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An Analysis Of The OccupyWallStreet (OWS) Movement in USA

category international | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis author Saturday November 05, 2011 21:59author by John Throne and Richard Mellor. - facts for working peopleauthor email loughfinn at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Oakland general strike

How the movement can be expanded and taken forward

Oakland City Council's phony concerns exposed. How can we broaden the OWS movement? The most important achievement of the OWS movement so far is that it has shifted the national debate about the economic crisis. OWS has put the hedge fund managers, banks, speculators and other wasters who are responsible for the mess we are in on the defensive. The OWS movement has also reintroduced the tactics that built the Unions and the civil rights movement in the Apartheid South-----mass direct action and defiance of the law----and has brought the nature of the system to the front burner. Capitalism, the so-called free market and possible alternatives to its madness are being discussed by millions of Americans.

I was at an Oakland City Council meeting last night that was called to discuss the ongoing Occupy Oakland encampment and activities. A resolution from one of the liberal council members aimed to reaffirm the council’s support for the OWS movement.

Before the vote (I left before it was taken) the city gave a detailed account of what it considers all the negative aspects of the Occupy Oakland encampment. The unsanitary conditions are a danger to the community the council believes. There have been fights, a reporter bitten by a dog and even worse, condoms and needles were found after the cops cleared the group out last week. I am sure if you threw 100 families from their homes in the hills and went through their belongings you’d fine some good quality dope, no shortage of condoms and probably plenty of other useful sexual novelties.

The council is also concerned about public health with food being served to the poor and the homeless. Barbecue pits and fires for cooking have been seen. Perhaps the most astonishing piece of information was being told that there was trash in or around the intersection of 14th and Broadway.

The hypocrisy of this fools no one. All the conditions the council describes here exist throughout the poor and working class districts of Oakland and the city does nothing about it. In fact, these conditions are a product of the city council’s policies as representatives of the corporations. I have been involved in tenant struggles against some of Oakland’s worst landlord. One of them, who owned at the time 200 units in the city, was one of the worst slumlords in town and I visited every one of his units at one point. I have seen apartments and rooms that we wouldn’t put pigs in never mind human beings. There were leaky roofs, rats, roaches, mold, electrical hazards; you name it. Many tenants are single mothers with children some were immigrants or undocumented immigrants who were vulnerable and easy prey for landlords wanting sexual favors.

I remember we had to occupy former Oakland mayor Jerry Brown’s office in order to get him to even talk to tenants. We occupied the DA’s office demanding they indict one slumlord but they never did. They have no time throwing youth and numbers of the young black men in the city in jail or indicting them though. The landlords have influence in the city government.

At the council meeting last night many people spoke of the powerful movement and gathering the day before. It’s important to recognize that we broke the law too. We occupied the city center, shut down banks etc. But this was an action by a diverse cross section of the US working class and our families; it was the 99%. We make it clear that the state and its media's condemnation of vandalism that occurred after the General Strike and action has no credibility with us. The Oakland city Council and mayor has attacked workers’ living standards and pensions and has cut vital services on behalf of Wall Street and the corporations. Taking someone’s job away is violence, throwing someone from their home is violence. Closing public schools and cutting vital social services is violence.

So while we give the state’s condemnation of violence and vandalism no credibility we do believe adventurist and individual vandalism by a tiny minority does serious damage to this movement. The previous night’s vandalism has been seized upon by the media and city council and has caused some division within Occupy Oakland. Obviously there are provocateurs but it is a mistake to pretend there is not a small element on our side that believes smashing a store window is a revolutionary act. Sure a provocateur can throw the first brick but if there was no grouping that had that as a strategy; it would not degenerate in to what it does.

In order for us to build and strengthen the OWS movement, in other words, for it to be successful, we have to draw in the thousands of people that were at the strike the day before and the actions of those whose policy it is to smash up stuff or wage a personal war against the police for their own gratification does not make this easy to say the least. This adventurism does not draw the workers and our families we saw the day before in to the movement it drives them away. This does not mean we don't defend ourselves against police attacks when we need to.

For the OWS to grow in to a powerful anti-capitalist mass movement that can challenge the 1% and transform the way we live it must link with the parents and teachers and students who are opposing the school closures and who would support a mass occupation of those schools and running them ourselves. The movement must draw in those who will support occupying the libraries that are scheduled for closing which would be a pole of attraction. We should also put to the movement that we should occupy foreclosed homes with those who have been thrown out or with the homeless if the original owner is not present willing or able. We can support tenants and help them stay in their apartments without paying rent until serious health and safety and other issues are remedied. We can have mass convergences on homes of tenants and of their landlords if conditions are not met. This is what will work.

