Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"We Can Chaa-aaange The World"

Editorial comment about the video above:

I witnessed some of the events documented in the video on television as they happened in 1968, and I've seen many retrospectives that focus on the Chicago Police Riot since then, but I have never seen anything that puts together the footage from the streets and the parks near the Democratic Convention site so comprehensively and comprehensibly. It's quite moving to see it in that fashion. It is extraordinarily evocative given what's been happening to suppress the Occupy Movement. It's not the same thing at all. Motivations are very different now, as are, I believe, the intentions of both the authorities and the demonstrators. It's a different world, people are not fighting the same battles for the same things, and I sincerely doubt that the outcome will be the same.

"Rearaaa-aange the World."

-- Chicago (We Can Change the World), 1971

After stumbling around for several days in total WTF? mode, I seem to be gaining some kind of clarity regarding intense assault on "the anarchists" (Black Bloc or no) that has been taking place throughout the Occupy firmament and in many of the corners of the intertubes as well.

It's about Chicago. Well, "Chicago" and "Tampa" and "Charlotte" as well. This year's three big National Special Security Events where the American and global rulership will be gathering for pageants, schmooze, and decisions about the Future Pain the rest of us will be enduring.

And it is about preserving something of the Occupy spirit in the aftermath.

After the J28 events in Oakland, I saw the pressure to expel "the anarchists" increase exponentially. People weren't just saying this, they were deeply passionate about it, fierce, angry, scared. "The anarchists" had to be tamed or be gone, no two ways about it.

And as I explored the issue of Nonviolence with people online and in some of the trenches, I found more and more rigidity of thought about it, to the point where even confrontation with or defiance of authority was being lumped into the "anarchist-bad, no-can-do" category. Cooperation with authority and an absolute commitment to total nonviolence, that went even beyond the Gandhian Principles, seemed to be required.

From my perspective, this was getting completely insane. WTF? No "movement" is possible with those kinds of absolutist requirements, pledges, vows, declarations, expulsions, purges and so on. It struck me as a national, coordinated effort to "kill the Occupy" by remaking it into just another NPO or lobbying front and be done with it once and for all.

And the kill switch was being flipped mostly from the inside. The pressure from the outside, of course, is always there, a fact of life, background noise that sometimes gets way in your face, and much worse, but the Occupy Movement in all its moving parts has been coping with that pretty well. The Occupy doesn't fit America's standard pattern of political advocacy/social service, and there has always been a strenuous effort from the outside to make it fit, whether through police aktions or, shall we say, civic "persuasion," or infiltration and take over by the more established political activist communities. That effort still goes on, the point being to neuter the Occupy as a change agent and make it into a version of every other ineffective NPO -- and possibly giving it A Seat at the Table. Yadda, yadda.

The neutering effort, in my view, has been relatively successful; in many cities Occupy has more or less been integrated into the fabric of city living, there is very little or no conflict with the Established Interests, and a good deal of productive -- primarily social service -- action is taking place. These Occupys are not hotbeds of change, they're hotbeds of service and innovation, at least that's my impression of them from a distance (Santa Fe and the Erie Canal cities of Upstate New York are the primary examples I'm speaking of, but there are plenty many more). They've either been transformed into or they always were community based volunteer service organizations, often run by people I call "Club Women" (though it's meant to be a gender neutral term) whose lives revolve around service to others. The Occupy provides them with a unique organizational and operational structure that eliminates a lot of the overhead of traditional service organizations and provides a means to engage in direct democracy at the same time. What's to object to, what could be better?

There were Occupys that formed temporarily then dissolved, either in dissension or -- hate to say it -- boredom; it just wasn't what people wanted or needed to do. The intensity of the Occupy framework for action isn't for everyone, and if it isn't clear what the action is for or targeting is vague or its off kilter then the whole thing can seem like a complete waste of time. If you don't feel like you're doing something productive and Occupy can't or won't function toward productive ends, that's -- to me -- a perfect reason not to do it.

There is no Requirement To Occupy.

I saw the Winter Hibernation period as a reassessment and shake out period -- hopefully leading to metamorphosis and re-emergence into something different than its initial period last year and even more "beautiful."


After what I have recently experienced, I am taken aback by what's taken place. It's not at all what I -- or perhaps anyone -- expected.

Occupy Oakland has been up and running all along, it never ceased or went into hibernation, though it did slow its public actions over the winter. Occupy Oakland became the Energy Center for the Movement as a whole after the now-legendary police assaults of October 25 that culminated with the severe wounding of Scott Olsen from police fire into the crowd.

Oakland's energy is not necessarily a good fit everywhere, nor are the methods and tactics employed in Oakland adaptable to every situation. Oakland is Oakland. The Oakland Model is vital, but I doubt it is the right one for widespread adoption. I don't see how it could work without the strength and history and commitment to overcome adversity of Oakland's people.

What happens in Oakland is an inspiration to others. The persistence, the militancy, the stunning bravery when under assault, the innovative tactics, all of these things about Occupy Oakland help to give courage to everyone fighting the good fighting the good fight against entrenched and sclerotic power. And it works.

