Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Her Citizen Radio essay on Occupy Oakland is outstanding.
Check it out:
She also has some of her illustrations up at Truthout:
You may have heard that there was a "riot" in Sacramento on Monday as Occupy Oakland "attacked" other demonstrators and police at the California State Capitol, "injuring" at least two officers and resulting in the arrest of at least three "black clad and bandana wearing anarchists from Oakland."
You may or may not have heard that the other demonstrators were a white supremacist group from Oakland who had a permitted event to publicize what they claimed was the "genocide" of white people in South Africa and that the Occupy Oakland group had come to Sacramento specifically to oppose their demonstration.
You more than likely heard nothing of the fact that the opposition to this white supremacist demonstration at the Capitol was composed of a number of autonomous affinity groups, and that the "riot" actually consisted of hurling mutual anathemas and epithets at one another, and that the officers who were injured apparently injured themselves -- one tackling an unidentified protestor, and one by other means unknown (you have probably heard the claim that he was maced or pepper sprayed, but if so, it wasn't by anyone in the crowd.)
You may have heard that objects such as cans, bottles, rocks and "paint filled eggs" were thrown at the police, but you probably have not heard that perhaps nothing except one paint-filled plastic baggie was actually thrown at the police, and that as a means of marking the officer as one who committed assault on demonstrators. (This tactic was also used in Oakland during some of the confrontations with police on October 25 -- after the violent eviction from Ogawa/Grant Plaza but before the wounding of Scott Olsen.)
You may or may not know that most or all of the reports about what happened that have appeared in the press and mainstream media to date were filed by people who were not there and have no first-hand knowledge. Their second and third-hand knowledge comes from interviews and statements almost exclusively from Sacramento police, California State Highway Patrol, and a very limited number of witnesses.
You also may or may not know that almost all the stories that have been filed to date about the "#F27" events at the California State Capitol have been massaged to fit a "riot" narrative heavily featuring the (scary) Occupy Oakland contingent of "black bloc anarchists" in order to frighten the bejeebers out of the old people and the horses.
This is how propaganda is done. It can be highly effective.
Note: I wasn't there, didn't even know there was going to be a "riot" to attend. I found out about it through police channels well after the events of the day. The police were calling it a "riot Downtown" and advising people to stay out of the area from very early on in the confrontation according to the reports I heard (second-hand t0 be sure.) These reports were -- so far as I was able to discern -- at least half in jest. Much was made by the police of the presence of a contingent from Occupy Oakland. The entire protest was alleged to be an "Occupy Oakland" protest, but it was not.
A point can and should be made that the police in California -- and the 1% they serve -- are terrified of the militancy of Occupy Oakland; not their "violence, " for they are not violent in any rational sense. They stand their ground in other words, and by doing so, they are examples for other Occupys. Standing ground is one of the most effective means of delegitimizing Authority.
In addition to police sources (at least second hand), I also found first hand sources on the ground, whose reports, though not perfect, at least came from within the events themselves in real time. Something that "the Media" seems incapable of doing any more, whether by intention or neglect, we'll leave it to the reader to decide.
These reports paint a very different picture of what happened -- and more to the point, why they happened.
There was a small (permitted) demonstration at the Capitol on Monday sponsored by an outfit calling itself "The South Africa Project" -- which is apparently a rather notorious white supremacist affinity group (widely scattered throughout the country) which focuses on the "genocide" of whites by blacks in South Africa. These sorts of claims of whites being mindlessly slaughtered by gibbering blacks and other Natives of course has a long and miserable history in this country and throughout the Euro centers of the Universe. There are always gibbering Natives slaughtering Peaceful and Civilized White Folk somewhere; it's just the way things are. It's a wonder there are any White Folk left. /snark
There was an unpermitted demonstration against "The South Africa Project" at the Capitol that involved at least 100 and perhaps more protestors including contingents from Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area as well as locations in the Central Valley. (California geography lesson: Oakland is about 80 miles west of Sacramento; Sacramento is near the center of California's Central Valley which extends approximately 400 miles north to south and is between 50 and 100 miles wide. The Central Valley is flat land, mostly orchard, farm, and ranch land, though heavily suburbanized during the run up to the Crash of 2007-8, that is often referred to as "The Other California" as it is quite a different sort of place than California's coastal and mountain enclaves. Many of those who live in the coastal areas have only the vaguest notions about the Central Valley, mostly contemptuous, but that's another essay for another time.)
In other words, the counter-demonstration against The South Africa Project's demonstration was by no means an "Occupy Oakland" event. It was an Anti-Fascist event that included people from many parts of California, including Oakland.
Some of them wore black and carried black flags. Eek. Anarchists! Black Bloc! Run for your lives children, we're all going to dieeeeee! Demonization of the Other is one of the primary tactics of propagandists, no matter what interests they serve, and in this particularly instance the propaganda of demonization was heavy on all sides.
Demonization, dehumanization and scapegoating go on so often, many people don't notice when it's happening. In this case, the "Nazis" -- and the police who were protecting them -- were being demonized by the crowd of protesters who had come from the Bay Area and the Central Valley (interestingly, Occupy Sacramento was not involved in this Direct Action) to protest them. The kaffir Natives of South Africa were being demonized by the "Nazis" for killing whites. The media was demonizing "Occupy Oakland" and the "black-clad anarchists" for "causing a riot." And so on.
In addition, there was an excess of process during the day's events. The "Nazis" were allowed onto the Capitol grounds on Monday because they had a permit. The demonstrators who came from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to protest them were not allowed on the Capitol grounds because they did not have a permit, and they were held at bay by a heavy state and local police presence, some of it on horseback. Certain members of the independent media were not allowed on the Capitol grounds while others were, depending -- it seemed -- on skin color and (shall we say) how "polite they were." Later, only media with big honking cameras were allowed to record close ups of those who were arrested after the rallies broke up.
The police were solicitous and very protective of the "Nazis," escorting them from the Capitol grounds when their rally was done, and protecting them from the objects thrown from the crowd of protestors. Who actually threw the objects and what they actually were is not entirely clear. The videos I posted above do not show the objects themselves; one of them doesn't even show the "riot" itself. The one that does show the incident that has been called a "riot" also shows that it lasted approximately 5 seconds. It shows police chasing and running down demonstrators who supposedly threw things at the "Nazis" but there is some question of whether they were actually the ones who did so. One mounted officer is heard to exclaim that his target for arrest has just committed a felony. The man runs and is tackled by a rather portly officer who is then hauled away in an ambulance because he seems to have bloodied his chin in the tackle.
It's all supposedly being done "by the book," though it does seem the police actions are somewhat laid back -- as they often tend to be in Sacramento in connection with Occupy. Certain rituals have been adopted that maintain a rather formal and polite, sometimes even humorous, relationship between Occupy Sacramento and the local gendarmerie. The "black-clad anarchists" from the Bay Area and the Central Valley are another kettle of fish altogether. They were far louder and far ruder toward the police than the police are used to in Sacramento, and it was obviously disconcerting to them. Nevertheless, I'm sure that they had been warned of what to expect from the Occupy Oakland people -- who inspire such fear all across the nation.
Whether any of them actually threw anything at anyone (apart from insults and a baggie filled with paint) is a matter of dispute. As we know, infiltrators are legion in the ranks of Occupy -- why every other Black Bloc is all police infiltrators, aren't they? Or maybe not. It's so difficult to say anymore. The question of who is actually throwing things at any given time, and what their affiliation is, never really gets explored, and it should be. I think there might be some surprises.
There was no riot in Sacramento on Monday; this is the third or fourth time I have seen reports of "riots" in connection with Occupy that were no such thing. You would think that people would be able to discern the fact that something like loud voices and one or two thrown objects and a handful of arrests do not a "riot" make. But propaganda is powerful. And if the propaganda media says it's a "riot," many will uncritically believe it to be so.
It's literally taken me this long -- since Monday evening -- to pore through the "news" and the other material available to piece together something like a factual understanding of what happened based on evidence as opposed to hearsay and hysteria. Propagandists know that most people can't do that, and they aren't inclined to do so anyway. So propagandists can often get away with saying whatever they want. On the other hand, they can't get away with it forever.
How long will it take for average Americans to understand they are being lied to? Something tells me they already know it.
Monday, February 27, 2012
One of the first lessons you learn in Movement and Resistance Theory is that the person who initiates violence or advocates it within the context of a generally nonviolent resistance movement is a provocateur and is probably a police plant or informant.