Imagine how difficult it would be for the police to deal with homes throughout the area being occupied as to simply camping out in the downtown. They didn’t stop the occupation of the intersections and shutting down of the banks on Thursday because it was too dangerous to do so, it would have emboldened the movement and strengthened it had they done so and the movement didn’t give them an excuse.

This is what will draw the thousands, indeed millions of workers and families in to the movement and in to the struggle against capital and the 1% not acts of vandalism masked as revolutionary activity. At some point, the movement will become isolated if the movement was to pursue such activity.

It is likely as the election nears that the pressure will come down to get the other Wall Street party elected. This will come from the reformist elements and the Labor hierarchy who will throw their support behind Obama. It is a utopian idea to claim that a movement is leaderless. There are always leaders and it is more democratic to recognize and formalize a leadership it than to pretend it doesn’t exist. The GA would still govern and set the boundaries and limits on it but our opposition is organized and so should we be. Our opposition has clear goals and so should we. What we stand for concretely is another important organizing aspect of any movement. One of the reasons the rank and file don’t attend Union meetings is that their leaders support concessions. Union members her the same thing from their leaders that they hear from the boss, “We all have to sacrifice in hard times.”

We demand of our society a few simple things that include:

  • Jobs for all with a minimum wage we can survive on like $20 an hour
  • Decent and affordable housing
  • Free education at all levels
  • Access for all to health care
  • Get the youth out of our prisons and the youth out of the corporations’ wars.
  • Reduce the workweek to 30 hours, full retirement at 50

We don’t care what the bosses’ say is realistic or not. What is realistic is what we need. What is not realistic is one person earning $10 billion a year and human beings being unable to receive medical care or sleeping in doorways, many of them mentally impaired and veterans of wars.

The money is there, the 1% has it and their political representatives spend our money on endless wars and empire building. We fight them through direct action mass defiance campaigns perhaps through 99% clubs we can organize in our communities and workplaces. Whatever we call this process we have to broaden the movement and as campaigns grow we can run 99% candidates for political office, candidates rooted in the campaigns and the movement that, when elected, can use the office in order to further the interests of such a campaign and the transformation of society form one that serves the interests of the 1% to the interests of the 99% majority that presently has no real voice in the running of society.

I’ll close this entry with a few words from the declaration of independence that seem fair enough to me that we have an “unalienable” right to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Pretty basic stuff.

Related Link: http://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com
author by Gary MacLennanpublication date Mon Nov 14, 2011 19:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thoughts on the Occupy movement and the struggle for hegemony with specific reference to Occupy Brisbane


Earlier this year I addressed a conference of the Socialist Alliance and I congratulated myself with a scandalous lack of modesty for successfully predicting the Arab Spring in the previous year’s conference. I then predicted that the firestorm from the Middle East would spread to the Western World and that I would turn up again at the annual conference and say “I told you so!”

In predicting the Arab Spring I had been of course recycling Emmanuel Wallerstein’s prediction that the Middle East would rise up because of American policy.  My forecast about the West though was just a desperate guess and it has turned out to be a seemingly inspired one because of the Occupy movement which is now two months old, a movement which neither I nor anyone else could have foreseen.

There are important questions to ask of the Occupy movement especially in its American form. I tend to agree with those who say that there has never been anything like it before.  It may be that the movement will lead to a Great Refusal, when everyone takes to the streets and demands change. The model here is the Egyptian uprising when after Mubarak’s final speech millions walked towards the army’s guns demanding change.

I am not at all sure here of my analysis, but I would hazard a guess that what we are witnessing is the re-birth of the American Left brought about in part at least by the immiseration of the middle class. If that is so and an American Left enters the arena, then almost everything is possible. We could be in business, comrades.  The long lonely bitter years of mockery and isolation could be over.

The origins of the Occupy movement are well known.  They spring from the Canadian group Adbusters and ended up in Zuchotti Park because they could not get nearer to Wall Street. They have evolved several unique features- GAs with hand gestures, an insistence on being leaderless and on not making demands, and a radical egalitarianism that springs from a strong commitment to prefiguring the kind of society they want.  All this is summed up in two great agitational slogans – This is what democracy looks like and We are the 99%.

