This is an extended response to wbgonne’s comment on the Occupy Wall Street liveblog. It is just some observations prompted by the comment.
There are some good insights in this comment. Let me tell you what I see going on from a variety of locations.
IMO, living in parks is not a goal it is a tactic. A symbolic tactic, yes, but surely that is not the goal of the OWS Movement.
It’s not so much living in parks as living in public spaces near the symbolic centers of power that is going on, with allowances to the practicalities of finding a location. It is more than a tactic; it is a strategy among several strategies. It asserts public control over public space. It provides a base camp for direct actions whose venues are the seat of power locally. Those direct actions demonstrate the movement’s alliance with various other groups–the union workers at Sotheby’s, Verizon employees, urban neighborhood residents subject to stop-and-frisk, public employee unions facing pay and pension cuts…those are local alliances. The encampment’s persistence provides continuing media interest as long as something newsworthy is happening. Most importantly, the encampment becomes a demonstration of how to deal with community issues through recreation of a community from scratch, like those that spring up among the homeless or in refugee camps. And the general assembly becomes an experiment and demonstration of participatory democracy.
…the appeal of OWS is that it appears to recognize that concentrated wealth has overwhelmed the democratic process. OWS has brought those discussions into the open and has so far managed to elude the black hole of the partisan duopoly.
That is why Republican and Democratic mayors and governors have been trying to find excuses to shut it down now. [cont’d.]
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I suggest that OWS take its core message of opposition to the plutocracy and begin finding concrete applications to focus on.
Once people get beyond the intial soapbox “This is who I am and what pisses me off” statements, this is what logically tends to happen around general assemblies and direct actions. Personal sustenance classes are the first to emerge – massage, yoga, various forms of spirituality and taking care of oneself and one’s commitment to hang in there. Then teach-ins present the details of various issues that are touched by the corporate-government plutocratic axis. In Columbia SC last night, they were talking about how the state public utilities commission and the US DOE are setting up South Carolina to be the nuclear waste dumping ground because utilities find nuclear with its high costs more profitable than other forms of production. (It goes to the cost-plus nature of utility regulation.) Similar specific tie-ins have occurred in other locations – oil industry in Houston, BP on the Gulf Coast…
I also think OWS should form alliances and act in concert with likeminded groups and individuals, which will foster greater participation by the 99% (not everyone can be an occupier). Once again, the various GAs can select appropriate actions.
That is exactly where local direct action committees are taking the general assemblies. And those committees are not stacked with former activists in a lot of places. There is a lot of rediscovery of tactics going on.
I think there should be some level on national — or international — coordination, even if that means simply to delegate most decisions to the local occupy branches
That in fact is what is happening. What you have is national and international groups will plan a campaign, or a local group will conduct a successful action. This information gets tweeted into the Twitterverse and put on Facebook and a website and an online forum opens up. Those general assemblies that want to take up the call start planning in calling forth resources to make the action a success. Those who want to talk to the originators do so by email, chat, FB, tweets or phone. There is no designated coordination group that ca,n through their control of a channel of communication, have power over the movement. There is not an authority group, not even Occupy Wall Street – New York City. There are not specified authoritative set of contacts; most general assemblies refer questions to one or more committee email addresses instead of specific people. It is small-a anonymous. And thus far it is working.
Might there need to be more regular channels of coordination at some point? My experience working in large organizations says that regular channels are only necessary for corporate legal accountability. In most large corporations now, folks work on projects with a constantly changing cast of characters. Discovering who now is responsible for what becomes an ongoing activity of most worker bees because of the fast pace of change in corporations. A lot of the folks working on committees in various Occupy locations used to be those worker bees. They can handle that uncertainty of sources and high-information environment.
I don’t see it as becoming counterproductive because it isolates the risk to a particular location. It locates decision responsibility there.
Here are the interesting challenges in what you raise. So far the occupation groups depend on the kindness and solidarity of strangers to provide the logistical requirements of the camps and the direct actions. How far that mutual aid can be extended is unknown because it’s never really be tried on a large scale. How that translates into a transformed social dynamic is being invented in each of those camps, Facebook pages, and Twitter streams. There is really no way to prepare for the problems of future growth because no one knows what they will be yet. Whatever long term implications are held right now as a multitude of visions of the good society or the transformed society.
Old dogs like me are having to re-evaluate what we think about the way to get things done.