The tactic is ancient; it's a wonder that anybody falls for it any more. But they do.
Meanwhile, resistance movements evolve -- and so do counter-resistance activities by the State. The provocateurs may not be who or what you think they are any more, and they may not be the ones advocating the violent path of resistance.
After considering some of the things Mark Rudd had to say about his time as a radical (and violent) revolutionary in the late sixties and early seventies, I'm struck by something he's repeated many times: "I was doing the FBI's work for them." By which he means that by advocating bombings and sabotage (and carrying some of it out) and by engineering the destruction of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) he believes he "killed" the anti-Vietnam War Movement in this country. I think he is wrong about that, but this is what he believes, I assume sincerely.
The key is that he believes that he was "doing the FBI's work for them." And what, exactly, would that be?
The provocateur traditionally seeks to instigate some kind of generally illegal and often violent action on the part of an individual activist or on the part of the activist group so as to discredit and delegitimize them or to provide probable cause for arrest or indictment.
In the process, the infiltrator or provocateur sows the seeds of discord, dissension, division, fear, uncertainty, and doubt which can have the effect (pleasing to the authorities) of disabling or destroying the resistance.
That's what Mark Rudd believes he did as an advocate and practitioner of violent resistance 40 years ago. It is approximately what an FBI infiltrator and provocateur would have done to the SDS and the Weathermen/Weather Underground if he didn't do it.
Note has been made from time to time that he got away with it, too. Not only were charges against him dropped when he emerged from hiding, but he has managed to live a fairly normal life as a college professor of mathematics (now retired) in New Mexico.
In other words, not only did he behave like an FBI infiltrator/provocateur as a leader of SDS and then the Weathermen, he ultimately got to live an almost charmed life as a college professor as if nothing had happened -- much as an FBI informant/infiltrator/provocateur might.
Nowadays of course he's done a 180 and has become a passionate advocate for the purest forms of pacifist nonviolence -- because, as he put it, violence destroys the Movement. He's become such a purist about nonviolence that he says anything that will be interpreted as "violent" by the police or the public is "violence" by definition, including wearing black or bandanas.
And not surprisingly, anyone who makes this kind of absurd claim about "violence" is likely to be challenged -- or even be dismissed as a crank.
But let's think about it some more. Mark Rudd was using the same sort of absolutist language in his advocacy of nonviolence as I frequently encounter: model the Movement after Gandhi and King, repudiate any kind of violence whatsoever, do not engage in anarchism or black bloc tactics, build the Movement by appealing to the middle class, do not confront authorities, do not curse or speak harshly to the police or other authorities, do not carry shields, do not wear black or bandanas... one could go on and on, it is almost a catechism among purist nonviolence advocates.
Resistance movements have evolved since Rudd was a fiery young revolutionary, and so have counter-resistance activities by authorities. What may have worked forty years ago doesn't work now, either for the resistance or the counter-resistance. Repeating the Gandhi and King methods (especially of mass rallies and marches) essentially doesn't work at all any more; the authorities simply do not care if the People are in the streets protesting something or other or if they are rallying to hear inspirational speakers. It doesn't make a bit of difference to the Powers That Be. So everytime I hear or read somebody saying "Do it like Gandhi," I want to gag. It doesn't work; we're beyond that.
But then when it comes to nonviolence, Gandhi and King (with a dollop of Gene Sharp) are the Only Ways permitted by advocates. There is no other acceptable model. When I listen to some of those who promote nonviolence, what they actually seem to be saying is "Don't have a Movement at all, because nothing you can do will be effective against the mighty power of the Empire. I've been there, I know, listen to me."
And the discussion around the topics of Diversity of Tactics (which Rudd and many other nonviolence advocates insist means "violence") has been filled with demonization, divisiveness, fearmongering, doubt-raising, much falsehood, and so on.
I've begun to wonder, just who are the Provocadores now, and what is their task? There are very few people who advocate conducting a violent resistance campaign as part of or in association with Occupy. Not even the demonized "Black Bloc Anarchists" are suggesting anything like the kinds of violent resistance Mark Rudd and the Weathermen were conducting back in the day. The idea is outrageous and bizarre.
But because nobody in their right minds is talking about bombings and sabotage or any other sort of armed insurrection in connection with Occupy, the advocates of nonviolence have been tightening down the definition of "violence" to include such absurdities as wearing black or bandanas or sassing authority. Anything that anyone might interpret as "violence" has to be cleansed from the Movement. Otherwise, the police will have justification for a violent response.
Who are the provocateurs now, and what are their tactics for discrediting and delegitimizing resistance movements?
Are we witness to the evolution of strategies and tactics?
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
The backdrop for this afternoon's teach in on the sidewalk at UNM in Albuquerque where the police had pushed the (Un)Occupy participants so as not to sully the campus with their taint.
Wednesday's post included some comments on the events at last Saturday's OWS GA in New York during which there were apparently two assaults by participants on other participants. It was disturbing to read, though I have read and witnessed on livestream any number of incidents of high tension and drama associated with the NYCGA, as well as been embroiled in some of them at the local Occupy. It's just the way things go, especially when the effort is as open as Occupy has always been, and Crazy-makers are everywhere. The wonder really is that there have been so few incidents of that kind. The drama and the emotion is frequently encountered, but inner-Occupy assaults are really very rare.
But I watched the Wednesday night live stream of the NYCGA, and it was as if nothing untoward had happened at the previous GA. This is one of the strengths of the Occupy Movement. It is so resilient that pretty much no matter what happens -- whether it is a police assault or an internal assault -- the Movement continues on, typically stronger than before.
I attended an Occupy teach-in at UNM this afternoon, arriving shortly after the campus police had pushed the Occupiers out of the park that they had been using since the morning and onto the sidewalk. There was a phalanx of police guarding the hill from the taint of Occupy. When I arrived, most of the activists had left on a march to the UNM president's house to protest the police action. When they returned, the teach in got under way. Still on the sidewalk though.
The presenters were Dana Millen and Mark Rudd; Eleanor Chavez, state legislator for District 13 of Albuquerque was also in attendance and spoke.
I wasn't familiar with Dana Millen, but she's done some very interesting research on the topic of what impels people to participate in movements, what keeps them involved and how they interact with others in movements; one of her unanswered questions was how important those interactions and relationships were in maintaining participation in movements, and how they affected people's decisions not to continue participation. She touched on issues of social justice and righteous anger as motivations for participation, and such issues as frustration and burnout for limiting or ending participation. I wasn't taking notes, so I don't remember everything she said she'd learned, but after the teach in, she said she would make her research available to me via email -- if it works.
The research she's been doing on movement building is, in my view, important for understanding how and why Occupy -- for example -- grew so quickly and why so many of the early participants no are no longer involved, either to the extent they once were, or involved at all. What her research indicated was that participants' involvement and lack of involvement was a deeply personal matter, not necessarily driven by events connected with the movement. This suggested to me that the whole 'violence vs nonviolence' debate within Occupy is something of a distraction from learning what is really motivating people to be involved or not be involved at any given time.
I took a break, for example, from day-to-day involvement in Occupy in part because I was nearing burnout, and in part because I thought I had done pretty much all I could on behalf of the local Occupy and it was up to those mostly younger than me to carry on. And they did.
But then what of Movement Building if I and people like me stand aside or step back from the day-to-day? It looks like the Movement has shrunk -- and to see the few dozen assembled in Albuquerque today or the hundred or so assembled for the New York City GA on Wednesday is testament to the shrinkage in Occupy participation.
The shrinkage is attributed to "violence" in the Movement by many of those participating in the 'violence vs nonviolence' debate. And yet I tend to doubt that is really the case, given the fact that violence as such is really very rare in the context of the enormity of the Movement in the United States, let alone around the world. More likely reasons for less participation now than previously are the issues mentioned in Millen's research: burnout, frustration at apparent lack of progress, personal reasons -- life and work, for example -- and interpersonal relationship issues, such as developing enmity toward one or more of the other Occupiers.
