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Occupy May Day: Not Your Usual General Strike
April 3, 2012 8:15 PM   Subscribe

The U.S. Occupy movement has called for a general strike - or something like it – on May 1. May Day.
Most Occupy May Day advocates understand that a conventional general strike is not in the cards. What they are advocating instead is a day in which members of the “99%” take whatever actions they can to withdraw from participation in the normal workings of the economic system -- by not working if that is an option, but also by not shopping, not banking, and not engaging in other “normal” everyday activities, and by joining demonstrations, marches, disruptions, occupations, and other mass actions.

Organized labor won't play a major role in it. Will the precariat?
posted by Snerd (216 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
*off to submit an ask off request*
posted by drezdn at 8:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems suicidal.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:21 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


not shopping, not banking, and not engaging in other “normal” everyday activities,

What if (like for me) not shopping and not banking ARE your "normal" everyday activities? How will anyone notice?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


The truth path to economic justice for the 99%, is probably not to be found in, and I'm just spitbballin here, a plan in which only the 1% transacts business in a given day.
posted by timsteil at 8:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is really weakening the term "general strike". Don't call it a general strike when it's just a day of protest. There's not going to be a general strike if the unions say there isn't going to be a general strike. I think this is collectively-egotistical of OWS. May day is going to be historical this year, that's for sure, but not because there will be a national strike. I'm a fan of OWS but I don't think they should weaken their words calling for a general strike. Under-promise and over-organize, not the other way around!

Also, M1GS, I read as MGS1.
posted by fuq at 8:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


With a general strike planned for May 1, Occupy is looking for new ways to organize the under- and unemployed
Oh, I'm sure there will be lots of unemployed taking the day off!

the problem with strikes is that they only work when labor is scarce. With mass unemployment, it doesn't work as well -- which is one reason why it's better for employers to have a higher unemployment rate.

A one day break from shopping banking would be about as useful as those 1-day random "gas boycotts" people thought would help lower the price of gas. Of course it won't do anything if just do the same thing the next day.

Also, if you over-promise and under-deliver, it makes you look weak.

What they ought to do is organize another "bank transfer day" thing. Moving money to credit unions was a great way to get publicity, and at the same time a simple step that actually mitigates the problem.
This is really weakening the term "general strike". Don't call it a general strike when it's just a day of protest.
Could have called a "general consumer strike"
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


A proposal: Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year. Then go ahead and complain all you want.
posted by latkes at 8:28 PM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


In addition they will be demanding a new ending to Mass Effect 3.
posted by Artw at 8:28 PM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


and the poster I designed is starting to turn up in places

Welcome Spring.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 PM on April 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


This will be about as effective as not buying gas on any given day to protest high gas prices and pretty much proves the occupidiots have become almost as irrelevant as the teabaggers.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


All the same, May 1st seems like a good day to spend with the family.


the problem with strikes is that they only work when labor is scarce. With mass unemployment, it doesn't work as well -- which is one reason why it's better for employers to have a higher unemployment rate.

Why do you keep repeating this line delmoi when it's historically counterfactual?

Many of the most important organized labor actions in US history were during the height of the Great Depression, when unemployment rates were historically high.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [32 favorites]


A proposal: Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year. Then go ahead and complain all you want.

What? I can't say an idea is a bad idea if I haven't done some other unrelated activity?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:32 PM on April 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


This seems suicidal.

That seems hyperbolic.
posted by blucevalo at 8:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


A proposal: Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year.

I bitched on the internet. With considerable style and passion.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


As someone who has been involved in protests of one sort or another since about 1967, the significant piece of this was that this "general strike" has a hash-tag. There is some power in that. During the next month, the power of the net could, if managed well, have a significant impact. We didn't have that back in the '60's, we couldn't communicate like this.

so... for the naysayers.... if you want to defeat this effort, be honest enough to admit it, otherwise, get out of the way.
posted by HuronBob at 8:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


There's not going to be a general strike if the unions say there isn't going to be a general strike.

Unions aren't allowed to participate in any strike that isn't directly against their employer. General strikes legally cannot use the traditional labor union structure to organize. Something else needs to be done. And that something else has to be available to people who don't have access to the protections of unions. What do you suggest? I'm going to go and strike and protest on behalf of people who can't, because that's all I can do as someone who is unemployed. What are you going to do?
posted by Garm at 8:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year. Then go ahead and complain all you want

I've been organizing tenants full time and also volunteering at a union and worked the NYC homeless count and when I have the time I help OWS but I also go to school for social work in addition I'm volunteering at the HOPE conference this summer so maybe you should check yourself before you wreck yourself son.
posted by fuq at 8:35 PM on April 3, 2012 [31 favorites]


and I'm also not going to be at work May 1st. Feel free to leave me a message I'll get back to you as soon as possible thanks.
posted by fuq at 8:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unions aren't allowed to participate in any strike that isn't directly against their employer. General strikes legally cannot use the traditional labor union structure to organize

The point at which legal doctrine arose around the "valid" use of strikes was a sad day. People might not have the codified legal right to withdraw their labor, but that doesn't mean it's not an ethical, historically important option. After all, the enemy has been getting away with illegal practices since Adam was a boy.
posted by Jimbob at 8:37 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


OWS has surprised me before; I wouldn't write this thing off just yet.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:38 PM on April 3, 2012


A proposal: Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year. Then go ahead and complain all you want.

That proposal can blow me. If something is dumb people will say it is dumb, whether or not they have been doing "social justice movement" work recently or not.
posted by Forktine at 8:39 PM on April 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


not engaging in other “normal” everyday activities, --- I think I'm all ready to participate. Refreshing Metafilter over and over probably can't be considered normal, no matter how you slice it.
posted by crunchland at 8:39 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


members of the “99%” take whatever actions they can to withdraw from participation in the normal workings of the economic system -- by not working if that is an option, but also by not shopping, not banking,

I don't know how noticeable non-participation is going to be on the day of the month on which people's paychecks get deposited and when welfare checks arrive.
posted by desuetude at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


This strike reminds me of political action I took eighteen years ago.

In the eighth grade I sent a letter to Yuri Andropov telling him that I would be protesting his boycotting of the Los Angeles Olympics by completely ignoring him for a period of three weeks. He never did respond -- and I don't think he was impacted too much by my ignoring of him -- but he did die a month later.
posted by flarbuse at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


and the poster I designed is starting to turn up in places

Nice! Here's a closeup.
posted by Snerd at 8:43 PM on April 3, 2012


the poster straight on
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 PM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


They could promote sick-outs and work-to-rule as well. I remember these being a common feature in my childhood.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


We didn't have that back in the '60's, we couldn't communicate like this.

Thanks, capitalism!
posted by anigbrowl at 8:44 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


so... for the naysayers.... if you want to defeat this effort, be honest enough to admit it, otherwise, get out of the way.

I'll just be completely apathetic about it, if that's okay with you.

No one is really going to strike on May Day, but I do expect a new round of OWS protests starting up shortly now that the weather is better.
posted by empath at 8:44 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been organizing tenants full time and also volunteering at a union and worked the NYC homeless count and when I have the time I help OWS but I also go to school for social work in addition I'm volunteering at the HOPE conference this summer so maybe you should check yourself before you wreck yourself son.

That's wonderful! I was writing my comment before I even read yours - didn't hit "show" (preview). Wasn't directed at you but attempt to address the various armchair critiques that generally occur in metafilter threads about activism.

Also, I'm not a son. (:
posted by latkes at 8:46 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


"No one is really going to strike on May Day"

Explain that to me. This is what you believe? This is what you hope? This is your precognition?
posted by HuronBob at 8:49 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


the poster straight on

Nicely done. Where can I get one?
posted by bongo_x at 8:52 PM on April 3, 2012


"No one is really going to strike on May Day" is even sillier than "everyone will strike on May Day."

Some people will strike, there will be demonstrations, there will be surprises, it'll be interesting. I can't guarantee that M1GS will be a huge success, but I wouldn't bet on it being a failure, either.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:52 PM on April 3, 2012


Metafilter: Nobody has health insurance because privatized health insurance is way more expensive than single-payer healthcare! Corporate lobbyists are ruining democracy in America and giving more rights to those with more money! Crazy right-wing conservatives are telling women what to do with their own bodies! Strip-searching is now legal on your way to jail even if you're not suspected of hiding anything! The government has is tracking you via your cell phone and you can check how much $ it costs! A black teenager was shot to death via an aggressive neighborhood vigilante and the shooter isn't even in custody!

Metafilter: Protesting will do nothing! No one is really going to strike! This seems suicidal! It won't work! I'm going to be apathetic!

From Wikipedia:
The term [Lumpenproletariat] was originally coined by Marx to describe that layer of the working class, unlikely to ever achieve class consciousness, lost to socially useful production, and therefore of no use in revolutionary struggle or an actual impediment to the realization of a classless society.
posted by suedehead at 8:52 PM on April 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


Nice poster, Whelk -- didn't realize it was yours! I found yours in the N+1 occupy issue and remember really liking it.
posted by suedehead at 8:53 PM on April 3, 2012


Thanks, capitalism!

What? No love for DARPA and ARPANET? No 'Thanks government spending!'
posted by saulgoodman at 8:54 PM on April 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


This is what you believe? This is what you hope? This is your precognition?

OWS doesn't have the connections with labor or enough nationwide support to have a meaningful strike. It's a hollow gesture that's going to make them look stupid and weak when nobody shows up. So, yes, that's what I believe.
posted by empath at 8:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


the occupidiots

I can't say with any certainty that YOU'RE better than this, but MetaFilter strives to be.
posted by hermitosis at 8:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


We all already look stupid, empath. Aren't you a little sick of that?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


suedehead, I am not completely familiar with the MeFi house style, and members each have their own interpretation and variation of it, but italics after a colon indicate quotes to me.

Could you link to the comments or posts you are quoting from? I'd be very interested to read those discussions.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:56 PM on April 3, 2012


HuronBob: “We didn't have that back in the '60's, we couldn't communicate like this.”

anigbrowl: “Thanks, capitalism!”

I'm not sure how serious this was, but I like to take every possible opportunity to point out that capitalism is not and never has been responsible for the technological revolution and the amazing things we've been able to create for ourselves through science. The greatest innovators of the past thirty years have either been indifferent or outright hostile toward capitalism – and these are not just harmless cranks, these are the people who built the very systems that underlie the internet and much of the other technology we use.

Saying that capitalism is responsible for the fantastic interconnectedness of the world we now live in is like saying that Pope Julius II painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [49 favorites]


In many work places in Denmark, 1st of May is actually a holiday.
posted by WalkingAround at 9:00 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a hollow gesture that's going to make them look stupid and weak when nobody shows up.

What you're actually saying here is that you have no intention to show up, or to try and convince anyone else to, right? So why not just say that? A lot of other people hear about this plan and think, "This is a long shot, but I want to help spread the word and see if we can accomplish this." They see the plan as a challenge, because they're actively working toward something.

