Saturday, January 28, 2012

History for Beginners -- Yakkity Yak

a debate on #occupyws from Jacobin on Vimeo.

This panel discussion video is from last October; not sure of the exact date, but it was posted on October 18 and mention is made of the fact that Occupy Wall Street wasn't yet even 30 days old.

The discussion took place in a volunteer run bookstore in New York City -- not sure where exactly or what bookstore it was. The panelists included Natasha Lennard -- who was arrested in the mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge -- Malcom Harris, Doug Henwood, Jodi Dean and Seth Ackerman of Jacobin magazine.

This was very early in the Occupy Movement, and yet many of the issues brought up in this little gabfest have just as much currency now as they did then. It's clear that there was only the sketch of an outline of how to proceed. The worries about dissipation of the energy of the early movement far outweighed fretting over co-optation that became such a focus of some of the activists as well as many political writers on the internet.

Those who objected to the format were dismissed, but the issue continues to be raised: how much does the Movement really want to differ from the mainstream anyway? Panel discussions are the emblem of the "going nowhere" regime the Left has adopted as its own; they also represent the mainstream -- and especially the academic -- organizational model of a very few adepts and experts telling the multitude what they think and therefore what the multitude should believe.

That isn't how the Occupy model works. One man brings it up very articulately.

Also, note the imbalances in both the panel and the audience. (In the Occupy model there would not be this separation into those who sit apart and talk to those who sit and listen) It's a fully male-dominant panel, a youth-dominant panel, a white-dominant panel, and it is a highly educated and broadly "left" panel. That is what much of the activist community looked like in those days. Even in New York. Or maybe especially there.

Note is made by the audience about how white -- though not how male and young -- it is, but again such note is dismissed.

Most of the topics raised in this discussion are still going on, but the matter of what kind of action to undertake -- in addition to philosophizing no end -- seems to have been widely resolved. Action is focused on what will bring attention to the worsening plight of the People, and what can be done and is necessary to ameliorate it.

The video is long, almost 2 hours, but it's the kind of thing that provides a fascinating glimpse into some of what was going on back in the very early days of the Occupy Movement -- from both the inside and the outside simultaneously, and how it struggled to define itself.

As one of the speakers in the audience says, "The Russian Revolution built on more than 50 years of revolutionary development of thought and action."

Indeed, it was closer to 100 years.

Revolutions may seem to happen in an instant, but the prep-time is often generations long.

Where observers may be off kilter is in assuming that the Occupy Revolt commenced sui generis on September 17, 2011. Not quite... Even among this panel, note is made of origins well before that, especially at UC Berkeley in 2009 (much beating of students back then, too). But that insight is challenged by the comment that the tactic of occupying various sites has been utilized for decades.

So it goes.

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