Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Problem of Success -- What if the Short Term Goal of Delegitimizing Authority is Achieved?

In an earlier essay I argue that the whole of the Occupy (Wall Street) Movement is a Nonviolent Resistance Campaign -- including its more militant and confrontational outposts like those in the West Coast port cities of Seattle and Oakland -- and that there is no divergence within the Movement from Nonviolent Resistance. Black Bloc is not a Violent Resistance Campaign, (no matter its reputation) nor are "the anarchists" (or anyone else) within the Movement advocating that Occupy engage in Violent Resistance.

I further argue that the militant and confrontational Nonviolent Resistance that has characterized Occupy Oakland has been a stunning success in achieving the short term goal of delegitimizing civic authority.

To highlight just what's happened since the advent of Occupy Oakland, it may be well to look at the following facts:

  • Mayor Quan is under threat of recall, two recall petitions having actually been certified, and a recall election is very likely this year -- her authority in the interim has been delegitimized (the pathetic picture of her viewing the overturned model of City Hall in the lobby of said building after the events of J28 was the key metaphor for her complete loss of authority)
  • Oakland's City Council members have been shown to be bullies and liars in their own right, beholden to their sponsors and owners and not the People; their behavior has been at times appalling, and has delegitimized their authority
  • The Interim Police Chief has been repeatedly revealed as a liar whose contempt for the city of Oakland and its people is palpable -- his authority is effectively delegitimized
  • The administration of the City of Oakland has been shown to be both corrupt and incompetent in response to Occupy Oakland -- thus delegitimizing it
  • Judge Thelton Henderson has threatened to place the Oakland Police Department into Federal receivership because they have not fulfilled their reform obligations under the consent decree issued nine years ago, a threat based in part on events surrounding OPD's violent efforts to suppress Occupy Oakland. This threat, along with the global disrepute brought on the OPD by their violence and brutality toward Occupy Oakland has served to delegitimize their authority.

Delegitimizing authority as thoroughly as it has been delegitimized in Oakland since the advent of Occupy Oakland is almost unprecedented in recent American political history and is a stunning victory in Occupy Oakland's Nonviolent Struggle against the oppression and exploitation of Oakland's people by its elected and appointed leadership.

Certainly nothing so effective has come from the so-called "progressive movement" in the last 40 years.

Victory of this sort is a problem, however.

The question naturally arises: "What do we do now?"

Nonviolent Resistance by Occupy Oakland has gained a spectacular short term victory, but delegitimizing authority opens the door to the unknown and potentially to chaos, as many Revolutionaries throughout time have come to realize, sometimes too late. My sense -- from the outside looking in -- is that Occupy Oakland activists are aware of the problems of victory, but I'm not sure more than a few recognize what they have achieved.

The ongoing internal debate over "nonviolence" vs "violence" in Oakland seems odd to me because there is no Violent Resistance Campaign in Oakland or anywhere else in the Occupy Movement. Violent Resistance has not even been considered, at least not anywhere in the Movement I'm aware of. Just like most Occupy activists, I would immediately suspect anyone who did advocate or try to instigate a Violent Resistance Campaign through Occupy to be a provocateur or worse.

To recapitulate: Black Bloc -- and/or "the anarchists" -- in Oakland (or anywhere in the Occupy Movement) do not constitute a Violent Resistance Campaign, as they do not engage in nor do they advocate armed insurrection or the use of deadly force.

Militant Nonviolent Resistance by Occupy Oakland has achieved first-level victory by delegitimizing civic authority. What is the alternative to the present corrupt and disintegrating authority structure? Do OO activists have an alternative ready to go once the discredited present system is swept away? Or will Oakland's Powers That Be "re-legitimize" their authority before the collapse?

These questions are being worked in Oakland and elsewhere in the Movement right now.

The answers will come, but finding them is a more difficult task. What kind of future and future world do we really want?


  1. Where do they go from here. That is a great question. Do they become part of the system? The system seems irrevocably broken to me so I don't think tha's the answer. It will be fascinating to watch. Also, what is your definition of "the collapse?" Great post thanks.

  2. Clearly, "violence," or the flimsy simulacra thereof, will be repeatedly used to smear the Occupy movement. That's a given in our media environment: people whose heads unfortunately get in the way of batons, you know, had it coming.
    Expect more of that pearl-clutching horseshit when the plutocrats roll into Rahm's Chicago pretty soon.
    On an up note, though, the 99% and all it implies is now inexorably a part of the language, even among Republicans. You can't buy that kind of thing in a store, to the Koch's quite obvious chagrin.

  3. C-Hag:
    Oh doG, Chicago! Eek. "Please Come To Chicago" keeps rolling through my head. I'm sure they'll be singing it, too, much as "For What It's Worth" is once again an anthem of Teh Revoluuushion.

    "We can chaa-aaange The World..."

    What's interesting right now is how intense the "violence"/nonviolence discussion has become. As the potential for a truly Violent Resistance Campaign seems to recede, the accusations of "violence" advocacy are ratcheted up. I was on an Occupy conference call this morning on the topic, and the tension was so thick...

    But yeah, there's no escape from the meme is there. What have we wrought? Say, I haven't checked the haps at OccupyPDX for a while; have they continued to make life miserable for Sam Adams?!??


    Let's hope the answer is not to recreate/revive the failed systems.

    When civic authorities have collapsed in the past, it's generally been due to some kind of external circumstance -- think New Orleans during/after Katrina; Galveston after the hurricane of 1900. Haiti after the earthquake.

    The situation in Oakland isn't quite the same... The cause isn't external, it's entirely internal.

    I doubt there will be anything dramatic before June but the G8-NATO summit is in Chicago in May; what happens there may be the trigger to a whole cascade of collapsing systems.

    Strap in as they say.

  4. So, you are talking about the collapse of civil government? I see your point as it relates to Oakland. I would like to see widespread collapse of local governments with the people most affected by their decisions take over. The current path is unsustainable in my opinion but how long can the oligarchs stretch out the misery.
    Oh, and Chicago is going to be extremely intense and interesting.
    Note to Cocktail hag: You used to comment over at Greenwald's place too, right? I always liked you comments. Nice to see you.

  5. Local and state governments are under intense financial strain these days; some are in receivership or otherwise no longer functioning as civic institutions responsible to the People. They just aren't.

    Oakland's case is due to a myriad of factors, chief among them economic, but also the fact that the City government has essentially given itself over to a cabal (in a manner of speaking) of private interests that have run it to ruin. The People could see what was going on, and many tried to struggle against it, but without much effect until Occupy.

    It's still not clear to me what's going to happen; I have a hard time imagining that the Oakland Commune is going to take over city government. It just doesn't compute! It would be interesting if they did, though.

    I don't know. I'm trying to get more information without raising too many hackles or treading on too many toes...