Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why And How To Strike On May Day
April 26, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Why are we striking? Why should you strike? And, what do we mean by General Strike?

You've probably heard of the General Strike called for May Day by Occupy Wall Street and affiliated groups. For those who want to know what the whole thing is about, or how to get involved, this link may answer some of your questions.

This spring has already seen strikes and other large actions around the world, including in Spain, Portugal, and India. In Chicago, Occupiers have been building up to the NATO meeting with a series of events dubbed Chicago Spring. Local police have been treating the planned protests as an impending natural disaster, warning local residents to evacuate the area.
posted by eviemath (229 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
We were told that the strength of the Occupy movement was that it had no specific aim, no
direct actions other than occupying and making itself visible....that came and went and nothing changed. Nothing. Perhaps a new plan is needed if change is to be brought about. Note that the police nationwide were exchanging information and on top of every city occupied..they knew that one could try to break up protestors or let them simply wear them out and let them alone till the numbers dwindled and then toss them out. Congress and the political folks took little or no notice
and simply assumed things would return to the 99% / 1%.
posted by Postroad at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm torn: I want to support this strike, because I think that workers' rights and wages have been seriously eroded over the last 30 years and this worries/angers me.

But at the same time, I have a lovely working situation with a supportive boss who recognizes my contributions, and I work in non-profit research trying to better the lives of people with disabling chronic conditions, with a focus on employment -- and I have two research interviews scheduled for May 1.

I'm obviously not going to be skipping those interviews - I can do more to better employment by doing the interviews. But how can I support the overall goals other than by ranting on the internet? That last one is a fruitless activity: those who have been studying income inequality and its detrimental effects already know more than I do, and those who aren't already worried about it won't be convinced by me if they haven't already been convinced by the reams of research that income inequality itself has a corrosive effect on society.
posted by jb at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Double.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:33 AM on April 26, 2012


Oh dear, I should have put the stuff below the break up above so that it wasn't the same post!
posted by eviemath at 8:38 AM on April 26, 2012


jb: you could attend a local march or other related event before/after your interviews, to show your support?
posted by eviemath at 8:39 AM on April 26, 2012


Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park, he said. While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2012


So, come next Tuesday, when the economic consequences and public awareness of this "general strike" are minimal, will Occupy finally face up to the fact that it has become a movement of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:42 AM on April 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


So, come next Tuesday, when the economic consequences and public awareness of this "general strike" are minimal, will Occupy finally face up to the fact that it has become a movement of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?

No - the working class will then transform into false consciousness-laden toadies who need to be re-educated by their progressive betters. We've seen this movie before.
posted by downing street memo at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Spokesmen for Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. (C), Morgan Stanley (MS), UBS AG (UBSN) and Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) wouldn’t describe security measures for the protests. One likened commenting to telling al-Qaeda about the bank’s continuity plans.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2012



But at the same time, I have a lovely working situation with a supportive boss who recognizes my contributions, and I work in non-profit research trying to better the lives of people with disabling chronic conditions, with a focus on employment -- and I have two research interviews scheduled for May 1.



Union action should not cost you your job, if it does, it's not serving your interests and the action needs to be reconsidered.

Some of us aren't in a position where we want or need to participate in mass actions that could threaten our job. It doesn't mean that you can't be involved in your own way, but I'll repeat that, I don't think that union actions should ever cost anyone their job.

I sure won't be walking out of my job, and that's the case for the majority of people in North America. That's not a bad thing, even those of us who support revolutionary change have bills to pay, and it won't do anyone any good for us to lose our jobs.

May Day is workers day, not unemployment day. Until the movement has the kind of critical mass and acceptance where everyone can walk out, it's just not wise to put your employment on the line. Do what you can in other areas, if you want to.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, let us ignore the class warfare being waged on us by the richest 1% and perhaps it will go away. Better yet, let us denigrate those who are trying to do something and perhaps our masters will throw us an extra scrap and pat us on the head.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:48 AM on April 26, 2012 [42 favorites]


Kinda think we need a local based movement before we can hope to effect change on a massive scale.

I hate hate hate the overwhelming majority of what the conservative christian right advocates and stands for, but the path they took to achieve so much influence and power was the way to go and frankly the "left" needs to emulate that more. there is absolutely a place for mass protest, and such things should continue to happen, but real change, sea change in the true sense of the word, come about from a lot of basic level work and coordination. 'Occupy' needs to help elect and be elected to school boards, to city councils, small city mayors, state legislatures. And, perhaps there is some push to do that, but all I see is "big headline" actions which seems designed to produce middling results at best.

And that is frustrating, because fundamentally i agree with much of what Occupy supports and advocates for. I just think they are taking so much potential energy and casting it upon the ground.
posted by edgeways at 8:49 AM on April 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


Better yet, let us denigrate those who are trying to do something and perhaps our masters will throw us an extra scrap and pat us on the head.

Come on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


The 1st is also when the rent's due, but you can just tell your landlord that the Revolution's come. (My landlady is an octogenarian Greek immigrant woman. The word 'revolution' would probably give her a heart attack.)
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2012


I think that calls for " the Left needs to emulate the Right's methods" really miss an important point, which is that the means/methods that you use to achieve your goals matter, and in fact have a large role in shaping the eventual results, no matter what you originally envisioned as your goals. Eg., the adage that you can't bomb your way to peace. The methods that the Right have used to build a strong movement have involved propaganda and outright lying to people, violence or threat of violence, disenfranchisement of large groups of people, and concentration of power in the hands of an economic and technocratic elite by whatever means possible. All of these are things that I, as well as many on the Left, would consider highly unethical and directly contrary to the goals of anti-oppression and democracy.
posted by eviemath at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Kinda think we need a local based movement before we can hope to effect change on a massive scale.

This is essentially what the locally governed, independent-but-allied Occupy movements were. I don't really see what you're saying here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so that was over the top, but I just do not understand the hate for the Occupy movement. I really don't.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ironic, given the Greeks have pretty much perfected striking down to a science. Or performance art.
posted by spicynuts at 8:56 AM on April 26, 2012


So when a miniscule number of people strike, the press gets to declare OWS a fringe movement with no popular support. Brilliant.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:56 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the first link: You should join the movement and strike because: everyone else will be doing it and it’ll be fun and empowering.

I can guarantee you that no one I know will be doing it, because everyone I know is either unemployed or doesn't want to become unemployed.

Don’t spend money. Make use of the free resources that will be available through groups like OWS and others organizing alternatives to capitalism.

Um, where do those "free resources" come from? Someone had to spend money to get them unless they're garbage picking. I donated about $100 worth of food and water last fall to Occupy Madison; it didn't magically appear.

You are not a slave, and have the right not to work.

I suppose I have the right not to eat, too.
posted by desjardins at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


So when a miniscule number of people strike, the press gets to declare OWS a fringe movement with no popular support.

Oh, you mean for a change?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so that was over the top, but I just do not understand the hate for the Occupy movement. I really don't.

Because it's a lot easier to tear down what others do than to put your own balls on the line. This is why I don't denigrate Occupy. Because I'm not out there doing anything different.
posted by spicynuts at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


May 1 is my first day of work at my new job, going on strike seems a little premature.
posted by selenized at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]



So, come next Tuesday, when the economic consequences and public awareness of this "general strike" are minimal, will Occupy finally face up to the fact that it has become a movement of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?


I don't see that. Occupy has done more to bridge the gap between popular movements and the labour unions in America than anything else I've seen in my lifetime. That alone is the greatest good the entire thing has done.

They've been working with the support of unions in the states, and up here, I'm seeing more and more unions come out in support of student movements. What's happening in Montreal right now is a huge deal up in Canada, and could easily hold a post of its own.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree with most of what Occupy is standing for, but calling this a "general strike" is a little much. It sounds more like a protest that you have to take a day off of work to go to. A general strike is about fundamentally crippling the labor economy until demands are met, which not really in the same league as this.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


A general strike is a political tool, not a protest against any one specific employer or workplace. Thus, going out on a general strike doesn't necessarily mean that you have any specific complaint about your own employer, for those who are concerned about that aspect of the event.
posted by eviemath at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2012


strangely stunted trees:

So, come next Tuesday, when the economic consequences and public awareness of this "general strike" are minimal, will Occupy finally face up to the fact that it has become a movement of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?

Are you actually unsympathetic to the idea that modern life has a lot of problems related to regulatory capture, moral bankruptcy in politics and business, and a relentless drive to abolish the good that government can do while enriching the extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else, or do you just like being right about cynical predictions?
posted by clockzero at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not involved in Occupy, and they do a lot of things I don't like, but they're doing things. Organizing around May Day and using terms like General Strike is an interesting idea, full of its own dangers and opportunities. I wouldn't have recommended it, but it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

They're doing creative things, new things, and they're pushing back. Even better, they're building connections between groups that didn't have them before, and it has largely been empowering. Every time an action doesn't overthrow capitalism the pundits come out to say, "look, they're not doing anything." But of course, revolutions don't happen over night.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


An extended general strike would indeed be about fundamentally crippling the capitalist system. A one-day general strike is a statement; a beginning. It's being preceeded by many events in many cities (I linked to OWS and Occupy Chicago, but if you search for the web site of your local Occupy, chances are good that there have been some activities ramping up to May Day), and my understanding is that it will be followed by many other events as well.
posted by eviemath at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2012


This is essentially what the locally governed, independent-but-allied Occupy movements were.

What I am saying is they are doing jack-all, except calling for protests. And that doesn't accomplish much, the power is in being represented in government.

Had a nice lady show up at my door step at about 9pm a few months ago (kinda weird being so late but...) collecting contact points for information regarding Occupy activities, alright sure, gave them some basic info.

nothing
nada
zip
since then

Perhaps things are different in other locations, but you know I live in a fairly progressive part of a moderately progressive state and am kinda plugged in to state politics. Nothing significant Occupy-wise going on here, which is either a failure of organization, or a failure of communication. A "general strike" is such an overreach at this point that it is worse than doing nothing.
posted by edgeways at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are they really advocating that we take a vacation day off to be on strike? This smells like slacktivism to me.
posted by deathpanels at 9:04 AM on April 26, 2012


So when a miniscule number of people strike, the press gets to declare OWS a fringe movement with no popular support.

Oh, you mean for a change?


A widely-reported poll from October 2011: 43 percent agree with views of "Occupy Wall Street."
posted by Wordwoman at 9:05 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is the Occupy movement primarily about fraud and abuse within the capitalist system - calling for checks and consequences for those who bring our financial system to a halt - or is it primarily about ending capitalism entirely (such as this blog post's constant calls to seek an "alternative to capitalism" and "halt the flow of capital"?) Because I feel like this is an important distinction. I tend to be on the socialist side of the spectrum, but when I argue in defense of Occupy to various right-leaning friends and I'm not preaching to the choir, I definitely am not telling them that Occupy wants to overthrow capitalism. I'm telling them that the state of things right now is especially bad for young people, that student loans are astronomical, jobs are scare, and the people responsible for the dire situation have been rewarded rather than punished, and the laws that are supposed to keep them in check aren't in place. This seems like a much more productive dialogue to have than the empty revolutionary rhetoric I find myself reading in support of this general strike.
posted by naju at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just do not understand the hate for the Occupy movement. I really don't.

It's very easy to understand. Conservative media (yes, even NPR) teaches us that only conservatives are Serious People.
posted by DU at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I watched Made in Dagenham last night. A lovely movie. Makes you think about fear of losing your job versus forward momentum for change. And then a bit of sadness since all the factory and manufacturing jobs have mostly ended anyway, at least in the US and the UK (As far as I know).

I regretted not taking off May 1st a few years ago when it was explained to me as being a day for empowering immigrant workers (which I was, and am). However, I am off sick today, and don't think also not appearing on the 1st would go over well.
posted by bquarters at 9:09 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Union action should not cost you your job, if it does, it's not serving your interests and the action needs to be reconsidered.

Taking the day off wouldn't threaten my job at all -- that was my point about having a lovely working situation (I can take off whatever time I want, provided I get stuff done). I could reschedule the interviews, which might hurt our study, but it wouldn't hurt me at all.

My point was that I didn't want to reschedule the interviews, because doing them (and thus contributing to the study) is something that I think will help better working conditions.

In fact, the only thing bad about my working conditions is that I get no benefits because I'm on a one-year contract. But my immediate boss has no control over that; she may be my "manager" but as far as human resources goes, she's as much an employee as I am.

jb: you could attend a local march or other related event before/after your interviews, to show your support?

That is probably what I will do, thanks.

will Occupy finally face up to the fact that it has become a movement of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?

I'm not convinced that Occupy does consist of a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from working people.

For one, if intellectual is supposed to refer to academics, it does not appear that academics are much involved in occupy or any other social movement as a class of people (individual academics are, but as a group it's hard to get academics to have a consensus that the sky is blue and (most) cats are furry, let alone complicated political positions). I work every day with academics -- none are involved with Occupy, though several are social scientists working on issues of inequality.

Secondly, Occupy has had a considerable amount of support from the general public, at least as much as similar right-wing movements. It's interesting that obviously elite-supported movements like the Tea Party are described as being the "will of the people" while actually spontaneous demonstrations of thousands of people are suddenly a "small class of intellectuals".

Most working people just aren't politically active - whether through lack of interest, lack of information or lack of time to get involved. That doesn't mean they might not support the positions of Occupy, though sometimes they don't know that they do. It's been long known that if you ask about actual issues, people in North America are much more left-wing than they will self-identify as being. My SO has seen this in person: he was campaigning door-to-door for a centrist candidate, and he'd meet people whose political beliefs aligned with the left-wing candidate, but who said that they would be voting for the right-winger. In our most recent municipal election, lots of people voted for a mayor because he claimed that he was "against elitism" but whose policies are highly elitist -- and some of those same people later were shocked when he wanted to close their local library. They didn't really have full information on his policies: politicians are never going to be clear about their policies when they get elected by soundbites, the media does not clearly articulate the positions of the candidates on concrete issues, and most people do not do the legwork themselves.

This is the reality that makes me fear for democracy, particularly in a mass-media world, and only the fact that it's still better than anything else keeps me hoping.
posted by jb at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you actually unsympathetic to the idea that modern life has a lot of problems related to regulatory capture, moral bankruptcy in politics and business, and a relentless drive to abolish the good that government can do while enriching the extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else, or do you just like being right about cynical predictions?

No I'm sympathetic to all of those things, but just because the patient is sick, perhaps even dying, doesn't mean that I'm willing to throw my lot in with anybody who comes walking down the road claiming they have a cure.

Is anybody on this thread willing to predict that even 1% of the American labor force will participate in this so-called general strike?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be more accurate, I should have said "conservative media, whether 'inherently' conservative or merely owned by the rich etc".
posted by DU at 9:13 AM on April 26, 2012


I don't understand the Occupy hate either They've put the notion of wealth inequality in the forefront of the national dialogue. Months before the Occupy movement I found myself bitching "why is no one paying attention to this?!" on multiple occassions. Now Obama is talking about it, and the unthinkable - there is interest in raising taxes on the rich rather than shying from it.

It is exactly what we need during an election year to shift the debate left and I hope the movement picks back up through the fall.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2012 [28 favorites]


The 1st is also when the rent's due, but you can just tell your landlord that the Revolution's come.

For the purposes of the putative General Strike, I hereby declare an informal waiver on the handing over of rent checks on the 1st. Your landlord is the one depositing the check, not you. There's no need to be pharisaic about it.

I'm in suspense as to how May 1st will play out. OWS has surprised me before, and it'll no doubt surprise me again. My realistic/pessimistic opinion is that it will be loud and interesting, but it won't have nearly the impact of Autumn 2011's events. People will buzz about it, pepper spray will flow like bacchanalian wine, and the media cycle will move on after a day or two.

But again, OWS has surprised me before. I had thought the original encampment was going to be a total bust, and look where that got me.

What's been most interesting about this phenomenon is how the 99%/1% meme has stuck. I really do believe that OWS has shifted the much-vaunted Overton Window. Conservative attempts to reframe the underlying arguments and feelings have not gained much traction.

Ironic, given the Greeks have pretty much perfected striking down to a science. Or performance art.

They certainly love protesting taxes!
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


to throw my lot in with anybody who comes walking down the road claiming they have a cure.

Is anybody on this thread willing to predict that even 1% of the American labor force will participate in this so-called general strike?


Are you willing to predict that, if asked, most Occupy supporters will claim that even a widely-popular general strike is a "cure"?
posted by DU at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2012



Is anybody on this thread willing to predict that even 1% of the American labor force will participate in this so-called general strike?


Do we expect two million people to march the streets on May 1st?

