Tuesday, May 1, 2012
About This May Day Thing
It's General Strike Day.
I've been parsing the supposed "disbanding" of the New York City GA and Spokes Council. I first came across this notion the other day in a blog post I can't find right now -- and it really doesn't matter all that much -- having to do with something else, and I thought, "That's odd." I was aware of dozens of actions and activities in New York City alone planned for May 1, and the notion that somehow the NYCGA and Spokes Council, the heartbeat as it were of Occupy Wall Street, had disbanded during the preparations for the General Strike seemed daft, indeed bizarre.
But as I checked around on the various OWS and NYCGA websites I though maybe it was true as there was very little updating. Online discussions were limited or truncated. Obviously something had happened early in April to start shuttering things down but just what it was difficult to say.
Then I found the statement from Facilitation that they would no longer be providing facilitation services to either the GA or the Spokes Council... due to... something... that was not entirely clear. "Yer on yer own, folks!"
The primary issue, as far as I could make it out, was that participation had fallen to the point where only a few (say 25-40) diehards were left attending the GAs in New York, and the Spokes Councils had never really taken hold. They'd been contentious from the outset, and their constant squabbling led to lack of participation with SC as well. On a number of occasions facilitation was either verbally or physically assaulted, and as a Working Group, Facilitation decided it wasn't going to put up with this shit anymore. 'MmBye!' Meanwhile, no one was taking notes and livestreamers were refusing to attend and stream the meetings of either group; sometimes they were specifically disinvited in any case, there being a good deal of tension between the streamers and Occupy participants due to a perception that some of the streamers were most interested in promoting themselves regardless of any needs of OWS for Solidarity.
To say that the Revolution has been going through a rough patch is to put it mildly. Very mildly indeed.
Of course OWS itself is not the Movement; it is one of a number of independent and autonomous Occupys in New York City, one of hundreds around the country and the world. The notion that OWS is the HQ or Revolution Central is widespread but erroneous. Occupys do their own thing. What OWS began may have been the trigger for the Movement/Revolution, but OWS is not the HQ for any of the plethora of autonomous Occupys.
Because of the brutal police overreaction and occasional rioting against Occupy encampments, and the apparently very intense surveillance and disruption of various Occupys in the United States and elsewhere, it has been very difficult if not impossible for more than a few Occupys to maintain a continuous presence let alone continuous activism. As an organic and evolutionary Movement, however, Occupy has broadly responded to the state suppression unleashed with such fury against it by dispersal, somewhat like spores on the wind, wafting far more widely than I think anybody anticipated -- certainly this development wasn't anticipated in much of the internal workings I was aware of.
For example, I had seen Occupy more as a concentration of Revolutionary activism and as a basis for the development of intentional communities that would be able to survive any sort of repression, but that isn't quite how it worked out. Instead, most Occupys yielded to repression and allowed their encampments to be destroyed without (much of) a struggle. The intentional communities that spontaneously arose at Occupy encampments seemed to disappear, or, as in New York, they struggled mightily to hang on to their encampment spirit and largely failed.
This didn't mean that the spirit was gone; it meant that in many cases it had spread more widely than a concentration in a single site would have allowed.
There are few encampments left, but the encampments themselves were symbols, much like the iconic and symbolic tents have become. The encampments were demonstrations that Another World Is Possible, and they showed ways to do it.
The Alternative Spirit, if you will, is now just about everywhere, whereas there is very little focus on the concentrations of effort that the encampments represented.
I certainly find that's been true in my own approach to revolutionary (and Occupy) affairs. My focus and activities have changed significantly as the reduction in my blogging output and choice of topics shows. My attendance -- online or in person -- at local Occupy events is spotty at best, and my participation is very limited. Right now, I'm mostly interested in study and reconnection with some of the Alternatives of the past as well as an intensified preparation for a very uncertain future.
In that study, I have become convinced that pretty much all of the elements for Another World, putatively Better, already exist, and most of them are working pretty well. Hooking up with them means gradually -- or in many cases, suddenly -- decoupling from The World As We Know It. As I decouple, something that has been under way for the last few years, I find that the necessity to need and to have and to want and to do have diminished substantially. It's a surprising form of liberation. At first, I attributed it just to getting old, but I think there is something else going on as well. When you see that needing and having and wanting and doing are all tied in to our materialist culture and lifestyles and there are many appealing alternatives, every one of which is essentially an open door to Another World, it becomes easier and easier to Let Go.
And Letting Go, in these times, is the individual's revolutionary act.
"Letting Go" is the key element of today's General Strike; whether that is really clear or not to its participants remains to be seen. It's a start on letting go of the ties that bind so many Americans.
Whither the Revolution?
I can't say. I have no idea. It's all a muddle. Maybe last fall and winter's Occupy was a misfire, like that of the Decembrists. Maybe so. But even the failed Decembrist uprising laid the groundwork for things to come...