By accepting the failure well in advance, before it happens, you get to feel wise -- but you don't risk anything to get that feeling, so it isn't worth very much.
posted by hermitosis at 9:00 PM on April 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


What? No love for DARPA and ARPANET? No 'Thanks government spending!'

Not to mention piles and piles of commie software and anarchist protocol undergirding all that infrastructure.

Various capitalisms and markets are a big part of how the internet became the internet, but that ain't exactly the whole story now is it.

I have a good job that I like. I'll probably still be taking the day off to do something extra that feels participatory or socially redeeming.
posted by brennen at 9:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a hollow gesture that's going to make them look stupid and weak when nobody shows up.

Empath, don't drink the kool-aid.
posted by HuronBob at 9:03 PM on April 3, 2012


I have over six weeks of accumulated vacation days unused. It's not a great sacrifice to take one of them for this. But that's just me speaking for me.
posted by parliboy at 9:04 PM on April 3, 2012


Looks like OWS has a ways to go in winning the hearts and minds of the key demo of people it's trying to enlist before it'll have any effect on the people who they actually oppose.
posted by crunchland at 9:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


What? No love for DARPA and ARPANET? No 'Thanks government spending!'

Twitter is specifically the creation of large corporation. Sure, it runs on the Internet, but it's still the product of a $10 billion corporate entity. Deal with it.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


suedehead, I am not completely familiar with the MeFi house style, and members each have their own interpretation and variation of it, but italics after a colon indicate quotes to me.

Could you link to the comments or posts you are quoting from? I'd be very interested to read those discussions.


I think you just proved suedehead's point. Mefi is disappointingly full of people who prefer academic nitpicking and infighting to actually working for social change. Apparently snide trumps effort and negativity trumps enthusiasm.
posted by binturong at 9:06 PM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


Empath, don't drink the kool-aid.

It was Flavr-Aid, and they didn't do much after they drank it.
(I still don't understand what that cliche is supposed to be cli-saying...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:06 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


OWS doesn't have the connections with labor or enough nationwide support to have a meaningful strike. It's a hollow gesture that's going to make them look stupid and weak when nobody shows up. So, yes, that's what I believe.

What if it transforms or radicalizes the few or many people who do come? What if it's...I know this is really horrible to think about...a fun time?
posted by threeants at 9:07 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where's the harm in reclaiming at least just a single day in the name of slack? Who cares if it's an Occupy thing (and therefore "uncool" to the cool kids)? Aren't you just the slightest bit curious to see what actually happens if everyone (at least, as much as practical) just doesn't show up one day.

Think of it as a mass homage to Bartleby, the Scrivener: On that one day, anyone who has even once considered saying these words just says, in unison, "I would prefer not to."

Twitter is specifically the creation of large corporation. Sure, it runs on the Internet, but it's still the product of a $10 billion corporate entity. Deal with it.

A large corporation [sic] that for a very, very long time couldn't be arsed to explain what it's business model was or how it planned to become profitable, relying largely on the good faith of investors...
posted by saulgoodman at 9:08 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


If not for actually doing something useful it could almost be Occupy...
posted by Artw at 9:11 PM on April 3, 2012


What you're actually saying here is that you have no intention to show up, or to try and convince anyone else to, right? So why not just say that? A lot of other people hear about this plan and think, "This is a long shot, but I want to help spread the word and see if we can accomplish this." They see the plan as a challenge, because they're actively working toward something.

Yes, they're working hard to overthrow the capitalist/democratic system in the US through revolutionary tactics, instead of through the ballot box, and I oppose both their goal and their means of achieving it. I also happen to think it's a dumb tactic that isn't going to work. Is that okay with you?
posted by empath at 9:11 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


And to compare an innovation on the level of scale of the entire internet to a (dependent) innovation on the scale of Twitter in this particular case makes both objects of comparison look a little more trivial in the bargain.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think we can be real and say that calling a "general strike" is not a strategically good idea for OWS and at the same time we can get out on May 1st and remind owners and managers that they need us, we don't need them, and they should govern themselves accordingly.
posted by fuq at 9:13 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh goody, another day where my work will make the media and I'll have to be on lockdown while people scream. I love Occupy. Oh, wait.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:14 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I still don't understand what that cliche is supposed to be cli-saying...)

yep, flavr-aid it was, what a disappointment that I've been wrong all these years..

The cliche... don't embrace the poison that's going to kill you.
posted by HuronBob at 9:14 PM on April 3, 2012


Twitter is specifically the creation of large corporation. Sure, it runs on the Internet, but it's still the product of a $10 billion corporate entity. Deal with it.

Oooh, ouch, maybe a bad example.

"Drinking the Kool-aid" is actually more of a reference, I think, to LSD-laced Kool-Aid dispensed during the 60s.
posted by JHarris at 9:19 PM on April 3, 2012


Man, I called for a general strike against Bush on MeFi in 2007. If you all had listened to my overwrought righteousness, the last four years probably could have been averted.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:19 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Drinking the Kool-aid" is actually more of a reference, I think, to LSD-laced Kool-Aid dispensed during the 60s.

This is completely wrong. It's 100% a reference to the Jonestown incident.
posted by hermitosis at 9:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


Why do you keep repeating this line delmoi when it's historically counterfactual?

Many of the most important organized labor actions in US history were during the height of the Great Depression, when unemployment rates were historically high.
That's interesting, but at the same time you had FDR as president, who would have been pushing for more unionization. You could hardly say the same thing about Obama.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on April 3, 2012


"Drinking the Kool-aid" is actually more of a reference, I think, to LSD-laced Kool-Aid dispensed during the 60s.

No, it is a reference to the Jim Jones event, it has nothing to do with LSD.
posted by HuronBob at 9:21 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was one activist site I saw the other day where they said it could conceivably make a dent into the rulers' thick heads if as many of us as possibly could do so took one year to consciously buy as little as necessary.

That might have a chance of doing something. One day with a small percentage participation ain't gonna do shit.

May 1 2012 - May 1 2013. The year of buying the minimum necessary. If enough people bought into it might make the Great Depression look like a church picnic. One of Goldman Sachs' hedges no doubt is a juicy bet on it.
posted by bukvich at 9:22 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is the best thing to do for people who can't/aren't comfortable with striking but would like to make an impact? For example, I teach second grade. I don't know that teaching my students about organized labor is going to work for me (and frankly, teaching in inner city DC, my kids are already pretty disillusioned about a ton of stuff). What can I do to support this while still going to work to support my students?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


instead of through the ballot box

If you believe that organizing voter registration and information drives is an important thing that the people who make up OWS should be doing, you could try and join them and do it.

It's sort of a self-directed movement. I have lots and lots of good material I could send you for registration and information purposes as well.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


One point: why does it have to be on the long-established Commie Holiday of May Day? Why not on Tax Day (April 16th this year, because the 15th is on Sunday), or Earth Day (the 22nd, also a Sunday, everything falls on Sunday this year), or Arbor Day (27th, another tree-huggin' day) or National Day of Prayer (May 3rd, stop everything and just pray) or Cinco de Mayo (the St. Patricks Day equivalent for fake Mexicans) or Harry Truman's Birthday (May 8th, 'the Buck Stops Everywhere') or May 14th: Dance Like A Chicken Day (okay, bad idea)...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:23 PM on April 3, 2012


If enough people bought into it might make the Great Depression look like a church picnic.

This might not be the incentive you believe it to be.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:24 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


May 1 2012 - May 1 2013. The year of buying the minimum necessary.

Sadly, many people already think (mostly erroneously) that they already do this. I certainly live paycheck to paycheck and spend as little as possible -- but that's not the same as drastically altering my lifestyle to repair and reuse nearly everything I need. It's very tough to look toward people who have already been the most damaged by our economic system and convince them that wondrous changes could occur if they'd cinch the belt even tighter.
posted by hermitosis at 9:27 PM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


There was one activist site I saw the other day where they said it could conceivably make a dent into the rulers' thick heads if as many of us as possibly could do so took one year to consciously buy as little as necessary.

What do you think a recession is?
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not even active in Occupy and I've already requested May 1st off. The more cynical attitudes expressed here make me sad for the kind of future my son and daughter will inherit--one in which people just don't make history anymore but leave that up to The Deciders of the world. Reading up on the history of organized popular movements in US history, it's hard not to come away with the conviction that, from an historical perspective, we look like the most easily cowed, most exploitable, fractious, and milquetoast population of Americans ever to bear that name.

That's interesting, but at the same time you had FDR as president, who would have been pushing for more unionization. You could hardly say the same thing about Obama.

Obama pushed pretty strenuously for card check (as usual, many in his party didn't care to follow his lead that far to the left). Maybe he didn't push hard enough, but he was pretty much alone in pushing for it at all. Hopefully, he might still push harder. Either way, even without those reforms, organized labor has pretty much always been more active than it has been in recent years--even before the job market crashed.

What is the best thing to do for people who can't/aren't comfortable with striking but would like to make an impact? For example, I teach second grade. I don't know that teaching my students about organized labor is going to work for me (and frankly, teaching in inner city DC, my kids are already pretty disillusioned about a ton of stuff). What can I do to support this while still going to work to support my students?

You could teach the kids a unit on the historical context of the Freedom of Assembly and other related rights in the Bill of Rights and then lead the class into a discussion about about how great it is that we live in a country that wanted to enshrine those rights in their founding charter to ensure they would never be abrogated or taken for granted.

You can skip teaching them the depressing parts about how often they have been abrogated and taken for granted.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:30 PM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


"What is the best thing to do for people who can't/aren't comfortable...."

And there is the sad part. There is nothing in social/economic/political activism that will be/should be "comfortable". I understand, I do, that it isn't easy to participate, that it puts you in a difficult postion, but that is how change happens
posted by HuronBob at 9:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am happy to take May 1st (and tell my various employers why). I'm lucky to be in a position where this isn't likely to jeopardize my employment situation or diminish my prospects. I would like to think I'd still do it even if this was uncertain.
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 PM on April 3, 2012


"Empath, don't drink the kool-aid."

Obviously he hasn't.
posted by Ardiril at 9:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I understand, I do, that it isn't easy to participate, that it puts you in a difficult postion, but that is how change happens

Yeah, it's tricky...there are times I do things that are uncomfortable for me but I think one of the problems with strikes is that a lot of the time you at least feel like the people getting screwed over are the wrong people; if I'm out for a day the people it affects the most are my kids and the rest of the teaching staff, the very people I want to support.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:35 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see any point in long term economic sabotage. The point of a thing like this is to show big numbers. Usually, I'm opposed to symbolic protests without specific aims, but sometimes it's good just to flex the muscle and show that it's still possible to really mobilize masses of people. That might not work out in this case, but then, that won't be the fault of the people who take the day off and just spend the day being human and socializing with their families, friends and loved ones for a change. Would that be such a terrible outcome even if nothing else were accomplished?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:35 PM on April 3, 2012


What can I do to support this while still going to work to support my students?

You could approach from a mathematics perspective, and unpack what the talk about "the 99%" means. You could also have them draw or create different types of charts (pie, bar, etc.) which illustrate the unequal distribution of wealth, then discuss what the graphs reveal either through talk or solo writing.