Of course not. That would sure be cool though hey.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:16 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Secondly, Occupy has had a considerable amount of support from the general public, at least as much as similar right-wing movements. It's interesting that obviously elite-supported movements like the Tea Party are described as being the "will of the people" while actually spontaneous demonstrations of thousands of people are suddenly a "small class of intellectuals".

The Tea Party mobilized voters and got their candidates elected.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:18 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Tea Party mobilized voters and got their candidates elected.

Because the Tea Party had behind-the-scenes seed money from some guys with deep pockets and conservative interests.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


a small class of intellectuals with minimal support from labor or the working class?

This is not true.

What I am saying is they are doing jack-all, except calling for protests.

This is not true. At all. Loads of people are working on loads of different projects related to student loan policy, foreclosure evictions, banking regulations; one group within #OWS is working to start a credit union. And lots more. They are doing lots.

Also, hey, everyone saying variants of "I agree with Occupy but wish that they would _____" or thinking that the point is right but the tactics are wrong: the GA is dissolved. You don't need "permission" to do something with Occupy, and almost everyone involved is interested in diversity of tactics. Please come down and suggest it! Or just start doing it and reach out for help. You'll get it.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Union action should not cost you your job, if it does, it's not serving your interests and the action needs to be reconsidered.

Stagger Lee, that's a pretty sweeping and oversimplified statement.

First, there is a difference between "should" and "may actually" that you should understand. Those of us living in at-will employment states may actually (legally) lose their job if our bosses discover why we were absent.

Second, I'd support hospitals who fired emergency responders that did not show up for work this day, as one example. Regardless of the cause*, that is an inappropriate way for them to protest. (*Maybe there's some extreme example out there, but I can't think of one right now.)

--

I'm tired of lame, supported-in-voice-only, symbolic gestures. I support action. I support lobbying, writing one's congresscritters, trying to raise issues to campaign status, and so on, but I just don't see this as a strategy with a fixed, realizable, tactical goal. I could be wrong - I was worried OWS would end up the same way, but it got traction and actually affected our public and political discourse, significantly.

Still, I see this as a PR stunt that will be supported mainly by those who enjoy protesting.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


No I'm sympathetic to all of those things, but just because the patient is sick, perhaps even dying, doesn't mean that I'm willing to throw my lot in with anybody who comes walking down the road claiming they have a cure.

That strikes me as excessively cautious.

All politicians claim that they have this cure, you know that, right? Do you find that plausible?
posted by clockzero at 9:25 AM on April 26, 2012


I do wish they hadn't called it a general strike. Too few people will be willing to risk their job to actually strike, so the criticism that it failed will be easy to make.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:26 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Worth a link
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on April 26, 2012


Still, I see this as a PR stunt that will be supported mainly by those who enjoy protesting.

Yeah, calling it a GENERAL STRIKE -- that reminds me of a Creative Writing workshop back in the 80s where one of the other students had written a fairly humorous piece which was set against a General Strike (the protagonist had some dope to deliver but the crosstown traffic was insane). The Prof, who generally kept his mouth shut about anything but FORM, went off on a pretty severe rant about how there was nothing funny about a General Strike, how short of open war, few collective actions were as divisive, provocative, SERIOUS.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


More not-jack-all things people involved in Occupy are doing:
Setting up solidarity economies;
successfully organizing to get billions of dollars transferred out of the big banks;
working on setting up alternative currencies;
getting Wells Fargo to lock its own shareholders out of meetings;
investigating policing procedures (pdf);
organizing against stop and frisk.

And more.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:33 AM on April 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


The Tea Party mobilized voters and got their candidates elected.

Because the Tea Party had behind-the-scenes seed money from some guys with deep pockets and conservative interests.


I see! There isn't enough support to elect progressives to school boards and city councils, so we will skip that part and have a workers' revolution instead.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't see that. Occupy has done more to bridge the gap between popular movements and the labour unions in America than anything else I've seen in my lifetime. That alone is the greatest good the entire thing has done.

Well, they did at first. Now, not so much:
“It won’t happen,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and one of the first labor leaders to embrace the Occupy movement. “They are not working with the unions in a serious way yet; nor are the unions working with them in a serious way. And it is the wrong strategy.”

[...]

The difference isn’t just one of tactics: Despite public expressions of solidarity, labor leaders say privately that they’ve been frustrated by their inability to build a long-term relationship with the leaderless movement. Instead, they’re beginning to plan a day of protest later this year in support of the right to organize.

None of the union leaders BuzzFeed spoke with said they’d been contacted by occupiers about plans for a strike, a silence that has made the grand talk of a general strike even more puzzling to people whose members are familiar with picket lines.

“A general strike is a very specific thing,” said Bob Master, co-chairman of the Working Families Party and the legislative and political director of Communication Workers of America District 1. “It’s when all the workers in a city decide that they’re not working. It’s not when an outside group says, ‘How about we stop working for a day because we’ve got a set of demands that you weren’t part of formulating.’”
Unless something's changed in the last month, Occupy just seems bound and determined to ignore the framework and processes that labor has prepared over the last several decades because...well I don't know why to be honest. Whatever the reason is, it's stupid and insulting to the labor movement. I mean, they're perfectly OK with appropriating the language, sometimes inappropriately (as "general strike" is here), so I don't see why the unions themselves aren't good enough for them anymore. My guess is that the libertarian strains of the movement have been pushing against the involvement of organized labor for a while, and so while union members were great for generating large crowds in the beginning, they're now disposable enough that they feel good about not including them in major activities like this.

Who knows, maybe they've changed since last month, but I'm not seeing anything that shows that. And my dad, who's working with and for several unions at the moment, doesn't seem to have any connections with them at all, and this is someone who was organizing and protesting OWS-style back in the 60s and 70s. Nor do his younger cohorts, who quite honestly seem baffled by the brush-off.

They've been working with the support of unions in the states, and up here, I'm seeing more and more unions come out in support of student movements. What's happening in Montreal right now is a huge deal up in Canada, and could easily hold a post of its own.

Again, this doesn't seem to be happening in the US, probably because Occupy is relying on clueless people like this guy (also from the article above):
“Frankly there's not enough union people in this country anyway, so even if you made every union person strike, you still couldn’t have everyone not working,” said Jeff Smith, an organizer since the beginning of Occupy.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Also: even if Occupy were actually doing nothing "except calling for protest": GOOD. It's about bloody time.

But they're not. Occupy has always been more of a "demonstration" and not a protest; making manifest in the streets the sort of society they want to exist. To have a place where, to paraphrase Taibbi, for five fucking minutes nobody's trying to sell you anything. Protest against our economic system would in and of itself be a worthy endeavor, and I'd support Occupy even if that's all it was.

But it isn't. Not by a goddamn longshot.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I see! There isn't enough support to elect progressives to school boards and city councils, so we will skip that part and have a workers' revolution instead.

....How are you getting that from what I said about the Tea Party having rich backers?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


So here's my personal list of reasons why you should go out on strike on May 1. Going to protests is usually fun. You hang out with a bunch of people who share a common political belief, concern, or goal with you and get your concerns validated, build community, and get energized to do more stuff - the often hard, boring, and/or frustrating work that makes a movement actually come together. If you feel disconnected and don't have a community of people with similar concerns as you, or don't know how to get involved doing the more important day-to-day movement building work, you can get connected up at a protest. Through talking with other people at the protest, you often get new perspectives. It's also super empowering; if you don't think that individual people can accomplish anything, seeing a large group come together with the same purpose can be an epiphany.

In short, in today's world we've often lost sight of what community looks and feels like, and going to a protest can give you a taste of that, which is actually an incredibly powerful thing.

Also, I'm going to NYC for May Day, so you might see me there, and how awesome would that be? :P
posted by eviemath at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


So here's my personal list of reasons why you should go out on strike on May 1. Going to protests is usually fun. You hang out with a bunch of people who share a common political belief, concern, or goal with you and get your concerns validated, build community, and get energized to do more stuff - the often hard, boring, and/or frustrating work that makes a movement actually come together. If you feel disconnected and don't have a community of people with similar concerns as you, or don't know how to get involved doing the more important day-to-day movement building work, you can get connected up at a protest. Through talking with other people at the protest, you often get new perspectives. It's also super empowering; if you don't think that individual people can accomplish anything, seeing a large group come together with the same purpose can be an epiphany.

These are great reasons to go to a protest demonstration. Why is striking being included as part of that?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a serious tactical blunder. You don't call a nationwide general strike until you are damn sure that you have the popular support required to make it effective. Calling one now, when the movement is marginal, will only serve to make the cause look utterly ridiculous and highlight how out-of-touch its leaders are, undermining its credibility and making reducing support for the movement among those who want to see serious social change implemented in a rational and effective way. I support the goals of the 99 Percent movement all the way, but calling a general strike right now makes the movement's leaders look like idiots.
posted by Scientist at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


I see! There isn't enough support to elect progressives to school boards and city councils, so we will skip that part and have a workers' revolution instead.

The Tea Party got a couple of token people elected. It has spectacularly failed to achieve any of its stated goals and has totally spent its energy in a very short time, provoking a massive backlash which is undoing any of the minor short-term gains it may have achieved for itself. It is a terrible role model for any social movement to emulate.

Here in Chicago we have "progressives" on the school boards and the city councils. It is nothing but "progressives" as far as the eye can see around here. It's "progressives" who are closing clinics and schools and selling off our infrastructure to private investors. It's "progressives" who are gutting public transit and libraries while handing out millions to financial firms just for being so awesome. It's "progressives" who are making it illegal to hold any protest at which every individual sign has not been pre-approved by the city. It's "progressives" who are handing schools over to politically-connected charter school operators who do things like collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in "fines" from students for offenses like cursing and who routinely violate labor law to keep out unions.

I've had enough of "progressives" to last me quite a while and I am fucking sick and tired of electing people who claim to oppose all of the things I've enumerated above and who turn around and support them once they are in office. If I want to waste my time I can think of more pleasant ways to do so than knocking on doors for any more "progressives."
posted by enn at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Kinda think we need a local based movement before we can hope to effect change on a massive scale.

who says we aren't? and by we i mean OWS.

this is a national electoral year, not a local elections year. tactically, "local" doesnt make any sense yet. but that doesnt mean we arent focusing on local. if we weren't there wouldn't be all the different OCCUPY groups across the country.

if you really are interested in getting local with OWS, join a work group and pull up your sleeves because there's a lot of work to be done for next years local elections, especially New York City.
posted by liza at 9:55 AM on April 26, 2012


the movement's leaders

Who?
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]




I see! There isn't enough support to elect progressives to school boards and city councils, so we will skip that part and have a workers' revolution instead.


That's a really weird statement. Apples and oranges. "Why aren't they electing anyone and working through the official channels," seems to be a common critique. It fails to recognize that, for the most part, the movement isn't looking for reform.

Occupy is pushing for systemic change. They're not looking for new leaders, they're looking for new ways of getting things done. That's why there's so much focus on it as a mass movement organized through consensus decision making, and all the flexibility in their goals and agenda. The idea is that the system has failed, and that they can give voice to the concerns of unrepresented people.

At its heart, the entire concept is revolutionary. You don't get that by voting, and you don't get that by working within the labour unions, although that doesn't mean they can't have a working relationship with said unions and politicians.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


All other issues of efficacy aside, OCCUPY has really spawned an incredible amount of armchair tacticians! Odd, considering that the movement has been so focused on open invitations to participate.
posted by broadway bill at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm protesting this protest by going to work.
posted by weinbot at 10:01 AM on April 26, 2012


The problem with revolution is that after it's over, you have to govern. So 'not looking for new leaders' and 'not looking for reform' sounds like 'not having a vision'.
posted by spicynuts at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2012


Since this movement is about sending a message to the corporate world mainly through those fortunate enough to be employed, I suggest a different tack.

I think there should be a day where everyone who participates works at their full capacity for one day. No metafilter, no personal e-mails or frivolous web surfing, work through lunch, show up early and leave a little late, plow through that inbox and voice mails, do all that filing and following up that's on the back burner. Make, transport, build, develop, purchase, and sell product to the best of one's ability. For one day only. Along with a loud and clear message that properly compensated workers with decent benefits who are happy, will work more like this set day than like most others days they show up so as not to starve or be homeless.

Companies will actively be faced with direct financial evidence as to what a satisfied workforce can achieve. They'll see their productivity and returns increase significantly, but with no specific person or person(s) to hold accountable for that continued productivity, so they can't turn to specific people to expect same results unless they change.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2012




The problem with revolution is that after it's over, you have to govern. So 'not looking for new leaders' and 'not looking for reform' sounds like 'not having a vision'.
posted by spicynuts at 10:02 AM on April 26 [+] [!]


You're not looking hard enough then.
Their organization is also a model of horizontal decision making and structure.

To steal from the preamble of the IWW:

"...we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."


The history and organizing style of the IWW has actually become extremely relevant in the last few years, and I think that anyone interested in Occupy might consider giving it a read.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Occupy is pushing for systemic change. They're not looking for new leaders, they're looking for new ways of getting things done. That's why there's so much focus on it as a mass movement organized through consensus decision making, and all the flexibility in their goals and agenda. The idea is that the system has failed, and that they can give voice to the concerns of unrepresented people.

At its heart, the entire concept is revolutionary. You don't get that by voting, and you don't get that by working within the labour unions, although that doesn't mean they can't have a working relationship with said unions and politicians.


This is 4 different contradictions and misrepresentations in one, the biggest of which is that they're some sort of revolutionary concept. There's very little that they call for that hasn't been advocated for by the various left-wing and/or socialist/worker's organizations going back to before the Civil War.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2012


'not having a vision'

There are plenty of visions being discussed. Worker-owned businesses, member-owned banking, breakup of the existing financial system, more (and more and more and more) community organizations, civilian oversight of police departments, and on and on and on.

For real, everyone, OWS is not just hippies banging on drums and sleeping on the street. Go read the letter to the SEC. Please. It's OK if you don't agree with Occupy, but your ideas about what Occupy is are just flatly wrong.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Occupy is pushing for systemic change.

I keep hearing this. What does it actually mean, in terms of things that Occupy could plausibly accomplish?
posted by eugenen at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


zombie flanders I'm not using the word "revolutionary" to mean "new." Everything has a history and context.

Here are some definitions of revolution that should be more helpful:

b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:08 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(sorry, "some of your ideas about what Occupy is"); it's really not just slacktivism calling for protest. It's really not just a small class of intellectuals; it's really not without vision. What it really is is leaderless, and interested in your ideas. Really really.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:09 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey I don't want to dominate this discussion, and I don't speak for Occupy. I think that people should do more research and ask questions, if nothing else the entire debate is really interesting. Sorry if I didn't answer anything address to me, but I'm backing out so that other voices don't feel stifled.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:11 AM on April 26, 2012


So,

- A website that is collecting student load debt stories,
- Some folks who are working on foreclosure resistance
- Collecting signature for closing loopholes in the Volcker rule
- A group that doesn't have consensus is planning on starting a credit union

Tangentially related (including things people have being doing before Occupy and will be doing after)
- Alternate economies
- Alternative currencies
- Neighborhood oversight of police

All of these are good things and I am glad people are engaging in them (I am involved in similar things, and know plenty of people who also do similar things).

I am sitting here in a small city in the upper Midwest and we do most of these things already! Dorthy Day homes just helped forestall and frustrate a local foreclosure, we have multiple CSAs in the area that you can exchange labor for product, there has been an alternate labor exchange for quite awhile. And it is always fantastic to have new people in the system, but hell, saying it is occupy related, or an occupy movement when it has been ongoing, and will continue no matter the state of OWS just seems borderline co-opting. Why is OWS duplicating efforts, or I guess why form a working group when there are already groups doing it? I am guessing that if we do them so do you. they are not occupy related, they are fundamental progressive projects.

As to protest, there have traditionally been massive protests nationally. The Bush years saw more protests then the height of the 60's, lot of activity during Bush Sr and the Reagan years as well, we have been protesting, we have been here.

Perhaps people just need to feel like what they are doing is new and different.

I've pulled up my sleeves and will have them up until they dispose of my body. And I hope when OWS terminology eventually subsides y'all are still by our side doing the scut work, because my concerns about OWS notwithstanding it is good to see people concerned and engaged in some fashion.
posted by edgeways at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am very impressed with the students who walked out of their economics class. That particular class is more than just the required intro-level economics class at one elite university: the professor is also the author of one of the most widely-used economics textbooks in North America.