They have also stormed heaven.  The movement has turned into a franchise which has spread across the States and the entire world and even come to humble little Brisbane.  In so doing it has mobilised more members of the working class than the entire Leninist Left have been able to do in the last 30 years or so culminating in the shutting down of the mighty port of Oakland.

There has been much food for thought here for Marxist leftists like myself. I have been saying for years that the revolution would turn up somewhere unexpected like a mole and we would all say with Marx “Well grubbed old mole!” But I had begun not to believe that I would be around to see it. But I am and I welcome the Old Mole wholeheartedly, except I am muttering under my breath “What took you so long?”

I am also struck, I must admit, that the Old Mole of Revolution looks so different in some ways from what I expected it might be like. It is the struggle to think through the differences that this paper undertakes. I will do so by taking as my point of departure that all movements must struggle for hegemony. I then divide the endeavour for hegemony into the attempt to seize three components or high grounds – the moral, the aesthetic and intellectual. The corollary of this approach is that no movement can achieve hegemony which does not hold the moral, aesthetic and intellectual high grounds.

It is my belief that what we are seeing especially in Brisbane a movement which is primarily moral in impetus. That explains the talk of peace, love and respect and the attacks on being political and being anti-capitalist. Now for Marxists love etc is very uncomfortable terrain. There is a strong tradition which denounces such tendencies as Utopian and holds that there is no moral component within the Marxist corpus. The result is that the Leninist tradition has attracted people whose behaviour is, to be frank, quite manipulative and even brutish at times.

I won’t mention names here, but we all of us have shuddered with fear at the thought of one particular Super Trot with state power. I am convinced he would slaughter us all.  Every time I see him I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s remark about Sir Stafford Cripps – “there but for the grace of God goes God”.

Now I want to say that the Occupy movement’s success has shown quite dramatically that we Marxists have been very wrong to neglect the moral high ground and to scorn the pre-figurational tendency.  I also want to suggest that the success of the Occupy movement in mobilising workers has been due in no small part to the fact that they have linked up with the fundamental decency of working people. Where we have frightened and repulsed they have reassured and attracted.

Let me now proceed briefly to the aesthetic high ground.  If Marxists are uncomfortable about the moral high ground, then they are even more averse to matters aesthetic, despite Marx’s own interest in the area and the work of many fine Marxist aestheticians.  The great Irish revolutionary, James Connolly, once said ‘Beware of the movement that sings”.  However if the singing I heard on Saturday is anything to go by the bourgeoisie have little to fear. Nevertheless the occupy movement has striven to attain the aesthetic high ground through photography, rap and imaginative and creative slogans and placards. Some of my favourites are  Jump you fuckers;  I’m so angry I made a sign; I already regret choosing to carry a sign around all day; I hate drum circles but I hate corporate greed more.

We come now to the third component – the intellectual high ground. This is where we Marxists come into our own.  I have spent a life time working within the Marxist research program and I have never doubted its intellectual strength. It is quite simply unparalleled in its capacity to analyse capitalism. In the period we are living through that of the Great Recession even the enemy have acknowledged the Marxist capacity to analyse crises.

But we have also been through an intense thirty year period where Marxism was hounded out of the academy by post-structuralists, the followers of Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze etc. I regard these as neo-Nietzscheans and I follow Lukacs in assigning them to the irrational. The triumph of post structuralism within the academy has meant that a whole generation of students has heard nothing of Marx except that he is somehow totalitarian. The collapse of Stalinist parties has also meant that a whole generation of workers has no idea at all of what a Marxist approach might look like.

It is then on this ground zero where we Marxists have become an absence that the irrational has flourished and feels able to reach for the intellectual high ground. Such is the extent of our contempt for the irrational, that we have not noticed when they have striven for the intellectual high ground.  We have felt a mixture of pity or disdain, depending on how nice we are, when someone has got up to talk of Bohemia Grove or the New World Order or the Illuminati or the Zeitgheist. I myself have even made a joke “Who you going to call? The zeitgheisters!”  However most of my audience were too young to get the classical reference.

The irrational camp peddles conspiracy theories. They thrive on the low level paranoia that most of us have experienced at one time or another. It is also true that the ruling class scheme and plot against us.  But there is no such thing as Bohemia Grove and I am sure one of the world’s greatest capitalist bastards Rupert Murdoch is not one of the Illuminati. We do not live in a world scripted by a Dan Brown.

I attacked the conspiracy peddlers on Saturday because of their actions in Musgrove Park.  I am angry at their deep stupidity and arrogance when it comes to Indigenous Australians.  Their leadeer’s tactic of calling for extra police patrols in a park which is special to Aboriginal people. Places those very people at physical risk.

The conspiracy mob poses as harmless, sort of loopy people who come from the moral high ground.  Instead their actions are manipulative and fundamentally undemocratic. They do everything they can to subvert the GAs. Moreover their irrationalism would condemn the movement to isolation and eventual decay. It is though a matter of political judgement whether I was correct to attack them.

So how do I see our task as Marxists at the present time? I think we should participate fully in the struggle for the moral, aesthetic and intellectual high grounds. We should not make the mistake of prioritising one of these just because we know we are better at it. That means we approach this movement prepared to learn from it as much as to teach it. We could do well here to meditate on Marx’s third thesis on Feuerbach and this phrase in particular – “it is essential to educate the educator himself”.

There is a debate to be had here and it is around the question of Marxist politics.  I have done the Leninist party-building thing and I know exactly for instance what the party builders – the Socialist Alternative are up to. They are not there to build the movement.  They are there to pose as the most radical and they are there to recruit- full stop. And the joke is everyone else knows that too and hates them.

I am happily ensconced in the Socialist Alliance. I don’t want to get involved at all in the bitter debates and splits that have taken place within the DSP tendency. I regard the split as a tragedy and one that should be undone as soon as possible.  If the Occupy movement were bigger and stronger here in Australia I would, to be frank, be arguing for us to dissolve ourselves into it.

That is not a likely outcome at present because of the great unevenness of consciousness that exists within the movement. We are also severely handicapped by not having a safe space where we could begin the architecture of consciousness. Our numbers were not big enough and such was our marginality that we could not initiate and win a fight to hold on to Post Office Square.

I will wrap up these thoughts here, but firstly I must acknowledge that I have not addressed the burning issue of the relationship of Anarchism to Marxism. This is being played out in the States with a debate around the tactics of the Black Block. There is great anger in Marxist circles at what they see as arrogant substitutionism by the Black Blockers. The peaceful Ghandian, Tolstoyan, Catholic worker wing of the Anarchist movement has also begun to weigh in about the strategic necessity of non-violence. I think the Black Blockers will lose that debate and eventually be forced out of the movement.

I won’t go on with this particular topic, because these thoughts address the Brisbane context and we are not faced with a Black Block or even a strong Anarchist tendency. Fate has given us the zeitgeisters.  Frankly I doubt that this forum would have taken place if Occupy Brisbane did not claim to be part of the wider struggle.

However with regard to the debate on the Black Block, I will say that the huge demonstrations we had before the Iraq war failed totally, because they did not aim for a high enough level of radical non-violent action. The system simply absorbed and ignored what the protesters had to say.

Hopefully the occupy movement will provide us with another opportunity.  In the mean time our task is to relate to the movement in Brisbane as best we can and to help them win the battle for hegemony by seizing the moral, aesthetic and intellectual high grounds. The decision, which of these high grounds to prioritise,  has of course to be based on an analysis of the concrete conjuncture. I will only say that we Marxists should beware of our tendency to declare that the intellectual is the only high ground to struggle for.



author by Occupierpublication date Mon Nov 14, 2011 19:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Analysis Paralysis

and divisive infighting politics from the self important marxists

Meanwhile Occupy gets on with business.

author by ?publication date Mon Nov 14, 2011 21:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

With such a limited attention span how do you make it through the G.A.' s or
you one of those sucking on a can at the back of the scene?

Occupying a new set of prejudices while sitting on ya ass doesn't qualify you as an "occupier"
..there will always be "passengers" unfortunately

give me an analysis (any analysis) over the latest conspiracy theory...but I guess
it is panto season

author by occupierpublication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 00:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You make a lot of assumptions don't you? Actually I don't drink at all. And I wish I had less of an attention span. That might have saved me because Unfortunately, I wasted half an hour of my life that I can never get back reading every bit of this crap. Also your oblique ad hominem insults.  Im going back now to do something real instead of reading any more self important verbal masturbation. Good luck with that.  Don't leave a mess!

author by ?publication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 06:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wow sexual analogies abound, "Occuipier" thinks any intelectual reflection by participants in the movement is "masturbatory" and Frank Miller thinks all Occupiers are "rapists".....see here http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/nov/14/frank-...-rant

The Occupy movement has faced repression in Brisbane, not experienced in Dublin and is worthy of reflection. 

What we see here is a dangerous hippy tendency that is anti-analysis, anti-reflection, anti-intellectual.  It's worth reminding oneself that fascists have a penchant for direct action and a revulsion of the rational and debate.

Also worth reminding oneself, if you can't cope with analysis or can't muster reasoned rebuttal...why go to a thread with "analysis" in the  title?  You'll only find it upsetting!

author by MarxBrotherspublication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 07:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

feckin' marxists!

Just jealous because a movement which started off with just a bunch of people in tents with no specific agenda has garnered more support in a few months than marxists have ever done in all their years of self important theorising.

When challenged, all these marx brothers have to fall back on is supercilious ad hominem.  So much for all that caring about the common man. When confronted with one their natural instinct seems to be to look down upon, ridicule and insult.

No wonder you have failed in such epic fashion to capture the imagination of the masses and have to resort to trying to hijack other grassroots movements to garner support.

author by ?publication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 09:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To paraphrase Bill Hicks, "you seem to be at the wrong meeting (or on the wrong thread)"
This thread is entiltled "analysis", you seem to be looking for the "dickhead lazy cynical quips" thread....if there's not one out there, get of ya arse and start one.

Occupier's plagerising Martin Luther King by switching the words around from his "paralysis of analysis" is typical of his slovelnly aproach to this debate and movement.
Seeing any debate as "infighting" is also sad and childish
Occupier claims to have spent half an hour on the text "MarxBrothers" can't have done more than a poor skim read

"Just jealous because a movement which started off with just a bunch of people in tents with no specific agenda has garnered more support in a few months than marxists have ever done in all their years of self important theorising."

MacLennan's piece as a Marxist is self critical and has addressed this very point. Read the tet befor critiqing it.

"They have also stormed heaven.  The movement has turned into a franchise which has spread across the States and the entire world and even come to humble little Brisbane.  In so doing it has mobilised more members of the working class than the entire Leninist Left have been able to do in the last 30 years or so culminating in the shutting down of the mighty port of Oakland."

I'm no Marxist, but I appreciate the analysis and other analysis coming out of activists, like MacLennan, involved in the Occupy movement.  Such comments as Occupier and Marx Brothers revel in their own ignorance.  A the old saying goes, "better to remain silent and be thought an idiot, than open your mouth and confirm it!"...as Occupier and Marx Bros have done here

author by MarxBrotherspublication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 20:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

apparently "?" is guilty of not reading other people's posts too:

"When challenged, all these marx brothers have to fall back on is supercilious ad hominem.  So much for all that caring about the common man. When confronted with one their natural instinct seems to be to look down upon, ridicule and insult."

He just proved this point beautifully with his reply!

author by rianorr - napublication date Tue Nov 15, 2011 21:56author email author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is bound to be tension between the campers who work in such a different way to the old rebels of the statist socialist parties ULA and SWP'ers. (there is also the generational thing too) but that aside if we are talking about where to go from here for the demos as opposed to the 1% I think you have to build some sort of relationship based on alliances of class organisations who share common purpose. Ireland is now bereft of opposition, the Dail is like a listing ship, listing to the right, some form of common programme has to be worked out if the interests of the majority are to be upheld against the 'robber bankers'. No one group can go it alone in a country like Ireland.

author by W. Finnertypublication date Wed Nov 16, 2011 10:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I believe our "common good" is the "thing" we should strive to focus on for our OWS type pursuits around the world; while, at the same time recognising and respecting our individual rights to be different from each other in many respects, and, at the same time, accepting the fact that there is never going to any common ground between us in the areas where we differ greatly.
 "People are meeting in groups across the country, talking across oceans. They are disparate, disorganised and without an effective plan to repel the global agenda: as yet. BUT, a leadership of sorts is emerging, organisers are co-ordinating and small groups are linking to form larger groups. The dichotomies of left v right, Christian v Muslim, black v white, Catholic v Protestant, Republican v Democrat which have been used to great effect to divide and conquer in the past, will find no favour in this largely invisible war of very strong feelings. The call that will unite us will be "the decent people of the world v the corrupt, greed-ridden and crime-ridden tiny minority of global ruling elites" -- the cry will cascade street to street and find easy passage and universal support -- for our "common good" purpose has greater value and strength than yours."
 The above excerpt is from an e-mail sent yesterday to Republic of Ireland Chief Justice Susan Denham.
 The full text of the e-mail in question, can be viewed at:

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