Rethinking Schools might be a useful resource in planning.
posted by Wulfhere at 9:37 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I propose Max ATM Withdrawal Day!

to occur simultaneously with the new holiday, Muggersgiving
posted by zippy at 9:38 PM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


You don't think your kids could benefit from a little rest and time with their families, Mrs. Pterodactyl? Is one day off of school really going to hurt them that much?

One thing I'm coming to appreciate more and more as a father with a 5-year old son in kindergarten is you guys really work kids hard nowadays compared to when I was in public school. Especially the young kids. He's already spending most of his days doing workbooks, fer chrissake! In kindergarten! And to make it worse, they're too easy for him (and so even more boring) and are making him hate school, and in general, be a much less happy kid than he used to be.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 PM on April 3, 2012


> What do you think a recession is?

Have you looked at the AAPL financials lately? Nobody needs an ipad an iphone an ipod an imac or the competitor products. All of that economic activity is discretionary spending. And if enough people discretionarily didn't spend it, that would get attention. Most of us are voting with our dough for the status quo.
posted by bukvich at 9:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well of course you're gonna be buying the minimum necessary if you're poor because of the economic crisis. The people in charge probably look at Occupiers and go "Oh, I'm positively shaking in my $500 boots at the thought of non-violent protests." At some point things are going to get bad enough that violent rebellion is going to be the only option. I was tempted to write "if it weren't for the Black Panthers we'd still have Jim Crow laws" but it seemed a bit of a stretch and probably historically inaccurate, but you get my drift.

This strike will be a good first step, a warning shot. We can see what it does and take it from there.
posted by MattMangels at 9:42 PM on April 3, 2012


Where's the harm in reclaiming at least just a single day in the name of slack?

Ahhh, this is where I have a bit of a problem with the proposal. May 1 has already been claimed for many people in many places.

I feel like the OWS movement is paradoxically both bigger (focused above and beyond "the worker"), and smaller ("wall street" says it all in some ways; much smaller than worker's rights), than international solidarity movements, and I feel a bit icky about attempts to combine it, or leverage these distinct movements for OWS (I understand May 1 is not Labour Day in the US, and connotation may not be so strong there).

May 1 is a date that has a centuries-long, important history specifically for workers, worker's rights, and solidarity. There are already many activities and events planned for this day - even in America I have no doubt - and I think they deserve better than to be be overshadowed by OWS rhetoric, which whilst similar, is also different. It would like using March 8 as a platform for a "mother's" campaign or something, because it's International Women's Day.

I find the whole OWS evolution an interesting one, and in some respects uniquely American (or at least, its iteration in America is unique). It seems braced on that uneasy conjunction of reactionary populism and advocacy/activism. I sometimes find myself wishing it would fall a little heavier on the advocacy/activist side of the spectrum. Though there are certainly fabulous examples of civil disobedience and popular protest effecting real change (e.g many aspects of the Civil Rights movement), I also think you can achieve much working within the system as without - where's the OWS party etc?

Then again, I have the luxury of saying this from the relatively healthy democracy of Australia, not the hobbled, decrepit beast citizens in the States must try to ride.
posted by smoke at 9:44 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you believe that organizing voter registration and information drives is an important thing that the people who make up OWS should be doing, you could try and join them and do it.
Obama pushed pretty strenuously for card check (as usual, many in his party didn't care to follow his lead that far to the left).
And... that compares to FDR how, exactly? He tried to get one bill, failed, and gave up for the rest of his term. No doubt, healthcare was a big deal but so far that's been his only accomplishment. If you looking at which president is more pro labor in terms of views, it was probably FDR.

If you look at effectiveness it's not even close. Obama hasn't accomplished anything.

Anyway, it's actually somewhat beside the point. Organized labor was able to do well in the 30's because there was broad political support for them, particularly from the president, but also congress and the democrats in general. Today, that's not even close to the case.

Have you looked at the AAPL financials lately? Nobody needs an ipad an iphone an ipod an imac or the competitor products. All of that economic activity is discretionary spending.
You do realize that AAPL sells products all over the world, right? Not just in the U.S?

Other then that, the key point though is that they are a luxury company like Dolce and Gabbana or Versace. No one needs a PC who's case has been milled out of a solid block of aluminum. They make a huge profit per unit on the iPad, iphone, etc. that's why they make a ton of money.

The whole issue in this country is income inequality. The rich, who buy Apple products are the ones with more discretionary spending. Poor people who buy cheapo netbooks are the ones who are getting shafted.

It isn't like the unemployment rate is 90%. There are still lots of people who have nice jobs and can afford nice things.
posted by delmoi at 9:48 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't think your kids could benefit from a little rest and time with their families, Mrs. Pterodactyl? Is one day off of school really going to hurt them that much?

It's not really up to me whether or not the kids come into school, and in the school where I work a day with their families might well hurt them; we already have huge attendance problems and their reading levels are SHOCKINGLY low. Any break from routine is devastating for a lot of them and for a number of my students I appear to be the only person on any given day who tells them that I love them so yeah, I do try to be there as much as possible.

Sorry for being so defensive, but YES I make my kids work hard (or try to, there are a lot of social/emotional issues and challenging backgrounds in my class) so that they can learn something. There is ENORMOUS pressure put on teachers and it's great for your son that he can manage his work well (and I agree that lots of workbooks are not the best way to educate people) but it's not that way for everyone. For a lot of my kids one day off IS going to hurt them and it's hard for us to get subs (no one wants to sub in our school) so if I'm not there they'll probably be put in another classroom more or less at random for the day OR one of our Special Ed teachers has to sub for me and s/he can't teach his or her own students for that day. It really is a big deal. I'm not trying to make this thread a referendum on education but for a lot of people, not just teachers, their work really IS important and it's not just a matter of taking a day off.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:51 PM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


where's the OWS party etc?

You mean like a political party? With all due respect this makes me think you don't know much about America at all. The system is designed to work with only two parties.
posted by MattMangels at 9:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Point is, delmoi, there are lots of historical counterexamples to your claims about labor unions not having any power during periods of low employment. It's not the employment rates that are the deciding factor, it's the popular and political support that makes unions powerful or not.

The iPad thing is just meant to make people who own consumer goods feel dirty and ashamed of themselves. It's not even a point worth noting in passing, much less addressing. And actually, a lot of lower income earners buy them too, because they offer so much relatively cheap entertainment value. If you can scrape together a couple of hundred bucks for a refurbished iPad, you've got a device that can distract you from just about any amount of political and economic disenfranchisement right there in your hands, and it's hard to put down.

But it's a lie to say that means everyone endorses or is complicit in the status quo, in the same way it was a lie when George W. Bush denied being accountable to the growing complaints of the American people in his second term because the "accountability moment" had passed with his second election.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


March is a better protest month. March!

The first of May sounds weak. May I?
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:56 PM on April 3, 2012


Up twinkles, Mrs. Pterodactyl.
posted by crunchland at 9:57 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is ENORMOUS pressure put on teachers and it's great for your son that he can manage his work well (and I agree that lots of workbooks are not the best way to educate people) but it's not that way for everyone.

The point is he's a freaking kindergartener! Do you know what kindergarteners had to do when I was in school? Play games and cut paper and color and socialize. Learn to love school and see it as primarily a place to develop social skills. The only criterion we had to meet to "graduate" to the first grade was to know our own home phone numbers and addresses. My son has to be able to write a complete original paragraph to move to first grade.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I digress. I'm sorry to hear your kids have difficult, unstable home lives. I personally believe that's directly related to the demands our current economic systems place on working and middle class communities, so it's a shame you're caught in that bind.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:00 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I digress. I'm sorry to hear your kids have difficult, unstable home lives. I personally believe that's directly related to the demands our current economic systems place on working and middle class communities, so it's a shame you're caught in that bind.

I think this is an interesting point and I'm going to take it to MeFi Mail so that I don't keep derailing the discussion. If anyone else wants to hear my opinions, feel free to let me know (not sarcasm -- God knows I have more opinions than people willing to listen to them so I'm always happy to be asked what I think).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:03 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


With all due respect this makes me think you don't know much about America at all. The system is designed to work with only two parties.

What? I'm happy to be corrected if wrong, but that's specifically untrue.

You have a two party system - so does Australia, so does the UK, and a tonne of other places, too, but none of that precludes other parties from taking a sizable chunk of the vote at times and/or forcing coalitions etc.

Is there something I'm missing or unaware of?
posted by smoke at 10:08 PM on April 3, 2012


The UK has a three-party system if I'm not mistaken. And yes, it's theoretically possible for a mainstream 3rd party to emerge in the U.S., but if were actually possible it would have happened by now.
posted by MattMangels at 10:13 PM on April 3, 2012


Parliamentary systems work much differently (and much better) in terms of accommodating third parties than our legislature does.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there something I'm missing or unaware of?

Well, I think it's closer to the truth to suggest that the US has evolved a system which really only allows two parties.

It is an extreme rarity in American politics for a third party to take a sizable chunk of the vote, and coalitions really are not a very meaningful concept here. (Your average American probably does not really understand what's meant by the term in the context of parliamentary systems.)
posted by brennen at 10:18 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Drinking the Kool-aid" is actually more of a reference, I think, to LSD-laced Kool-Aid dispensed during the 60s.

No, it is a reference to the Jim Jones event, it has nothing to do with LSD.


Don't fight, kids, you're both right.

Drinking the Kool-Aid, Wikipedia: The basis of the term is a reference to the November 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where members of the Peoples Temple were said to have committed suicide by drinking the Kool-Aid drink laced with cyanide.

The expression has also been used to refer to the activities of the Merry Pranksters, a group of people associated with novelist Ken Kesey who, in the early 1960s, traveled around the United States and held events called "Acid Tests", where LSD-laced Kool-Aid was passed out to the public (LSD wasn't illegal in the U.S. until 1966).

posted by caryatid at 10:19 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You are mistaken: there are many more than three parties in the UK - just in parliament itself, let alone actually running, and neither the UK, nor Australia, nor the US has a democracy built to accommodate a particular and only a particular number of parties.

Now, we can debate the hows and whys of why all these systems evolved into ones that promote a particular number of parties and what the likelihood is for the future success of different parties and perhaps even different models - and on preview I totally acknowledge and agree with to sir with millipedes' general point - but that's a very different discussion to saying that the system was designed in a particular way that prevents it, and therefore there's nothing meaningful to be gained from party politics in a protest movement.

There are many parties that holding governments and seats that have roots in protest movements. Labor parties are the obvious ones, but Green parties have done this much more recently, for example.

I find myself somewhat bemused to hear that forming a party to effect political change through the mechanisms such change is typically effected is a lost cause, but calling for a general strike and camping out on in a park is the best basket to put the eggs in (not that there's anything wrong with camping out per se, as I called out in my first comment).
posted by smoke at 10:26 PM on April 3, 2012


where's the OWS party etc?