I did not study economics in university. It wasn't that I had no interest: I went on to specialize in socioeconomic history (social structure, etc) and I have followed proper economic history and historical economics eagerly (market integration, real wages, economic development, etc). But when I was a wee-undergrad, all I knew about economics is that every bit of economic theory I heard bore no relation to my experience of the economy. I regret this now - I wish I had double-majored. But I don't know if I would have been able to stand several years of crap like Mankiw's textbook before I got to the very interesting and informative research going on (like historical economics, behavioural economics) which looks at how economies really do work rather than how some people wished that they worked.
posted by jb at 10:14 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a serious tactical blunder. You don't call a nationwide general strike until you are damn sure that you have the popular support required to make it effective

Well from their statements about it it's clear that while they are calling it a general strike, it's not actually a strike and is rather just a standard protest. So I would say it's more of a naming blunder than a tactical blunder. The original Occupy protests were also more like regular protests than than the phenomenon of a group of rebels occupying a government building, which I assume is what inspired the Occupy name. The difference is that while Occupy in the early days was pretty clearly was not about ousting the government out of a building and keeping it by force, the idea of not going to work for a day to protest is close enough to the idea of not going to work to picket for a strike that they could reasonably be confused.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2012


burnmp3s: "So I would say it's more of a naming blunder than a tactical blunder. "

Hair-splitting by any other name...
posted by gertzedek at 10:22 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with and support the objectives of OWS movement.

I'm not willing to expend any effort or incur any risk on its behalf.

Let me know who wins he revolution.
posted by mule98J at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Because the Tea Party had behind-the-scenes seed money from some guys with deep pockets and conservative interests."

If an organized movement from the left wanted to find deep pockets to fund candidates, they could too - they are all over the place, liberal guilt-ridden millionaires and billionaires in the Arts, Media, Hollywood, Tech, that would like nothing more than the redemption and the street cred that comes with supporting whatever it is that the OWS brand stands for.

But that's too much work - let's just bang a drum on this corner right here and annoy some cops until we get arrested.
posted by gertzedek at 10:32 AM on April 26, 2012


Better to pick one city where you are particularly strong and call it for May 1. Then call another one for a week later in a new city. Builds momentum over time.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:36 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hopefully Occupiers will invade this year's Democratic Congressional primaries. That's where an activist base can really strike fear in the heart of incumbents.

Look at how fear of the religious right, Tea Partiers, and anti-taxers keeps Republicans in line. What we need are more primaries like the one on Tuesday that kicked Blue Dog Tim Holden to the curb in Pennsylvania.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


christ, gertzedek, that is pretty lazy posting there.
posted by edgeways at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I actually expected less snark toward this here. Even from Metafilter, a site that skews heavily toward white, employed, middle-class males from the coastal metropolises.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:46 AM on April 26, 2012


If an organized movement from the left wanted to find deep pockets to fund candidates, they could too - they are all over the place, liberal guilt-ridden millionaires and billionaires in the Arts, Media, Hollywood, Tech, that would like nothing more than the redemption and the street cred that comes with supporting whatever it is that the OWS brand stands for.

Frankly, gertzedek, I'd rather have the deep-pocket-backers exposed. They only got away with it because they hid behind PACs and SuperPACs and such to make it look like they were salt-of-the-earth grass-roots organizations, rather than being the very sort of rich fatcats that even the Tea Party themselves dislike.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


what i see with the naysayers here in Metafilter is typical of armchair rebels : FEAR. because, grock forbid there's an actual social & political movement big enough here in the US that would disrupt the cellulite from their well cushioned behinds.


i blame the baby-boomers for turning dissent into a commodity and selling it as a perverse little tshirt or thong in places like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel. but that doesn't address the fact many of you are adults that can reject that kind of ideological perversion.


it's ok to be afraid of the consequences of standing up to power and doing something about. it's ok to be afraid to lose your job, your house, your family, your freedom, even your life.


just admit you are afraid. admit you have no idea how to stand up and do what these "fringe hippies" you insist in calling us do. admit you're afraid of looking silly. or even better, admit you are absolutely paralyzed by the thought of ending on the receiving end of a baton, looking down the barrel of a gun, thrown in jail or even dead.


just admit the fear. you know why? because every single one of us who never left OWS even after the evictions admit to these fears EVERY SINGLE DAY. then we get over it. then we have to admit to the fear again. and then we have to get over it again.


FEAR is the reason you sit there wagging your finger. has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of OWS. there are about 160 projects being worked on by OWS work groups nationwide and that's not counting all the affinity group projects that have sprung from this movement.


every single occupy has a website. there's NYCGA.net for NYC. we have occupy.net and now occupy.com. you can get information of what's happening locally for you. you can get involved online and off if you wanted. you can reach out to the local unions and community organizations that are participating on MayDay if you wanted to.


but i guess it's more fun to take a dump on one group of people who've taken to heart the "Be The Change You Want To See" (tm) sound-bite of that guy some of us voted for. i mean, after all, your behind won't have to move an inch for you to do so. and you wouldn't have to admit either to your fears.


armchair rebels, i salute you.
posted by liza at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2012 [24 favorites]


Hey, if Fox News hasn't told me about any other constructive activism being done alongside and in association with OWS, it must not exist. I can throw around the "lazy slactivist" slur because I am in no way lazy myself.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2012


liza:

You may be right that fear is keeping a lot of people from supporting OWS.

But shaming people doesn't do a damn thing to help them get over their fear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, there's a why and a how for this, but is there a where? Specifically, Maine. Is there a meetup on the governor's lawn or somesuch?
posted by dunkadunc at 10:54 AM on April 26, 2012


I agree with and support the objectives of OWS movement.

I'm not willing to expend any effort or incur any risk on its behalf.


You expended the effort to type that you supported it, didn't you? Was that so hard? I didn't think so. Would it be much harder to—while staying seated at your computer—move your money from your bank to a credit union or community S&L that offers online services? Or divest your money from the stock market and look up some business in your community to invest it. Maybe then you might consider making the effort to put on some pants and walk down the street with a whole bunch of other people?
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:54 AM on April 26, 2012


But, Liza: if you'd rather hear an admission, then yes, I am not participating in any live demonstrations because of fear.

But that is a fear prompted by the fact that the last time I did participate in a live protest, I was in a crowd next to a black bloc group that set fire to a 20-foot puppet right next to me, nearly getting me burned to death and then nearly getting me trampled in the ensuing stampede.

You have plenty to say about the people who may be afraid of losing their jobs or their lives at the hands of police or the establishment. But what of those of us who are afraid of our fellow protestors? How do we address that?

Because yeah, I'm afraid. I'm afraid that when things like that happen I can't even trust the people who are supposed to be fighting WITH me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who doesn't agree with my particular protest group is a scaredy-cat.
posted by weinbot at 11:01 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Frankly, gertzedek, I'd rather have the deep-pocket-backers exposed. "

You're moving the goal posts Empress. I am concerned as much as you are about the influence of money in politics. But you said the Tea Party was only successful politically because of money, and I told you that if OWS wanted to play that game, and get the dollars to get people elected, it could. But the fact is it won't do that, because it doesn't want to play the game by the rules because they disagree with it. And they don't want to put in the effort to get the rules changed by the process that was defined by the rule of law.

I was in a crowd next to a black bloc group that set fire to a 20-foot puppet right next to me

They're all cops. I heard it on Metafilter.
posted by gertzedek at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work within Occupy, and I really don't like marching and chanting at all and avoid it wherever and whenever possible. There are many way to be involved, and not all of them necessitate marching!

Seriously, a 20 foot tall burning puppet sounds completely terrifying; I'm really really glad you're OK.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:04 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But what can I, as someone who's doing fuck-all to help the labor movement, do to help point out to those who are getting off their asses to do something how misguided and hopeless their efforts are?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:05 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're moving the goal posts Empress.

Actually, I think it's instead that I'm not being clear; let me try again.

I am concerned as much as you are about the influence of money in politics. But you said the Tea Party was only successful politically because of money, and I told you that if OWS wanted to play that game, and get the dollars to get people elected, it could.

The only reason I brought up the Tea Party/money connection was because someone else observed that the Tea Party had gotten its toehold by "acting locally". I was actually offering a dissent to that viewpoint.

Your point about the left also being able to financially support progressive causes is valid, but is actually tangential to the point that I was trying to make -- that the Tea Party wasn't a grass-roots thing after all.

....And I'm not even going to dignify your joke about the black bloc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2012


El Sabor Asiatico: "But what can I, as someone who's doing fuck-all to help the labor movement, do to help point out to those who are getting off their asses to do something how misguided and hopeless their efforts are?"

Indeed. I think we should all give up, roll over and die on our backs like bugs.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:07 AM on April 26, 2012


duncadunc, it looks like Occupy Maine is planning some activities in Portland. I imagine the unions will be doing something in Augusta? Maybe search for Maine Labor Council or similar groups.
posted by eviemath at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're all cops. I heard it on Metafilter.

Pish posh, our noble police would never employ agents provacateurs to provide excuses to crack hippie skulls. oh
posted by entropicamericana at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park, he said. While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together"

God Damned Pinkertons.
posted by symbioid at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unless something's changed in the last month, Occupy just seems bound and determined to ignore the framework and processes that labor has prepared over the last several decades because...well I don't know why to be honest.

Because what they were doing wasn't working. If it worked, there wouldn't be any need for the Occupy movement.

I ran into this constantly at my local Occupation. Professional rabble rousers tried to graft their own agendas onto the movement. This was the moment they'd been waiting for their whole lives, the time when a mass uprising was prepared to accept their leadership. That's why the movement was designed to be leaderless, to prevent this sort of bullshit.

But de facto leaders appointed themselves anyway. I finally quit my local Occupation over a dispute with one of these self-appointed leaders. I discovered an issue, local real estate developers (the 1% in my city) were receiving Tax Increment Financing to enrich themselves buy building profitable projects at taxpayer expense. It turns out that 40% of the entire tax district is under a TIF, and the annual giveaway to the 1% was about $300 Million, equal to the entire school district budget shortfall. The 1% was making themselves rich at the expense of the school system. It was a classic case of Regulatory Capture, the local City government was captured by the real estate developers they were supposed to be regulating. One particular TIF gentrification project stood out, they were redeveloping a low income housing area. Kick out the minorities, raise rents, and the profits go to the developers. A perfect issue to show the public what the 1% is doing to the citizens of this town.

So.. I work part time at the County Auditor's office. I know where all the tax records are kept and how to find out where the money was going. The Tax Assessor was already pissed because TIFs created by the CIty, at a level lower than his County jurisdiction were cutting property taxes and thus reducing his power. I know enough about City Government to know how their TIF process works and where it is vulnerable to public opposition. The State government even had some hearings and a State law was proposed to prevent TIF abuses. Best of all, with a little public attention, I could set the City, County, and State at each other's throats. That would tie up everything. As an individual, I can't do much, but if I could get the government bodies to fight with each other, they would be paralyzed.

Everything was poised for a Perfect Storm to land on the 1%. But no. A local anarchist objected. She said she was already working on this TIF project. She denounced me for sabotaging her project, and said I was too inexperienced at public advocacy so I should leave this project alone. She said that problems of government can't be solved at the government level, they have to be solved at the public level by protests and petitions and marching in the streets, just like she'd been doing so unsuccessfully for 20 years. I protested, the goal was to stop government action and stalemate them, this would be relatively easy. But no, the woman insisted that she would organize people to go door to door and "raise their consciousness." She said if I even did research in the Auditor's records, it would tip them off that she was working on an opposition movement. I told her the Auditor already did the research, he didn't like the TIFs either, he was inclined to support our cause. She said she already did the research, she showed it to me, it was laughably incomplete. I sent her a link to the Auditor's Excel spreadsheet of the entire county's TIF calculations. She told me to fuck off. Her fighting was so vicious, I just left the movement in disgust. Let her fail on her own, without me.

Result: the TIF I was organizing against was steamrollered right over the people in the target area. I argued directly at several City Council Meetings, but with no public support, I only turned the vote on approving the TIF from 7-0 to 6-1. A Pyrrhic victory, I managed to turn one vote, when the Council Member knew one vote would make no difference. The anarchist did absolutely nothing except talk about it to her anarchist friends.

As I have been telling people for months, stop with your stupid ideas about how things have been done in your anarchist, labor, social activism, or whatever fucking group you've been working with for the last few decades. Those ideas did not work. That's how we got to this miserable point, because your methods were ineffective.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2012 [32 favorites]


Sure, I'm afraid. I'm afraid of losing my job (and thus health insurance), of not being able to pay my rent and my various debts, of risking future employment possibilities because I was arrested or my picture was taken at a protest that turned nasty. Am I really being irrational in this economy? Please tell me what to do about these fears.
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


@EmpressCallipygos: thanks for admitting to your fear and am sorry you had to live that here in NYC during the RNC. my youngest was only 4 years old, so at the time my protesting was very targeted --go in, go out, come back the next day. so am sorry you live thru that in 2004.

but that was the RNC. and what am getting is that you're saying OWS is responsible for what happened in 2004. which isn't just odd, but disheartening. you are saying i am, along with a thousands if not millions of people worldwide, to blame for what some idiots did on a march you attended IN 2004. and by a "black block" many believe were NYPD plants, just like in Toronto.

this is what i mean by the OWS naysaying being more about projection than facts :\

as i said, i was here during the RNC and did quite a number of flashmobs. i did quite an amount of de-escalation for our group and i can tell you, the NYPD is rather sly at planting violent agitators amidst peaceful protests because they can't stand the mockery peaceful/playful protests make of their "power".

which bring me to another point: am still amazed at the fact americans still want to argue about political movements like OWS without even taking into consideration the governments active covert involvement in squashing them from the start and that a lot of the effort is spent in dealing with this kind of sabotage and the ways in which it is used as a form of propaganda.

so think about that, because it really doesnt just apply to OWS but to any movement that is truly disruptive of power --even if it is at the "narrative" level if not the structural one.
posted by liza at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "the point that I was trying to make -- that the Tea Party wasn't a grass-roots thing after all"

Yeah, that's not a very good point either. I think that the Tea Party are a bunch of ignorant fuckwads who wouldn't know what's the problem with America if it came and gave them a lap dance[*] but I think dismissing them as manufactured in a lab is silly. They're as grassroots as they come, unfortunately, and that's why they managed to do what they did to the Republican party - because they ultimately represent *voters*, not *donors*. If you listened to the This American Life recent special on the influence of money in politics, it's pretty clear voter power trumps donor power every time *when the voter cares about the issue* (this part is important).

[*] Which coincidentally is about the same thing I think about OWS, with the difference that the shitheads in the Tea Party are at least trying to play by the rules.

"I'm not even going to dignify your joke about the black bloc"

It's only half a joke actually. I have actually seen posts in MeFi discounting black bloc activities as cops acting as agent provocateurs. ON PREVIEW: OH JESUS THIS IS JUST TOO GOOD.
posted by gertzedek at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2012


I went on to the Livestream thing of the occupiers and I managed to convince all the people in the chatroom that the guy operating the camera (that is, the guy who had been operating the camera since the beginning of OWS) was a cop.
posted by weinbot at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


what am getting is that you're saying OWS is responsible for what happened in 2004. which isn't just odd, but disheartening.

That's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm saying that there are valid reasons for wanting to sit out protest, which you seem bound and determined to sneer at. You are saying it is your way or the highway. You are saying that I am either doing things in exact lockstep with you, or I am supporting the other guy.

You are excluding me on the basis of PTSD, basically. And I want no part of that. If marching is the ONLY valid way you will see for anyone to support the cause, then I'm not sure you really understand what OWS is all about yourself.

....And no, you're not "sorry" I had to go through that in 2004. The sneering tone you took taking me to task for letting that scare me off puts lie to your "sorry".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Her fighting was so vicious, I just left the movement in disgust.

That's me ... more than thirty years ago. And over time, how I have come to beware the politically strident -- so convinced of their righteousness they poison everything they touch. No different than religious fundamentalists really.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


desjardins: build a community of people who will provide mutual aid to each other in the event that community members lose their jobs, homes, etc. Maybe your contribution to that community will be to provide the fallback housing, food, and help accessing medical care for others who lose theirs due to their political activities. Maybe having that community to fall back on if you need it will help you feel more comfortable engaging in democratic discourse in your town/state/country.
posted by eviemath at 11:26 AM on April 26, 2012


Whatever it is that we are against, well, I'm with all of you, I'm against it too.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: "As I have been telling people for months, stop with your stupid ideas about how things have been done in your anarchist, labor, social activism, or whatever fucking group you've been working with for the last few decades. Those ideas did not work. "

This is a great story, charlie - thanks for sharing. Pretty much sums up what's the problem with OWS, it's far from the "first they laugh at you etc etc etc then you win" fallacy so many people like to repeat. Sometimes they laugh at you because you're being an idiot. It's that simple.
posted by gertzedek at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


liza: what i see with the naysayers here in Metafilter is typical of armchair rebels : FEAR. because, grock forbid there's an actual social & political movement big enough here in the US that would disrupt the cellulite from their well cushioned behinds.

