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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Occupy: What went wrong, and how to make it right

Why bother outlining my problems with the Occupy movement? Bill Maher did the job brilliantly a couple of weeks ago, as the embedded video clip attests. If you've seen this riff before, see it again. After you do, try to come up with a solution for the great problem of what to do about a very necessary protest movement that has entered its death throes because everyone involved considers it a point of honor to do everything in the least effective way.

I can guess how my audience will respond:

At least one person will say: "Bill Maher is a sexist because he said something I didn't like four years ago!" Oh, grow up. This is about Occupy, not Maher.

Others will say: "We can't work with Democrats! They're just as bad as Republicans!"

No, they aren't -- and if you think otherwise, you've gone nuts. (Or you're a paid ratfucker, in which case I'm curious to learn about the going rates. I mean, do online ratfuckers earn minimum wage, or has the job been offshored?)

Now, instead of clobbering me with those two otiose cliches, perhaps you can favor us with your Big Scheme as to how we're going to improve the situation. A lot of the people who come here seem to favor a plan that goes something like this (and please excuse me for borrowing a riff):

1) Bitch bitch bitch about Obama.

2) Continually insist that all Democrats are as bad as (or worse than) Republicans.

3) ...

4) UNICORNS! (Or world revolution. Whatever.)

That little scheme ain't gonna accomplish nuthin', so screw you and your delusions of purity. If you want to get things done, then at a certain point you have to sully yourself with politics -- partisan politics.

The Democrats aren't going to commandeer and co-opt the Occupy movement, or whatever movement rises up to replace Occupy. Just won't happen. But the protest movement could take over the Democrats, if the activists finally come to grips with the fact that you can't get anything done unless you attain some power.

Politics isn't about raising consciousness or feeling good about yourself or eating lots of tofu or singing folk songs. Politics, like it or not, is about power.

Maher has it right. The Tea Party thing worked, god help us all. That's your template.

Has the current "pure" Occupy course accomplished anything? Well, here we are, in an election year, and lots of people are feeling miserable -- yet Occupy is nowhere on the map. What does that fact tell you?

This writer has it (mostly) right:
The hallmark of the Occupy movement was its commitment to open, consensus-based decision-making. “This is what democracy looks like,” its supporters proclaimed.  Anyone could attend one of the Occupiers’ general assemblies and block a proposed decision if they felt that it violated an ethical principle. Of course, this made it difficult for assemblies to agree on policy demands, manage life in the Occupy camps, and condemn vandalism by fringe elements. Many sympathisers quit the movement out of frustration. Some said that Occupy’s problem was actually too much democracy.

But was Occupy really what “democracy looks like”? To answer this question, we need to be clear what democratic politics is really about...
It was this conception of democratic politics that the Occupiers rejected. The movement believed that it would be possible to achieve social transformation without really engaging with groups or individuals who had power to help or hinder its cause. One of its most prominent philosophers, David Graeber, said that the movement refused “to recognize the legitimacy of existing political institutions.” This was not merely a swipe at politicians corrupted by Wall Street. It was a rejection of the entire political order, including many people who were prepared to work with Occupy because they sympathised with its goals or simply found it politically expedient. “We don’t need politicians to build a better society,” boasted an Occupy Wall Street website.

Indeed, Occupiers had a habit of alienating potential allies. When Occupy Denver was asked by the city’s Democratic mayor to choose a representative to negotiate about policing of their camp, its general assembly responded by electing a dog. When Representative John Lewis, an icon of the American civil rights movement, asked to address the general assembly of Occupy Atlanta, he was blocked by an Occupier who objected that “no singular human being” was entitled to special treatment. “They were rude, they were hostile,” Atlanta’s Democratic mayor complained to National Public Radio about the Occupiers. He shut down the camp two weeks later.

Occupy’s relationship with the labour movement was also difficult...
This hostility to messy deal-making was also evident inside Occupy itself. The consensus model that was used in assemblies gave an assurance that no Occupier would be required to bend principles because of membership in the movement. The universal right to veto was defended as a core element of anarchist philosophy. But it could also be described as an application of the principle of consumer sovereignty within the realm of politics. As they say at Burger King, you could have it your way—even if this promise crippled the effectiveness of the movement as a whole.

Supporters called the Occupy model “pure democracy.” Indeed it was pure, in the sense that it reduced the need for horse-trading with adversaries and fair-weather friends. But because it was pure, it was not democracy.
Occupy failed, at least in its original incarnation. But the movement cannot really die because the conditions that created it have not changed.

So do it again. Do it better. My suggestions:

1) NO FUCKING "CONSENSUS" DEMOCRACY! That "consensus" bullshit is a loser idea foisted on the progressive movement by spoiled brats and spooked-up infiltrators. For decades, lefties have driven me nuts by insisting on that one ultra-shitty notion. It never works for very long.

Consensus is always undemocratic, because it gives an unfair advantage to college-aged whiners who love to talk all night and don't have to work for a living because Mommy and Daddy are paying the bills. Real democracy means that the votes of 50-percent-plus-1 suffice to win the day. Yes, the majority will often vote for things that piss you off. Suck it up. Keep articulating your views in a calm but steadfast manner. Next time, your vision may prevail.

2) You need leaders. Leadership is not a bad word; anarchy is an obscenity. Gandhi, Malcolm X, Margaret Sanger and JFK were all leaders. If and when leaders fail, replace them quickly. When your point man (point person?) falls, the next soldier moves into place.

3) Engage the Democratic party. Do more than that: Take over the party, seat by seat, district by district, argument by argument, day by day -- the way the teabaggers took over the GOP.

4) Presume that everyone who tells you to follow another playbook is a Republican ratfucker. In particular: Presume that anyone who insists on consensus is a Republican ratfucker.

5) Identify libertarianism as the enemy. Our problems were caused by libertarianism; more libertarianism is not the solution. The goal is a return of what I call New Deal Normal.

6) In the end, you won't get unicorns. But you will get improvement. Got a problem with that?
The emergence of cell phones, I-tablets, I-pods, and so on, have created a rift between the ages.

NBC cancels their most popular show, Harry's Law, because too many older people watched, and goes younger and dumber and more meaningless, aka reality TV on on overdrive.

The occupy movement showed massive signs of ageism, and sexual tension as well. Younger protesters were trying to connect with other protestors, older people were just not that important to them.

When the SEIU tried to infiltrate the occupy movement, they were buffeted. If the financed SEIU can't infiltrate, how can a family of four, about to be unfairly ousted from their home, catch the eye of the occupy movement?

Occupiers seem to be more interested in one day or two day occupations when it involved saving someone's home. Declare a temporary victory, and then they would move on!

No mention of unfair credit card interest rates soaking up all spendable income was ever mentioned by the occupy movement, even though americans have lost 40% of their wealth over the past few years.

If americans have lost 40% of their wealth in the past few years, than incentivizing the paying down of credit card debt is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING that can be done to empower people who have debt.

I attempted to contact Occupy Los Angeles and be a blogger, they were non responsive. I was protesting outside of Chase Bank back in 2009, well before Occupy, yet I'm not good enough to be an occupy blogger?

Ultimately, most protest groups cliques, and once they do, they are no longer a true movement for the people.

The occupy movement was about protecting the future of the young, not saving the middle aged or elderly from fraud and theft.
The New Deal Normal is a unicorn.
Mark Ames has an excellent post on how the left sold out labor, on the site today. Think that kind of ties into this occupy movement thingy.

I couldn't agree more. Taking back the party from the inside is the only way. Thom Hartmann has been preaching this for a long time. He's right. You're right. Local party politics. Bottom up. Get invested.
moshe, we rode that unicorn for forty years. Time to get back in the saddle again.
The Tea party worked because:

1] They have been unwilling to compromise, threatening Republican destruction when the didn't get their way [clearly they were coached in this by their wealthy benefactors].

2] The extreme right wing [ERW] has some FABULOUSLY wealthy benefactors willing to spend the big bucks, the "left" doesn't have anything close.

3] The "left" had the original "Tea Party". The republicans did NOT set out to destroy the Tea party, in 2004, 2006 and again 2008, DNC type Democrats, systematically destroyed, backstabbed and replaced all who where attempting meaningful change.

If I had a surefire method of forcing retreat of the Democratic party's extreme right wing [ERW]'s that are now the mainstream, I wouldn't reveal it here. But I know, returning to pre 2006/8 tactics...which is what Maher is suggesting...won't work.
Pulled from NC's comment yesterday on the "left" betraying the Left. This was in response to a "leftest" saying that union members supported the Viet Nam war and therefore he's been seeking their downfall ever since. The quoted article shows that wasn't true. One can presume the man was was well born, raised to hate unions and in need of an updated excuse that did not identify him as a child of privilege.

"Let’s set the WABAC machine to the early sixties…BEFORE the Viet Nam War was an American occupation.

"In the 1960s, a significant number of American Leftists gave up on the revolutionary potential of working class people. Following the lead of Herbert Marcuse, they shifted their attention to students.”

"the New Deal so thoroughly incorporated the radical agenda that the Communist Party USA…endorsed New Deal programs with unbounded enthusiasm. Three decades later, working class people were regarded by many radicals as rock-headed bigots solidly in support of a hopelessly racist and imperialist system."

"In the 1960s, a significant number of American Leftists gave up on the revolutionary potential of working class people. Following the lead of Herbert Marcuse, they shifted their attention to students…how could one convince the workers to rise up and overthrow a system which was benefiting them in real and material ways? The dominant angst of the era shifted from a proletarian angst…to an angst afflicting the middle and upper middle classes and the intelligentsia. Radicals were set adrift and when the civil rights movement became the dominant cause, what progressives saw on the other side were white workers. When the Vietnam war heated up, what they saw again were white workers opposing them."

That was there excuse however the facts don’t concur with that fable;

“According to polling information from the late 1960s, most Americans were highly ambivalent abut the War and among working class Americans, the symptoms of war weariness were particularly acute. Working class people should have, therefore, joined the peace movement in droves, but they didn’t. Although workers, because of their ambivalence and because they were bearing a disproportionate share of the cost, were predisposed to support an end to the war, they were not particularly eager to join forces with peace activists. Rosenberg, Verba and Converse comment:

"The delight which some radicals on the fringe of the peace movement have taken in baiting the conventional virtues and relatively simple world understandings of Middle America have closed many minds. These displays of contempt may have been important in providing the radicals with emotional thrills or a stronger sense of moral superiority over the less well educated, but… the price to the cause of peace in terms of mass support has been high."

- Philip S. Foner, US Labor and the Vietnam War (NY: International Publishers) 1989 Part 1 of a review by Jacqueline R. Smetak
The next left/center movement should focus on two tiers -- a national campaign for jobs and tax/income reform and a state-by-state strategy to elect progressive Dems to state legislatures and governor mansions. Go for the least resistant ground first -- the northeast, the West Coast, plus the Midwest blue and purple. Bring in unions (who r enraged post-Walker), trad Dems, liberal faith-bases and soccer/waitress moms everywhere plus blacks and Latinos. In other words, a grounds-up Obama campaign without Obama or the Dnc. Maybe a new Occupy 2.0 will emerge that actually will try to change America, not the semiotics debate at Yale.
Yes, Joseph, the Tea Party "took over" the Republican Party - but they did so in the aftermath of one of the most sweeping electoral defeats in modern political history.

It'll take a similar level of humiliation to weaken the current Dem hierarchy enough to make a restructuring possible. The White House, DNC, DSCC, and DCCC currently hold all the cards and all the money. In my state (Colorado), they've relentlessly crushed any statewide leftist candidates in the primaries. Nobody's going to push the party to theft from the inside until the corporate bagmen are brought low.
Worth a read:
Also worth a read:
A most brilliant grassroots campaign, the details of which almost no-one is aware of:
From the Introduction: "Twelve Men in a Printing Shop": "Strangely, in a city where it seems that on almost every block a famous event or resident is commemorated by a blue and white glazed plaque, none marks this spot. All you can see today, after you leave the Bank station of the London Underground, walk several blocks, and then take a few steps into a courtyard, are a few low, nondescript office buildings, an ancient pub, and on the site itself, 2 George Yard, a glass and steel high-rise. Nothing remains of the bookstore and printing shop that once stood here, or recalls the spring day more than two hundred years ago when a dozen people -- a somber-looking crew, most of them not removing their high-crowned black hats -- filed through its door and sat down for a meeting...."
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