That's the thing "they" don't want you to know.

And it's fascinating to me to piece together who constitutes "they" in the current effort to flip the kill switch on Occupy.

Nearly all of them are either inside the Movement or just outside it yammering away like Chris Hedges. Their antagonism toward "the anarchists" has taken on a distinctly nasty and threatening tone, dehumanizing and scapegoating, and violent rhetoric toward "the anarchists" has become the standard way of addressing the issue of Nonviolence as it relates to Occupy.

At one time there was a relatively rational debate about tactics going on. There was a general commitment to Nonviolence throughout the Occupy firmament, but with the proviso that Occupys were autonomous as were their working and affinity groups.

There was no Politburo, so there were no directives from the Politburo.

Each Occupy formulated its rules for itself.

So far as I know, there's never even been a suggestion of veering from the broadly defined Nonviolent path. If anybody has made such a suggestion, I'm sure they were shouted down and isolated or... expelled.

Occupy is by definition a Nonviolent Resistance Campaign. It does not engage in, advocate or endorse armed struggle of any kind. It's simply always been out of the question. For good reason too, though this somewhat rambling installment is not about those reasons.

When I point out the inherent, indeed definitional, Nonviolent character of all of Occupy, including its more militant outposts like Oakland, and yes, including "the anarchists," and yes even including Black Bloc, I am often met with a barrage of what I think of as nonsensical rejoinders about a rock thrown here, a bottle thrown there, and a few broken windows in November, "What about those, ya crumb? That isn't VIOLENCE???"

Cue the Sturm und Drang and the rending of garments.

Yes, whatofit? In the overall picture, the minor vandalism and mischief that's taken place is nothing. So?

Let the screaming fits begin. As they have. Ohmigod. I've never experienced these levels of extreme ignorance combined with such extreme rigidity of thought and such extreme rhetorical violence before, and I didn't think I'd led a particularly sheltered life. I have certainly never experienced it within a so-called Nonviolence context, and not at all among people who profess to follow Nonviolent Ethics. It just doesn't happen. Vigorous disagreement and disapproval, certainly, but never in a disrespectful or overtly hostile manner.

Well, the masks have come off, although I will say that there never was a "mask" among Nonviolence believers and practitioners in the faith community. They are what they are, they have never deviated from the Path, nor have ever felt the need or had the desire to act in the manner that so of those DEMANDING strictest adherence to Nonviolence OR ELSE are doing.

Instead, they do what they have always done: they listen, they respect divergent points of view, and they use persuasion -- very effectively. Most understand the Big Picture, too: a broken window is not the End of the World. Really and truly, it isn't. Taking up a gun and instigating an armed insurrection could be, though.

That's the essence of my point of view. Not always my practicve, but we do what we can... Unfortunately proportion and perspective have been lost among the Nonviolence Purists who now appear to be in a titanic struggle with the Phantoms of their Fear: "the anarchists". Black Bloc, eeeeeee! Somebody threw a bottle, OMG, we're melting!!!!! Black Bloc! Anarchists! REDS!"

Because of the consistent violence of their rhetoric and their assaultive behavior toward any question or challenge to or deviation from their absolutist demands, I disbelieve their purported devotion to Nonviolence. If you sincerely believe in Nonviolence, you do not demand or stamp your foot or hold your breath until you turn blue, and you do not threaten others with calamity if you are not obeyed. That's the behavior of children and tyrants.

Have events conspired to infantilize key segments of the Movement?


"Chicago" looms large this year; the NATO/G8 summits take place there in May; the potential for evil is high. And then there's Tampa in August (RNC Convention) and Charlotte in September (DNC Convention). This is a very fraughtful year for tumult in the streets.

All three of these Confabs of the Rulership are National Special Security Events. We've had some experience with them in the not-so-distant past, in such cities as Pittsburgh, Denver, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Boiled down to the essence, what happens outside these events matters just as much as what happens inside if not more so. The Constitution and legal protections therein are effectively suspended in preparation for and for the duration of the Festivities and Events.

Bluntly put, during a National Special Security Event, you have no rights the authorities are bound to respect; you may or may not have "permissions" which can be arbitrarily revoked without notice. In fact, the random and arbitrary imposition of State Authority, often in an outrageous and brutal fashion, is one of the chief characteristics of these events.

People taking to the streets are bound to get hurt; mass arrests are all but guaranteed; intense surveillance is routine. Tactics employed by the authorities against protesters are intentionally disruptive and disabling.

People who are thinking ahead expect things to get really, really nasty. Potentially what no one alive has ever seen in this country. Occupy is expected to be in the center of it all. Occupy has become The People's Voice. The People are expected to speak up loud and clear through Occupy at Chicago, Tampa and Charlotte. And it is expected that there will be violence from the authorities.

Making clear that "Black Bloc anarchists" are not part of Occupy is likely seen as essential to mitigating the harm that the almost inevitable official violence will cause. Black Bloc cannot be prevented altogether; but clearly separating Black Bloc tactics from the Occupy Movement actions may be seen as helping to mitigate the effects of official violence.

