considerable (often inaccurate) coverage of the national phenomenon, on the local news. The only local reporting that I've seen that gets a little deeper into what's going on was Univision's Noticias, but of course it was in Spanish, for a Spanish speaking audience. It tried to give as honest a picture as possible of what was happening, but that's a characteristic of of Noticias that simply doesn't exist in mainstream English language "news." When it comes to covering and reporting actual news locally, nationally and abroad, Univision's Noticias is far and away the leader in the field. If you need to get your news from television, learn Spanish and watch Noticias. You will be far better informed than 90% of English-only Americans.

But enough editorializing about that.

Yesterday, as I understand it, the New York City General Assembly (NYCGA) split the Occupation in New York into two components, one at Liberty Plaza and one in Greenwich Village at Washington Square, mostly due to the fact that the crowds had grown too large at Liberty Square (Plaza/Park) for reasonable participation and (dis)comfort.

This is the physical and social problem of scale that afflicts any popular participatory model of democracy that I know of. If it is to survive and flourish (most efforts don't, by the way), the scale of the model must be manageable. If it becomes too big, it falls apart. That's what was happening in New York. In some other cities, the Occupations are also facing the problem of scale. Boston and Chicago are examples. Portland had a kickoff Occupation rally and march that attracted 10,000 or more participants. I saw this as a distinct disadvantage to a successful Occupation, but the rally and march were events, whereas the Occupation itself involves a fairly limited number of dedicated individuals. The Occupation in Seattle ebbs and flows in attendance, but again, the primary participants are a few hundred -- which is generally a manageable number.

When thousands of participants are involved, the model starts to resist; the operational difficulty inherent in the model becomes paralyzing. Nothing can be resolved so nothing can be done -- except voluntarily on a very small scale apart from, indeed independent of, the main democratic forum. Alternatively -- and this happened in Athens during its ancient democratic era -- the Assembly becomes vulnerable to demagoguery and extraordinarily poor decision-making.

The Occupation-Resistance model seems to have originated in the resistance to the dictatorships in Eastern Europe, Poland's Solidarity movement being a prime example, which spread to South America and Asia. This is the model of resistance that Naomi Wolf advises American Occupations to adopt when she's ordering DON'T MARCH!!! The problem is that she is assuming that the goal of these Occupations is the overthrow of the government and its replacement, when -- so far as I can tell -- the government is simply considered irrelevant to the Occupiers, except as an irritant. Overthrow may or may not happen, but there is no intent at overthrow, none at this point at any rate. There are too many more important matters to consider.

This was made clear in the NYCGA's response to the police riot the marchers faced on September 24. It was basically one of interest but not obsession. The issue of police brutality was taken seriously, but it was not allowed to become the central focus of the General Assembly. The primary focus was still on a)"Wall Street," and b)the successful operations of an intentional community. The Government's misbehavior in general, including police brutality, was simply one of many subsidiary issues to those primary issues.

The Government's role, in other words, was quite consciously reduced to that of an appendage or servant to other more important players. The point being that the People are not one of those players. They and their concerns have been dismissed, if you will.

Which is the proximate cause of the uprisings. Just getting the attention of the Government doesn't matter in a political sense any more. Getting the attention of Government in New York now means you get your face full of pepper spray and you get bludgeoned with a nighstick for your trouble. You get disparaged by a mayor who is apparently oblivious to anything outside his own personal interest -- which doesn't, obviously, include the interests of the People. You get dismissed as "mobs" and "rabble." This attitude, on full and open display in New York, is a living example of why the People are in revolt against the Palace. The dismissal and violence toward the People, and the complete ignorance and indifference toward their issues, is why the People are in revolt. And it is why the People have no interest in playing the Government's games of phony politics as usual. "Present us with Demands! Tell us what you want! Support this or that legislation or candidate! Go! A! Way!"

That's over. That's done.

You could say the current phase of the Revolution-a-borning is the "No More Bullshit" phase. The Back-Turning Phase. The Just Who Are You? Phase, and Why Should Anyone Care?

It's a development that carries significant risks. By ignoring Authority and its arbitrary imposition, rather than overtly resisting or opposing it, those who wield Authority become enraged. And when they rage, chaos ensues.

But if the Occupations continue on the course they've chosen, the Rage of the Machine will wear out the Machine rather than the Occupiers.

And then what?

What would you want to see?


  1. Key demands, for me, if we're assuming we're stuck with capitalism, and I'm not saying we should assume that . . .

    1. End corporate personhood
    2. Propose a Constitutional Amendment that says money does NOT equal speech. There is no link whatsoever between the two.
    3. Limit political donations to individuals only. No PACS. No bundling. No corporate sponsorships. And donations are limited to $250 dollars per year, per person. No mas.
    4. This one is a bit wonky. But it's crucial: Make it illegal for any lending institution of any kind, any form, any shape, to ever sell off a loan, in part, or as a whole. No workarounds for this. Just flat out illegal. Your loan remains in the hands of the original lender. It can not go anywhere else. 100% of it must remain with original lender.

    (If #4 had been in place prior to 2007, there could not have been a systemic collapse.)

    I'd like to see caps on the ratio between CEO and rank and file pay as well. And mega-taxes for millionaires and billionaires. Plus, financial transactions fees, like the Robin Hood Tax proposal (only larger). But the first four things listed are important ways to enable more radical change . . . Without them, I think we're looking at just marginal reforms, when we need revolutionary change.

    Hope all is well --

  2. Your points are at the root of reform. Sensible. Practical. Responsible. They should have been done long ago.

    I think they are all at least in outline part of the program of reform that's being developed among the Occupations.

    The question that our Marxist friends are asking is, "Is reform sufficient?" We did reform, and then we reformed the reforms, and now "reform" has become a synonym for complete de-regulation. Which is anti-reform.

    I've been fooling around with notions of Public Utilities. Not really well developed yet, but having pinpointed the core problems, the question of reigning in the excesses of any system -- more or less permanently -- arises. The models I'm looking at are those of publicly owned utilities, which can operate on a very large scale if necessary, but which are organized to provide for the public good first and foremost.

    A key problem with the Occupation model is that of scale. It can't be scaled up, it can only sub-divide and proliferate. And then potentially dissipate.