Fear is correct, but it's the lack of fear on the part of the powerful that's the thing. They have nothing to fear. Protestors can chant, march, wave signs, etc all they want and it wont impede the pursuit of the dollar one bit. When it does, there's a whole legion of enforcers that will swiftly correct the problem. The media will tell the world what to think about it and the status quo continues. The Wells Fargo shareholder meeting protest story linked upthread is a prime example. Apart from slight inconvenience, they were able to carry on business as usual. If they weren't, the cops will gladly bust skulls to remedy the situation.

In short, if you demand the wealthy & powerful to stop and they reply "make me", you're going nowhere if you don't have a compelling answer.
posted by dr_dank at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2012


this is what i mean by the OWS naysaying being more about projection than facts

Someone is doing a lot of projecting, but it doesn't seem to be the naysayers.

Also, just because you don't like capitalism, doesn't mean you shouldn't capitalize your sentences - or is that a form of protest?
posted by Bort at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bort: "doesn't mean you shouldn't capitalize your sentences - or is that a form of protest?"

OCCUPY CAPS LOCK
posted by gertzedek at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In short, if you demand the wealthy & powerful to stop and they reply "make me", you're going nowhere if you don't have a compelling answer.

Hmm. I see where you're coming from, but I feel like this discounts the massive social changes brought on by non-violent resistance (Velvet Revolution, US Civil Rights Movement, &c.). Did those movements have a convincing reply to "make me"? My sense is that resilience was itself the answer.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute, Liza:

my youngest was only 4 years old, so at the time my protesting was very targeted --go in, go out, come back the next day.

So....in other words, you were too afraid to stick around longer because of your child. Why is that more valid a reason to limit protest than my own reason?

....see how that works?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"If an organized movement from the left wanted to find deep pockets to fund candidates, they could too - they are all over the place, liberal guilt-ridden millionaires and billionaires in the Arts, Media, Hollywood, Tech, that would like nothing more than the redemption and the street cred that comes with supporting whatever it is that the OWS brand stands for.

posted by gertzedek

Citation please.

As far as I am aware (see The Cultural Cold War by Saunders), the owners of the film studios worked with the CCF et al to forward their agenda.
posted by marienbad at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2012


I was hiking in Nepal right before a general strike in April of 2004. Word made it all the way out to the villages in the mountains - days from any motorized transportation - that there would be a general strike and that if we wanted to catch our plane, we needed to high-tail it back early to get on a bus back to Kathmandu before all the buses stopped running. To my recollection, nothing was for sale in Kathmandu by anyone during that general strike. The prime minister resigned.

A brief glance online at Nepal's history tells me there was a lot more going on than what I saw, and I don't really understand it. But I do know that Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of money and they were committed to their general strike.

---

The Occupy movement helps fill a need. It helps address ignorance, impotence, and apathy - more people start to have these conversations and ask ourselves important questions. I think that two of the most important aspects of systemic change are certainty that we are capable of creating positive change, and responsibility - to our communities, our society, and ourselves.
posted by aniola at 11:50 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's pretty clear that it's still building up steam. But it's promising.
posted by aniola at 11:51 AM on April 26, 2012


It's pretty clear that it's still building up steam.

For real. Occupy has existed for only seven months. This might take a while.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2012


These are great reasons to go to a protest demonstration. Why is striking being included as part of that?

I was indeed unclear about the connection I was making there; sorry. As someone who will be coming in to NYC from away for the May Day events, I'm focused on the big in-the-street march-type protests. But basically, a strike is one way to protest, just as a street march or a rally or a sit-in are other ways to protest. Since a general strike has a broader political goal, it isn't much use to just stay home from work and play video games all day. For a general strike to get its point across, the people participating have to be outside either in the streets raising their voices, or in their communities doing some community building activities that are notably different from what they would otherwise be doing had they gone to work, and that challenge the current economic and political status quo in some way.

So if marching in the streets isn't your thing, then organize a community meal for your neighborhood, where folks contribute what supplies or work they are able to behind ahead of time, and everyone sits down together as equals for the meal itself. Or get involved in some teach-ins, or organize free community activities for neighborhood kids, or organize a town hall type meeting for your neighborhood. There are hundreds of options for things that you could be doing instead of paid work, that would contribute to building communities instead of supporting the current economic and political systems. Intentionally engaging in such activities instead of supplying your waged labor is the political statement.

You'll notice, however, that getting people in power to change their minds or policies is conspicuously absent from my list of reasons to protest and participate in the general strike on May Day. I don't see that as the point, or at least not the direct or immediate point, of the one-day general strike called for this May 1. Rather, through building communities, we will make it much more difficult for those in power to enact policies that are harmful to the vast majority of people. Psychologically, even people with power are a lot less willing, in general, to screw over a defined group of people than to screw over the same number of unorganized individuals - community is powerful! Also, economic and political systems don't get completely overhauled in a month, or even a year, so this is one step in building up to significant systemic change.
posted by eviemath at 11:56 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because what they were doing wasn't working. If it worked, there wouldn't be any need for the Occupy movement.

Well congratulations on having no historical context of the labor movement a la Jeff Smith from my linked article. The unions not having power is a symptom of the problem, not the cause.

As I have been telling people for months, stop with your stupid ideas about how things have been done in your anarchist, labor, social activism, or whatever fucking group you've been working with for the last few decades. Those ideas did not work. That's how we got to this miserable point, because your methods were ineffective.

This is an excellent illustration of how Occupy (or at least very vocal members) is going about things in the wrong way, and how they're making a mockery of the millions who have taken action before them, out of an over-inflated sense of self-importance. They're so convinced that what they're doing is "revolutionary" (in both senses of the word) that they scoff at any efforts to point out otherwise.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2012


This is an excellent illustration of how Occupy (or at least very vocal members) is going about things in the wrong way, and how they're making a mockery of the millions who have taken action before them, out of an over-inflated sense of self-importance. They're so convinced that what they're doing is "revolutionary" (in both senses of the word) that they scoff at any efforts to point out otherwise.

Worth repeating: "Revolution is the Opium of the Intellectuals"

The movie is O Lucky Man!
posted by philip-random at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders, can you point me to examples of people doing that?

Also I feel like I hear a lot:
a) Occupy has no historical context, because they have an inflated idea of themselves.
b) Occupy should stop trying to place themselves in historical context, because it's laughable (example).

Which is totally not your fault (you've only said the former) but it's... weird. I think the two things together are kind of getting at "Occupy should have historical context and then not place themselves within it, because those other movements succeeded/have worked harder/have existed longer/didn't have any drummers nearby/didn't personally annoy me/what have you."
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2012


Occupy assails Wells Fargo

SF cops back top 1 percent
posted by homunculus at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2012


davidjmcgee I will always laugh at OWSers self-made comparisons with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement because 1) they were way better at everything than you guys are 2) it's an attempt to paint the OWS non-participants as being as morally wrong as the segregationists.

It's like when Dan Quayle compared himself to JFK.
posted by weinbot at 12:34 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever issues I have with Occupy as a whole, as a pro-reregulation finance guy I'm quite impressed with what the Alternative Banking group people are up to. I don't exactly agree with them right down the line (or even part of the way down the line to be honest), but in this little niche they are really doing some good work.

Stuff like this Dear Mr. Pandit: Let's Seize the Moment

and things like protesting annual meetings with real concrete issues - not the usually squidgy ones companies have been able to marginalize for decades - and agitating for the rejection of comp plans at public companies.
posted by JPD at 12:34 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm saying that there are valid reasons for wanting to sit out protest

Who here—or anywhere—is disagreeing with that?

There are lots of valid reasons to sit out this protest, or any protest. That's different from telling the people who aren't sitting it out that they're stupid and wrong.
posted by enn at 12:35 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For a general strike to get its point across, the people participating have to ... challenge the current economic and political status quo in some way.

Included in the suggestions from Occupy about how to participate is the idea that you take a sick day, or lie to your boss in some other way about taking the time off. Fighting the unethical behaviour of the powers that be by unethical behaviour of your own strikes me as counter productive. It also misses the point of a strike, which is to send a message to those powers. Doing this does not come without cost.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2012


Taking a sick day is not unethical.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:42 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who here—or anywhere—is disagreeing with that? There are lots of valid reasons to sit out this protest, or any protest.

It seems that liza disagrees.

That's different from telling the people who aren't sitting it out that they're stupid and wrong.

But it's okay to tell the people who ARE sitting it out that they're either just too lazy to "disrupt the cellulite from their well cushioned behinds" or that they're just chicken, and their support doesn't count?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on April 26, 2012


When you're not sick?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:44 PM on April 26, 2012


1) they were way better at everything than you guys are

I totally agree. I hope we can keep getting better at things. Maybe in the eighth month we'll improve some more. I hope that some day we can get close to being as amazing as they were.

But even as amazing as they were -- and hot damn were they amazing -- the US Civil Rights Movement lasted for thirteen years.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:44 PM on April 26, 2012


I dunno, guys, my job's probably gonna pay me to go march for the queer contingent of labor in our May Day parade. Should I strike and stay home? Mucho conflicto.
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


@EmpressC

let me repeat myself : every single one of us who never left OWS even after the evictions admit to these fears EVERY SINGLE DAY. then we get over it. then we have to admit to the fear again. and then we have to get over it again.

what i do as an activist i do for my children. i dont do it for anybody else but for them. at the end of my life, when am about to give my last breath, i want to be able to go knowing everything i did was to give them not just a better life as in survival, but a better life as in a whole world of possibilities.

if i were to find my inspiration in the people i see commenting in places like Metafilter, i'd have no hope for anything. this place is rife is misplaced anger and despair. but every day i wake up to the faces of my children. and they are at the age now that once i get arrested they will understand and support the why. because they know that what i do as an activist is part of my being a mom.


desjardins asked what to do in the face of fear. it's simple:

get out

meet people

talk about your hopes and fears

find common ground

now act on them

this is what Occupy, which is a movement that comes from Spain & Greece's "Toma La Plaza" (take the square), is all about. TAKE THE DAMN SQUARE AND FILL IT WITH YOUR ISSUES. as long as you stay put and don't take back the commons, whether it is on the internet or on your local park/square/plaza, nothing is going to change.

why do you think sanitation is unleashed whenever there's an Occupy action? it's not for hygiene purposes. they use sanitation as the only deterrent they can get away with denying us free speech. yet it's rather fitting to see "public hygiene" used as an excuse to wash away speech that the powers that be deem as uncleanly for its dissent. i mean, when was the last time you've seen sanitation trucks unleashed on a Tea Party protest? no, you haven't. but anybody who dares question the leeching of Wall Street and their little power-brokers in Capitol Hill ... well.

and to the simple-minded like Bort who believe i hate capitalism: get a life and an education. really. if only so you could at least learn to make a distinction between those who believe an economy involves more than rent-seeking from one source of capital or another.

i mean, FFS, i like money, and contrary to popular belief, i totally believe it can buy happiness. deluded, alienated happiness, but hey, who's taking notes.

what i don't believe in is paying more taxes than GE, having to choose between buying my kid his medication (which costs hundreds) or new shoes, having to defend my family's privacy from the predatory info hoarding of services like Facebook or having to prepare myself for not if but when i get thrown into jail for speaking my mind in this and other public squares. and there's a litany of these that could go for ages. there's really not one thing to really dislike about the current situation in this country to say OWS has to be about just one thing.

if anything, the one thing it has to be is about reclaiming the commons and making sure more and more people participate. and what other way can we show how but by doing. the people sleeping on the streets aren't the only active occupiers neither are the people getting arrested in direct actions.

tech ops, people of color occupy, ocupa a wall street, occupy farms, occupy medics are just some of the work groups extremely active here in nyc. i mean, without tech ops there would be no online presence for OWS. the group actually formed on September 14th, 3 days before the OWS march that started it all. i joined at the end of september/beginning of october. this group hasn't stopped at all. if anybody here in nyc wants to come to a meeting, just MeMail me or hit me up at nycga.net. am liza there too :)

OWS isn't an institution. it's a collective of people who've come together not for a common cause but against a common "cause engine" --because grok knows there's way too many issues out there that are too interconnected for any one to say one has priority over the other. we're here because it's clear that the currect political & economic system isn't working. and that it isn't an issue of political parties but of economic priorities. and that's why the root cause, the systemic failure points to wall street getting away with controlling the way we keep house, aka, our economy.

people often forget that financiers are just a segment of the economy. Yves Smith points out in ECONned brilliantly how right after the 60s there's a distinct shift away from an economy focused on production towards an economy fueled by financial rent-seeking. i can't do justice to her brilliance, so am going to suggest you read it and her blog daily (NakedCapitalism) but the clusterfuck of factors that brought us to where we are right now has nothing to do with the nature of markets. it was completely rigged and engineered because as she often-times points out, there's nothing natural about markets.


so, yeah, this is why i occupy. am i scared? of course, but the alternative, to succumb to cynicism & despair? i can't do anymore. and i certainly dont want to leave those as a legacy to my children. i want them to know that mothers can and do have courage. even if we fret and stay awake half the night. fear is normal. cowardice, on the other hand, shouldnt be.
posted by liza at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


davidjmcgee, so then do everyone a favor: Save your comparisons to them for later.
posted by weinbot at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2012


Save your comparisons to them for later.

Great. So we're left comparing ourselves to other seven-month old demonstrations against economic inequality.

None of which exist.

So now we lack all historical context about political protest and know nothing of our forebears.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2012


So now we lack all historical context about political protest and know nothing of our forebears.

I agree.
posted by weinbot at 12:54 PM on April 26, 2012


When you're not sick?

sick of workin'
workin' for nuthin'

posted by philip-random at 12:55 PM on April 26, 2012


I agree.

Do you think Occupy would be justified in comparing themselves to any other movement ever?
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2012


ugh, as if the civil rights movement hadn't been about economic inequality. seriously, only people following textbook stories about the CRM believe this shit. my parents and stepfather were there. they weren't fighting for the Voting Rights Act just because they liked to vote. the CRM was ALWAYS ABOUT SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY. civil rights were just the first phase of the movement. that's why, to those of us whose parents were there, OWS is indeed CRM 2.0; so in many ways, we were never a beginning. we're just a catalyzing point that has been building up since the bloody 1968.
posted by liza at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


ugh, as if the civil rights movement hadn't been about economic inequality. seriously, only people following textbook stories about the CRM believe this shit.

Who are you arguing against?
posted by weinbot at 1:04 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's nothing funnier than half the Occupy people in this thread talking about ways the movement is working through "the system", while the other half calls for replacing the economic system. Which is it, guys?
posted by downing street memo at 1:05 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


what i don't believe in is paying more taxes than GE, having to choose between buying my kid his medication (which costs hundreds) or new shoes, having to defend my family's privacy from the predatory info hoarding of services like Facebook or having to prepare myself for not if but when i get thrown into jail for speaking my mind in this and other public squares.

Wait. What? That's what Occupy is about, now?
posted by downing street memo at 1:07 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


every single one of us who never left OWS even after the evictions admit to these fears EVERY SINGLE DAY. then we get over it. then we have to admit to the fear again. and then we have to get over it again.

So you don't see how this looks like you're saying that those of us who aren't protesting "just didn't get over it"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 PM on April 26, 2012


All of our grievances are connected.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:11 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I lost interest in my local Occupy group after they started protesting a hotel. A hotel, that would employ the very same kinds of people that suffer most in our economy, that would take over what's currently a vacant area, that would bring a chunk of DC's very lucrative tourism and business travel market to our neighborhood.

I know the answer to this will be, depending on the answerer:

A) all Occupy groups are different, don't judge everyone based on your experience!
B) The hotel is a representation of the exploitative capitalist system and it must go!

A) is problematic because the implication is that Occupy doesn't stand for anything in particular. B) is problematic because, first off, the people you claim to speak for want those jobs in hotels, and secondly, because no one's going to support your drive to overthrow the capitalist system.
posted by downing street memo at 1:24 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


liza: "every single one of us who never left OWS even after the evictions admit to these fears EVERY SINGLE DAY. then we get over it. then we have to admit to the fear again. and then we have to get over it again."

EmpressCallipygos:So you don't see how this looks like you're saying that those of us who aren't protesting "just didn't get over it"?

Please re-read what liza wrote, EC. She specifically says she is referring to "every single one of us who never left OWS", not you. You're misreading her last few posts and taking them very personally. liza is not calling people who, for a variety of reasons, are afraid or unable to protest in general, she's specifically referring to the armchair critics who are afraid to participate and instead of recognizing or admitting their fear, ridicule and put down the people who are brave enough to put their asses on the line every day.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:27 PM on April 26, 2012


Oh, I read what she wrote, stagewhisper.