But in the next segment of the teach in, Mark Rudd spoke about his experiences in radical movements back in the day (SDS, Weather Underground, etc) and how he believed that engaging in violence literally destroyed them. Of course the kind of violence that took place in those days was bombing and sabotage in pursuit of the overthrow of the US Government. And from his matured (or perhaps "reconstructed") perspective, any kind of violence at all, including wearing bandanas and hostile speech toward the police would kill the Occupy Movement. He said he'd heard something on the radio from Oakland that mentioned 'diversity of tactics' which he understood was code for 'violence' and he urged -- came close to demanding -- that Occupy renounce it in no uncertain terms. No property destruction, no sassing the cops, no bandanas or black clothing, nothing the police can point to to justify their crack-downs on Occupy. I half expected him to say "No Occupy!" but he didn't go quite that far.
He has his reasons for his point of view. As he said, because of the way the law was in those days, the charges against him were dropped at trial, and basically he was able to skate on some very serious crimes. And he pointed out correctly that if he were engaged in those things now, he would likely be held in custody indefinitely as a terrorist.
He claimed the violence he engaged in during his radical era essentially "killed" the anti-Vietnam War Movement that until the outbreak of the kind of violence he had engaged in had been very popular and growing. I think a very strong case can be made to the contrary, but in the context of Occupy, that argument is essentially moot because no one (that I know of or have ever heard) has seriously proposed any sort of armed insurrection (which Mark Rudd and others were engaged in back in the day) in connection with Occupy. At all. Under any circumstances. Not as part of "diversity of tactics," and not as part of anything whatsoever to do with Occupy.
As I've said many times, Occupy is by nature and by definition a Nonviolent Resistance Campaign. (pdf) The few incidents of broken windows and thrown objects cannot and do not change that fact. And I assert that once that fact is internalized, most or all of the sturm und drang over broken windows in Oakland last November vanishes.
But we aren't there yet.
Today, Mark Rudd's absolutist pacifism was astutely challenged by a young-ish Arab man and a not quite so young woman dressed all in black -- including gloves and hat -- as well as by a number of the other participants in the teach in, including yours truly. Basically, he was saying that anything -- any action, any statement, and mode of dress or behavior -- that can be interpreted as a challenge to authority is seen by the police and by the public as "violent," and engaging in any sort of "violence" -- as perceived by the police and the public -- has the effect of destroying the Movement; therefore, do not engage in any sort of action or behavior or wear any clothing or speak of anything that the police and the public might consider to be "violent." Ever. Don't do it. No Black Bloc, no talk of Diversity of Tactics, no verbal confrontations with police or other authority, certainly no bricks through windows, no bottles thrown at the cops or anyone else. If your goal is to "change the system", the strategy in this country must be absolutely nonviolent, in every conceivable way, otherwise the police will have justification to crack down and the public will have an excuse to deny their support and participation.
Rudd was challenged on a philosophical level in that his absolutism doesn't allow for or take into account any alternatives, and is fundamentally immoral, given, for example, the situation in Syria. Rudd's absolute pacifism would essentially require that the rebels in Syria accept their slaughter without fighting back in any way. Or, contrariwise, that they not rebel at all. The excuse when this matter is brought up is always the same: this isn't Syria, and therefore what the rebels are doing in Syria isn't germane to Occupy or any other movement in this country. True enough, but as I and others point out, repeatedly, but seemingly to concrete walls of passive indifference, there is no hint of engaging in armed insurrection anywhere within the Occupy Movement, there is no discussion of it, and there is no such action. No, this is not Syria; there isn't an armed insurrection, nor is the government using fully lethal ammunition against Occupiers.
From a strategic and tactical point of view, Americans involved with Occupy are not adopting nor are they even thinking about adopting a Syrian type of insurrection; what the Government is thinking, who knows? But the point is that absolutist pacifism has no moral standing in the face of a Government that is engaged in the systematic slaughter of the People.
Rudd was challenged on his belief that any form of confrontation with police or authority, or anything they might perceive as a challenge is perforce "violence," based on how police and the public see these things. Thus bandanas are "violent." Self defense is "violent." Wearing black is "violent." Talking about Diversity of Tactics is "violent." And so on. This was a much greater tightening down of the definition of "violence" than I'd encountered in the many arguments I've had about this topic heretofore. Basically, Rudd was saying don't do or say or wear anything that might trigger a violent response by the police or authority -- or you will "kill" the Movement. As was repeatedly pointed out, authority needs no trigger or excuse from the dress or actions or statements from those involved in Movements to react violently. They do it no matter what the Movement does or says or wears. The fact is that the existence of a Movement of any kind that isn't authorized by the State is sufficient to trigger a violent response from Authority. There is no level of Movement Saintliness that can thwart the violent response -- that is to say, if the Movement isn't just going to evaporate and go home to watch teevee. Movements that include more militant components -- that don't have to engage in armed insurrection to be effective -- actually work better than purist nonviolent movements.
The discussion continued at length, and I think very productively as both Rudd and his challengers made their points firmly and clearly. But there was another layer to this whole debate that has to do with where we are. This is Indian country. New Mexico has the second highest percentage of Native American population in the country (Alaska is first). There is no dealing with these topics without also recognizing and dealing with Native American experience with 500 years of colonial oppression and occupation. (Which is why Albuquerque's Occupy is called (Un)Occupy 'Burque and its motto is "Decolonize New Mexico.")
And at the end of the discussion, a Native American woman spoke up, somewhat harshly, too.
She took the discussion from the intellectual and abstract wrangle over whether wearing a bandana over one's face was "violent" into the realm of real violence that her people had known for centuries and she had known personally all her life. Wearing a bandana is not "violent" in any rational sense of the word. The very idea that it would be discussed in this manner reeks of White Privilege. She said, "Don't blame the Movement for the violence." Don't blame the People for fighting back.
Put the focus on violence where it belongs. She wasn't particularly nice about it, either. I videoed some of what she had to say, but the video is not very good and I didn't capture the reaction, but it was basically stunned silence on Mark Rudd's part, followed by an attempt to turn the discussion back to where he wanted it. "Does violence build the Movement?" At that point, she just told him to stop. "Can you?" she asked as she might ask a child. He went on with his point, and she said, "I guess not."
After a pause, she said that if Rudd or anybody else really wanted to do Movement Building, they'd follow the example of the Civil Rights Movement (I thought this was brilliant) and recruit from among the least of us, from among the dispossessed, the marginalized, the poorest, the most oppressed, the disabled, the demonized, and they would become the Movement's guiding lights. Women of color and their children, for example, know much better what the real situation is for those who suffer in this country, and they know something of what to do about it. It's past time for the white men who think they know so much better than anyone else to step back, because there are others who know better than they do. And some of them were right there, right now.
On that note, the teach in concluded. It was remarkable in every way. What happened, and the people who were involved are products of this place, and it could not be duplicated elsewhere. Part of the health and the nearly boundless strength of Occupy is that every Occupy is specific to its place and draws on the breadth and depth of the People(s) of that particular place for its wisdom and flexibility and energy.
What happens here in New Mexico is not going to be what happens everywhere; it can't be.
But the insights gained here, through its People(s) can have profound impact everywhere.
It was a remarkable afternoon.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Below are linked Peter Gelderloos' "How Nonviolence Protects the State" (2007) and an excerpt from Starhawk's "Webs of Power, Notes on the Global Uprising" (2001).
Gelderloos has little use for nonviolence purists and mindless idolators of Gandhi and King. I don't necessarily agree with his whole critique, but I do agree that we have to think beyond the ways and means of the past and we do well to respect the concept of diversity when considering strategies and tactics for change. And I agree that Nonviolence is often used as a weapon by the State to disable effective resistance campaigns.
Starhawk has been in the trenches on behalf of many movements for far longer than I have, and her perspective tends to be illuminating. It's hard to believe that the chapter excerpt was written more than a decade ago. So little seems to have changed. Yet having heard her speak recently during the InterOccupy conference calls, I'm not at all sure she is still as open and as charitable toward diversity of tactics now as she was then.
What both authors recognize -- and I think it is critically important -- is that we can't keep repeating the methodology of previous eras and expect to achieve the results we seek, whatever they may be.
We have to find something appropriate to our needs now.
I call the way forward a synthesis, and I look for it in the Space Between, which was part of what I was getting at with the illustration and the musical selection in the previous post. I separated the red and the black sections of the illustration (it is the Anarcho-syndicalist/communist flag) with a narrow white bar to represent the Space Between; the nature of Anarcho-syndicalism, however, is synthesis. "Argy-bargy" is old Brit slang (I'm not even sure they use it any more) for intense debate and discussion, a way to get to that Space Between and synthesis, if it can be found at all.