You mean like a political party? With all due respect this makes me think you don't know much about America at all. The system is designed to work with only two parties.
posted by MattMangels at 9:55 PM on April 3 [+] [!]


from what I can gather, Occupy is emphatically uninterested in being part of conventional representative democracy / political party processes in any country (except perhaps to abolish the conventional system and its underlying norms and ideals entirely), so the question of whether the US system is designed to be limited to 2 major parties or not is moot for their development of a political vision
posted by Bwithh at 10:27 PM on April 3, 2012


smoke: It escapes me at the moment, but I think there's some very well-known poli-sci wonkery out there that claims to demonstrate why the US system is uniquely biased toward being no more than a two-party system. I believe this is considered a settled matter among poli-sci types. But in any case, according to Wikipedia, it has to do with a combination of state and federal election laws, our first-past-the-post winner-take-all election system, and various other factors.

Ah--there's the piece of poli-sci wonkery I was thinking of, right there in the Wikipedia article. It's called Duverger's law, and basically, it accounts for why, in the absence of reform, the US will never have successful third or fourth parties.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:46 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are the 1% allowed to withdraw as well?
posted by michaelh at 10:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The last time a serious third party emerged in the US, the Republicans in the middle-early 1800s, it didn't take long for it to replace the weaker of the two parties preceding it, the amusingly-named Whigs.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:00 PM on April 3, 2012


Here's a more entertaining protest
The iPad thing is just meant to make people who own consumer goods feel dirty and ashamed of themselves. It's not even a point worth noting in passing, much less addressing.
Someone brought up AAPL's financials as an example of the market going well, but I was pointing out that they are doing well because they are a manufacturer of luxury goods, that is to say they have a really high profit margin. The stuff that goes into an ipad doesn't cost any more then the stuff that goes into a cheapo netbook, but the iPad costs a lot more, that extra money explains why apple's share price and market cap are so high, compared to companies that make similar products.

Apple had accumulated something like 100 billion dollars in cash. They recently announced they're going to be doing a dividend payout and stock buyback. Rather then use that money to create jobs and design innovative new products (here or even anywhere in the world), they're just going to hand that money over to wallstreet. This certainly isn't a problem only with apple, every high tech company that accumulates a lot of money needs to eventually give that money to wallstreet eventually, where it can bad the pockets of millionaire and billionare bankers.

Recently they've been putting pressure on Amazon, which is already profitable, to start increasing their profit ratios. It's not enough to just offer a product, keep people employed, and make a decent profit: they demand a huge profit.
The UK has a three-party system if I'm not mistaken. And yes, it's theoretically possible for a mainstream 3rd party to emerge in the U.S., but if were actually possible it would have happened by now.
It has happened before, they were called the republicans. What happened is we regressed back to a 2-party system, the system can be upset. Of course, we had a civil war around the same time, so perhaps the pressures involved need to be pretty great in order to upset the balance.

But the point is not that it's realistic to have a multiparty system under the current system, but rather we should try to change the system.

The reality is the problems our country has are baked into the structure. In order to have major change, the structure itself should be reformed. Just voting for one group of centrists over the other isn't going to change anything.
from what I can gather, Occupy is emphatically uninterested in being part of conventional representative democracy / political party processes in any country
I'm not sure if this is meant as a criticism or just an observation, but OWS is opposed to the financial industry. The financial industry has spent 473 million dollars on lobbying last year. In the 2010 election cycle they spent $62 million on direct campaign contributions.

When money talks in politics, then obviously the people with the most money are going to be able to talk the most. The healthcare industry did spend more, (along with "Misc" which covers a large variety of different types of companies) but the healthcare industry also had a major legislative agenda. Think how much money wallstreet could spend if they were really threatened with being broken up, or whatever?

Unless the system can be changed to reduce the impact of money on politics, the financial system is going to win regardless of who people vote for

(Keep in mind, Wallstreet gave almost as much money to the democrats as the republicans. In 2008 they gave $31,391,931 to democrats, and $31,209,950 to republicans. Almost exactly the same amount, but slightly more to the democrats. Goldman Sachs was one of Obama's biggest contributors. The problem is, if that's where the money is coming from, how can you expect politicians to be sympathetic to your cause?)
posted by delmoi at 11:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather then use that money to create jobs and design innovative new products (here or even anywhere in the world), they're just going to hand that money over to wallstreet.

Probably worth mentioning that even with all of that, they're still accumulating cash faster than they can spend it. They've also made some reforms with Foxconn, in terms of salaries and working hours.
posted by empath at 11:20 PM on April 3, 2012


Yes, they're working hard to overthrow the capitalist/democratic system in the US through revolutionary tactics.

Are they?
This seems to be how the movement is often characterized by people who disagree with them, (it is often followed up by some talk about how they use twitter, and iphones, and also drink starbucks lattes) but I have not heard that much actual anti capitalist talk from the OWS people I have spoken with. I am sure there is some, but it does not seem to be nearly as prevalent as detractors seem to think. I also think the movement seems quite pro democracy.

But honestly I am not part of the movement, I have sent some books, and some pizzas, and one time I spent some time in a crowd, milling around and amusing tourists, but am sure there are some people in this thread who do consider themselves part of the OWS movement. So, hey you guys, are you all against capitalism, and also democracy? And also why do you get to drink a latte if you hate capitalism so much. Capitalism made that latte.

Also "revolutionary tactics" seems to be a sort of hyperbolic and reactionary way to describe protests, and strikes. Those to me seem to be much more in line with "democratic tactics."
posted by St. Sorryass at 11:47 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


beautiful poster, whelk!

If there was a clear logical path toward social justice, there would be an easy method and everyone would just do it. But social justice movements aren't just a single tactic. There are some things that are predictable to function well for fund raising (i.e. annoying mail outs requesting donations) or get you in the news (i.e. media stunt) but these things don't actually build movements.

Life is messy. And social justice movements are some of the messiest parts of that messy life.

You just do your bit. Some parts will be useless, though they seemed like the best idea, ever when you had the meeting. And then some one will do something no one else thought was a good idea and somehow it will tip the balance. And then everyone will scratch their head and think, who knew?

posted by chapps at 11:48 PM on April 3, 2012


I teach second grade. I don't know that teaching my students about organized labor is going to work for me ... What can I do to support this while still going to work to support my students? ... YES I make my kids work hard ... so that they can learn something.

Mrs. Pterodactyl, if I were a second grade teacher I would be excited about using this May Day as a theme for writing, art, reading, music and asking the children what they value -- and about what *really* matters (sharing, being fair, ecology-sustainability, health and so on) - Basically, I'd translate the Occupy message into a 'child version' of why caring for our world and each other is so important.

Some of your students may have even heard about Occupy. They may want to discuss marches and rallies. ('Why do people do that?') If they are inner city kids, they may relate this to MLK and the Civil Rights marches. There may be books on the topic. They may want to see some of the videos. (Makana's song "We are the Many" is beautiful even if they don't understand the words)

It is their right to know that there are still adults out here who have passion for justice and changing the world -- and that they too can be a part of it.

I would march with my dream class -- Yes! I would take them on their own march (even if only around the school) with their own signs ('Make pictures of what you love') -- and drums. We would pass out flowers and ask people to love the world more.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:49 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


May 1 often has events - at least in Canada - that organized labour takes part in. "International Workers' Day" I think it's called. So having OWS out and about might not be want the unions want. Not that OWS is a bad thing, it's just that it tends to be a whole smackload of issues when May 1st is usually about labour rights and trade unions specifically.

BTW it's also the official "you can plant your garden without fear of frost killing all your young plants" day around here. For all you gardeners.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:50 AM on April 4, 2012


Let me know when the occupy movement applies sufficient pressure to get one single Wall St bastard sent to jail. It just proves that leaderless movements always accomplish nothing, even when the task at hand is really obvious and popular.
posted by w0mbat at 1:03 AM on April 4, 2012


Its arguable that the First Past the Post voting system is to blame for the two party control of politics in the UK and US. AV and 2-round systems provide environments where it is less risky for people to vote for a 3rd party as their 1st choice and hence promote the continued existence of additional parties.

I also think 1 May is possibly a bad choice if they were looking to incite a 'global' response given it is already a public/bank holiday in much of Europe and so most people dont'have to work anyway.
posted by mary8nne at 1:14 AM on April 4, 2012


[A couple of comments deleted. Please resist turning this into an Apple thread/flamewar.]
posted by taz at 1:39 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as I am aware, one of the key functions of a strike is to make individuals that demand change visible. Much of the discussion here seems to be about if making individuals visibile to power will provoke change or not.

Yet there is a precursor function to making demands of power, and that would be making individuals and demands visible to each other -- building a community.

Let's imagine there are multiple layers to the experience. The first is basic communication amongst friends. "Are you going to work on 1 May?" Based on the response, the people involved can now begin understanding who is "in" and who is "out" amongst their social group. This is a rudimentary assessment of values.

Once there is a sense of who else is going to be taking part, a subtle identity can begin forming amonst individuals that demand change. Those people that go to work on 1 May would perhaps like to see things change, however they are not prepared to make a direct investment in it. Those people that do not go to work on 1 May have self-identified as part of a movement of people willing to take direct -- even slight -- action toward demanding change.

It was very funny to be in a pub in London where a friend from the financial services industry said: Well, I am glad that's over. It's about time those people went home. I say funny because my reply was: Over? Ha! This is just getting started, are you kidding?

And I remain in that belief. Occupy Wall Street was not the movement. In our accelerated society of chosen ADD, perhaps we are looking for everything to be modular, consumable in bite-sized pieces. Politicians speak in 'sound bites'. Mobile phones are purchased for the next 12, 18, or 24 months. We handle our money and our health on a short-term basis. Corporations think in quarterly profits. Thus, behaviour is adapted to short, discreet events often compartmentalised from a greater meaning.

The class movement and the growing awareness of unfair and often puntative economic and social structures does not lend itself to modular, bite-sized consumption. Occupy Wall Street was the beginning of something that will only come to full form in time.

Experience always preceeds understanding. Experience is an emotional, immediate event. Occupy Wall Street was an emotional, immediate event. 1 May is an emotional, immediate event. Understanding takes more time. Now far away from the 1960s political and social movements, we have a strong understanding of those events. What drove them. What the goals were. How people were mobilised. How the intention and demands of those movements emerged as the movements swelled.

As mentioned in a previous post, if one did not understand the point of Occupy Wall Street, then one is defacto that which is being protested. If one could not come to peace with the lack of demands of Occupy Wall Street, then one is not part of that community. For, Occupy Wall Street was an initial communication, broadcast outward to the population at large. It was a call, not to action, but to identity.

It's very similar to a marketing campaign for an iPhone. You have early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The current iteration of the movements at present are the early adopters. They're not interested in the limitations of the V1 product. They're absorbed not by the function of it, but by its meaning. Early adopters adopt out of belief. And carrying the first iPhone identified the members of that tribe to each other.

As opinions about political action identify members to each other now.

I guess the summary is that it doesn't matter if you go to work or not on 1 May. Meaning nothing is going to change on 2 May, nothing noticable, of course. The result will be another progression of the identity. Those that demand change will identify others demanding change. Those disinterested or even against change, will self-identify those values.