That's my charitable read of the situation, putting as positive a face on it as I can. There's another way to look at it.

It goes back to Oakland's J28 festivities (yes, it was billed as a festival). What really took place was a series of skirmishs in The Revolution. This is really going on; this is not play acting or sport; it's the real goddamn thing, and Oakland is the center of it.

Much of it was very dramatic, such as The Battle of Oak Street and the Escape from the Park. I've written many times about Storming the Winter Palace as a metaphor, but this was the real thing. In the course of the events of J28, the legitimacy and authority of the civic government dissolved as did that of OPD. None of the stated objectives of the day's events were achieved, but something else was. Delegitimizing the Tsar's authority is an essential step in a Real Revolution.

OK. Now what? And did anyone really know that's what was up and that's what was going to happen? Did they really believe it was about taking possession of the Oakland Auditorium?

It was obvious to me as soon as the confrontation on Oak Street was in place that the building seizure was window dressing. Confronting illegitimate authority was the point, and that was astonishingly successful. Taking the building can wait until after the Revolution is consolidated.

Delegitimizing authority has to come first, and that took place in a manner we haven't seen in this country for many years.

Here's another video of the aftermath -- the Seizure of the Sound System:

This is a police force -- and a city government -- with no real legitimacy at all. Their "authority" is a sham.

This was the outcome, but it was not the intention of the anti-Revolutionists among Oakland's activists. Not everybody wants a Revolution; realistically, hardly anybody does most of the time. Most people don't want to delegitimize authority, either. What happened in Oakland was a victory for The Revolution but it was a betrayal of people of good will who have no intention of participating in Revolution.

That's the source of much of the internal struggle going on over Nonviolence and "the anarchists" and it is the source of much of the vehemence on the part of Nonviolence advocates as well. They never wanted a Revolution. They were never told this was a Revolution. They did not set out to confront, delegitimize and overthrow authority. "That isn't what Occupy is about!!"

Except that it always has been about that -- at least in part and to many of its most ardent participants.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Revolution!"

But that's what we've got, at least in some key cities, and Oakland is at the center of it all.

So I think it is fair to say that the anger and hostility toward "the anarchists" in the Occupy Movement is based on two factors:

1) fears that "the Black Bloc anarchists" will "ruin the brand" at the Global Rulership conferences by acting up and causing everyone else to suffer needlessly;

2) fears that The Revolution is really under way and it is succeeding -- at least in Oakland, where the model for more widespread Revolution is being worked out as we speak.

What of those who didn't sign up for a Revolution? Hmm?

In the comments to my post at dKos yesterday denouncing Hedges' bullshit denunciation of "the Black Bloc anarchists" a number of people commented that if there a Revolution going on, and it succeeds, what of basic infrastructure like water and sewers and trash collection?

This is for the Clean Up Working Group and the Water, Sewer, and Trash cadres organized into Affinity Groups to handle and present reports about at their Operational SpokesCouncils which will then send their Spokes to GA to make Proposals to be agendized, considered thoroughly and consensed on.


  1. I have a reverse question:

    "If there is no Revolution going on, or if there is it fails, what of basic infrastructure like water and sewers and trash collection?"

    My answer would be, "Well, the rich will be alright. Pretty sure everyone else will find they can't afford their privatized water. sewers and trash collection. Especially after they are gobbled up by sovereign wealth fund speculators."

    In other word, some people see Apocalypse along with Revolution, I see the Apocalypse on the way if there's no Revolution. But the people who want to park their cars in Chicago will get a taste of the darkness to come.

  2. "Get up, get down, there's Revolution in this town!"

    I knew something about the Jefferson County Thing, but the Chicago Thing was news to me. I like it. Just. Refuse.

    The City here is considering selling rights to the parking revenue to a private company to raise money to fund a new basketball arena; they promise the rates won't go up. But of course they lie, and everyone knows it.

    Is it any wonder there is a Revolution going on?

    Fixing the ruinous state of the public infrastructure I'm sure will be the first thing on the Post-Revolutionary agenda. It's so obvious.

    Still, I wonder how the horizontal operating system will work on a large scale project. Won't the working groups and affinity groups have to reach consensus on everything before they act? This could slow things down somewhat...

  3. Both Jefferson County and Chicago have felt the wrath of Matt Taibbi.

    Looting Main Street

    America for Sale

    Well, slowing things down would be good in those parts of the country that had not yet privatized everything.

    Currently, our rulers have a Privatization Manifesto (which is also a Hidden Agenda, but not well hidden), which can be stated succinctly "No Public Good can be allowed to exist that isn't leading to someone's Private Profit."

  4. Isn't that the truth.

    The problem for Our Rulers is that they can't sell their manifesto any more, and forcing it down the throats of the resisting masses isn't going so well.

    I actually detected some worries among Our Betters that This Greek Austerity Thing just isn't working and the riots might succeed in slowing or stopping the Austerity Train.

    Whoops. Better hide your daughters!