But I'm not seeing it made clear that she was targeting "armchair critics" alone, but was also talking to the SUPPORTERS who were questioning whether a strike was a good idea.

I'm happy to be proven that this is all a misunderstanding, but it did look an awful lot like she was saying that the only REAL supporters are the ones out on the lines, and the ones out on the lines don't count somehow. And that's the part I don't like. But again, I'm happy to have someone prove that that was a mis-reading, or an amendment clarifying that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2012


but i guess it's more fun to take a dump on one group of people who've taken to heart the "Be The Change You Want To See" (tm) sound-bite of that guy some of us voted for. i mean, after all, your behind won't have to move an inch for you to do so. and you wouldn't have to admit either to your fears.


armchair rebels, i salute you.


Somebody didn't study the election of 1972.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on April 26, 2012


The most zealous are those that are most likely to turn on you and end up espousing beliefs diametrically opposite of what they now believe.
posted by edgeways at 1:59 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


disrupt the cellulite from their well cushioned behinds

i blame the baby-boomers for turning dissent into a commodity

FEAR is the reason you sit there wagging your finger.

i mean, FFS, i like money, and contrary to popular belief, i totally believe it can buy happiness.

having to defend my family's privacy from the predatory info hoarding of services like Facebook

...to say OWS has to be about just one thing.
if anything, the one thing it has to be is about...


get a life

Yeah, I'm the simple-minded one.
posted by Bort at 2:06 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


stagewhisper has is right.

as i said before, not all at OWS march or do direct actions. i know many occupiers, who do am amazing amount of valuable work by just curating tweets, sending emails, helping build our sites, handing out flyers, etc.

but as to May Day: if there is a march in your area, why not go to it during lunch or after work? if you can't, you can still curate images posted to twitpic or flickr and make a post here at MeFi. or your blog. or an email to friends.

or hey, wear a rose that day :)

whatever you do, talk about it. share with people the importance of the day. even if it is one other person in your neighborhood or workplace. if you think labor rights matter and people should have the right to benefits like health care and to more than 5-7 days of vacation (for example) then talk about it.

because that's the antidote to fear and cynicism and the first step to people organizing.
posted by liza at 2:32 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Occupy is a 'popular front' loosely uniting would-be social democrats, liberals, progressives and other reformers of capitalism with anti-capitalists like anarchists and neo-primitives. (Actual leftists, as in communists, etc, seem completely marginalized in the movement). Thus this popular front seems rather incoherent and contradictory when it comes to messaging or even what they are doing or why. It's vague populism at best. Yet, the ruling class seems to know exactly what the message is and keeps responding. They are trying to prevent Occupy from ever getting it together, because once it does...
posted by bonefish at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I lost interest in my local Occupy group after they started protesting a hotel. A hotel, that would employ the very same kinds of people that suffer most in our economy, that would take over what's currently a vacant area, that would bring a chunk of DC's very lucrative tourism and business travel market to our neighborhood.

And which would be paid for with Tax Increment Financing, giving a huge property tax break to real estate developers that will push an otherwise-unprofitable project into an impoverished neighborhood to exploit low cost labor. Those property tax breaks will also reduce funding to schools, and often cause the city's tax bonds to be downrated, making all government expenditures more expensive and a larger burden on taxpayers..

You're not looking at the bigger picture. I complained about TIFs earlier upthread. My town has a hotel development project that got a $16 million TIF. It's losing $3.5 Million dollars a year. They just passed another $10 Million TIF to steal away the anchor store from a mall in the adjacent town, only 5 or 6 miles away. And that town is fighting back with TIFs of its own. They are wasting tax money, trying to steal jobs away from each other, back and forth.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And which would be paid for with Tax Increment Financing, giving a huge property tax break to real estate developers that will push an otherwise-unprofitable project into an impoverished neighborhood to exploit low cost labor. Those property tax breaks will also reduce funding to schools, and often cause the city's tax bonds to be downrated, making all government expenditures more expensive and a larger burden on taxpayers..

How do you know which hotel he's talking about or if it involved a TIF?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:47 PM on April 26, 2012


And which would be paid for with Tax Increment Financing, giving a huge property tax break to real estate developers that will push an otherwise-unprofitable project into an impoverished neighborhood to exploit low cost labor.

Yeah...my neighborhood isn't even remotely "impoverished". People complaining are mostly concerned about their property values - and its interesting that an Occupy group would so vehemently protect a group of incumbents. Anyway the only objection left to such a project is the idea that businesses should be the recipient of tax breaks aimed at changing their behavior in a certain way.

Of course, progressives and Occupiers love the notion of this when the desired behavior is "keeping jobs in America" (whatever that means) or promoting "manufacturing" (again, whatever that means).
posted by downing street memo at 2:49 PM on April 26, 2012


How do you know which hotel he's talking about or if it involved a TIF?

They all do. Big businesses won't do big projects without a government giveaway, they have the power. Hotel and convention centers are a primary use of TIFs.

A classic example is Walmart. They lobby local governments for a TIF to construct a new store. Then a few years later when the TIF winds down, they announce they're closing the site and are searching for a new one. So the neighboring community gives them a TIF to steal the business away. They often rotate through several sites in the same area over a decade or so, leaving empty superstores behind with no possibility that anyone can rent them, causing a huge loss of tax revenues.

Anyway the only objection left to such a project is the idea that businesses should be the recipient of tax breaks aimed at changing their behavior in a certain way.

Tax breaks change the behavior of businesses in a very specific way: the businesses exist rather than not existing. The businesses all claim they can't be profitable without a tax break. That's why the business doesn't exist now, it's untenable.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:00 PM on April 26, 2012


They often rotate through several sites in the same area over a decade or so, leaving empty superstores behind with no possibility that anyone can rent them, causing a huge loss of tax revenues.

That is not a risk in this particular situation.

Tax breaks change the behavior of businesses in a very specific way: the businesses exist rather than not existing. The businesses all claim they can't be profitable without a tax break. That's why the business doesn't exist now, it's untenable.

Okay, so do you not support tax breaks to businesses for "keeping jobs in America", etc? I mean, I don't, and I don't like widespread tax breaks from municipalities either.
posted by downing street memo at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2012


How do you know which hotel he's talking about or if it involved a TIF?

They all do.


So your statement is that every single hotel consrtructed in the United States involves a TIF? I await your evidence supporting that claim.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:15 PM on April 26, 2012


civil rights were just the first phase of the movement. that's why, to those of us whose parents were there, OWS is indeed CRM 2.0; so in many ways, we were never a beginning. we're just a catalyzing point that has been building up since the bloody 1968.

My parents took their beatings and arrests and threats in the 60s and 70s, and continued to march and organize in the 80s and 90s and even through last decade whenever they could. These are people who have literally bled and starved for social, political, and economic justice. And I can tell you right now that they don't agree at all that OWS has proven to be following in the same footsteps. How can it? It's an organization that claims unity but actively rejects major elements that support their goals and at times seems to willingly defy the entire concept of organizing disparate groups, and that is anathema to the entire spirit of what those that came before fought for.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:36 PM on April 26, 2012


It's an organization that claims unity but actively rejects major elements that support their goals and at times seems to willingly defy the entire concept of organizing disparate groups, and that is anathema to the entire spirit of what those that came before fought for.

Can you elaborate on this a bit? Who are they rejecting?
posted by JPD at 4:48 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


OWS is indeed CRM 2.0; so in many ways, we were never a beginning. we're just a catalyzing point that has been building up since the bloody 1968.

In 1972, the Democrats ran George McGovern. The American people wanted the war over. McGovern promised to cut all aid off to South Vietnam and pull out all US troops immediately.

He was crushed by Richard Nixon in the greatest landslide in US history because the country disliked the cultural content of the protest movement. 19.5 million Democrats voted for Nixon.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:01 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why I'm Leaving Occupy Atlanta by George Chidi
I came to the meeting with some faint hope that a critical mass of those who remain would see the problem associated with a lack of strategic focus and work toward fixing that.

This is not the conversation had tonight. Instead, it was a brainstorming party about all the many, many different things people could do that were each vaguely Occupy-ish. In that sense, the “strategy” for Occupy moving forward had been pre-determined: do everything. Again, I wouldn't be averse to that, if there was a means of measuring success and moving resources toward more successful endeavors along some objective basis. But a judgment about someone's action? In Occupy? Scandalous.

So, I'm done.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:19 PM on April 26, 2012


zombieflanders, you seem to be saying that a union leader like your dad doesn't support OWS, and your parents were literally beaten and starved during their activist years in the civil rights movement, and therefore OWS is not following in the footsteps of the civil rights movement? How then do you explain why so many other high profile activists and civil rights leaders from the 60s and 70s have thrown their full support behind OWS? They were beaten, jailed, and starved too. Your anecdote doesn't prove your thesis.


I can tell you this, from my experience: many OWS working groups in NYC reach out and often forms partnerships with various unions. It's a reciprocal relationship. Sometimes the union in question reaches out to the working group, sometimes working groups reach out to specific unions. Once in a while there is an issue with some of these partnerships where a given union's leadership tries to take over the action or fails to fulfill their part of the bargain. However, OWS realizes that these unions, far from being one monolithic entity each have their own belief systems, hierarchies, internal power struggles, etc. and so working with them is usually on a case by case basis. There have been a few (rare) instances of some unions asking OWS to be their private vigilant army of bodies during labor direct action, while not coming through with the promise of union members being right there next to OWS in solidarity. There's a measure of caution and negotiation required in these alliances, and that's *not* the same thing as "willingly defying the entire concept of organizing disparate groups".
posted by stagewhisper at 5:23 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm tired of coming into OWS threads and trying to combat the misinformation and undermining- so I for now on i'm just going to post a link to this video which gives a much better overview of how things really are then I ever could.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:49 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


How then do you explain why so many other high profile activists and civil rights leaders from the 60s and 70s have thrown their full support behind OWS?

Whom? More importantly, why does that matter? You have to convince the broad swath of the American people that your policy aims should be adopted by the government.

Otherwise, what's the point? To effect change, you do not have to be the change. You have to convince the majority of the rest of the country that what you want to do is in the best interests of the USA. And if you present yourself in a way that culturally alienates the majority of the country, you will lose. Those who oppose your aims will cultivate the negative emotional reaction people have towards your culture to persuade others to not agree with you.

Its the exact opposite of the civil rights movement. There, African-Americans in their Sunday best demonstrated on an emotional level that the forces of order in the South were not like the rest of the country. The protestors did simple things that Whites in the North took for granted. Every firehose turned on the protestors showed average Americans that the forces of order in the South were not like them at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:59 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


downing street memo: kay, so do you not support tax breaks to businesses for "keeping jobs in America", etc?

Do you remember when businesses didn't need to extort tax breaks from local governments? They just set up businesses and paid their regular taxes.

zombieflanders: My parents took their beatings and arrests and threats in the 60s and 70s, and continued to march and organize in the 80s and 90s and even through last decade whenever they could. These are people who have literally bled and starved for social, political, and economic justice. And I can tell you right now that they don't agree at all that OWS has proven to be following in the same footsteps.

Yeah, I know a few people like that in the OWS group in my neighboring city. They went around telling people exactly how many times they'd been arrested, like it was a badge of honor with oak leaf clusters. They always had their favorite stories of when they got arrested with some celebrity, which they would repeat ad nauseum. That I can deal with, their nostalgic ramblings about RFK and McGovern were quaint.

But then the presidential campaign came along, and they decided they wanted publicity, their way. They came to our statewide OWS groups with a specific, detailed proposal for protests, modeled on the same ones they'd been using for decades, so ineffectively. They set up the details all by themselves, just 2 or 3 professional activists wrote it, without consulting anyone else, then presented it at a statewide GA as a fait accompli. I was astonished at the proposal. Protesters were expected to divide into "affinity groups" that wanted to target a specific candidate. Apparently they did not realize ths would immediately divide and weaken the Occupation. On the morning a candidate arrived in town to campaign, the affinity group would meet and make their plans on the spot with no prior planning, usually a mic check picket line or a sit-in or some sort of traditional action. Then after the affinity group decided on its course of action, one designated "peacekeeper" (in the most perverted use of the term I ever heard) would call the police, tell them when and where the protest would occur, and tell them they could arrest everyone without resistance. When the police came, the peacekeeper would make sure everyone who wanted to get arrested would be separated from the "cowards" who preferred to protest legally. Photographers and press contacts were contacted to maximize photo ops for the arrestees. Once everyone was arrested, it was every man for himself. No legal counsel or solidarity groups would be arranged to assist in bail or defense.

It is unsurprising that this proposal was not accepted by the statewide GA. So they just proceeded without authority and called themselves OWS anyway. The same 3 people (and a few people they could get to join them) were repeatedly arrested, to the point where the organizers became the face of OWS (even though they had no authority and had basically gone rogue). Even the press got tired of taking pictures of the same 3 people in handcuffs day after day.

Apparently the organizers considered the campaign a huge success. They got arrested repeatedly, adding more oak leaf clusters to their badges of honor. They printed commemorative t shirts and wore them constantly, so everyone would know who was a real protester. They achieved nothing but a few online stories that managed to attract the attention of Andrew Breitbart, who then tried to dox the ringleaders and blame OWS for their 30+ years of embarrassing arrests.

Meanwhile, the local OWS groups that refused to go along with these idiots, formed their own action committees, and did some quite effective mic checks and other actions that gathered positive national media attention, without a single arrest. And of course the ringleaders of the rogue protests immediately hopped on the bandwagon, hijacking the media and one of them (who I will call M, for my typing convenience) even got an interview on CNN, representing himself as the leader of the protest that he really had nothing to do with.

Oh but it gets worse. This guy M was an old socialist and active in my local group. He was notorious for verbally bullying people. We were fighting to keep our encampment in the city part amidst opposition from the City, and threats of eviction. A neighboring OWS group had the same problem and had contacted the ACLU for help. I made a proposal to the GA that we should form a committee of 5 people as communicators (not leaders or representatives) between the City and the GA, all communications to be approved by the GA in advance, with only limited, specifically defined authority to act on their own. The first task would be to contact the ACLU and our buddy M spoke up and said he was buddies with the local ACLU lawyers and he would take care of it.

Then after the GA, where the proposal passed unanimously on a vote of like 50 to zero, M did the most astonishing thing. He completely changed his mind, and went throughout the camp, trying to sabotage the proposal. He said we would be undermining our support within the community by trying to hang on to our camp, rather than doing protests and legit actions that would get everyone arrested, like he always did. He said we should just give up the encampment and peaceably go away, quietly so as not to offend the community. Other people told me he was going around and trying to set up a faction against the GA's decision to fight to keep the camp. This is exactly the sort of factionalism kills movements. I confronted him, I yelled at him to stop what he was doing, the GA had spoken and he did not have the right to unilaterally oppose the decision after he already had a chance to vote on it. Our Prime Directive was that no single person determines the course of the movement on their own. But here he was, trying to do exactly that. I left the camp that night to go home and clean up, and my email box was full of messages from M, explaining how what the GA had done was wrong. I was incensed and wrote him a message to stop this immediately, and it Reply All.

Time was short on our camp's defense, and I had a sneaking feeling that M wasn't going to contact the ACLU as he was tasked. So I did it myself. I called their voicemail and it said they usually took 3 to 5 days to respond. Same disclaimer on the online contact form. I left the contact info and waited. To my astonishment, I got a call back within about an hour from the head of the State ACLU. He was on the case, he had associates in his law firm that were actually camping with OWS at the state capitol. He jumped on this and arranged legal representation within another hour. I asked him if anyone else from our town had contacted him yet. Of course not.

So this was all happening on my cell phone in the OWS camp. I had limited authority, the committee was authorized to contact the ACLU but the GA would have to decide the course of action after that. As the evening GA approached and more people gathered in the camp, M appeared. He started circulating and trying to stir up his counter-revolutionary faction again. Fortunately nobody was buying it, we were committed to keeping the camp. I casually came up to M and asked if he had heard back from the ACLU yet. He said he called them but it would take a couple of days for them to return the call. I said, "no you didn't call them, you're lying! I called them and got a callback in an hour!" He looked at his shoes and shuffled away, embarassed at being caught sabotaging the GA committee. What could he say?