As with a tornado, the most dangerous time is when it is quiet. In the progression of previous revolutions, there was a period of loudness and of protest. Individuals are identified and groups are formed. Then, those groups seemingly disappear. They move from identification to formation and then to action. When power really must worry is when the fevered pitch grows quiet again.

If it's anything like the emotional intelligence demonstrated by financial services thus far, when it grows quiet, there will be a sense of relief. They will not realise that they are in that moment in the eye. And then, the roof will start shaking...
posted by nickrussell at 1:44 AM on April 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


As someone who has been involved in protests of one sort or another since about 1967, the significant piece of this was that this "general strike" has a hash-tag.
So, the revolution will not be televised has a hashtag? I like that.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:48 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


As mentioned in a previous post, if one did not understand the point of Occupy Wall Street, then one is defacto that which is being protested.

I find this sentiment quite repellent in a lot of ways, very inward-looking, very elitist, and kind of bizarre for what is a populist movement. I'm aware you don't speak for every OWSer, that kind of rhetoric makes a mockery of solidarity movements everywhere.

More broadly, I feel like your comment illustrates a confusion between political expression and political action - they're not mutually exclusive, but they don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, either. I think this is a natural facet of neoliberal politics and consumerism, where identity - and individual identity - is paramount.

I also think your comment is really ahistorical, ignoring an incredibly fecund history of protest movements, and specifically leftist movement that have accomplished incredible things at often-terrible price. OWS is the "beginning of something", are you kidding? It's not the beginning, it's not even in the first half of the book.

What it represents is neither especially new or unique, and there are dozens of roadmaps of how to effect political change out there.

I guess this whole "we're outside politics" line that OWS can run with at times really sticks in my craw. It's not outside politics because everything is politics. Politics is just power relations in groups, and if you're outside of politics, you're outside power.

In appropriating May 1, I feel like OWS is taking a history that doesn't belong to it, and in doing so, marginalising and running roughshod over a movement that has done more for democracy and people's rights than it even presumes to - it wouldn't even exist without solidarity and worker's movements because there would be no eight-hour day, no weekend, no minimum wage, no safety standards, no sick leave, no holidays, and no vote. The arrogance I feel lies implicitly in doing such a thing - "oh solidarity didn't work, so we have to do OWS now" - really pisses me off like the good pinko I am.

I know we're all on the same team here, but I can't helping feeling that, without an awareness of the powerful legacy OWS can inherit, it's nothing more than reactionary populism with a leftie colouring. If a call to identity is broad as your ambitions stretch, I despair. Imagine the people campaigning for concrete things like an eight-hour-day hearing that. Outside the system, indeed; just where the system wants you, rest assured.
posted by smoke at 3:26 AM on April 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Imagine the people campaigning for concrete things like an eight-hour-day hearing that. Outside the system, indeed; just where the system wants you, rest assured.
posted by smoke at 3:26 AM on April 4.

Then what exactly can one do when the system itself is totally compromised?
ie say, the absurdity that Unions cannot 'legally' call a General Strike. Its a STRIKE for goddsake, a strike - how can you make it illegal to strike?

And as to OWS having no message - wasn't that just the picture that the mainstream media continued to paint about OWS?

I think Nickrussel is on point. The purpose of these actions is to rally the troops and it is to help people see that they are IN, (or OUT) and in that sense it is entirely about identification. Its not until 'the people' can see they are legion that change will come. (or not, if the actually majority happens to be happy with the status quo.)

These calls are important to help identify whether or not Occupy does in fact have the support of 'the people'.
posted by mary8nne at 3:45 AM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


You don't think your kids could benefit from a little rest and time with their families, Mrs. Pterodactyl? Is one day off of school really going to hurt them that much?

Try tell that to the working poor family who now has to ensure one parent takes a day off work to ensure their kid has someone at home. For people scraping by, a teacher's elective day off does have a real cost.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:48 AM on April 4, 2012


Rather than detailing the ways that OWS is terrible, how about addressing the real problem with this plan:
Organized labor won't play a major role in it.


And why is that, Organized Labor? Do you think the 99% are getting a good deal? Not interested in helping out? What?
posted by DU at 4:22 AM on April 4, 2012


Other strikers - United We Strike

Imagine the SOPA application expanded to cover general consumer actions. The Sinclair broadcasting backdown (in some markets) on Kerry/Swiftboat and now the bankruptcy of AFA foods shows your only vote - where you spend your money - matters.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:58 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


@smoke: I have read your comment several times and I have no understanding of what is in your craw. Does it matter if it gets one fired up?
posted by nickrussell at 5:01 AM on April 4, 2012


May Day? Really? That's a pretty tone-deaf move on Occupy's part, at least as far as the US is concerned. Unless they wanted to hand their enemies even more "Communists!" tar to brush Occupy with.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unless they wanted to hand their enemies even more "Communists!" tar to brush Occupy with.

Bah - Communist is a meaningless label.

Like expecting a modern child to understand how to dial using a rotary phone the modern child doesn't understand the 'communist' label.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:11 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


If OWS is going to make a difference it needs to involve more than just 1% of the 99% it claims to represent. It needs to expand beyond the anarchiststs and Marxists and other anti-capitalists that occupied the parks last year and start getting more of the working poor and other "regular" folks on board. The large majority of disaffected workers and unemployed aren't going to join a movement (in fact they're going to vehemently oppose it) if they see it as just a bunch of unwashed hippies camping in the park and taking drugs and hating on rich folk. Trust me, that's exactly how they see it. And they're not wrong.
posted by rocket88 at 5:29 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Choosing May 1st as a day of action is significant. It indicates a consciousness of origins, and helps educate anyone who looks up the meaning of the day.

Also, why don't the unions call a general strike, too?

If they can be relied on, and should be worked with, where are they now?

In the United States, the AFL-CIO has no interest in revolutionary (or even significant) change.

So one can hardly blame OWS for not working closely with them.
posted by edguardo at 5:30 AM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll be spending May Day flying business class back from London, a trip I will be able to partially write off as a business expense. I shall raise a glass of a fancy pants wine and toast the wonderful country and economic system that has allowed me to successfully work independently for the last three and a half years.

OWS and its ilk will be non-entities by the end of the year. Thank god.
posted by gsh at 5:48 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unless they wanted to hand their enemies even more "Communists!" tar to brush Occupy with.

Who cares what the enemies call you? They are going to call you something terrible. This label even has the advantage that some Occupiers might look up *actual* communism/socialism and learn some good stuff.
posted by DU at 5:50 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, if you're a doctor, do you not see patients on May 1? How do you participate?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:54 AM on April 4, 2012


If you are a doctor, hand out information on single-payer.
posted by DU at 5:55 AM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


In appropriating May 1, I feel like OWS is taking a history that doesn't belong to it,

For the record, in New York, May Day actions are organized by a coalition that includes the major unions (at least the UAW, my peeps, not sure about the AFL-CIO) the immigrant coalitions responsible for some major May Days in the past and OWS. OWS is just making the most noise about things, as they do, but the unions are definitely involved so May 1 is not exactly being misappropriated.

OWS and its ilk will be non-entities by the end of the year. Thank god.

Yeah, after all, after they got booted out of Zucotti park we never really heard or seen from them sense, and nothing about OWS gets talked about in the media so yeah, non-entities by the end of this extremely wound-up election year. Just like the "unions" went away after causing all that worry in the 30s.
posted by fuq at 6:03 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


One point: why does it have to be on the long-established Commie Holiday of May Day?

....Because people still think celebrating the labor movement makes something "a Commie holiday".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on April 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


Being self-employed, I am my own manager, and as I need me, I'll be working. it's hard to stick it to the man, when you are the man.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:09 AM on April 4, 2012


Being self-employed, I am my own manager, and as I need me, I'll be working. it's hard to stick it to the man, when you are the man.

Retool your factory for a day and produce protest!
posted by edguardo at 6:12 AM on April 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Being self-employed, I am my own manager, and as I need me, I'll be working.

Did Not Read The Post.
posted by DU at 6:25 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


May 1st, eh? Hmmm.......
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:35 AM on April 4, 2012


Parliamentary systems work much differently (and much better) in terms of accommodating third parties than our legislature does.

Not really true, given that the electoral math in the House of Commons in the UK and Canada is identical to that in the House of Representatives.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:37 AM on April 4, 2012


Rather than detailing the ways that OWS is terrible, how about addressing the real problem with this plan:
Organized labor won't play a major role in it.

And why is that, Organized Labor? Do you think the 99% are getting a good deal? Not interested in helping out? What?


Organized labor probably thinks that it's more effective operating as a political interest group than camping in public squares.

Occupy Wall Street was a good idea to the extent that it brought up an issue and slightly reframed an issue in the mainstream debate. That's the only purpose it could serve- beyond getting on TV and the papers, OWS does nothing.

The next step should have been direct political action. Mass volunteerism; getting involved in the primaries. Maybe even field a OWS candidate in a Democratic race.

Instead, they offered nothing, except attempts to perpetuate the use of the same tatics. Most of the people who got "mic checked" we people who tried to clear OWS out of parks after two months. Protesting for protest doesn't interest any of the people who need to hear the message.
posted by spaltavian at 7:04 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Organized labor probably thinks that it's more effective operating as a political interest group than camping in public squares.

Which explains why they are so alienated from most real workers and get almost nothing done due to lack of political clout.

OWS may not have the organization and savvy but they have the feeling. Labor seems to be an empty shell. In the long run, I'll take passion which can be educated over knowledge that doesn't seem to care.
posted by DU at 7:15 AM on April 4, 2012


El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:23 AM on April 4, 2012


Actually, my workplace is embroiled in a fairly serious labor dispute right now and we're working with our union (and hopefully some others, if necessary) to improve a really shitty contract offer.

A few weeks ago, there was a protest march about something else outside and a few Occupy kids burst in and started lIterally jumping up and down hollering 'Why won't you let your workers unionize?" [we are unionized]. Then one of them started panhandling a coworker of mine and making obscene gestures when he ignored them. A few of my coworkers are involved in Occupy and they opologized for what one of the described as the 'clownishness' and misinformed nature of the event. Also, local hOmeless are putting 'Not an Occupier' on their signs. FWIW.
posted by jonmc at 7:44 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


This land is your land
This land is my land
&c.

We have the power to take it back. Look at Gandhi and King to see how it has been done in the recent past. The people have the power to put a stop to the Super Bowl. You get two million people standing around the stadium holding hands and singing This Land is Your Land and there ain't no Super Bowl. The people do not want to put a stop to the Super Bowl. They want to watch Vince Wilfork try to bash Eli Manning's head in.

The vast majority of the people in this country seem to like it just the way it is.
posted by bukvich at 8:01 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW.

Your comment isn't worth anything as the actions of a few individuals can hardly be said to be representative of what is a large and diverse group of people. Also, anyone who hates arrested development kinda disqualifies themselves from being taken seriuously. :)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:04 AM on April 4, 2012


A few of my coworkers are involved in Occupy and they opologized for what one of the described as the 'clownishness' and misinformed nature of the event. Also, local hOmeless are putting 'Not an Occupier' on their signs. FWIW.