"How Nonviolence Protects the State" by Peter Gelderloos (Scribd)
"Webs of Power" by Starhawk (excerpt) (pdf)
And then, for sheer... uh... drama, some notes from the February 18, 2012 New York City General Assembly regarding an... incident.
Sage has been an OWS character essentially since the beginning. I was going to post a video of him in action but thought better of it. As for the other incident at that GA, I have no knowledge... These people are what I call Crazy-makers. It's an identity thing with them. The openness of OWS means they can't be shunted into some compartment and ignored. On the other hand, it is very easy for Crazy-makers to take control; I've seen it happen too many times to count both in and out of the Occupy context.
Dealing with Crazy-makers is just one of the consistent requirements of Occupy activism.
Occupy is a Movement. Occupy is a Revolution.
Occupy is both. Occupy is neither.
Thus, Occupy is fascinating. It is a species of revolt that no one has ever seen before; what to make of it is a constant topic of discussion and debate, sometimes very heated. Some of the same debates and discussions that were going on before the first appearance of Occupy Wall Street last September are still going on today, no closer to resolution in the vast eternal conversation than they ever were.
If Occupy is both a Movement and a Revolution, and it is neither, then how can one understand it? Perhaps one is obligated not to grasp or understand it but simply to let it be. Or, if one is so inclined, to try to understand it while humbly acknowledging the futility of the effort.
The same forces -- though not necessarily the same interests -- are trying to overcome the internal resistance of an organic, evolutionary, international Occupy in order to shape it to their personal needs, whether they be for authority or for ego support or enrichment (typically all three at the same time.) They see this thing that has "so much potential" and they want to own it or to make it their own, to shape and control it, to drive it in their preferred direction, and to profit from it; or if they cannot, they might well seek to destroy it.
That may have been what happened to Chris Hedges when he saw "his Revolution" -- ie: OWS in New York -- go off in directions he not only couldn't control, he didn't even know of. He saw on the "news" the fearsome images of what was going on in Oakland on January 28, which for him and many others was not the image of Occupy they wanted seen by the multitudes. When "his Revolution," OWS, then endorsed and expressed solidarity with Our Brothers and Sisters in Oakland, he had a meltdown.
Despite all the hullabaloo over violence, Oakland remains the energy center for the Movement and the locus for Revolutionary activism within the Movement. Despite the keening and rending of garments over violence, vandguardism, and insurrection, Occupy Oakland's efforts and activism remain fully within the umbrella of nonviolent resistance. The resistance is more militant in Oakland than in many other places, and because it is militant, rather than passive, it can be frightening, and not just to the more traditionally minded nonviolence believers. It's frightening to the Powers That Be for the simple reason that militant nonviolence can be highly effective against an entrenched, corrupt and decadent established Power.
Such Power is very brittle. It does not require an armed insurrection to overcome or indeed to overthrow it. It takes concerted, persistent, militant resistance. The act of resistance, if done mindfully, can be enough. Militancy almost always does the trick sooner or later, even against the most entrenched Powers.
The questions that have yet to be answered in any comprehensive fashion are whether the Movement aspects of Occupy are sufficient for most purposes, and how strenuously should its Revolutionary aspects be pursued.
A Movement, after all, is content with reform of existing institutions and structures; a Revolution seeks to replace them with something else again.
In Oakland, the task (Movement and Revolution) has gone farther than anywhere else, and from what I can tell from the outside, the question of what to do now is a daunting one that the participants in Occupy Oakland, the Oakland Commune, and the community at large are seriously grappling with.
What do we do now?
Is it enough to reform existing institutions and rejigger the personnel charts? Or is it necessary to sweep them all away and start over?
Note: when the Overclass considers these matters -- and acts on them -- it is widely considered (and certainly it's propagandized) as "appropriate," viz: Greece, but there are many other examples closer to home. When the Lower Orders do it, however, it is considered by many to be an Existential Threat that must be crushed...
If the answer to the Question of "Movement or Revolution" is truly Revolutionary, that the Operating System needs a thorough clean out and replacement, then the further question is How?
The Instructions for performing this task are badly written and poorly worded, subject to endless interpretation, confusion and error in the process of implementation. Thus, given their druthers, most people, let alone most activists, have little or no inclination to proceed down the path of total replacement of broken systems (ie: Revolution).
Reform is quite good enough for most purposes most of the time, and for most people nearly all the time.
But sometimes Revolution is necessary. The Overclass recognized this fact long ago and have been implementing their revolutionary programs with abandon. A People's Revolution has yet to occur in the United States. Whether it can take place is a big question.
A big part of the internal discussion and discovery going on within the Occupy Movement is over the extent of Necessary Change. The Revolutionary current in these discussions and this discovery process is being resisted ever more strenuously by those who not only didn't sign up for a Revolution, they are not even much inclined toward Reform.
Many seem to be content with a middle path between the current status quo and the ever harsher proto-fascism that we're being pushed into. In other words, it would be sufficient for many people -- including quite a large contingent of activists -- to simply slow down the descent we're on and perhaps mitigate some of its worst effects.
The basic premise of this viewpoint is that our Systems work, not perfectly, but well enough for most purposes. Radical change of any kind is dangerous and unnecessary. Marginal reforms are achieved incrementally through standard forms of political organization and action including the development of leaders and a unified message; Revolution is out of the question. Marginal reforms can be accomplished by adherence to proper and customary forms and procedures, and most of all by maintaining strict adherence to the Principles of Nonviolence as adopted by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
There. Is. No. Other. Way.
More and more, that premise is being challenged and rejected by a broader and broader cross-section of Americans; what should be adopted in its place is not at all clear, but there is a growing recognition that these formulas of the past don't work any more and can actually be counterproductive in the current circumstance.
By all means, honor Gandhi and King (or not, depending on your preferences), but don't imagine that strict emulation or adherence to their models today will gain the kinds of results they were able to achieve generations ago. The world moves on, and the Overclass tends to learn their lessons as well as, sometimes better than, the rest of us.
And a primary lesson the Overclass learned was how to thwart the Gandhian/King form of resistance. They're very good at it, too. In fact, these days, for them it's a cinch.
Resistance must evolve beyond Gandhi and King, and it has. As resistance has evolved, however, so has the ability of the Overclass to thwart the popular will. We are living in a period in which the Overclass seems to be intent on -- even relishing -- governing contrary to the will of the People in all matters but those least important to the principles of economic extraction and the arbitrary imposition of authority the Rulership deems essential. We did not enter this period yesterday; we've been living it so long now, we've become conditioned to it as "the way things are." Perhaps the way things are supposed to be.
Something like Occupy, with its Jell-o-like patterns of resistance and defiance that can never quite be categorized and confined, despite the best efforts of the Power Structure -- including many segments that see themselves as the "correct" or appropriate avenues for resistance (I'm thinking of the militant Socialists here, but there are many others) -- to tame it, restrict it, and control it is ultimately a serious threat to the Powers That Be. And they know it.
Because Occupy is both a Movement and a Revolution, and yet in some ways it is neither, and it seems to spread the more it is cracked down upon, no one in a position of authority -- at this point anyway -- quite knows what to do about it. There are those who come up with "solutions" all the time, who insist that their way is the right way to deal with Occupy and the problems it presents, but in the end, none of it seems to matter.
Because it is organic and evolutionary and international, but not rigid or defined, with no Central Office or Headquarters, and no actual leadership nor a single generally adopted statement of demands, Occupy is in that Space Between that can't quite be got at by those who would control or abolish it.
Because Occupy is by definition a nonviolent resistance campaign, no amount of obsessing over its alleged "violence," of Occupy (especially that of the Bad Children of Occupy Oakland) will make the claims true.
Occupy simply isn't a violent resistance campaign, nor is it likely to become one, regardless of isolated incidents of vandalism and throwing things. Tightening the definition of "violence" -- the practice currently engaged in by Power -- reaches the point of absurdity very quickly ("Linking arms is not non-violent!" Remember? Berkeley? Davis?) Black Blocs in association with Occupy are so vanishingly rare as to be nonexistent, but I wouldn't be surprised if one day an entire peaceful protest was composed of people wearing black and covering their faces and styling like Ninjas -- but harming no one and nothing -- as yet another tweak to Arbitrary Authority and Decadent Power.