Well he found something to say at the GA. I reported on the ACLU contact and requested the committee be given further authorization to get the pro bono lawyer to represent us and protect the camp. When discussion started, M delivered a rambling story about how he was chatting with his local socialist group and they thought our attempts to keep the camp were making leftists look bad. These people were (as he described it) the most extreme leftists he knew, and they had decades of socialist rabblerousing, they knew what they were doing (oh crap not this again). And if these people were no longer supporting us, we had surely lost our support in the community. What a load of shit. I spoke up and you should have seem M's face go pale, he knew I could expose his sabotage. But I didn't. I clearly stated the case to move forward with the course of action the GA already voted for. The vote came up to stay the course and approve the ACLU-furnished attorney, it passed something like 49-1, with only M voting against. He skulked off after the GA and did not attend our work group. I told the work group what M had done to sabotage our work group and suggested he was unfit for further work on this issue. They agreed. Soon, M decided he "needed a break" from OWS, he was obviously frustrated that he wasn't able to bully people into getting his way, and embarassed at having been busted.

I may be a noob at social activism, OWS was my first major commitment, but even in a few short months, I had my fill of the tired old "leadership" of the social movements of the past. They had their chance, they blew it. Now they're blowing it again. Once the early civil rights and antiwar protest era ended, they went back to their comfy middle class homes and their jobs and only questioned authority when they could satisfy themselves with their righteousness. Nevermind that the country went to hell on their watch. Now OWS is here, and it's designed to prevent "leaders" like M from sending us all to hell in a handbasket. It is time for the old, obsolete generation of failed activists to quietly slip into the grave, cover themselves with a blanket of grass, and establish their righteous solidarity with the earth.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:03 PM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


It is time for the old, obsolete generation of failed activists to quietly slip into the grave, cover themselves with a blanket of grass, and establish their righteous solidarity with the earth.

Great. Have at it, and best of luck to you.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders, you seem to be saying that a union leader like your dad doesn't support OWS, and your parents were literally beaten and starved during their activist years in the civil rights movement, and therefore OWS is not following in the footsteps of the civil rights movement?

It certainly hasn't earned the right to make the comparison yet, no. Peop

How then do you explain why so many other high profile activists and civil rights leaders from the 60s and 70s have thrown their full support behind OWS? They were beaten, jailed, and starved too. Your anecdote doesn't prove your thesis.

Really? Who are these high profile activists and civil rights leaders? I don't want to read articles about last year when everybody was playing nice. I want to see hard evidence of continued support from now.

There have been a few (rare) instances of some unions asking OWS to be their private vigilant army of bodies during labor direct action, while not coming through with the promise of union members being right there next to OWS in solidarity.

That's a pretty bold accusation. I assume you have proof for this as well?

There's a measure of caution and negotiation required in these alliances, and that's *not* the same thing as "willingly defying the entire concept of organizing disparate groups".

So potential supporters are cowards for not getting deeply involved, but working with the people and groups who have been doing this for years and taking the lumps associated with that require "caution and negotiation"? That sets off a number of alarm bells, none of which make me more inclined to believe

Anyway, I'm tired of coming into OWS threads and trying to combat the misinformation and undermining- so I for now on i'm just going to post a link to this video which gives a much better overview of how things really are then I ever could

This does not constitute any real evidence.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:50 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I know a few people like that in the OWS group in my neighboring city. They went around telling people exactly how many times they'd been arrested, like it was a badge of honor with oak leaf clusters. They always had their favorite stories of when they got arrested with some celebrity, which they would repeat ad nauseum. That I can deal with, their nostalgic ramblings about RFK and McGovern were quaint.

Well, your shockingly ignorant generalization of people you've never met is unsurprisingly the complete opposite of who they are. A lot of this is shit that I had to drag out over the course of several decades, not something they mentioned every time they had friends over. But considering your conclusion, that's not the worst thing about this.

It is time for the old, obsolete generation of failed activists to quietly slip into the grave, cover themselves with a blanket of grass, and establish their righteous solidarity with the earth.

And you've managed to reinforce every negative perception about Occupy: "We've already formed our opinions about you, fuck off and die. No, really, we would literally prefer you to be dead than even try to help." I sincerely hope this doesn't represent the movement as a whole, because this is the kind of shit that will turn the population against you in the long run.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:00 PM on April 26, 2012


Wait, you and Charlie both don't like OWS, and yet you're arguing that he represents all the problems with OWS?

o_0
posted by klangklangston at 7:20 PM on April 26, 2012


He's mentioned multiple times his continued involvement in OWS. Of course, he also seems to believe in some alternate reality where social activists made up most or all of the Baby Boomers (and thus all of our problems come them being failures), which isn't remotely true, so...
posted by zombieflanders at 7:45 PM on April 26, 2012


There have been a few (rare) instances of some unions asking OWS to be their private vigilant army of bodies during labor direct action, while not coming through with the promise of union members being right there next to OWS in solidarity.

That's a pretty bold accusation. I assume you have proof for this as well?

I will confirm the unions expected OWS to join their actions and we did a few, usually OWS was about 90% of the turnout. We had union activists in our OWS group but no direct union support. Union direct actions were reduced when people started getting more sensitive about getting co-opted, and also the unions discovered they couldn't use OWS to muster crowds on demand.

Wait, you and Charlie both don't like OWS

You're kidding, right? I practically am the local OWS. I spent months at the Occupation but I just finally got tired and gave up. But I'll see if the May Day and Chicago Spring brings some more people in who can dilute the influence of the old activist leaders. If that happens, it might be worth working on OWS again.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:48 PM on April 26, 2012


Otherwise, what's the point? To effect change, you do not have to be the change. You have to convince the majority of the rest of the country that what you want to do is in the best interests of the USA.

You don't believe even the President of the Unites States is capable of that with the full force of the Democratic party leadership behind him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:56 PM on April 26, 2012


I will confirm the unions expected OWS to join their actions and we did a few, usually OWS was about 90% of the turnout. We had union activists in our OWS group but no direct union support. Union direct actions were reduced when people started getting more sensitive about getting co-opted, and also the unions discovered they couldn't use OWS to muster crowds on demand.

You go and blame the dissenters themselves (and not those around them) for making commodities of dissent based on what I can only assume is spending a lot of TV Land, which has never been representative of the times. Not everyone in the 60s and 70s under the age of 30 ardently supported radical change. A majority of them weren't activists. So you'll excuse me if I take your confirmation with a gigantic grain of salt.

You're kidding, right? I practically am the local OWS. I spent months at the Occupation but I just finally got tired and gave up. But I'll see if the May Day and Chicago Spring brings some more people in who can dilute the influence of the old activist leaders. If that happens, it might be worth working on OWS again.

Hey, let us know how well that works out. I mean, you had to spend a considerable amount of energy and lost momentum just to make one loudmouth sulk, so I'm sure you'll work out just fine with the extremely varied social and economic ideologies of the American public. They won't be pissed off by any of that at all, no siree.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:59 PM on April 26, 2012


That's a pretty bold accusation. I assume you have proof for this as well?

It's not a bold accusation. I'm not saying that a Union said "be our private vigilante army" I'm saying on at least one occasion that I know of more OWS bodies have shown up to what were supposed to be Union protests than the Union members for whom OWS was supposedly going to be partnering with. That's not the fault of the rank and file Union members, I think it came from change of plans from Union higher-ups or maybe lack of communication or whatnot, but some OWS people who participated felt like hired guns after the fact rather than partners and so like to make sure that all conversations about partnering are vetted and worked out in detail between all parties. Those kinds of conversations could appear to be lack of support for Unions or hedging, but at least in my working group they are necessary to make sure everyone (Unions and OWS) is on the same page when we show up to support whatever the Union's cause is.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:04 PM on April 26, 2012


also " This does not constitute any real evidence."

That sick video sums up what it's like being us. Don't hate.

posted by stagewhisper at 8:16 PM on April 26, 2012


Otherwise, what's the point? To effect change, you do not have to be the change. You have to convince the majority of the rest of the country that what you want to do is in the best interests of the USA.

You don't believe even the President of the Unites States is capable of that with the full force of the Democratic party leadership behind him.


Hence my skepticism about a "general strike" for OWS.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:04 PM on April 26, 2012


I mean, you had to spend a considerable amount of energy and lost momentum just to make one loudmouth sulk, so I'm sure you'll work out just fine with the extremely varied social and economic ideologies of the American public. They won't be pissed off by any of that at all, no siree.

Socialists have been sulking since the Spanish Civil War, it's not my fault.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


You don't believe even the President of the Unites States is capable of that with the full force of the Democratic party leadership behind him.

Hence my skepticism about a "general strike" for OWS.

Okay so nobody can convince anyone of anything so all political action is pointless, vote Obama!

Thanks for your insight!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:41 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Socialists have been sulking since the Spanish Civil War, it's not my fault.

Thus proving you have no idea who's been actively involved in left-wing populist movements (successful or not) for the last century.

Enjoy your unearned smug sense of righteousness and hostility towards the those who don't adopt the same while it lasts, guys. I mean, you've managed to alienate those with valid criticisms who are for the most part on your side in the space of 18 hours with personal insults, misinformation, and a stunning lack of contextual understanding. Having a sense of superiority over your fellow travelers is not how you build a diverse and representative force for change. If the rest if Occupy is like you, at this rate you'll have transformed the movement into a force for providing sitcom punchline fodder by next summer. I, for one, hope that it's just being poorly represented here.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:59 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't believe even the President of the Unites States is capable of that with the full force of the Democratic party leadership behind him.

Hence my skepticism about a "general strike" for OWS.

Okay so nobody can convince anyone of anything so all political action is pointless, vote Obama!

Thanks for your insight!


The point is to be smart and not make things worse.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:11 AM on April 27, 2012


Here in Ontario, the New Democrats were able to insist on a new tax on those who earn over $500K as a condition for passing the provincial budget. The idea had pretty wide public support, and I think a lot of the credit for that has to go to the Occupy movement for bringing widespread attention to income inequality.

Of course, the budget unfortunately is still based on an 'austerity' framework, which is exactly what the 1% want -- but I find it encouraging that they weren't able to completely control the budget narrative.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:20 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey zombieflanders and charlie don't surf: you know how there's this age-old complain that the Left is hobbled by fractiousness between different groups and individuals? And then some people start arguing that in order to be more effective the Left should adopt the tactics of the Right that force everyone to ascribe to some single ideological stance and authority rather than think for themselves? I think that would be disastrous for the Left. But it does seem to me, from my various life experiences and such, that people in general have this habit of being more critical, and more vehemently critical, of those closest to them; and I think that this is an important normal human tendency to be aware of.

One example: my personal theory is that one of the reasons why you see folks with limited economic resources vote against their own interests in a frustrating number of cases (eg. many rank and file Tea Party followers) is because those people, well, they're not stupid. They see that they are working hard and following the rules that they've been told were supposed to help them be financially secure and be able to take care of their families, and they see people near them getting a slight advantage by not following a rule here or there, and they don't see the economic elite playing an entirely different game because we have an awful lot of economic segregation in the US. So they get upset at the people they know, near them, and vote Republican.

Another example: most of the time, leftist activists I know are pretty aware of the larger picture and try not to get into squabbles with each other. But I have seen cases of intense disagreement, with some individuals getting more upset at others who are more-or-less their political ally but for one area of disagreement than they do at the people who they think are actually causing major problems. I certainly get frustrated with some of my fellow activists from time to time, and have to take a multiple number of deep breaths and remind myself very strongly to keep my eyes on the bigger picture. I mean, it hurts more when someone who you think should be your ally and supporter comes out with something completely wrong-headed; you expect that from the people who you've already identified as opponents, but coming from someone who you think is on your side, it feels like a sneak attack.

I think that paying attention to our relationships with each other is very important for leftist activism. My ideal or end goal involves a world without oppression, where everyone has a respected and integral voice in group decision-making (in all areas: political, economic, etc.), where both the needs of the community and the civil rights of individuals and minority groups are respected and upheld. I think that my ideals are revolutionary in the sense that they would require a structural change in current economic and political systems; since I believe that, eg. our current economic system pressures people to act individualistically and without compassion for other people. I believe that to get to that point requires me and the groups that I engage in activism with to work on two fronts simultaneously: to challenge the current systems in more traditional activist ways, and also to challenge ourselves to be better people and to instantiate in our own group the sort of respectful social relations that we want to eventually see adopted more broadly. Now, there are a wide variety of goals, ideals, or visions for a better world among "the Left". Not everyone would agree with my goals, and some are of the opinion that oppression is inherent in the current economic structure, so trying to instantiate the ideal social relations within our own activist circles is doomed to failure until after the revolution happens. I would argue that the attempt is at least tactically useful in building leftist movements.

So what that looks like in my own life is that I choose or build groups to get involved with who are supportive of each other and work well together, where I can find and contribute to community as well as contribute my activism work and efforts. I will work with others where our goals and ideals intersect; I try to have clear communication about the nature of these collaborations. I try to be aware of the natural bias toward being more upset by disagreements with those we are closest to, and to maintain positive relationships with people who are mostly allies, though I disagree with them on some points. When I feel myself getting too frustrated or annoyed with such people, I know that I need to step back and focus more on work within my closer community of activists for a little bit, though.
posted by eviemath at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2012


On the comparison of Occupy to the Civil Rights Movement, it seems to me that the closer analogue to OWS is the populist and labor activism of the 1880s through the 1930s. When OWS first started up last fall, what I read from afar about the structure and tactics reminded me strongly of those earlier struggles. The occupy idea itself seems to be closer to the idea of Hoovervilles and the Bonus Army than sit ins of the 1960s. That's not in living memory for all but a very few people, however, so I can see where the comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement and more recent mass, leftist movements come from. Sadly, people's history and the stories of these movements are topics that most high school US history courses seem to gloss over, and it's hard to situate a new thing historically when you only have bits and pieces of the relevant history.
posted by eviemath at 8:33 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having a sense of superiority over your fellow travelers is not how you build a diverse and representative force for change. If the rest if Occupy is like you, at this rate you'll have transformed the movement into a force for providing sitcom punchline fodder by next summer. I, for one, hope that it's just being poorly represented here.

Speaking of sitcom fodder, I sincerely hope that's an ironic use of FELLOW TRAVELERS. As for the rest of it, I kind of agree, though I also take issue with the use of LEFT. If the Occupy Movement has accomplished anything (there's another word I don't like -- MOVEMENT), it's that it's repositioned the age-old LEFT-versus-RIGHT worldview with the 1%-versus-99% worldview, which is a hell of a lot closer to my grasp of what's really going down (ie: a very small and smart and disciplined and vicious and well-funded THEM versus a vast, messy, mongrel mix us).

The downside of this is how easy it is for us 99-percenters to lose track of ourselves, get divided, turned inside out by our various grievances, prejudices, xenophobias, DIFFERENCES -- so much so that the 1-percent can mostly just stand back and let it happen, only occasionally actually having to slip in and manipulate things.

So I think if there's any hope for meaningful change, it means we (the people) must first embrace our contradictions, our conflicts, our petty grade-school squabbles -- not try to evade or ignore them. So yeah, let there be a sitcom, but let's be the ones that write it, engage with our foolishness -- look in the mirror and laugh at ourselves. Which means, keep on squabbling amongst ourselves, but don't forget there's a laugh-track. None of this is to be taken as deadly serious. Save that for the REAL enemy.

Or as I heard it put maybe twenty years ago, two friends at a dinner party really having at it. She an angry feminist, he an overly cynical slacker ... who really wasn't that cynical, it turns out. "Oh, for fuck's sake, Jennifer, I'm not your enemy. I'm just annoying guy across the table from you who refuses to take your particular shit as seriously as you do. And yeah, the Patriarchy is evil and it controls everything and wants nothing to change. But I'm NOT fucking part of the Patriarchy just because I'm white and male. I'm an underemployed musician who sells fucking marijuana on the side, and I'm worried as hell about how I'm going to take care of my two little girls. I hate those guys, too."

And so on.
posted by philip-random at 9:39 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Evie, I understand those ideas, but I don't think it's a matter of people being critical of those who have ideas closest to their own. I think it is more a matter of the inherent nature of critics from the left. Leftists (particularly those who identify so closely with their ideas that the become what I call "professional leftists") become so used to opposition of their ideas, they begin to believe that opposition to their ideas means they are right. So sometimes it attracts people who are such contrarians, they can't help but be contrarians against people who would ally with them.

The problem is that these people have been marginalized so long, they become invested in their marginalization. One of the principles that attracted me to OWS was the "town square" idea, the clearest definition of this was an early article, How To Occupy An Abstraction. It basically says that the key to OWS is occupation of a public space, to create a place where the mechanisms of real politics exists. Not the fake politics of Republicans and Democrats yelling talking points at each other and marginalizing all other points of view. Real politics of average citizens talking to other citizens in the public square and trying to find a new way to create a dialogue on civic issues. So for me the most attractive part of the early OWS was being in the public square and having people come to share ideas. I said the public square was a place where everyone's ideas can be heard.