Yeah, that falls under the category of anecdata. If it happened it sucked, yes, but with a group as diverse and (relatively) unorganized as Occupy it's bound to happen sometimes.

(warning: arm-sweeping generalization incoming)

When a kind of social structure survives for a long time, its place in our society becomes calcified. As its strengths and limitations become known, other structures evolve to respond to it, and it ultimately becomes kind of like when two people are on either side of a door, pushing it toward the other. Eventually, whatever strengths the original structures have become outweighed by those who are fighting against its influence, and an equilibrium is reached; society becomes static as a result, and we end up fighting the same fights over and over.

Protest culture is like this. Ordinary protests don't have as much power to affect change anymore. There were huge protests against the Iraq war during Bush's administration that didn't rate mention on the national news, because it didn't fit the narrative the news broadcasts were selling, and during the 60s they kind of became inured to it.

In these cases, new structures are needed to upset the balance. They're not perfect, no, and sometimes they're brash and obnoxious, barbaric yawps against the deadening ennui of the news cycle. But they have features and qualities that haven't generated evolved responses to them, and that's what makes them interesting and helps them to bypass the regrettable filters that have evolved in our culture, that marginalizes real opinion in favor of sound bites, talking points and entrenched interests.
posted by JHarris at 8:13 AM on April 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how OWS will become potent when it appears to me to be composed of mostly the same folks who couldn't stop the Iraq war.
posted by CincyBlues at 8:14 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was one activist site I saw the other day where they said it could conceivably make a dent into the rulers' thick heads if as many of us as possibly could do so took one year to consciously buy as little as necessary.

Interestingly, when I poke around on right-wing blogs, I often see this same sentiment. It's never clear to me how they intend to make it work, either. More than anything, it sounds like a cry of rage by people who feel so alienated that refusing to buy looks like the only kind of social leverage they have.

Theoretically, I guess, a refusal to buy anything by enough people could bring down a government or disrupt an economy, but then what? Join us! And make the Great Depression look like a picnic!" isn't exactly a rousing slogan.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anecdata or not, I was trying to illustrate through things I've actually seen, how this supposedly populist movement seems like it's going out of it's way to alienate people. But hey, I guess that's worthless.

Anyway, dont shop at my store till we get a good contract. I'll let you know when.
posted by jonmc at 8:21 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"As mentioned in a previous post, if one did not understand the point of Occupy Wall Street, then one is defacto that which is being protested."

"I find this sentiment quite repellent in a lot of ways, very inward-looking, very elitist, and kind of bizarre for what is a populist movement. I'm aware you don't speak for every OWSer, that kind of rhetoric makes a mockery of solidarity movements everywhere."
... and #OWSers wonder why non-#OWSers have so much difficulty figuring out what the basic message is.
"OWS is opposed to the financial industry."
Wait. Flat-out opposed? This is a new one. I always thought #OWSers were just trying to get a bigger slice of the capitalist pie.
posted by Ardiril at 8:33 AM on April 4, 2012


Organized labor probably thinks that it's more effective operating as a political interest group than camping in public squares.

Which explains why they are so alienated from most real workers


Anything to back that up? I certianly didn't feel that way when I was in a Union. The union workers I speak to through my spouse's work don't seem to feel that way.
posted by spaltavian at 8:38 AM on April 4, 2012


The vast majority of the people in this country seem to like it just the way it is.

The vast majority of people don't like it the way it is but feel completely powerless to change things. So they do what everyone who feels powerless does: they give in and they look for ways to distract themselves from the sources of frustration that would overwhelm them if they obsessed over them. But I've had enough conversations with a broad enough swath of people to know that, no-way, no-how do most people in the US think the status quo is just hunky dory. And there are tons of polls to back that up.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:41 AM on April 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


I didn't say it was worthless. I put it into its social context, which doesn't excuse it, just explains it. The individual Occupiers who were at your hearing may have been in the wrong (probably -- I don't know the details of the situation), but it helps to understand the social forces that pushed otherwise disinterested young people to intrude into your union meeting.

Those social forces eventually find expression regardless of other factors. Democracy was created as a way to respond to them that didn't involve armed response. If it hadn't been Occupy it'd have been something else, in fact it is something else there certainly are other popular movements that are growing, and believe me when I say there are much worse expressions they could have found than a bunch of loud layabouts hanging out in parks and infiltrating meetings.

When there's casual Tea Party talk about revolutions coming, that language is not meaningless. Yesterday I overheard at the bookstore a couple of local kooks talking about the "Oathkeepers", and about how "the day coming" and how the military "will be ready." Because Obama.

(The Oathkeepers I just found out about, and it seems are actually more complicated than I've represented them here. I should probably make a FPP about this.)
posted by JHarris at 8:42 AM on April 4, 2012


JHarris: it wasn't a union meeting, they just ran into the store and did that stuff.
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on April 4, 2012


I am now convinced that they are slackers. They waited until April to start organizing this?
posted by prepmonkey at 9:11 AM on April 4, 2012


Listen to this, skip to the 24-minute mark at Barney Frank's quote. That's why you need to get the hell out into the street, or write a letter, or express yourself in some way that is public-facing or Congress-facing. It's a competition and we're up against people paid very well to compete all day.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:16 AM on April 4, 2012


this supposedly populist movement seems like it's going out of it's way to alienate people

This is what I'm seeing, too.
I embraced the OWS movement when I saw some data that showed, among other things, the drastic changes in real wages for labor and wealth concentration for the rich that started around the 1970s, and continued (and accelerated) through present day. What OWS was fighting for, I was told, was a return to the more equitable and stable capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s, when upper-bracket tax rates were higher and more workers were unionized. It made sense to me, and it should have been an easy sell to the rest of the 99%.
What happened, however, is that the OWS movement was hijacked by anti-capitalists and anarchists calling for a complete and total overhaul of our social and political systems. It became about revolution, and that was much harder for me to publicly argue for and support.
posted by rocket88 at 9:22 AM on April 4, 2012


Listen to this, skip to the 24-minute mark at Barney Frank's quote.

I listened to that ep of This American Life this weekend. I do not consider myself particularly naive about the influence of money in politics, but I was still pretty floored.
posted by Mavri at 9:23 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


What happened, however, is that the OWS movement was hijacked by anti-capitalists and anarchists calling for a complete and total overhaul of our social and political systems. It became about revolution, and that was much harder for me to publicly argue for and support.

If you can't support that, that's too bad, but it is a flat-out lie to claim that anti-capitalists have "hijacked" Occupy Wall Street. OWS was created by, and mostly composed of, anti-capitalists from the very beginning, as the very many first-hand accounts of the its origins will clearly confirm. The fact that you wish it were some other kind of movement doesn't give you the right to claim that "they" stole it from you.
posted by enn at 9:27 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fine, then stop claiming to represent "the 99%". because most of us aren't anarchists.
posted by rocket88 at 9:32 AM on April 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


jonmc: What? What is your workplace? What caused them to look at your organization specifically? (I'm stepping outside the "arguing" posture now and moving into "curiosity.") (And why did I think it was a union meeting? I think I must have got your case mixed up with another comment, or something.)
posted by JHarris at 9:34 AM on April 4, 2012


Fine, then stop claiming to represent "the 99%". because most of us aren't anarchists.

I don't think they're anarchists either.

I do think that anti-capitalists were part of the group from the beginning, but there are serious problems with capitalism that no one is addressing, so having that tag tied to one's ear doesn't disqualify one from consideration with me.
posted by JHarris at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


It a large retail establishment and a well known one in New York. For obvious reasons, I can't be too specific,
posted by jonmc at 9:37 AM on April 4, 2012


Fine, then stop claiming to represent "the 99%". because most of us aren't anarchists.

There is a diversity of opinion among Occupy and there is a diversity of opinion among the statistical 99%. But only one of us is claiming that certain ideologies should be unwelcome at Occupy, and it's not me. It is certainly not the case that 99% of Americans are true believers in capitalism, either.
posted by enn at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


(we're working with Occuprint to get the poster to more people, if it happen soons I'll put a link here)
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The 99%" is a pretty direct label and has nothing to do with economic systems. It has to do with economic realities. Look at any graph of wealth produced in the last, say, 20 years.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


OWS is definitely diverse -- like "... a hundred words for snow ..." and this May Day has been discussed for months now. The day will be observed in a hundred (hundred thousand) different ways in every city. If you don't like the way one near you is shaping up, make your own. If you don't like the 'isms' of the ones who speak loudly, speak up yourself.

The experience of being a part of this is what matters. Make it yours.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:48 AM on April 4, 2012


But hey, I guess that's worthless.

Sorry, I went overboard with the worthless talk. Your opinions and experience are definitely valid, but they are by definition pretty limited(mine too). I guess when I read your comment I took it as you trying to smear OWS, but rather you were just venting your own frustration about your run ins with some assholes.

And speaking of populist movements, my great grandfather was one of the founding members of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota. This is the type of movement that people should try to emulate. Unfortunately most Americans are too propagandized by the media that I don't see this happening anytime soon.

Let me offer some anecdotal evidence of my own. Most of my family members and friends who are tea partiers don't give a rats ass about immigration, same sex marriage, or any other wedge issue. What they do care about is the fucked up and rigged system that we currently are all a part of. The msm has to alienate mass movements from each other using wedge issues because as I said upthread: El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido(The people united, will never be defeated). The powers that be know this which is why you are seeing a rise in authoritarianism(In my opinion). I mean we have a supposedly progressive president who has his lawyers telling federal judges that they can't rule out using the military to indefinitely detain journalists "for reporting, Occupy London for protesting, or the author of a hypothetical book on politics for expressing an opinion, under NDAA sections 1021 and 1022.” If that is not a wakeup call I don't know what is. This is an example of why the OWS and tea party movements are so important. This shit is really happening and if we don't unite as a people and act soon it will be too late.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:49 AM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn't say anyone should be unwelcome anywhere, nor do I think that. What I'm saying is that I'd like to see change happen. Positive change. And for that to happen there needs to be larger numbers on board pushing and voting for that change. I'm not interested in fighting a principled but ultimately futile losing fight. I'll take a real chance at incremental small improvements over a zero chance of total overhaul.
The Occupy movements I saw last year, especially the ones in my town, weren't likely to get those kinds of numbers on board and they really weren't interested in doing so. I went to the Occupy Guelph camp. I talked with many of the people there. They were all - 100% of them - self-described anarchists.
posted by rocket88 at 10:04 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The powers that be know this which is why you are seeing a rise in authoritarianism(In my opinion).

Strong actions invoke strong reactions. Police units are becoming increasingly militarized and city powers have been aggressively preparing for the 'Spring revolution'. Peaceful or not, the protesters will face off with newly equipped and trained military/police forces.

One scenario -- the violence frightens all and wins public support for the squashing of future protests with new laws that tighten the choke on democracy.
Another scenario -- the huge turn out of peacekeeping 'witnesses' reveal and rebuke the violence of the Powers for what it is ... and the people push back.
Other scenarios? Whatever they are, they are just the beginning.

I am remembering Sarajevo this week, and am sobered by the stories of how people there never believed such savagery would be possible in their city - up to the minute that they were imprisoned by daily bombing attacks. They kept going to the music performances and kept believing that the rest of the world would not allow this brutality to continue.

WE are the 'rest of the world.'
posted by Surfurrus at 10:07 AM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The idea of a strike or huge demonstrations is one thing, but for some reason the suggestion that "or you could just spend the day not buying something" feels kind of like....well, remember how Bush told everyone in the first few days after 9/11 thatone way they could fight back against the terrorist was by "going shopping"? And remember how that felt like kind of....weak advice?

Yeah. I mean, I see the logic behind it (and yeah, I see the logic behind what Bush was trying to say too), but as an action, it just feels lazy, kind of like it's one step up from "liking" a facebook survey or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


rocket88, "pushing and voting for change" within the system is not the only way to make change. You seem to think it's the best way; I, and others, disagree. It's not that we're not less informed than you, we're just travelling a different path. Please stop treating us like we're stupid, or like we're your opponents.
posted by cdward at 10:30 AM on April 4, 2012


Strong actions invoke strong reactions. Police units are becoming increasingly militarized and city powers have been aggressively preparing for the 'Spring revolution'. Peaceful or not, the protesters will face off with newly equipped and trained military/police forces.

This, however, is entirely according to Occupy's plans, I believe. A bunch of peaceful people hanging out in a park for days? Yawn. A bunch of peaceful people being tasered, shot with rubber bullets, kettled, and beat up by police while a bunch of thickneck onlookers cheer? Great television. I think the danger with Occupy was that it just just sort of become another part of the background radiation of U.S. life.

The strongest arguments, the most enduring and effective at actually changing deeply-held opinions, are those that you cause people to come up with on their own. Police overreaction is exactly what Occupy is hoping to happen. In the United States there is still a general sense that the country is still "the greatest nation in the world," one that tolerates all forms of speech, the whole line about not believing what you say but standing up for your right to say it, and so forth. This has never been perfectly true, but a lot of people think it's truer than it is. Occupy is demonstrating its falseness with object lessons. You might call that stupidity or you might call it bravery, but those two states were always closely aligned.
posted by JHarris at 10:32 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Four year old pepper sprayed in Santa Monica protest
posted by The Whelk at 10:35 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gosh, there is a lot to read here. Someone summarize. What's the consensus?
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:42 AM on April 4, 2012


Things are fucked up and bullshit.
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 AM on April 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


And we'd all rather argue amongst ourselves than try to do something (however imperfect) about it.
posted by cdward at 10:55 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how noticeable non-participation is going to be on the day of the month on which people's paychecks get deposited and when welfare checks arrive.

Quoting myself seems weird, but I just wanted to clarify:

I'm not saying that people won't be able to resist using their newly-acquired income, I'm saying that it's already hard enough to prove a negative, without picking a transaction-noisy day to do so. There's going to be financial activity in my name on May 1 even if I don't get out of bed.
posted by desuetude at 11:00 AM on April 4, 2012


OWS captured the sentiment of a lot of people, but I'm not sure they are sustaining it. The focus on camping in parks was not terribly meaningful to me. Income equity is spreading; I'm all for fighting it, and happy to take 5/1 off and protest, and not buy stuff. OWS didn't want to define their message, but I think it's time for something more coherent, or it's just street theatre. great street theatre at times, and I support street theatre, but it's not going to change Wall Street.
posted by theora55 at 11:05 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ya my local grocery is noticeably more crowded on the first couple of days of the month.
posted by bukvich at 11:06 AM on April 4, 2012


This is an example of why the OWS and tea party movements are so important. This shit is really happening and if we don't unite as a people and act soon it will be too late.

I wasn't aware that the Tea Partiers wanted to abolish capitalism.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:24 AM on April 4, 2012


I wasn't aware that the Tea Partiers wanted to abolish capitalism.

Did someone say they did? I do believe, though, that when one takes away the msm narrative surrounding the tea party what is left is the same frustration being expressed by OWS. Again anecdotally, many of my friends and family have become disillusioned with the republican party after the last election failed to bring any tangible results. They now see more clearly how the game works as do many democrats; as evidenced by the disillusionment many have expressed here on the blue with president obama. There needs to be some way we can channel this new understanding into a nonpartisan mass movement. The first step is to turn off the tv and treat anything you hear in the msm as a lie. The msm acts itself as a wedge. Look at the kneejerk reactions to all things tea party here on the blue. For the most part those reactions are to msm sources who paint the tea party in such a way as to make them repulsive to any clear headed liberal. I believe that if joe bob tea partier and frank johnson liberal actually sat down and began to discuss the very serious issues facing us today they would have a lot more in common than what you would be led to believe by the msm. I say again: el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


A proposal: Before anyone critiques this action here, they should submit the specific social justice movement work they've done this year.

The proposal is rejected.
posted by univac at 12:09 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, either way, my PTO got approved, so I'm in.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on April 4, 2012


Please stop treating us like we're stupid

Please show me where I did this.
posted by rocket88 at 1:08 PM on April 4, 2012


what is left is the same frustration being expressed by OWS.

What I see among the Occupy crowd is frustration with unrestrained capitalism, by most of them and frustration with capitalism, full stop, by a lot of them. Frustrations with the finance industries, with growing poverty, with the availability of adequate health care are all, as near as I can tell, frustrations which drive the Occupiers. I suppose that some, or maybe more, of the people who call themselves Tea Partiers feel frustrated by those things also but it's safe to say that they don't want their frustrations addressed in the same way.

That is, unless the "msm" has been lying to me about everything and the Tea Partiers really do want a more tightly regulated financial industry, higher taxes on the 1%, and a national health care plan.

anecdotally, many of my friends and family have become disillusioned with the republican party after the last election failed to bring any tangible results.

Oh, it brought tangible results: they campaigned on obstructing Obama at every opportunity and that's what they delivered. Why, I can't understand the disillusion when your friends got exactly what they voted for.

Bipartisan politics is a necessary and honorable practice in a representative democracy; nonpartisan politics usually means that somebody's getting screwed.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:11 PM on April 4, 2012


Yeah, the best middle ground you can hope for is the vague notion that "we still want to fight each other, but we want to be able to fight fair" but then that just starts another fight about what "fair" means and how to get there. One side wants a better class of referee and the other side thinks that even giving the ref a say in the first place is a mistake.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:18 PM on April 4, 2012


"What happened, however, is that the OWS movement was hijacked by anti-capitalists and anarchists calling for a complete and total overhaul of our social and political systems. It became about revolution, and that was much harder for me to publicly argue for and support."

I support OWS, went to protests here in LA, served as a "bail buddy" (luckily for folks who ended up not getting arrested), and think of myself in a general socialist/social democrat political identity.

The antidote within OWS for more radical ideas, at least as far as my limited participation showed me, was to talk to people directly about what I wanted, about what they wanted, and to argue that what I wanted would lead to better outcomes. I don't mind being in favor of incrementalism against revolution — I find revolution a fairly impractical program to pursue, and one that I'm not necessarily in favor of.

I support OWS because I support the conversation they forced Americans to have about income and wealth inequality, and that's what I think the conversation should stay focused on. I understand that many OWS folks disagree with me, but I guess I don't mind being a moderate among radicals.

(It's pretty funny to me how a lot of my friends and coworkers at various jobs have seen me as an establishment stooge, while other friends and coworkers have regarded me as a dangerous radical pushing fringe ideas — my positions really don't change nearly as much as the reactions they get.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:50 PM on April 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


delmoi: Re: increased incidence of strikes during the Great Depression and FDR's role therein. FDR, and the Democratic party in general, were not initially so pro-union or pro-worker. They became that way because of mass movement, such as increased worker unrest and strikes.


smoke: Re: origins of May Day as International Worker's Day. I suspect you already know this given your comments on past posts, but for background for everyone in general, May Day (in part) commemorates what Wikipedia tactfully refers to as the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886. The organizers of the Haymarket rally were anarchists, with ties to the IWW (if I recall correctly). May 1 was adopted as a day of recognition at the congress of the Second International -- that is, an international congress of socialists of all stripes (including communists and anarchists):
In 1889, AFL president Samuel Gompers wrote to the first congress of the Second International, which was meeting in Paris. He informed the world's socialists of the AFL's plans and proposed an international fight for a universal eight-hour work day.[78] In response to Gompers's letter, the Second International adopted a resolution calling for "a great international demonstration" on a single date so workers everywhere could demand the eight-hour work day. In light of the Americans' plan, the International adopted May 1, 1890 as the date for this demonstration.
You see, back then, there was less separation between "Labor" and socialists/communists/anarchists. The split between the industrial union model (eg. the IWW) and the trade union model (eg. the AFL-CIO) of labor organizing and movement was only just beginning to develop.

While in recent history in the US and Canada, traditional trade unions have been the most visible organizers of May Day related events, it has always been celebrated by socialists of all sorts as well. I'm told this is more visible in Europe, for example. Given that (as I see it) one of the points of OWS is to promote a systemic class analysis of capitalism -- to raise awareness that economic power is concentrated in the hands of an economic elite (traditionally called the capitalists), while the rest of us must sell our labor and don't have a lot of economic decision-making power (we're traditionally called the working class, though that term also has cultural connotations that would restrict it to a much smaller segment of the structural working class) -- I don't think it's at all an appropriation for OWS to be celebrating May Day. In fact, I can't think of a better group of any significant, national size to take on that mantle in US society today.


delmoi and smoke and everyone: Re: labor history in the US. "From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend" is a very engaging and elucidating read.
posted by eviemath at 4:20 PM on April 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good overview, except the IWW didn't exist until 1905. (There were similar people & principles at work, though.)
posted by cdward at 4:32 PM on April 4, 2012


rocket88: You're acting as if you have some special insight into the nature of politics that the occupiers don't, when all you really have is a difference of opinion.
posted by cdward at 4:39 PM on April 4, 2012


"The focus on camping in parks was not terribly meaningful to me. Income equity is spreading; I'm all for fighting it, and happy to take 5/1 off and protest, and not buy stuff. OWS didn't want to define their message, but I think it's time for something more coherent, or it's just street theatre. great street theatre at times, and I support street theatre, but it's not going to change Wall Street."

That's cool, you should definitely contribute your vision, brainstorming, and ideas for helping to change Wall street directly to the OWS movement then. (That was not sarcastic and the following is not directed at you.)

There's a lot of "they" and "them" going on in this thread. I'm all for self-reflection and critique (as are most of the members of the working group(s) I participate in- I can't generalize since I'm not familiar with most of the other 130-160 working groups- but self-critique of the movement and actions is far from being in short supply at the meetings I attend) but at a certain point I start feeling like some of the criticism is an extension of consumer-model politics. Saying, in essence, "OWS needs to market to me better" doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that the speaker is interested in doing any of the hard, messy, and unglamorous work that any real, progressive change would entail.