There are so many ways that haven't been tried or explored yet.
As I've said many times before, The Demonstration is really the key to the ultimate success of the Occupy Movement cum Revolution (or whatever it evolves into.) The Demonstration of Alternatives to the corrupt and decadent Powers That Be is fundamental. Preliminary Demonstrations were being developed in the encampments, most of which have been destroyed (violently let it be said) by Authority. Now the Demonstrations are spreading further and further as they must once their central foci are destroyed. As they spread, more and more people will get some idea of what's possible and necessary in the face of What Is.
Is it possible to have a People's Revolution that never takes Power? We see how the Overclass manipulates so-called "democratic" governments from behind the scenes, and we know that it is done through threats and bribery. Thus governments all over the world follow the commands of the Overclass (indeed, only a tiny segment of the Overclass at that) no matter what the People do or have to say about it. The People are irrelevant in the equations of Governments and their Owners and Sponsors. But the Overclass itself does not rule or take direct Power into its own hands. It merely directs the actions of its bought and paid for politicians in defiance of the People's Will.
So what would happen, I wonder, if the People reversed this dynamic? And how could they do it? Without actually becoming the governing Power?
It's too soon to get into that consideration very deeply, but Occupy Time moves very fast.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
"Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends."
In effect, Greece has lost its sovereignty; the country and its people are now the "property" of the Eurozone, principally Germany.
The same fate awaits Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and the struggling nations of Eastern Europe. The same fate awaits all the Peoples of Europe; the march of the Gods of Finance will not be impeded by mere mortals.
The People are reduced to suppliants. Powerless -- or meant to believe they are powerless -- in the face of their ravenous Financial Gods. They are being divided and set one against the other as their Financial Gods loot and plunder everything that is not nailed down, and then they pull out the nails and steal that as well.
Nothing can satisfy them.
Black Bloc is a tactic of solidarity among the Powerless that has been demonized as much as the People of Greece (and now Spain; I just heard a new piece of propaganda on NPR claiming that Spaniards are dastards because some of them are "earning money" while receiving unemployment benefits -- "on the dole" as it was put in the story.) The Powerless are always demonized as a prelude to the "solution" to the "problem" of the Powerless.
The demonization of the Black Bloc tactic is one of the strangest outgrowths of the innumerable attempts to hijack or co-opt the Occupy Movement. Black Blocs are almost entirely absent from the Occupy framework of direct action. Yet from the near-hysteria of the anti-Black Bloc'ers, you'd think they were everywhere, every day, and that there is hardly a window unbroken, a bottle un-thrown anywhere that Occupy occupies. The hysteria is nonsense on one level, but on another, it is pure -- and relatively effective -- propaganda. No different than many other demonization campaigns that have been launched throughout history by the stronger against the weaker (preferably the weakest) elements in society. Whipping up hysteria against the demonized Other is an essential part of the propaganda program.
Anyone can be scapegoated and demonized in this manner. It is one of the least appealing attributes of most human societies. The weaker the target appears to be, the easier it is to scapegoat and demonize them. The result is typically "unpleasant" for the target(s), up to and including genocide.
We are all vulnerable.
Either as scapegoats or as scapegoaters. For those who engage in demonization and scapegoating pay a heavy psychic, and often a heavy physical, price.
While the scapegoating and demonization propaganda campaign against the targets is being ratcheted up, there is a simultaneous propaganda campaign to convince the targets to submit, to not fight back. "Nonviolence!"
The current propaganda campaign from the outside and within Occupy to enforce "nonviolence" -- violently (but only if necessary) -- is part of that effort to ensure the targets don't fight back against their demonization.
So far, it has had a kind of mesmerizing effect, something like the repeated LRAD announcements in Oakland on January 28 as the multitudes were corralled in front of the YMCA. "Submit to your arrest!" Over and over and over. "Submit!"
My proposition has always been that Occupy is by nature a nonviolent resistance campaign. It's obvious. Nothing has happened to change that. None of the rare incidents of vandalism or bottle throwing that have occurred has changed the nature of the Occupy Movement from nonviolent to violent resistance. To assert otherwise is silly. But it is crucially important to propagandists and demonizers to magnify the least incident into a monumental problem, and if there are no incidents, to manufacture them.
I was listening to a very strange panel discussion yesterday on the topic of Occupy nonviolence and Black Bloc -- and "getting beyond" the dispute -- and the point was made by one of the panelists that there has never been a Black Bloc associated with Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Not once. And yet here we were, still, listening to constant denunciations of Black Bloc as if they had a presence everywhere all the time when clearly they don't. It's a major disconnect.
I would say, no, it's propaganda. It's the standard propaganda of demonization and scapegoating.
This is how the Overclass maintains its power.
Awareness needs to be matched with action. Whether our friends in Greece can show the way remains to be seen. Prometheus may still be bound to the rock by Zeus in the single play of the trilogy that's come down to us; but there is more to the story: "Prometheus Unbound," and "Prometheus the Fire-Bringer."
In Addition to Which:
There is an international conspiracy whose target is the complete destruction of my country. They began in 1975 aiming at Modern Greek civilization, continued with the distortion of our modern history and our national identity and they are now trying to eliminate us biologically as well through unemployment, hunger and impoverishment. If Greek people don't rise as one in order to prevent them, the danger of Greece becoming extinct is evident. I place it within the next ten years. There will be nothing left of us but the memory of our civilization and our battles for freedom.We haven't seen the end of this story by a long shot. Read the whole letter. It's an eye-opener.
I am totally dedicated, body and soul, to this cause (the unification of the People in one Front) and I believe that I will be proved right in the end. I have fought, gun in hand, against Hitler's occupation. I have experienced the Gestapo's dungeons. I have been sentenced to death by Germans and have miraculously survived. In 1967 I founded PAF (The Patriotic Anti-dictatorial Front), the first resistance organization against the military junta. I fought underground, was caught and imprisoned in the junta's "slaughterhouse". Once again I survived.
I am today 87 years old and it is very possible that I will not live to see the salvation of my beloved country. But I will die with a clear conscience, because I will continue doing my Duty towards the ideals of Freedom and Justice until the end.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Brussels is supposedly closing in on an acceptable framework for the so-called Greek Bailout that will formalize the harsh, indeed sadistic, cruelties of the latest round of austerity measures being imposed on the Greek People to satisfy the demands of the Gods of Finance.
Europe should have some genetic memory about these things, as it wasn't that long ago that the futile attempts to meet the demands of the Gods of Finance plunged Europe into devastating wars.
What is wrong with these people that they can't see the patterns repeating? What is wrong with Europe's Rulers that they mindlessly revert to sadism and cruelty when imposing Victor's Conditions on the Vanquished? And why is it always about Money -- specifically feeding the Insatiable Maw of Finance.
What is wrong with them?
It's as if they cannot help themselves; meanness is built in to their DNA. When it comes to the "Periphery," they can't seem to keep their snotty contempt in check -- which appears little different from the historic racism of the past.
Of course none of the Greek "bailout" is bailing out the suffering and drowning Greeks, it is all going to the Gods of Finance, to pay off their gambling debts. Of course it won't be enough. By now, everyone should know there isn't "enough," ever, to satisfy that Gaping Maw.
The cruelty of the extractions from the Greek People to shovel into the Maw is mindboggling and soul-searing. What do the Rulers of Europe think will be the benefit of raging disease, increasing child mortality, suicide, destruction of livelihoods, expropriation of public utilities and infrastructure, and what amounts to a re-colonization of Greece by some distant imperial power?
What is the benefit?
Having had Empires in the past, the Rulers of Europe should know there isn't one. Yet they appear to have learned nothing.
At least now, the tragic nature of what is being done to Greece by their cruel masters is being recognized more widely. That's... good... but the lessons don't seem to be learnable among the European Ruling Classes. That failure to learn will have much greater consequences than merely sucking dry and disposing the empty husk of Greece.
I'm told the German People are cheering Frau Merkel for her "strength" in this matter. Do they realize that what is being done to Greece will be done to them whenever the Maw needs more feeding? Do they have any clue?
Have they never seen Prometheus Bound?
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Police on Oak St, January 28, 2012, enveloped in their own tear gas.
It's especially noticeable in New York City, where a few hundred may be hailed as a good turn out for some Occupy action or other, but at one time, "a few hundred" would have been the size of a modest Working Group; GA was being regularly attended by thousands, and in at least one case, when GA was held at Washington Square Park, attendance was in the tens of thousands.