But this is also its downfall. The public square tended to attract people who were marginalized and unheard, in fact, desperate for anyone to hear them. In my town, this was mostly drunken, addicted, mentally ill, homeless Vietnam vets. My town has a VA hospital and it tends to attract a disproportionate population of psycho vets. And these guys would come to our OWS camp, attracted by the free food, and were surprised to have people listen to them. Most of the time, people politely heard them out. But over time the people in the square became a sort of captive audience. They would harangue everyone with their deranged points of view. I gradually came to the belief that yes, the public square is an important mechanism for marginalized people to have their ideas heard, but maybe your ideas are marginalized for a good reason. Most of these ideas are stupid, espoused by stupid people, and they really should just STFU. But people were polite and accommodating, not wanting to turn away any voices. This was the downfall of our camp, the psycho vets eventually drove away everyone else, turning the open Public Square into an insular homeless camp.

Everyone was desperate to find a way to work with all the diverse people who were attracted to OWS, including these homeless people. After all, they were part of the 99% too, and we were fighting for their rights as much as anyone's. But they were so entrenched in their identity as oppressed people, they could not help but be absolutely antagonistic towards the very people were trying to help them. I began to think of the homeless as the "Other 1%," the people at the other end of the bell curve, whose greed mirrored the upper 1% in a way just as dysfunctional. I could perhaps forgive the homeless for their foibles, since they were psychotic and oppressed and just didn't know any better.

But there were people who should know better. One of the only pieces of Old Guard activist advice I found useful was an article linked from Daily Kos, called "Occupy's Asshole Problem: Flashbacks from an old Hippie." The particular advice I found useful was:

The consensus model has a fatal flaw, which is this: It’s very easy for power to devolve to the people who are willing to throw the biggest tantrums.

This is a side effect of "The Tyranny of Structurelessness." OWS had a similar problem, it was leaderless, deliberately, but still structured. This allowed people to impose ad hoc power structures not endorsed by the group. Usually those structures were imposed by the same old bullying tyrants inherent in any political movement. So the power tended to go to whoever could throw the biggest hissy fit and monopolize people's attention. Usually this meant leadership went to the bullies. I became acutely aware of this problem when I saw a documentary by Adam Curtis, which discussed the political structures of early 1960s hippie communes. He showed films from one "leaderless" commune that used silent encounter groups to resolve interpersonal conflicts. They showed a stunning lack of self-awareness, which was not apparent except to an outside observer. It was particularly apparent from watching the films, 50 years later, as to what was really happening in these silent encounter groups: bullies would actually stare down their opponents until it broke their will to resist.

This bullying problem was particularly true of the facilitated General Assembly process. We used the typical OWS model of 90% consensus required, and any one person could block, giving any single person veto power. This ensures that even the most marginalized voice could be heard. But this was often abused. I am the only person at my OWS group who ever used the block. With a stunning lack of self-awareness, one person who was notorious for monopolizing GA discussions, introduced a proposal to modify GA rules to prevent people from monopolizing discussion. She proposed that once a person had gone on the stack to speak, they could not ask to be on the stack again until the entire stack was finished. I blocked, as I thought modification of the GA process was especially dangerous, particularly modifications of this type. It would amplify the power of minorities to filibuster the process. And in particular, it would enable the process that this person used to monopolize discussion: the "Direct Response." The only way to jump to the top of the stack is to signal you are directly responding to the speaker with a clarification crucial to the course of discussion. So this person would create a proposal, then respond to every single speaker with a Direct Response. She could abuse the rules and have more opportunities to speak than any opponents, creating a mini-filibuster that would advance her own proposal. And in fact, that is exactly what she did when I blocked her proposal. When a proposal is blocked, the GA gets one round of discussion to see if the blocker's objections can be resolved. That woman did a direct response to every comment, monopolizing the discussion, and eventually bullying me into withdrawing my objection, with the provision I could propose to abolish the new rule at a later time, depending on how it worked out in practice. Of course this would be nearly impossible. I could block this proposal with one vote, but to remove it later would require 90% consensus. Of course my worst fears were realized, the rule created to prevent monopolization of GA discussion did exactly the opposite: it caused endless discussions with no goal of consensus. People would go round and round, espousing the same points until they turned into talking points. People with minority opinions were more interested in having their voice heard, than in joining their voice into the process of achieving a result.

While looking for ways to solve this problem, I found some interesting principles about consensus methods used by Quakers. It said that 100% consensus was the goal, especially with facilitated discussions, but a facilitator had the right to declare anyone (particularly a blocker) was acting out of personal motives, rather than putting the group's interests ahead of his own. And this was exactly our problem. People could not put the group's interest first. It was distinctive of the problem: the "professional leftists" were so sure their interests were the group's interests, they could not step back when it was apparent they were wrong. This would be the downfall of many OWS groups, a single person could destroy consensus, even destroy the process that lead to consensus. Some groups believed these people were planted by police, or were agents provocateurs from other leftist factions like the Black Bloc.

But as difficult as these problems are, they are infinitely preferable to the broken process of Politics today. Politics (with a capital P) should be replaced with politics (with a lower case p). Politics has evolved into structures that defend the existing structures. Lower case p politics are eminently more practical, trying to find ways to solve problems without working within the Big P Political structure. The only problem comes when people try to impose failed structures on the Occupation, and this is most likely to happen with Professional Leftists who have become too closely identified with their own movement's structure.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why did these things get organized in Spring 2009 when they could have really rodw a wave?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 AM on April 27, 2012


charlie don't surf, it sounds like your group didn't have any system for noting and resolving interpersonal conflicts or encouraging members to treat each other respectfully, aside from just the honor system? It also sounds like your group didn't have much for processes to enable and positively direct participation by everyone who it purported to represent or be speaking on behalf of? Consensus decision making, just like voting or any other system of group decision making, is a learned skill, complicated by the point you've noted that there are a variety of different systems to try to obtain consensus decisions from groups of people. My own experience is that while consensus decision making can be a much, much better process than more common group decision making systems (I'm looking at you, Robert's Rules of Order), it tends to rely more heavily on the skill of the facilitator, which can make it less robust if you don't have a large pool of people with strong facilitation skills.

I certainly agree with most of your last paragraph. In fact, I'd extend it to just plain old the problem comes when people try to impose structures on the Occupation. As opposed to respectfully trying to democratically convince others that their structure idea would be a good one. I am confused by your term "Professional Leftists", though. As you originally defined it, it seemed to refer to activists of a certain era and with certain types of political goals. My understanding is that the 1960's Left, even those with the political leanings of the person or people who caused conflict in your Occupy, was quite diverse in the personalities and methods for dealing, or not dealing, with interpersonal conflict within organizations, though. As is today's Left; as was the left of the turn of the last century (if we want to talk about infighting and factionalism!). It seems to me that some of the Quakers practicing the consensus method that you seem to think is better than that used by your local Occupy might have thought of themselves as being described by that term as you originally defined it?
posted by eviemath at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2012


Ironmouth: I dunno, why didn't you organize something in Spring 2009? :P
posted by eviemath at 11:35 AM on April 27, 2012


(But seriously, a group I'm involved with (not an Occupy group) had the better part of a year's worth of pre-organizing/planning meetings before we opened the group up and invited others to join us. In part because we wanted something that was going to be really robust and not get bogged down in interpersonal conflict, so we wanted to plan the structure really well. We are much, much smaller than OWS. These things take a fair amount of planning and work to be successful enough that we'd be discussing them here on Metafilter, so it's quite possible that many things were organized in Spring 2009, but just didn't take off in the same way that Occupy Wall Street did.)
posted by eviemath at 11:38 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: I dunno, why didn't you organize something in Spring 2009? :P

I guess my point is this--like it or not, there is not going to be a great proletarian revolution in the US where suddenly we have a communist dictatorship, or some Utopian artel system. The politics we have are a reflection of us. Whether elites use them or not is in one sense, beside the point--we are allowing ourselves to be used and many people prefer having their emotional needs met by politics over policy which they personally support. Any system of democracy has these issues built right in. It is within these human boundaries we have to play our politics and it is within these boundaries that we have had great successes.

This means our protests have to be about affecting votes in our system--which means getting the policies we want enacted into law and regulation. Spring 2009 would have been the best time for that--a new president, a crisis, and a majority seeking the temperature of the country to determine what it could do that would solve problems without destroying that majority and that president.

That's what all of this has to be about--touching base with the representatives not during an election year, but when it counts--when they are voting. I think at its heart, that is what the right is doing better. They translate all of that anger into calling their representatives and volunteering to help their candidates and we do not. When the healthcare reform bill was passed, a belated effort was made to make those calls and it got us over the top. But we need a steady effort in those areas, more than walking around and saying how we feel. "Being the change" sounds fun and it provides us with emotional feedback and a sense of community that is enjoyable. But it does not move the needle of policy in this country anywhere near as well as a steady effort to call your representatives.

And telling them how you feel is really important. Unlike protesting, it doesn't turn off a particular segment of people who otherwise might move liberal causes forward. And even if you're for full on communism, the legislator is going to say "ok, I've got some liberals in my district" and will act accordingly, especially with critical mass.

So I'm saying that whatever you guys do, call your reps and senators. I am one of those unfortunate rubes who lives in the continental United States yet lacks the right to vote for a legislator at the national level. I envy you. Use that power you do have.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:37 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess my point is this--like it or not, there is not going to be a great proletarian revolution in the US where suddenly we have a communist dictatorship

Ahh, a view of OWS right out of a right wing political cartoon.

Spring 2009 would have been the best time for that--a new president, a crisis, and a majority seeking the temperature of the country to determine what it could do that would solve problems without destroying that majority and that president.

...and then a movement that doesn't give two fucks about boundaries organized and voted that majority out.

Just because centrism satisfies you emotionally does not mean it is the best way to get elected.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2012


I guess my point is this--like it or not, there is not going to be a great proletarian revolution in the US where suddenly we have a communist dictatorship

Ahh, a view of OWS right out of a right wing political cartoon.

Spring 2009 would have been the best time for that--a new president, a crisis, and a majority seeking the temperature of the country to determine what it could do that would solve problems without destroying that majority and that president.

...and then a movement that doesn't give two fucks about boundaries organized and voted that majority out.

Just because centrism satisfies you emotionally does not mean it is the best way to get elected.


Let's look at the numbers, once again, shall we?

Conservatives in the most recent polling constitute 41% of Americans. They are the largest group. Next come moderates, who constitute 36% of Americans. Liberals are 21% of the electorate. Mind you that 21% is 1% off of the high of self-identified liberals of 22% since 1992. In 1992 liberals were 17% of Americans, and dipped down to a low of 16% a few years later.

In other words, this is how Americans consider themselves. And every time people who self-ID as conservatives start to follow their economic instincts, the conservative establishment plays a culture card and gets their vote by pointing out how the different the people in OWS situations appear and how they aren't for what they are for. What is your plan to counter that trick that they've played year on year? We can either build bridges to independents or destroy them. Your choice.

So if your plan is to run around calling for the destruction of the banks, what are you doing? Do you think it is actually likely to end up destroying the "banksters?" What's your plan? How is what OWS is doing going to help people in the long run? What are the risks?

I suggest you read a fascinating book called Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.

Plain facts here. There are far more of them than there are of us. So we have to get smart.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not gonna go over why those numbers don't mean what you claim since you have ignored the many times folks have gone over it for you. Your emotional attachment to this narrative is not something I can argue you out of, and your hysterical claims that I have suggested I want to destroy banks make that fairly clear.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2012


I'm not gonna go over why those numbers don't mean what you claim since you have ignored the many times folks have gone over it for you. Your emotional attachment to this narrative is not something I can argue you out of, and your hysterical claims that I have suggested I want to destroy banks make that fairly clear.

Really? So your years of experience with statistics and polling means those polls are wrong? Never once have I seen a remotely convincing argument on here that somehow liberals are 55% of the population.

What I am asking is what is OWS doing? In your own words. What is it trying to achieve? How will it achieve those aims? What are the chances it will work? I'm asking someone, anyone, to answer these questions.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:12 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get why you are acting as if you have not seen and ignored the counter-argument a million times. It's a tiresome rehash nobody wants to read again.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:19 PM on April 27, 2012


Well, evie, my description of "professional leftists" may vary, mostly I'm referring to people who have a current career as leftists, of some sort of another. But some of them were old Sixties activists. Many of then were younger, anarchist bloc leaders, labor activists, Greens, etc. They all came to OWS with a structure in mind. At first I learned a lot from these people, but it became obvious they weren't keeping up with the rapidly evolving structure and could only act from their own model of what was going on, instead of seeing what was actually going on. About the only people I really respected were the few Quakers, who were definitely not "professionals," but acted more out of moral convictions than anyone else. But they were scarce, and definitely stayed in the background. Perhaps there is an advantage to acting almost invisibly, in the background.

Yes, our group absolutely did not have any way to resolve conflicts. Even the activity most intended to build consensus, the GA, became bogged down in petty logistical issues (like who was going to wash the dishes) to the point it alienated the people who came to OWS for political action and drove them away. Mostly this was the fault of the people who should have been pulling together, but instead, acted (IMHO) totally against the principles they espoused, and caused friction in subtle ways that I could not believe they were capable of. Oh what a bunch of characters, I described them to a friend and he said, "you ought to write a novel!" I practically have already, just in this and a few other threads. The cast is bizarre. The Rainbow Family "free thinker" who was a petty tyrant and bully. The yoga teacher who was a control freak. The "spokesman" who could bore you to death with his first sentence (of many). The two IT guys who spent all their time fighting over who had the passwords, instead of actually doing the website. The Anarchist radio show host who tried to teach everyone interpersonal methods but hated everyone in the entire world. The photographer who said he was a detached observer, but meddled in everything.

And then there was me, the renegade Punk Rocker who never aligned with anyone in his life, trying to be the peacemaker and get them all working together. I was surprised to discover I had the strongest facilitation skills of anyone in the group, but this probably just came from my years of suffering through tedious business meetings, and developing skills to move these meetings along, rather than just having meetings for the sake of meetings. The GAs I facilitated always got the job done quickly and efficiently. But I had to deliberately step back and facilitate as little as possible, since I didn't want to become an indispensable and irreplaceable "leader." It was more important to lead by example and then STFU and see if other people rise to the challenge. They rarely did. But this is a weakness of the "Tyranny of Structurelessness." A fetish for process dumbs everything down, the people who are best at any one job have to rotate out so nobody becomes entrenched in a permanent position. So the skills most required to run a group are structured so they can be handled by anyone, even the person who is least capable of doing that job.

But a lot of this I merely ascribe to a small OWS group without enough people with strong, overlapping skills. More people in the group might have diluted much of the drama that encircled the self-appointed "leaders." Or maybe it would have just created more friction around them. I don't know.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:07 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh what a bunch of characters, I described them to a friend and he said, "you ought to write a novel!" I practically have already, just in this and a few other threads. The cast is bizarre. The Rainbow Family "free thinker" who was a petty tyrant and bully. The yoga teacher who was a control freak. The "spokesman" who could bore you to death with his first sentence (of many). The two IT guys who spent all their time fighting over who had the passwords, instead of actually doing the website. The Anarchist radio show host who tried to teach everyone interpersonal methods but hated everyone in the entire world. The photographer who said he was a detached observer, but meddled in everything.

I'm sold. Sitcom it is.
posted by philip-random at 2:28 PM on April 27, 2012


I don't get why you are acting as if you have not seen and ignored the counter-argument a million times. It's a tiresome rehash nobody wants to read again.

Nice evasion.

the only one I saw was one where the person claimed that because lots of people agreed with liberals on some economic issues they should be called liberals.

That's beside the point. The IDs are cultural as much as policy and that is the issue. When liberals are demonized for marching with giant puppets and the like, people forget that they agree with liberal economic policies or don't even ID those policies as liberal at all.

there are no other arguments I remember. You can try to fight facts all you want. But you can't win.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:50 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey folks. I know it's not *my* thread here, and also the topic has led to strong emotions in past threads (if that doesn't say something about Occupy...), but it's my first post (except for one that got deleted for not having enough content to it), so may I beg the favor of really well thought out, high quality comments with minimal personal attacks?

Example: furiousxgeorge, I know that in past OWS threads, Ironmouth has sometimes come across as having opinions on what Occupy should and shouldn't do while not seeming to even support the basic goals, and I disagree with his analysis here too. But I think that his response to my comment, where he talked about his own viewpoint, was an honest attempt at engaging the issues and a very good opening for a deeper and more productive dialogue. It would be a kind and generous favor to me if we could focus on that for the present.

Many thanks!
posted by eviemath at 3:37 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Delmoi argues it, you never address it. Delmoi argues it, you never address it. Pointing out actual support for liberal policy is higher than cultural self id suggests, you flee the thread.