"Can someone explain to me how OWS will become potent when it appears to me to be composed of mostly the same folks who couldn't stop the Iraq war.


Was this a question asked in good faith, or rhetorical snark? I honestly can't tell. Either way I a bit bemused though by your othering of "folks who couldn't stop the Iraq war"- I guess you don't identify with them. To answer your question- you're probably right, there is likely a very large segment of people active in OWS who marched in the streets against the war and among those who showed up to protest the war, a subset of fully committed activists who tried every conventional tactic in their arsenal. There's this phenomenon called adaptation and learning that, if you were to give the intellectual capacities of most of us involved in OWS the benefit of the doubt, you might consider would inform the movement's future strategies.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:31 PM on April 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


The May 1 part is the suicidal part. There is a lot of opportunity to pull in people from both the left and the right. Align yourself with May 1 and you are a communist. Poof. There goes much of your mainstream support.

OTOH, maybe communism is cool and no one cares. Maybe it is better to associate this with May 1 than Ramadan.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:19 PM on April 4, 2012


Eh, I say good on them for picking Mayday, OWS gets a lot more sympathy from the general public than most progressive movements get these days, and at the end of the day they're still saying a lot of things that resonate with the average American in some way, why not leverage some of that social cachet to just own it when they call you a socialist. The meaning of the word has been changed before, and you can take the venom out of it again by being unafraid of the label. See also: "taking it back".

There will never be another successful progressive movement in America if the American left treats their own names as insults. Socialist, progressive, leftist - own that instead of fighting with the right over who gets to call themselves "moderates", as if sacrificing who you are to own that term gives you legitimacy. At least the right knows how to cater to the middle with one hand and unashamedly push that Overton Window with the other, and it's a technique worth learning.


tldr shying away from the socialist implications of Mayday would be so, so dumb
posted by jason_steakums at 8:28 PM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fine, then stop claiming to represent "the 99%". because most of us aren't anarchists.

Are you a believer in the neoliberal economic policies endorsed by both major U.S. political parties? How many working Americans would endorse them if they were aware of their content? How many do you think would endorse an anarchist position like "people who work in companies should own them, and make decisions democratically"?
posted by phrontist at 8:45 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


How many do you think would endorse an anarchist position like "people who work in companies should own them, and make decisions democratically"?

Not many. I have plenty of anarchist-esque sympathies myself, but I'd never delude myself that it provides any meaningful connection to the majority of Americans. And the pieces of anarchism that OWS has borrowed (including the endless meetings) are not perhaps anarchisms more useful offerings.
posted by Forktine at 8:59 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many do you think would endorse an anarchist position like "people who work in companies should own them, and make decisions democratically"?

Hardly any. That is not the path to get mainstream report, which was one of the original public goals of OWS. This is what the "be proud when they call you socialist" contingent here is missing. This was not originally marketed as a revolutionary movement.

You're not just falling into a stereotype when you threaten to smash the system; you're stranding a lot of the people who gave OWS its initial mainstream support.
posted by spaltavian at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not just falling into a stereotype when you threaten to smash the system;

If OWS really just wanted to "smash the system," wouldn't they be supporting the Republicans? Isn't that their thing?

FWIW, I personally just want to get back to the journeyman's work of "perfecting the union" rather than dismantling it in the name of some backwards, Medieval notion of progress that puts the materially wealthy at the top of an imaginary pyramid with God at the top.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:27 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you a believer in the neoliberal economic policies endorsed by both major U.S. political parties?

If someone answers no, does that necessarily make them an anarchist?
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2012


Hardly any. That is not the path to get mainstream report, which was one of the original public goals of OWS. This is what the "be proud when they call you socialist" contingent here is missing. This was not originally marketed as a revolutionary movement.

Serious question: Are socialist movements intrinsically revolutionary?
posted by brennen at 12:30 PM on April 5, 2012


Serious question: Are socialist movements intrinsically revolutionary?

In a market-based economy, yes. Even in Europe's social democracies, the means of production are generally in private hands.

More importantly, OWS was not orignally marketed as a socialist movement, either. Populist outrage at cronyism, plutocracy and fraud is not intrinsically socialist, or even particularly leftist. Teddy Roosevelt wasn't a Marxist.
posted by spaltavian at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2012


In a market-based economy, yes. Even in Europe's social democracies, the means of production are generally in private hands.

Then why haven't they had a revolution? This seems like the kind of thing where we're talking about two different meanings of "revolutionary": "of, pertaining to, characterized by or of the nature of a revolution, or a sudden, complete and market change", and "radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc." (source: dictionary.reference.com).
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2012


I think spaltavian's trying to draw a distinction between socialism and social democracy. Europe's governments are generally considered social democracies, not socialist--though they have active nomincally socialist parties that play a role in their parliamentary systems. In America, we refuse to acknowledge there even is a distinction between socialism and social democracy. Most of what Republican pols like to tar with the brush of socialism is actually social democracy. Some people believe that social democracy is just the latest historical form socialism has taken, but that kind of seems to blur a useful distinction to me. The scary socialism is the kind that seizes all private property and means of production for the state; that ain't what they've got in Europe, nor is it what most people accused of being socialist want in the US.

Social democracy was originally encouraged by the West as the last bulwark against communism--in other words, social democracy was viewed as a kind of inoculation against socialism by anti-communists. Ironically, our 'anti-communists' didn't get that memo.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2012


Then why haven't they had a revolution?

Because Europe is still a market-based economy. If the means of production are in private hands- i.e. if there is still rentiers- then you are not socialist.

Some Americans are amenable to social-democratic ideas. They aren't revolutionary; they are just a "softening" of capitalism. Americans usually don't get that, yes, Europe is still capitalist.

Americans are, by and large, not going for something actually socialist like the "people who work in companies should own them, and make decisions democratically".
posted by spaltavian at 6:42 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


spaltavian: “You're not just falling into a stereotype when you threaten to smash the system; you're stranding a lot of the people who gave OWS its initial mainstream support.”

I get the feeling a lot of people criticizing OWS don't actually have any direct experience with it whatsoever; or if they do, they're taking a lot of stuff out of context. I've never heard an OWS person say "smash the system!" and while I'm sure some do, that's clearly not the mentality of the movement.
posted by koeselitz at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never heard an OWS person say "smash the system!" and while I'm sure some do, that's clearly not the mentality of the movement.

A friend of mine acted as the official spokesman for Occupy DC on the Diane Rehm show and other places, and I can assure you that he is a died-in-the-wool "Smash the State" black bloc anarchist who has been going around to anti-globalization protests around the world for over 10 years.
posted by empath at 7:34 AM on April 6, 2012


Well, a friend of mine has acted as a spokesman for Occupy in a major city on the eastern seaboard, and he's the richest person I've ever met. That doesn't necessarily mean he's no anarchist, but he's not. And the number of people who aren't black bloc anarchists in the movement has continuously and constantly been ignored by everyone talking about the Occupy movement. This is something that's bothered me no end.
posted by koeselitz at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine acted as the official spokesman for Occupy DC on the Diane Rehm show and other places, and I can assure you that he is a died-in-the-wool "Smash the State" black bloc anarchist who has been going around to anti-globalization protests around the world for over 10 years.

If he acted as an "official spokesman" then you can be certain that he's not representative of the movement, for what it's worth. That's a renegade act and not in line at all with the OWS movement's core mission and code, which includes a non-violent and non-heirarchical approach. In any way presenting (and therefore misrepresenting) oneself as a spokesperson for the movement is antithetical to this and highly discouraged. Anyone can speak for themselves as participants in the movement, but one of the core tenets is that those people who are given the chance to engage the public via broader platforms (via interviews, etc.) need to be very clear that they are speaking only for themselves and not for the group as a whole.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:38 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


If he acted as an "official spokesman" then you can be certain that he's not representative of the movement, for what it's worth

He usually gets labeled as 'a spokesman'
posted by empath at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2012


I've never heard an OWS person say "smash the system!"

I heard that exact phrase in two different radio interviews. I've also read stuff closer to that direction here on Metafilter. I don't think it's "clear" what the mentality of the movement is at all, either way. But a movement really needs to be mindful of the loudest voices in their own crowd.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2012


Anyone can learn how to facilitate an OWS meeting and do so. You might want to question why media outlets are so eager to label this particular person as the OWS DC spokesperson/ OWS seeekret leeeder rather than any of the other numerous people who have/had been at encampments and participating in the movement from early on. I hear Police Car Defecation Man is an official spokesperson as well.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:55 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But a movement really needs to be mindful of the loudest voices in their own crowd."

How do these voices become the loudest in the crowd though? Seems mostly because they are the ones being broadcast/given wider audiences via mass media outlets, that much is clear. You know who's really "infiltrating" the movement and training potential and current OWS participants in direct action? Scary anarchist groups like MoveOn and their ilk.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:03 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


From empath's link: "radical violent tactics such as the Black Bloc and taunting of police" (emphasis mine).

What?!

Perhaps the Quest for the Holy Grail needs to be re-rated to R for extreme violence?
posted by eviemath at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2012


I said: Are you a believer in the neoliberal economic policies endorsed by both major U.S. political parties?

JHarris said: If someone answers no, does that necessarily make them an anarchist?

Obviously not. My point was that most people don't have any kind of systematic political ideology. Most people "aren't anarchists", but that's because they aren't anything - certainly not liberal or conservative as most members of the political class or academics would understand those terms.
posted by phrontist at 9:36 AM on April 17, 2012


So how's it going?
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on May 1, 2012


From what I can tell, the capitalist system is still grinding people down.
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dow closes at 4 year high.
posted by empath at 2:31 PM on May 1, 2012


Well, if anyone's actually interested, here's a bit of a round up.
posted by latkes at 8:03 PM on May 1, 2012


Here's all 7 parts of Team Oaktown Live's day-long livestream from May Day in Oakland, CA.

Gotta do some video clipping. Got shoved to the ground by OPD while filming an arrest. Was standing right behind Sgt Beevers (sp?) when he pulled a tear-gas grenade and tossed it into the crowd. Was walking down the street late in the evening when an SUV full of cops rolled up on some guy in front of me just standing on the corner, disgorged an OPD "snatch team", and grabbed the dude.

Also saw the biggest march since the Port Shutdowns, kids and adults occupying more than one Maypole, and quite possibly convinced OPD not to chase down and arrest somebody hurling verbal abuse at them by shouting "YOU'RE LIVE AND DIRECT ON THE INTERNET!"

Trippy day. Fucking tear gas grenades before noon suck and I'm gonna be coughing for days now. But I for one and FUCKING THRILLED to see May Day once again celebrated as an American holiday.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:26 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, at least you guys didn't try to blow up a bridge, so I guess that's something.
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on May 3, 2012


I've never heard an OWS person say "smash the system!" and while I'm sure some do, that's clearly not the mentality of the movement.

You've obviously not spent much time around Occupy Oakland.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:35 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


When do we get a top eight most totally wackiest Occupy Camp cracked.com article?
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:33 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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