the instinct for power in the Occupy movement

Occupy is Chaos

Chaos is a wild horse; we do not tame nor befriend it by throwing it to the ground and beating it with a stick. Gently point its eyes in the direction you want to go.

-Squatter graffiti, Oakland

I attended an event called “How Will the Walls Come Down?” A debate between “non-violence” and “diversity of tactics.” My expectations were low. I had already concluded that hardliners from both sides had dominated the debate, and the vast majority of people in Occupy, who held a view in between, struggled to reach unity on tactics amidst this noise. This formal debate seemed fated to amplify the noise.

These terms are often confuddled by strong opinions about the meanings of “violence” and “diversity.” “Diversity of tactics” is mocked as a euphemism for anything-goes with neither respect nor responsibility. People ask why “violence” in this discussion often means vandalism or screaming, but never includes calling the law on someone or voting. In this piece I’ll call these concepts “militancy” and “anti-militancy.” First because the utter vagueness of “militancy” allows everyone to know exactly what I mean, and also for a rhetorical reason that will be apparent.

There were four advocates of (anti)militancy on either side of the moderator. They all seemed to feel they had a lot to teach Occupy Oakland and little to learn. Two of the four would have said exactly the same things if Occupy Oakland had never happened.

While Occupy events at OG Plaza tended to be a third white people, a third black people, and a third other ethnicities, almost everyone in the audience at this debate was white. Three out of the four (anti)militancy advocates were white. Fortunately the panelists addressed this; a common theme was that the opposing position was from a vantage of privilege. Either the privilege of lenient treatment from the criminal justice system, or the privilege getting the system to work for one without drastic action.

So what the astonishing yet troubling thought for food, was, one of the (anti)militants explained that the Occupy Movement had to choose to be either a transformative revolution cherishing the most oppressed OR a middle-class liberal-moderate tax-the-rich movement favoring the recently dispossessed.

The key word is OR; I advocate AND. OR means that you see which way the movement is going and then decide whether to get on board. AND means that you don’t know where the movement is going, but you still must decide if you’re up for the ride. Combining anarchist tactics AND middle-class populism was a ridiculous experiment that was going great, until tactical anarchists and middle-class populists pointed out that it was ridiculous.

The socialist left must learn to navigate Occupy’s anarchist terrain if we hope to shape and lead the uprising instead of being shaped and led by it. – Pham Binh

The manipulations by the statist left no longer shock, or even amuse; one closes the tab and plays games on Facebook in search of greater relevance. Yet I see my anarchismist .comrades plying the same script. After spending 1-100 years promoting a point of view, it’s natural (while simultaneously perverted) to hope Occupy will fulfill that viewpoint and judge it on it’s ability to do so.

I read about the Occupy plan in Adbusters in August and thought the whole thing was hella stupid. But once I seen it strike a nerve in mass consciousness and that so many good people could stomach it, I started to consider that maybe in this particular case it may be conceivably possible to perhaps CHANGE MY MIND. On the other hand, if Occupy had dwindled and fizzled in lower Manhattan, no one would have stepped in to say that, more edgy or thoughtful tactics, or overcoming racial or gender alienation, would have saved the project from extinction. The success, which convinced me, made Occupy a target for everyone with a conflicting preconceived vision who couldn’t embrace the chaos.

On top of the ideological rigor mortis, some people just need an outlet for their accumulated negativity. Like when someone complains that OO in intruding on the homeless people in the Plaza, then the same person complains that OO is bringing homeless people to the plaza.

…not that we… have any problem with small business being attacked. IN fact, we absolutely love it as ALL business is still business. –article printed in last Slingshot

Apparently, in January, assholes have attacked small businesses again on an Occupy Oakland affiliated march.

“Business” comes from “busy.” 1Any economic activity is a business, a Food Not Bombs chapter, an infoshop (does this explain why so many “radicals” apparently think stealing from infoshops is a good idea?). A small for-profit business is often one more tiresome thing people do to get by, along with wage-slavery or disability, that’s rarely morally perfect.

Now, I’m vaguely sympathetic to the idea that everyone deserves the have their business smashed (just like I’m intrigued by the Christian idea that we all deserve to be miserable, die horribly and be tortured forever). But what if this is being done specifically to attack the idea that the poor AND the middle-class have common interests, the main idea of the Occupy movement. If this idea is so bad, why not let Occupy fail on its own merits?

Or , of course, Occupy might win, and then the normal middle-class white people betray the poor, the anarchists, the people of color and the queers. So? How would we be in a worse position than if we force the middle-class to side with the 1% now?

Occupy is the best thing yet to happen to the American black bloc, the best thing to happen to the Obama campaign (by upstaging the Tea Party garbage), the best thing to happen to the word “decolonize,” and the best thing for Oakland. All aboard the grainer to chaos and have a good time.

1It’s reasonable to believe that this hostility to the very idea of “business” comes from the flooding of radical movements by apathetic hippies during the 1960s. This may have been encouraged by Stalinist ideologues, hoping to achieve Soviet victory and domination by making Western society pathetic and dysfunctional.