This is so old and busted, the self-id for conservatism means about as much for policy as self-id as Catholic means for birth control. Cultural identity is not the same thing as a policy position. No matter how much it makes you feel emotionally fulfilled to harbor cultural distaste for conservatives, on many major important issues they are not out of step with the rest of the country.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2012


PSMag: According to their research, some people genuinely know what it means to be a conservative in the current political debate and indeed express matching preferences across all issues. But these “constrained conservatives” (as Ellis and Stimson call them) account for only 26 percent of all self-identified conservatives.

More common are the “moral conservatives” (34 percent), who think of themselves as conservative in terms of their own personal values, be they social or religious. And they are indeed right-leaning on social, cultural and religious issues. But they also like government spending on a variety of programs and generally approve of government interventions in the marketplace, hardly making them true conservatives.

And still others, “conflicted conservatives” (30 percent), are not conservative at all on the issues. But they like identifying themselves as conservatives. To them, it somehow sounds better. “They like the word,” explained Ellis. Or at least, they like it better then their other choices in the traditional self-identification questionnaire: moderate and liberal.

Finally, a smaller group of self-identified “conservatives” (10 percent) could be classified as libertarian — conservative on economic issues, liberal on social issues.


Self-identified liberals, on the other hand, are consistently liberal on all the issues, according to Ellis and Stimson. Two-thirds of liberals fit into the category of “constrained liberals,” who pick the label because it actually describes their worldview.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:47 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delmoi argues it, you never address it. Delmoi argues it, you never address it. Pointing out actual support for liberal policy is higher than cultural self id suggests, you flee the thread.

This is so old and busted, the self-id for conservatism means about as much for policy as self-id as Catholic means for birth control. Cultural identity is not the same thing as a policy position. No matter how much it makes you feel emotionally fulfilled to harbor cultural distaste for conservatives, on many major important issues they are not out of step with the rest of the country.


This is my point. Exactly. If we march with thirty-foot tall puppets, people who self-ID as conservative but actually agree with us on a lot of issues will vote against us. Hence, let's not march with 30-foot tall puppets. Let's walk in nice clothes, because then people will listen to us and others won't use cultural differences against us.

A lot of the issues I disagree with you on are exactly those kind of wedge issues. 70% of the country wants Gitmo open. I'd like it closed, but there's zero use screaming about it if the votes are not there to do that and others will use it to get people to vote against their own economic policy preferences. Most of the Glenn Greenwald issues are exactly that. Issues that hand the country over to very bad people. Same with ridiculous schemes to generically try "banksters" on non-existent charges. People want the country run well. They generally dislike over-the-top political rhetoric.

In short, we need to make our case not feed our egos and emotions. And a lot of the personal anecdotes on OWS point out that these types of protests tend to create this type of situation. Those who disagree with us will exploit this. They have in the past. Again, I can't recommend enough Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. The emotion and language of the modern conservative movement is based on exploiting the emotional and cultural faultlines created by the end of the last great protest movement.

The original OWS was great. But when it becomes less about economic disparity and more about the right to unlimited, unending protest camping in a public park, that's when people turn away from you. People don't want that in their parks. People don't want the Port of Oakland (a union workplace) blockaded. The modern conservative movement is well-trained at using people like that against a broader movement for more economic fairness.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:08 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I might be off the mark here, but this is really starting to piss me off:

"This is my point. Exactly. If we march with thirty-foot tall puppets, people who self-ID as conservative but actually agree with us on a lot of issues will vote against us. Hence, let's not march with 30-foot tall puppets." -Ironmouth (emphasis mine)

This is condescending and patronizing language, and--correct me if I'm wrong--you aren't marching for shit, Ironmouth. You've been in every OCCUPY thread for 7 months campaigning against whatever OWS is doing that week, while trying to maintain that you would fully support OWS if they would just...
posted by broadway bill at 9:29 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


You dredged up your deceptive numbers again in response to my comment on electoral strategy, remember:

...and then a movement that doesn't give two fucks about boundaries organized and voted that majority out.

Just because centrism satisfies you emotionally does not mean it is the best way to get elected.

Did your folks get scared away by tea party protests? No, it isn't about finding silly protests annoying. The well behaved centrists in DC didn't counter the passion of the other side and make their case, they compromised on a wide variety of issues, got their ass kicked and then decided as always the hippies are the problem.

People do not vote based on puppets. You are whining about the inability to convince people who already agree or are persuadable with economic arguments. The bottom line is you think people are morons, especially conservatives, because of your emotional attachment to centrist policy. We can't tailor every movement to satisfy your feelings.

If you think plain clothed protest will work (most of OWS already dresses nice) go do it instead of concern trolling here. You sit on your ass and whine while the banks fear OWS so much they describe it as wolves and Al Qaeda.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:02 AM on April 28, 2012


But when it becomes less about economic disparity and more about the right to unlimited, unending protest camping in a public park, that's when people turn away from you.

as I heard it put a long time ago when some local "anarchists" refused to give up a squat in the midst of a nice neighborhood, "You guys would have the neighbors on your side if you actually fixed the place up, made it less of an eyesore. Instead you crank the punk rock, plaster agit-prop graffiti everywhere, make it worse."

This is condescending and patronizing language, and--correct me if I'm wrong--you aren't marching for shit, Ironmouth. You've been in every OCCUPY thread for 7 months campaigning against whatever OWS is doing that week, while trying to maintain that you would fully support OWS if they would just...

Sorry but as is, the more extreme aspects of the Occupy movement do need to be patronized and condescended to. Because as is, they are too easily positioned by their opponents as silly, or worse. As for Ironmouth, whether he marches or not is utterly beside the point. The fact that he chooses to identify with Occupy is entirely his call. He is part of the 99 percent. He gets to speak.
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't buy that anyone needs to be patronized and condescended to. Work with people. Treat them as equals. I have no interest in silencing Ironmouth or anyone else who identifies with this thing and is interested in advancing it and keeping it going, so long as they can manage to not demand that each and every person or action involved meets their personal requirements (which are, I might add, often purely aesthetic) for validity.

Don't say "we" and "let's" when you so plainly mean "you." Talk like that bothered me when I was 6 years old, and it still does now. Maybe I'm alone in that, but I doubt it.
posted by broadway bill at 11:06 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is what I'm talking about

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120321/downtown/occupy-wall-street-protesters-dump-human-waste-bank
posted by Ironmouth at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2012


And the tea party is racist, because everyone is morons who can't seperate out members from the group.

Oh wait, people can and did and the movement wiped out a Democratic majority.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:36 AM on April 28, 2012


as I heard it put a long time ago when some local "anarchists" refused to give up a squat in the midst of a nice neighborhood, "You guys would have the neighbors on your side if you actually fixed the place up, made it less of an eyesore. Instead you crank the punk rock, plaster agit-prop graffiti everywhere, make it worse."

Well, isn't part of the point that everyone, no matter what subculture they associate with and no matter their income level, deserves a decent place to live? Also, that mixed-* (mixed-income, mixed-ethnicity, mixed-subculture, etc.) neighborhoods help build an overall stronger and more tolerant social fabric? Was this a historically "nice" neighborhood, or was it a gentrifying neighborhood where the neighbors had been progressively imposing their standards of "nice" versus "eyesore" on the old neighborhood? (These are all rhetorical questions, by the way - so we don't go off on a derail.)

Is it really a win if, in order to get their desired political changes made, a group has to completely change their identity?

I support smart, strategic protesting in activist groups that I am involved with where I know all of the issues and can reasonably make a judgement on strategy/expediency versus maintaining core values and ideals. I avoid commenting on other groups' efforts that I am not involved with because I can't know enough about those sort of discussions that I haven't been privy to, as well as for the not promoting factionalism and interpersonal conflict reasons that I outlined earlier.
posted by eviemath at 12:52 PM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I literally just realized today that May 1st is Tuesday and not tomorrow. Occupy fail.
posted by fuq at 5:44 PM on April 29, 2012


I literally just realized today that May 1st is Tuesday and not tomorrow. Occupy fail.

I've seen this sentiment a bunch of places. At least you're careful enough to realize this today.

I seriously believe that at least a dozen people in the world will accidentally take the day off.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:13 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was sent to me by a friend. I think it's worth your time.
On May 1st, tens of thousands of people will gather in the streets of New York City to make their collective voices heard. Why does this matter? What sort of concrete outcomes could come from yet another street demonstration?

To explain why this time is different, I need to explain the steady, tireless work that has been going on for the past five months. Occupy Wall Street organizers have been holding open planning meetings with representatives from a consortium of labor unions, immigrant rights organizations, and the "May 1st Coalition". These meetings -- termed the "4x4" meetings, because they consist of (at least) four representatives from each of the four member coalitions -- have been the launching pad for an escalating series of demonstrations and organizing campaigns that have built trust and shared experience among the participants. Alongside these meetings, the open, twice-weekly meetings held by Occupy Wall Street and biweekly gatherings held by the May 1st coalition have drawn hundreds of active organizers together to plan the day, as well as other actions that have preceded and will follow May 1st, and share tactics, experiences, and resources.

All told, May 1st represents the active contributions of well over a thousand experienced planners and organizers, with thousands more in key support roles. A rally with just these organizers would itself fill Union Square.

But the important feature of these planners is that they are decidedly not an insular group. Together they represent a coalition that is more or less unprecedented in American history: immigrant rights workers, many different kinds of labor unions, precarious workers, artists, university students, high school students, teachers, professors, parents, faith-based groups, community groups, Occupiers and political activists of several stripes. This is in many ways an historic coming together of a huge cross-section of society: an incredibly wide swath of the so-called "99%".

What is important about the breadth of this coalition is that it pairs together groups who have been divided by the unfortunate political dialogue of recent American history. Many of these groups have been, quite successfully, pitted against each other, often using social "wedge issues". This persistent divisiveness has undermined efforts to unite groups that share common economic and political interests.

To this end, May 1st represents an enormous step forward in ending that petty bickering; potentially heralding the start of a new, substantive conversation. The members of this coalition came together because they realize that history has afforded them a rather unique opportunity to emphasize that their causes are linked -- that a system that decides human beings can be declared "illegal" in order to exploit their wage labor, is the same one that decides that unionized workers are bad for business. It's also the same system that causes students to graduate college with so much debt that they must chain themselves to a career in something they despise, rather than pursue their passions. It's the same system that measures the value of people by what they consume, and that measures the value of artists by how much they sell. It's the same system that believes you can put a price on a sustainable planet.

Recognizing for ourselves that all of these causes are one is the first step. Learning how to work together, how to best combine our strengths, is the essential next phase.

We been working tirelessly together, for months, to build these bonds. Whether those bonds are cemented, whether this incredible coalition continues to work together to make change, will depend in large part on how we all feel, on May 2nd, about the outcome of this, our first collaboration.

In working together, we have already made history. We hope that May Day is the opening of a long campaign together to build the future.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What The Fuck Has Occupy Done So Far?
posted by flex at 10:52 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What to expect on May Day: No one knows quite what Occupy's general strike will look like, but police are reportedly preparing for action
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2012


Wall Street Banks Coordinate To Fight May Day Protests, Compare Themselves To Elk Hunted By Wolves
posted by homunculus at 2:26 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure stuff like this will win over America. Way to go, Occupy!
posted by downing street memo at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2012


So, it's May 1st today and I've called off of work. Does it still count if I did it because I threw my back out and I'm hopped up on muscle relaxants?
posted by charred husk at 8:39 AM on May 1, 2012


The Delores Park Ruckus
posted by entropicamericana at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2012


FBI heroically locks up ridiculous anarchists on May Day: Feds stop inept radicals from carrying out a plot feds helped them conceive and carry out
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on May 1, 2012


I just heard that known liberal mouthpiece NPR go from the anarchist story to a story about Occupy marches and May Day celebrations without missing a beat. Almost as if they were implying some sort of equivalence. I'm sure that was purely accidental.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:17 PM on May 1, 2012


charlie don't surf: "You're not looking at the bigger picture. I complained about TIFs earlier upthread. My town has a hotel development project that got a $16 million TIF. It's losing $3.5 Million dollars a year. They just passed another $10 Million TIF to steal away the anchor store from a mall in the adjacent town, only 5 or 6 miles away. And that town is fighting back with TIFs of its own. They are wasting tax money, trying to steal jobs away from each other, back and forth."

TIFs are not always abused. Around here, they firstly don't take anything that already existed from schools or any other property tax funded entity, they only delay the realization of the gain, and secondly, they are generally used to pay debt service on bonds for infrastructure improvements. It is in some ways a giveaway in that we're not forcing the developer to immediately pay for the improvements required for their development to succeed. In other ways, it's not.

Out of the particular deal I'm thinking of, we're getting a shit-ton of sales tax that would otherwise have gone to a suburb plus the school district is getting a little grease out of the deal. We require all interested parties to agree or no TIF, so everyone gets their palms greased.
posted by wierdo at 1:27 PM on May 1, 2012


wagingnonviolence.org:
Already, the group in OWS that is planning for May Day has begun preparing to carry the momentum forward into a series of anti-austerity actions being planned in the city for mid-May. This is a promising sign that OWS organizers are thinking about next steps.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:57 AM on May 2, 2012


I went to the Toronto May Day rally. I was very disappointed - I was hoping that it would attract a wide spectrum of people concerned about growing income inequality. But instead, it seemed to consist almost entirely of people who were heavily involved in activist culture, and many were protesting capitalism itself, rather than recent trends. And I think that they did not have a good strategy to relate to a wider audience and even took some choices - like blocking cars and streetcars - which seemed to have been designed to alienate the wider public rather than raise awareness.

I don't think anyone will take them seriously. I couldn't take half of the signs seriously, and I was there. I could totally get behind the sex workers who were campaigning for immigration reform and the great sign pointing out that unions brought us the 8-hour workday, but there are still people identifying as Bolsheviks? I have sympathies for communism (in the Christian utopian or commune tradition), but Leninism is inherently anti-democratic and central planning failed utterly as an economic system.

I was really hoping that the Occupy Movement would open up a conversation not about how to end capitalism - though it's unclear whether they mean market exchange or actually capitalism or that they make a distinction - but a real, concrete and realistic conversation about growing income inequality and the extent to which recent productivity gains have not been shared between capital and labour, and how we can mitigate that while still enjoying the benefits that market exchange and capitalist production can bring.
posted by jb at 7:53 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


TIFs are not always abused. Around here, they firstly don't take anything that already existed from schools or any other property tax funded entity, they only delay the realization of the gain, and secondly, they are generally used to pay debt service on bonds for infrastructure improvements. It is in some ways a giveaway in that we're not forcing the developer to immediately pay for the improvements required for their development to succeed. In other ways, it's not.

It's going to be a giveaway to some extent. Sure there are proper ways to use a TIF, but they are increasingly uncommon.

Out of the particular deal I'm thinking of, we're getting a shit-ton of sales tax that would otherwise have gone to a suburb plus the school district is getting a little grease out of the deal. We require all interested parties to agree or no TIF, so everyone gets their palms greased.


I'll tell you a little more about my town. It's a suburb, formerly a bedroom community for the overpriced local University town. But a while ago, the City Council decided they wanted more. They passed a huge TIF for the largest mall in the state. Around it grew the usual Walmarts and big box stores, which are major sales tax contributors but still they take more from the city coffers than they contribute, since their substandard wages and zero benefits push the costs onto city social services that are already strained.

My town is a poster child for TIF abuse, as I previously mentioned, 40% of the town is under a TIF and the property tax shortfall of millions is roughly equivalent to the shortfall in the school system budget. Property taxes were falling all across the county due to lowered valuations after the housing crash. So a big initiative was started to implement a 1 cent Local Option Sales Tax, specifically to fund the school systems. Each school district would have a separate vote on the LOST measure.

The campaigning in my town presented the argument that they should vote against the sales tax, since it was almost assured the other districts would pass it. This would make purchasing goods in this town cheaper than elsewhere in the county. This would especially benefit big box stores at the big mall where the cost of doing business was already artificially low due to the TIF.

And that's exactly what happened. I was running the polls as a Precinct Chairman on election day, in a spare room in school district building. The tax was defeated here by less than 100 votes, less than the victory margin in my precinct alone. It passed everywhere else in the county. Our school district is still short on the budget about $300 million a year, and the shortfall is getting worse. They really ought to revoke the $300 million in TIFs, but they can't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:54 PM on May 2, 2012


The NYPD May Day siege
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


NATO protests in Chicago: Police van drives into protesters, web video reporters detained, held at gunpoint (photos+video)
posted by homunculus at 11:40 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"No NATO, No War": U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit
posted by homunculus at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the continued updates, homunculus!
posted by eviemath at 3:22 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Paris Patisseries is a luscious blog which chronic...  |  In The Geographic Flow of Musi... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments