Monday, February 13, 2012

No Requirement To Occupy -- and Something About Greece

Loukanikos, the Greek Riot Dog, from:

During the Occupy National Strategy conference call yesterday on the topic of Nonviolence and Diversity of Tactics, a fellow in Portland spoke about some incidents there during an anti police repression march last weekend in which cars and businesses were vandalized by an autonomous splinter group not affiliated with Occupy Portland. Because the action was taking place during an Occupy Portland event, the OPDX Spokes Council went into emergency session to consider and draft a document to clarify what sorts of action OPDX will not allow during its events and actions.

I saw some of the evening march in Portland last weekend on the video livestream, including some pretty hostile confrontations between police and demonstrators. The livestreamer explained that earlier -- and so far as anyone knew, still -- the police were conducting "snatch and grab" arrests among the marchers, targeting or sometimes just randomly going after individuals in the march, pulling them out of the crowd, beating them, arresting them, taking them away. He said it was terrifying to witness. He mentioned vandalism had occurred earlier, and he speculated the police were conducting these snatch and grab arrests to apprehend suspects who had engaged in vandalism, but no one actually knew why they were doing it and that was a reason why people on the march were being so hostile toward the police and why some were trying to protect others from these police tactics.

As more than a few people have pointed out, these and other indications suggest that the conflict between Occupy and the authorities in general is intensifying, and this kind of thing is not exactly family friendly.

And some of the scenes of the renewed Greek Riots -- that I've got on the livestream as I type this post -- are deeply troubling and fear-inducing. Is that what we're headed for?

I say no, we're nowhere near the Greek situation, and there's no sign whatever that if we were, Occupy would in the vanguard or even on the periphery, of the kind of popular revolt and rioting going on in Greece. That kind of thing is not found at all in the Occupy framework. ("But what about the Black Bloc???") Black Blocs basically don't figure in the context of Occupy, and to the extent they appear at all -- extremely rare -- they don't engage in the kinds of things we're seeing in Athens right now.

My knowledge of Black Blocs is limited, to be sure, and based mostly on personal contact and interaction with some of those who proposed to -- possibly -- form a Black Bloc and utilize Diversity of Tactics tactics. They're not hooligans, far from it. They've been extremely bright young people, strongly principled, and absolutists about not bringing harm to another human being, including the police. The ones I describe may or may not have participated in the Black Bloc in Oakland on November 2 of last year -- the only time a Black Bloc has appeared in Oakland during an Occupy event. That Black Bloc was autonomous, as they all are.

Just to review: participants in that Black Bloc engaged in strategic vandalism of targeted banks, businesses and institutions. They did not engage in random acts of violence, nor did they engage in actions that were intended to or were likely to bring harm to another human being even in self defense. Recall, some of the participants in that Black Bloc were physically assaulted by self-proclaimed "nonviolence" advocates, not the other way around.

I dispute the value of strategic vandalism in an Occupy context or in the larger context of the struggle under way -- which of course puts me on the other side in the Class War! Even as an "informational display" strategic vandalism has little resonance beyond its core of supporters, largely because of the conditioning Americans are subjected to regarding the sacredness of private property, Lifestyle and Nonviolence. In other words, even if the issue is one Americans tend to support, methods to highlight it that involve destruction of property or substantial disruption of normal operations of daily life are widely if not necessarily mindfully denounced.

This conditioning is a legacy of the Reagan Era, starting with his election as Governor of California in 1966, in which the power elites of that era vowed 1) to crush the student and civil uprisings then taking place, and 2) to NEVER let anything like it happen again.

So let it be written, so it has been.

The PTB has been engaged in a full-scale disempowerment campaign against students, workers, religious institutions, minority communities, indeed against any form of "unapproved" opposition or criticism ever since. Their strategies have now shifted to disempowering women, the "middle class," and even segments of the elites. It's been relentless, and it was largely successful. This disempowerment campaign has relied heavily on conditioning the masses to accept their lot, to engage in the pursuit of phantoms of wealth, to struggle among themselves rather than against the Overclass, and to be servile in the presence of Authority. Effective revolt and rebellion has been made all but impossible. Or so the Overclass assures itself.

Effective strategies to counter this state of affairs from below are very difficult to develop because this conditioning is so very strong, it involves every aspect of living that might in spire or lead to an effective revolt, and it has been going on for decades. Generations have been subjected to this disempowerment and conditioning and to the propaganda machine that helps sustain it. Another world may well be possible (it is!) but how to get past the barricades (behind which Our Rulers are cowering) to it is still not clear.

"Another way" is necessary. The standard revolt-revolution pattern is all but non-functional. This includes the strategies of the advocates of nonviolent resistance. They don't work any more; they've been disempowered, quite deliberately.

We see this disempowerment constantly in the Occupy Nonviolence vs Diversity of Tactics conversations. So many people in so many segments of the Occupy Movement are so conditioned to believe that "nonviolence works" (so long as it strictly adheres to MLK/"Ghandi" principles) that they are incapable of seeing that it doesn't work anymore, nor can it work again due to the prevalence of strategic disempowerment and conditioning. Their devotion to what they believe took place in the past is touching, but their obliviousness to a) context of the times, and b) what was actually taking place that led to MLK/"Ghandi" victories is striking. Even some of those who were there don't seem to remember any more. I can still remember some things, not everything to be sure, but the deliberate whitewashing of what was really going on Back In The Day, along with intense conditioning to believe and revere myths about King and Gandhi and their movements, myths that largely obscure the truth, is quite apparent to me. I keep wanting to say, "It wasn't like that!" but, quite literally, what the hell do I know anyway!?

During yesterday's conference call I spoke up a few times, in what I thought would be a futile effort to bring some kind of perspective to the discussion, but I was surprised to find that some of the rigidity of viewpoint about the effectiveness of strictly mythological "Ghandian" nonviolence has essentially crumbled. New methods and approaches to effective nonviolent resistance may not have been found, but more and more of those engaged in the struggle are rejecting the strict-adherence to ineffective tactics and methods as a way forward, whether those methods are categorized as "violent" or "non-violent."

Yay. The categories are becoming irrelevant.

As I wrote on Saturday, and have repeated in other fora, "it's about trust." And one of the reasons I feel I can trust the Occupy Movement, even when I'm opposed to something that's going on or to methods of operations (for example, the Spokes Council model adopted in New York and some other places), because -- surprise -- it's working, and the process is one of discovery of possibility not one of imposition of ones own ideological demands and desires. I don't have to get my way, in other words -- and I often don't -- in order to trust that things will ultimately turn out right, or at least OK. I don't have to agree with everything that goes on, and I don't have to like the individuals involved.

And there is no requirement that I or anyone else "Occupy." Stepping back and standing aside are quite all right. No opprobrium accrues for doing so. This Revolution continues with or without any particular individual.

I was chatting with someone very close to me about the local first pre-Occupation meeting that we both attended -- seemingly so long ago now. We were recollecting how diverse the assemblage was, and how rough the operating format was. It was actually pretty chaotic, and if it hadn't been for a Peace and Freedom Party apparatchik in attendance to give some pointers on :horizontalism: and working groups and such, I'm not altogether sure we could have gotten through it. As it was, some of the elements that were decided at that first meeting were simply forgotten or so it seemed by the time the local Occupy emerged into public view a few days later.

We were remembering how some of those in attendance assured the multitude that the local OWS (as it was at the time) couldn't work unless this or that hierarchical political-party-union-nonprofit-organization-charted format and method of operation were adopted. This insistence was so rigid and absolute among some of the attendees; and they didn't get their way. Others expressed their strong reservations about this "leaderless" notion, and offered all kinds of advice about how movements are "supposed to be done." Some people left in a huff because they weren't getting their way.

That's the right thing to do. It's OK. No one is required to Occupy, and there is no requirement that Occupy appeal to everyone all the time, or even necessarily to the majority at any time. Big marches and rallies are great, but they aren't required. There's nothing wrong with clearly stated ideologies and elaborate rules, but they aren't required, either. Occupy is not like movements of the past, it's forging new paths to the future. It may not work. But so far it has worked remarkably well given all the catcalling and sniping from the inside and outside. Its resilience and adaptability have been severely tested, and it's come through the fire even stronger.

It's sure not what I thought Teh Revolution might look like, but even at its rowdiest, it's nothing at all like the Greek Riots, nor, so far as I can tell, can it become anything like that.

Meanwhile, what is wrong with the Rulership of Greece and Europe, and everywhere else that they are oblivious -- or is it indifferent -- to how badly they have fucked up? Where do they expect to flee?


  1. You've probably already read this:

    A Death Sentence for Greece

    For me the key part is:

    "Greece will have to prove that it’s reached various benchmarks before it receives any of the money allotted in the bailout. The Memorandum outlines, in great detail, what those benchmarks are— everything from reduced spending on life-saving drugs to 'lift(ing) constraints for retailers to sell restricted product categories such as baby food.'

    That’s right; according to the author’s of this fuliginous memo, the only way Greece is going to be able to lift itself out of the doldrums is by poisoning its kids with banned baby food."

    There's a level of fanatical ideological adherence there that reminds me of some of the things they were doing with wheat fields in Stalinist Russia. I mean seriously, other than camaraderie with their fellow capitalist predators what possible gain can the Banksters get out of forcing the Greeks to allow baby food poisoned with anti-freeze to be sold in their country?

  2. This article from the Times sows how strong conservative cognitive dissonance really is. How do we break through that?

  3. I saw this article yesterday, but unfortunately couldn't read it at the time.

    Sometimes I run into the same sort of attitudes in daily life, among people I would think should know better, but when I really listen to them, the disconnect isn't quite so strong.

    I look at it this way: anger at the government for its profligacy is perfectly justified. The appropriate targets, though, are the military and the security state and the Most Favored Corporations policies of government contracting. Those who are receiving a pittance in benefits are not the appropriate targets at all, for they are not the problem.

    But the propaganda machine has been cranked up 11 against them for decades and decades.

    Breaking through the smokescreen of propaganda and conditioning is made more difficult by things like that in the NYT. There's nothing at all about the vast expansion of the security state, prison industry, or the military and empire without "expanding revenues" -- as if it is just taken for granted that the "problem" is benefits. Well, it is taken for granted because that's what Americans are conditioned and propagandized to believe.

    The same rhetoric that's used to argue against social benefits can be -- and once was -- used to argue against bloated military/security spending, and when the argument is turned back where it belongs, some of those who rail against social spending can be awakened.

    The trick is to get it out in the open. "Tell the truth and shame the devil."

  4. Che Pasa
    Nicely said there. It's amazing the level of propaganda has convinced these people it's their own fault for not having real opportunities. Of course there is no way for them to gain an understanding because the truth is intentionally obscured. I think the Greek situation is instructive. What level of pain and suffering will bring massive numbers of people to the streets?

  5. What level of pain and suffering will bring massive numbers of people to the streets?

    May 1, we might find out... Global General Strike.

    Then there are the Days of Absence between now and then.

    As for the Greeks, Adam Curtis's "Ghost of the Colonels" may help explain why so many are taking to the streets and backing the rioters this time...

  6. pws: I just found your comment locked in Blogger Auto-Purgatory and released it. I don't know what is going on with Blogger's comment software, but things are definitely screwy the last few days. Really bizarre things have been going on...

    At any rate, I saw something yesterday, don't remember exactly where, it may have been David Dayen, suggesting that the banksters are making impossible demands of Greece on the premise that they won't comply because they can't; it really is madness.

    Monstrous madness.

    If the banksters can make the rulership of Europe dance like this, what can't they do?

    Or more to the point, what won't they do?

  7. I was watching BBC coverage the other night, and listened dumbfounded as they blithely rattled off the list of measures: 20% pay cuts for those earning minimum wage (Wow how does that work? Those who most need the money have mandated cuts? CEO's don't?), 15,000 jobs cut, etc. Not a single commentator paused to frame a question or make a point that even acknowledged what a hardship this would be for the Greeks. Not one. I cannot fathom how someone could have seen those numbers and not understood that it was untenable.

    These kinds of measures are predicated on the idea that we'll all turn against each other-- as workers in Europe have abandoned their Greek cohorts-- before turning against the true architects of this crisis.

    In a strange way, though, this may be a good thing. I finally hear the roll of tumbrels in the streets. History has shown that when people are truly desperate...hungry enough, angry enough, sad enough, and dispossessed enough...they'll rise up. Greece is only the starting place...

    I do not want violent revolution, but I am damn sick and tired of seeing the working masses underwrite the elite. If there is violence, they own it. --Morning's Minion

  8. It's as if Our Rulers DO want to mix it up in a violent revolution. It's that pugnacious, chin out, "I dares ya!" attitude of the bully looking for a fight... It's creepy. It's as if Frau Merkel and her Mini Me, Sarkozy, are deliberately goading the Periphery, especially Greece, to get uppity -- so's they can smash 'em!

    There could well be a revolution by the Euro working classes against their ruling elites sooner rather than later.

    Germany and Greece have a long and not altogether friendly history with one another, and a lot of the German demands look like revenge for previous slights, like the Greeks getting uppity and deposing their German-bred kings and such. But it could be something else.

    I'm reading my Roubini Economonitor for some pointers on how it might sort out.

    And no, the mass media does not recognize the existence of "people" in the context of the EuroDemands; they are utterly oblivious.