The various factions in Oakland still smarting from the events of J28 and still hurling condemnations and denunciations at the Insurrectionists who caused "this mess," point to the fact that while the Port Shutdown and the General Strike drew tens of thousands of marchers and rally attendees, the J28 Move In "only attracted hundreds." That was a media report that was widely spread among the Oakland dissidents, though it didn't seem right to participants or observers like me.
Media traditionally lowballs crowd sizes for unapproved rebel actions and inflates them for approved actions. For a time, the "hundreds" in attendance at the J28 actions was taken as a rough but somewhat accurate estimate, for if you are in a crowd, it is difficult to estimate totals, and if you are outside the crowd but your point of view is restricted (as was the case for those who saw the events unfold on livestream like me) you won't be able to estimate with any accuracy, either.
Yet even with a restricted viewpoint, it was clear to me that there were well more than "hundreds" at The Battle of Oak Street; it looked like much closer to 1,000 to me, and it wasn't until later when I was able to look at videos shot from other viewpoints that I was able to confirm that number and conclude that the number was actually a good deal more than 1,000 at the Battle.
Just so, I was unable to gauge crowd size for the march to the Oakland Auditorium (Kaiser Convention Center) from the restricted point of view of my vantage watching livestream, nor was I able to tell from the video perspective what the crowd size was for the evening FTP march that was eventually corralled in front of the YMCA and arrested en masse. Again, reports said "hundreds." Initially, the number of arrests at the Y was lowballed as well. First it was under 100, then low 100's, and not until the next day was something close to an accurate number produced: 400. Given the fact that so many marchers had escaped, either through the Y itself (thanks to the kindness of staff) or over fences in the kettle area, it's clear there were well more than the number of marchers arrested participating in the march. When I saw the videos of the Escape From the Kettle at Nineteenth and Telegraph, it was clear that thousands had been trapped, not "hundreds", but none of that perspective was available at the time the events were taking place.
At the time, an estimate of "thousands" (most commonly 2,000) was competing with an initial estimate of "hundreds" (most commonly 400-500) . Because the lower estimate came first and was more widely broadcast in the media, it became the one many people accepted as "true" regardless of any higher estimate produced later. This is how the corporate-state propaganda apparatus is supposed to work. It may not be working quite as well as it once did, but it still works well enough to convince those most susceptible to media propaganda and conditioning to accept its lies as "close enough."
Nevertheless, "thousands" of participants in the J28 Move In activities -- including the thousands who stuck it out for the Battles -- is a significant reduction from the tens of thousands who participated in the Occupy Oakland actions last year. In New York, the decline in participant numbers has been even steeper, from tens of thousands regularly to a few dozen to a few hundred from time to time now.
One would think it is obvious, but apparently not. The number of people who actively participate in any Movement or protest action is going to fluctuate, sometimes wildly. People base their participation on the cause, of course, but also on their ability at the moment to participate and the likelihood of a "crackdown" official response. Few activists really want to be shot with less-lethal munitions, let's face it. At any given time, few are willing to be arrested for the Cause.
It's human nature to avoid conflict if possible.
Police started firing at the crowd in Oakland when they reached the Oakland Auditorium and succeeded in pulling down the fence around part of the site. Police had been harassing and threatening the marchers since they left the plaza in front of City Hall. Police continued to follow and harrass the marchers after they left the Convention Center site (after they had been fired on), and the crowd was initially kettled on Oak St between 10th and 12th Streets in front of the Oakland Museum a couple of blocks away. While orders to disperse were issued, there was -- as would be the case throughout the day's Battles -- no exit from the kettle. There was nowhere to disperse, in other words.
That's when the shield-bearers went into action in self-defense.
Their self-defensive action has been called a "provocation" -- which of course it was. Defending oneself from official violence is always provocative, sometimes intentionally so. Self-defense is often condemned by nonviolence purists as well because, according to their read of history, Martin and Mahatma wouldn't do that. Actually, they used other forms of self-defense than the ones on display in Oakland, but the claim that they did not engage in self-defensive tactics is false. The tactics they did use were just as provocative to their oppressors as the makeshift shields used in Oakland.
Nevertheless, whether "provoked" or not, it was clear to me that the police were going to fire on the crowd no matter what they did or didn't do. The only way to avoid police violence that day was not to have a march or rally or any public demonstration and attempt at taking a vacant building at all.
It's a conditioned response of police and officials in Oakland: crowds gather with a stated intention to "defy the law" and they will be fired on. And there will be mass injuries and arrests.
Knowing as much -- Oaklanders have been living under these quasi-martial law conditions for decades -- the number of people who will willingly put their personal safety at jeopardy for any Cause is limited. What struck me and other observers was that so many were willing on January 28. Not only were they willing, they stuck it out to the end. Many of those who couldn't or wouldn't put themselves at personal risk nevertheless cheered and aided the marchers from the relative safety of their homes and apartments along the way.
But what about the tens of thousands who marched to the port?
Or the tens of thousands who assembled in Washington Square when GAs at Liberty Plaza became too huge?
Where have those people gone? And wouldn't they come back if the Occupy Movement ceased this constant conflict with the police? Wouldn't they come back if Occupy were "nicer" -- the way it used to be?
It depends. They might. Or they might not. The initial popularity of Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of autonomous Occupys that arose spontaneously afterwards was not based on its being "nice" or non-confrontational. In fact, as I've said, confrontation and militance was part of the fabric of Occupy from the outset. So was law-breaking and defiance of authority. In other words, while some aspects of Occupy were definitely welcoming -- and yes, "nice" -- much of its activism and direct action was confrontational, defiant and militant. The whole point of taking and holding public (and sometimes private) space for public use by Occupy is a militant, defiant, and confrontational act. It isn't "nice." In point of fact, it is against the law.
The "niceness" of Occupy wasn't the popular draw; it was its potential for effectiveness. That potential was realized far more quickly than I think anyone anticipated. The topic of "The National Conversation" was overturned from Deficit Hysteria and Austerity Above All to the ruinous economic injustices that have been allowed and encouraged through private sector greed and public sector complicity. It happened over the course of a couple of months of intense and persistent activism, initially centered in New York but spreading quickly from there all around the world.
There is almost no precedent for this sort of thing in global history.
The trigger events in North Africa and Southern Europe have led to startling changes in governments, and yet the issues are unresolved; The Revolutions there have either not got underway in earnest (Europe, eg) or have been going in circles and feeding on themselves (North Africa and now parts of the Middle East).
The closest recent parallels to the potentials of Occupy were the upheavals in Eastern Europe that led to the break up of the Soviet Union, agitation for Democracy that was crushed in China, and the liberation of the Philippines from the Marcos dictatorship among other surprising developments. (I will skip the CT about all that for the moment...)
All of those precedents utilized approximately the same tactics: hundreds, then thousands, then tens or hundreds of thousands or even a million or more people assembled in the main square of the capital demanding reform; when genuine reform was not granted, they demanded the end of the regime. They refused to leave the square. In most places where these events unfolded, the police or troops refused to drive the people out of the square, nor would they fire on them. Even in China, initially, they would not fire on the demonstrators in Tienanmen Square. They only followed the orders to do so after a number of gruesome incidents in which troops were brutally murdered (following, it was said, incidents in which members of the crowd at or near Tienanmen were killed by troops; accounts differ.)
These uprisings all worked approximately the same way against brittle dictatorships; the Soviet Union and its empire disintegrated under the pressure. The Marcos dictatorship collapsed and fled. China survived intact and in some ways stronger after the Tienanmen Uprising. The demonstrations were violently crushed, but the apparatus of state was shaken enough to make substantial, indeed fundamental, changes in its operations and economic policies, to the point of essentially abandoning Communism as an organizing principle and adopting one of the most vigorous interpretations of Capitalism seen since the 19th Century.
The ironic upshot of all of those previous Revolutions was that the principles of Neo-Liberal Capitalist economics were installed practically everywhere -- to the detriment of the People in most cases -- and a highly managed form of crypto-democracy was installed in place of the fraudulent Communist "People's Democracies" for political purposes.
China skipped that step. Probably just as well...
The current Revolutionary fervor abroad derives somewhat from the uprisings of the '80's and early '90's, but in the United States there is no general sense of conducting that kind of uprising. There is instead a widespread sense that the economic and political systems of the USA are intimately intertwined, they are broken, and they cannot be reformed. Thus, there is no demand for reform. Nor is there a demand that, failing reform, the regime step down. There is no demand for democracy, there is instead the widespread practice of direct democracy in each autonomous Occupy, as a demonstration but not a demand.
To the extent there is a demand of Authority by Occupy it is to be left alone: stop the assaults, stop the arrests, stop the evictions. Stop the systemic violence against the People. Just. Stop.
I have a hard time imagining an ultimately more powerful message from the People to the Rulers.
Just stop it.
We see how crazy this sort of thing makes the Rulership of Europe as it applies ever more insane -- and insatiable -- demands on Greece. As if to say, "No, we will not Stop! We are Mad! We don't care what you think! We will do as we choose! You can't stop us! You can't! You can't!"
There comes a time when a man gets mad, Ma (Grapes of Wrath); not crazy-mad, Righteously Angry.
And when that time comes, everything stops.
The mass march and rally approach to reform does not work anymore. There will continue to be marches and there will continue to be rallies, of course, but they cannot lead to change; the change will come when everything "stops."
We're not quite to that point, not yet. Our comrades in Greece are finding that even the General Strikes they have been engaging in for years have not stopped the insane march of Europe's Mad Rulers. No. Instead, they are seeing that the more the resistance from the Greek People, the greater the Madness of their Rulers.
So instead of more public displays of resistance, the next strategy will be the "Days of Absence." It has proved to be remarkably effective in some places -- like Arizona and Alabama and others -- where anti-immigrant hysteria was whipped to a fever pitch and led to the... absence... of the scapegoated Other.
In the end, it is not the mass rally or the march that precipitates the necessary changes in the Rulership. It is the absence of cooperation with their madness.
What is emerging from the Winter Hibernation of Occupy is quite a different creature than initially appeared. It has some of the same characteristics, but the expression is quite different, much as a butterfly contains within it some of the characteristics of the caterpillar but is not at all the same creature.
Teh Revolution has not run its course. It has barely begun.
Friday, February 17, 2012
The (Alleged) IC produced a manifesto of sorts in France in 2005 called "The Coming Insurrection."
Supposedly, the Occupy is that Insurrection.
Well. "The Coming Insurrection" (2005) is so beautiful and so French, if you're old enough, you might think you've fallen into a François Truffaut/Jean-Luc Goddard collaborative movie written by Françoise Sagan on the set as it is being shot.
Yes, of course, our Vanguardists and Insurrectionists are no doubt immersed in its poetry and floating through its imagery.
A few passages will suffice to give a sense of the whole:
Struggles create the language in which a new order expresses itself. But there is nothing like that today. Europe is now a continent gone broke that shops secretly at discount stores and has to fly budget airlines if it wants to travel at all. No “problems” framed in social terms admit of a solution. The questions of “pensions,” of “job security,” of “young people” and their “violence” can only be held in suspense while the situation these words serve to cover up is continually policed for signs of further unrest. Nothing can make it an attractive prospect to wipe the asses of pensioners for minimum wage. Those who have found less humiliation and more advantage in a life of crime than in sweeping floors will not turn in their weapons, and prison won’t teach them to love society. Cuts to their monthly pensions will undermine the desperate pleasure-seeking of hordes of retirees, making them stew and splutter about the refusal to work among an ever larger section of youth. And finally, no guaranteed income granted the day after a quasi-uprising will be able to lay the foundation of a new New Deal, a new pact, a new peace. The social feeling has already evaporated too much for that.
As an attempted solution, the pressure to ensure that nothing happens, together with police surveillance of the territory, will only intensify. The unmanned drone that flew over Seine-Saint-Denis last July 14th – as the police later confirmed – presents a much more vivid image of the future than all the fuzzy humanistic projections. That they were careful to assure us that the drone was unarmed gives us a clear indication of the road we’re headed down. The territory will be partitioned into ever more restricted zones. Highways built around the borders of “problem neighborhoods” already form invisible walls closing off those areas off from the middle-class subdivisions. Whatever defenders of the Republic may think, the control of neighborhoods “by the community” is manifestly the most effective means available. The purely metropolitan sections of the country, the main city centers, will go about their opulent lives in an ever more crafty, ever more sophisticated, ever more shimmering deconstruction. They will illuminate the whole planet with their glaring neon lights, as the patrols of the BAC and private security companies (i.e. paramilitary units) proliferate under the umbrella of an increasingly shameless judicial protection.
The impasse of the present, everywhere in evidence, is everywhere denied. There will be no end of psychologists, sociologists, and literary hacks applying themselves to the case, each with a specialized jargon from which the conclusions are especially absent. It’s enough to listen to the songs of the times – the asinine “alt-folk” where the petty bourgeoisie dissects the state of its soul, next to declarations of war from Mafia K’1 Fry – to know that a certain coexistence will end soon, that a decision is near.
I read it in English, but I hear it in French, and it's gorgeous. Horrible in its truth and gorgeous in its veracity. If this were the Manifesto of the Revolution, no one would ever rise, they would simply step out of their ordinary lifeways and into something else again, as easily as changing a sweater. And everything that used to be would suddenly stop dead in its tracks, like one of those movies, while you and the rest of the Insurrectionists assemble a New Reality in the midst of the frozen Old Reality from the excess and debris all around you. And then you dance.
It's a beautiful vision. Why would anyone want to resist it?
But then, there are always critics:
Just because someone expresses themself poorly and comes from France it doesn't mean they are somehow secretly saying something profound. This work getting a good review from Glenn Beck and various collegiate wanks might sell copies among supine and endlessly pliant Enemies-Of-All-Authority-With-A-Capital-A, but if it's possible to judge a work by the readers who are most enthusastic for it there will probably not be much of use in it in regards to collective class politics, among real people, who are forced to work for a living, in the real world, outside of a safe and cosy ideological hothouse of simultaneously sheepish and posturing riot porn consumers...
So there. Take that, ya Frenchy pooftahs.
And that's one of the nicer ones. Nonetheless, marchons! Marchons!
This is the most informed and thorough analysis of what is going on in Greece I've found. It is an interview with Moisis Litsis a journalist with the Greek daily "Eleftherotypia".
:D.: Why is Greece different? I mean, why has Greece been the first one? Greek activist Sonia Mitralia says that Troika was using Greece as a lab to see how far they could go. What do you think?
M.L.: Ι think she is right. Even our former Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou once said for a different reason that we are a “world lab”. As well you know, Greece has a very small proportion of the Eurozone economy (a mere 2% of GDP, in comparison to 11% for example of Spain) and far less of the world economy. So why is there so much noise about the Greek crisis in the last two years, saying that it threatens to destabilize the whole world economy?
Greece was the first example of what everyone nowadays acknowledges: the world debt crisis, with the focus in the Eurozone as a whole. If Greece failed, there was a fear of a domino of defaults in other European countries and maybe the end of the Eurozone process. That’s way they tried to solve the Greek problem, of course without any success. Now there is a common discussion about how the debt crisis threatens to dismantle the whole Eurozone, of course not because of Greece, but because the crisis affects bigger economies, like Spain, Italy and France.
With the harsh austerity, the threat of an immediate default and exit from the euro, the troika first tried to persuade the Greeks that there is no other solution and second to terrorize other peoples, that if they don’t follow the Greek road, they will quickly find themselves in a similar situation.
Later they tried to how far the people would go in their reaction. Despite the continuous strikes, demonstrations, criticisms and polemics, no social explosion happened in Greece, so the rulers of Eurozone may think that they control the playing field, managing to suppress successfully any kind of discontent in other countries. I think that Greece is today the example of what shouldn’t happen in other European countries: To believe that there is no other solution to the debt crisis outside of the troika's policies that impoverished Greek people.
D.: And what about the Greek people? Are they fighting back? Is Greek society united in the struggles? Is there a real counterweight? What is the role of 'aganaktismeni'? (the Greek indignant ones)
M.L.: We had a ton of strikes. Some of them massive, especially in the beginning of the crisis. But Greeks didn’t see any real change. A big moment was last summer when the “aganaktismeni” movement started with thousands of Greeks surrounding parliament, hoping that the majority of PASOK (socialist party) in the end would not vote in the new measures that the troika imposed after the July agreement for a new loan. The only achievement was the replacement of the socialist Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou with the “technocrat” former central banker Lukas Papademos with the support of the opposition parties of the rightwing New Democracy and the far right LAOS.
I think Greek people was exhausted from not seeing a real change, they are still hesitant to follow the traditional unionists, even the traditional left parties, despite the good results they reached in the latest polls. There are many new initiatives on a local level, but not a general massive movement with a central demand. But the struggle continues.
I think there is a need for a total rejection of current policies and the debt, even to question the Greek involvement in euro. After all, despite the differences about this question in the policies of the different left forces, there is high probability that Greece will be forced to leave the euro, without a real movement ready to counteract the harsh consequences of a move like this. If this happens, there will be tremendous political and social changes.
D.: Why hasn't Greece declared, up to now, an indefinite general strike?
M.L.: For many years I remember the far left to try to promote indefinite general strike without any success. The last two years we had many general strikes, even more than we did in the first years after the fall of junta in 1974, which was a period characterized by a great radicalization and a great youth movement.
People lost also a lot of money from the strikes, mainly those in the public sector, so in these difficult times they are hesitant to go on an indefinite strike, something that the traditional trade union forces don’t really want and are unable to promote.
There is much more at the link.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
"Carmen" is, of course, what it is, and for generations it's been one of the most popular operas ever created, if not truly the most popular ever. It was jeered initially in Paris in part because it didn't fit the pattern opera patrons had come to expect.
"Carmen" violated the rigid class divisions so apparent in the arts of the day; it wasn't about elevated people meeting or failing their honor and duty to one another and the gods, it was about ordinary people, and gypsies, tramps and thieves, the lowest of the low in Europe at the time, framed in terms of passion, love, longing and betrayal, utilizing the full range of operatic tools to tell its tale.
At its root, it is a tale of rebellion against the arbitrary imposition of authority -- and what to do about it.
Such tales were subversive at the time, as they still are. This is not a tale that opera patrons, then or now, would want told to the masses, that's for sure. It is one they can barely comprehend themselves.
The story came out of a post-Napoleonic Europe which was riven with rebellion and revolution right through to the extermination of the Paris Commune in 1871. Even that official horror didn't end the revolutionary fervor of Europe's peoples, let alone the rebellions in the colonial outposts of European empires. Try as they might, the Overclasses of the day could not keep the People down. Rebellion was assured; Revolution was likely. Massacre was not infrequent. But even massacre didn't work for long.
The panning of premiere of "Carmen" in Paris 1875, so soon after the liquidation of the Commune, has become the source opera-legend, in fact might make good opera in its own right, or at least a decent musical comedy. If one puts oneself in the shoes of the staid and very class conscious patrons of the Opéra-Comique at the time, however, it is not at all hard to imagine their contempt, and especially the contempt of the critics, at what they saw and heard. It must have felt almost like a slap in their collective bourgeois face.
"Carmen" was in some ways the story of what they feared most: wild and free people, in the person of Carmen, disrupting the calm and civilized society they were working so hard to restore after so much rebellion and revolution had so recently wracked Paris under the red banner of the Commune.
This was unacceptable.
The Commune was too recent a memory; what happened to it, though unmentionable, was too searing.
Conformity, conventionality, rules and order were the social requirements of the day, and not solely in Paris. Early versions of Marxist Communism were being worked out and tried. The Paris Commune was the first large-scale example that really seemed to work, if only briefly and haltingly. The potential of Marxist Communism was demonstrated, however temporarily, during the Commune, and that demonstration lived on in memory and legend long after the Commune was crushed and the Communards -- and a hell of a lot of random Parisians -- exterminated.
In today's world, the expiration of the Soviet Union and the transformation of the People's Republic of China into a capitalist dynamo was supposed to serve as the capstone to the triumph of the West and the end of History and all the rest of the reveries of the exploiters, plunderers and predators.
With the end of the Soviet "threat," and the transformation of China, the People's Struggle was supposed to be over: The People lost. For. Ever.
Yet The New World Order turns out to be far less substantive than even the rudest forms of Feudalism. It is, bluntly, a disaster of epic proportions. Not simply for the ordinary people -- let alone the Indignados and the Rebels and the Ignored Ones in every land -- it is a disaster for its makers. Those who have created this monstrosity of global domination are tied in knots by their own mindlessness and lack of even rudimentary judgement. That they have failed is cripplingly obvious. That they know not what to do now, except to lash out in fury at the phantoms of their misery, is plain.
Not only is another world possible, another world is critically necessary, because this one isn't working for anyone, and not for the Upper Orders, either. They have fucked up majorly.
The current social, economic, and political model is unsustainable by any measure.
The alternatives being developed are frightening to some observers who simply can't imagine there could be good faith attempts to rectify the situation in the midst of so much misery and carnage created by Our Betters.
They denounce the Vanguard, and they fear the Insurrectionists, both of which are essentially phantoms, because, like the bourgeoisie of Paris, they fear the liberation of what we might call the Gypsy spirit in human nature, to find and build a better future for all of us.
They are frightened to death that it just might work, and worse, there may be nothing salvageable from the wreckage of the past.
They are frightened, too, of the potential for violence in the transitional period.
A number of people have already been severely wounded by police fire and hundreds and hundreds have been injured while thousands upon thousands have been arrested and scenes of appalling destruction of encampments by the authorities have filled the airwaves during the initial phases of the Crackdowns on Occupy in this country alone. The numbers of dead and injured in the other uprisings and revolutions and civil wars around the world haven't even been counted, but it is on the order of many tens of thousands.
No matter how much we try, the transition to another world and a better future is not going to be a peaceful one. Whether it can stay mostly nonviolent is a question.
Where the global rebellions have turned into violent armed insurrection and civil war (Syria, Libya, eg.) it is painfully obvious that "international interests" are controlling both the conflict and the likely outcome, that without this sort of "helpful" interference, the People's Dictatorships being rebelled against would likely persevere against their domestic opposition. They are too frail now, and in many ways, too anachronistic, to survive in the face of the kinds of opposition arrayed against them.
But as we've seen in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, even nonviolent People's Uprisings don't necessarily result in that Better Future the People set out to achieve. There is no miraculous transformation in other words. Removing the Dictatorship only to have it replaced with even greater levels of quasi-pseudo-"democratic" exploitation, blunder, plunder and control by our Neo-Liberal Overlords (viz: Greece as well) is shocking to be sure, but not all that surprising.
The rebellion and occupation in Wisconsin delayed for a time some of the impositions of the Walker Regime, but it didn't stop them. And the resort to the electoral process to recall members of the State Senate failed to shift the majority. While the recall of Walker will be spirited (if he doesn't resign first in disgrace and under criminal indictment) the signs are it will not succeed, not even if the ever-saintly and ever-reluctant Russ Feingold girds his loinal parts and takes up the cudgel.
The System is broken and the prognosis is the patient's condition is terminal.
Something altogether different is called for, and that's why, as frightening to many as it is to contemplate, the red-and-black flag of the anarcho-communists/anarcho-syndicalists has all but become the Flag of Occupy.
In many ways it's ironic, given the inner turmoil and hostility, the many mutual anathemas and purges between the Socialists (as in Communist) and Anarchists in times of yore. But let's be blunt: even the Social Democrats of Europe, the moderated Communists, have grossly failed the People in their mad quest -- so it seems -- to please the Gods of Global Finance. Europe is such a basket case now largely because of the abject failure of the Social Democrats to adhere to the principles of social and economic justice that are their foundations.
Communist FAIL. Socialist FAIL. The vacuum must be filled -- or as we see, the Neo-Liberals/Neo-Cons take over -- and with such cheery malice and destructive intent. "Creative destruction" they call it. North Africa, the Arab Middle East, Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, much of the wreckage of Eastern Europe, all laboratories for even more destruction and exploitation than has already been accomplished by their economic and military shock troops.
Of course the "Creative Destroyers" will fail in the end, just like every other similar effort in the past.
The opposition turns to Anarchist options in part because they stand outside the common theoretical, political, and philosophical mindset that has brought us to this point -- and already thrown millions over the precipice.
That red-and-black flag and what it stands for is looking more and more appealing...
Somehow I suspect it is no accident that Carmen wears a diagonally divided red-and-black gown in the final scene of the Met's stunning "Carmen" from 2010 (or was it 2009?)
That damn Gypsy Woman is as subversive now as she ever was. And just as then, the People must take care of one another.