Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, contd

Anonymity and the Common Good

Like the small trickles of water from melting snow that become small streams that become creeks and rivers that become one big river, people of all kinds, with all kinds of viewpoints, are joining the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As has been pointed out, the formative genius of the original Occupy Wall Street group was to focus on the one thing that would unite as many people as possible, the vast concentration of wealth at the top of US society.

Flowing from the concentration of wealth are the concentration of power, and the inevitable corruption that comes with a concentration of power, and the corruption of our political system, the fact that it it does not represent our interests. The fact that it is our labor that created all that wealth is not mentioned, but is implicit. The fact that the Occupy movement represents stark class analysis is not mentioned, but is implicit. It is right there in the 1 percent versus 99 percent dichotomy set up in the group's slogan "We are the 99 percent."

Taking the Arab Spring as its inspiration and model, issues that, although they may be important, are not essential to a class analysis of the central issue, and which could fracture the group, are left alone. Left alone until such time as the power is taken away from the financial elite and shared equally by we the the 99 percent.

Here in New Mexico, the Occupy Albuquerque group was one of the first to demonstrate how a fracturing might take place. It decided to rename itself unOccupy Albuquerque in recognition of the genocide of the Native peoples and their dispossession. An important issue, but not one likely to unite as many people as the issue of economic class.

As I scan the Facebook pages of the 40 plus Occupy groups I now follow, and read the comments posted there, many come to the Occupy movement with their own agendas, and their own ideas of how the movement should proceed. And in the Leftist press, many writers weigh in with their own idea of what the Occupy movement should  do next. 

The New Left of the 1960s altered America permanently, but quickly dissipated after the end of the Vietnam War, which was the one thing that united everyone. One thing that came out of the New Left's remains was identify politics, where people coalesced around something central to their identity, such as sexual orientation or gender, and you see these issues reflected in the people coming to the Occupy movement.

Note this post today at the Occupy Santa Fe Facebook page.

There's the old saying, "beggars can't be choosers," but these folks don't just want any old food, the kind many of us live on who look around and find ourselves members of the 99 percent, they want "healthy food."

This reminds of the kind of people I often see shopping at the Montanita Food Co-op.  The food co-op movement was begun in the early 70s by hippies who were trying to create an alternative to Capitalist food production, but has been taken over by people whose interest is merely a self centered concern with their diet. When the workers at Montanita tried to form a union a few years back, the board hired one of those notorious union busting law firms to put the workers back in their places, and now, in conjunction with the annual board elections, sends out a list of "board approved" candidates. I'm not making this up.

So far, the Occupy movement as a whole has shown no signs of splintering. As exemplified by many groups already, north, south, east and west, it has shown no signs  of buckling when the power elite sends out its coercive arm, the police, to do violence upon it. Neither has the movement allowed agent provocateurs sent in by the police to commit vandalism in its name to disrupt its activities.

I would add that the success of the Occupy movement so far, besides its success in uniting people under an economic, class analysis, is that it has no leaders. This fact has been pointed out, in the context that it means that there is no head for the police and the power elite to decapitate. The example is given of how the FBI and police effectively ended the Black Panthers in the 1960s by simply murdering its leadership

The group is also being run on the basis of mass consensus of the group as a whole, the most democratic way of running an organization as is possible. I would argue that with this form, and having no leaders, there is no room for the ego and personal ambition. There is little way to make the movement the vehicle for the self centered, the narcissistic, the egotistical types who always manage to install themselves as leaders of any kind of movement or organization, and to corrupt the common spirit of the movement.

Noteworthy is the fact that the group known as Anonymous has allied itself with the Occupy movement. Anonymous is a fascinating amalgam of what I would  call modern day Robin Hoods, who have on many occasions used their technical savvy, creativity and sheer audacity to attack centers of power such a banks, the police, the military. Recall that soon after a New York City police supervisor was videotaped pepper spraying protesters who were already being restrained by police, Anonymous quickly posted that officers personal information online, giving pause to others who would abuse their power.

Today Anonymous began the outing of Texas Judge William Adams who is shown beating his disabled daughter in a You Tube video that went viral. Lawrence Summers, the quintessential Washington/Wall Street insider, is also being outed today.

The information below was the first volley in the outing of accused child abuser Adams was posted on a You Tube site called TheAnonMessage. The information about Adams can be found posted in the comments section.

Videos listed along the side bar of that site and at Anonymousnumber15 portray the philosophy of Anonymous and some of the actions they are taking now. 



  1. I appreciate reading the write-ups you post on the Occupy movement. I empathize with the 99% philosophy but am not entirely sold on what the occupiers hope to gain from their tent city approach. The day you wrote this post I visited Zucotti Park in New York. Quite a bit smaller than I'd pictured it to be. Unimpressive to say the least, and I'm a sympathetic sort. Perhaps its existence and the debate it has furthered will churn out some benefits not yet apparent.

  2. Thanks for the comment DD.

    You do get around! I appreciate what you are saying about the tent city approach. I hear references being made to Hooverville, a tent city during the Depression of veterans in Washington, and to a tent city in Washington Martin Luther King was planning when he was assassinated. To those who know this history and see themselves as part of it, it may be part of how they conceptualize what they are doing. Protest in general, occupying public space, works in ways not immediately apparent, I think, too.

    IN the end, is it effective? Within the Left, it has energized the Left and brought a focus that has been dispersed for many years by things like "identity politics" (queer rights movement, feminist movement, etc) and the success of the Right in setting the agenda and controlling the media.

    Some are arguing it is already having an effect. For instance, the media is not now obsessed with how the tea baggers will influence the outcome of the next election or the current debates in Washington. The results of last Tuesday's elections, which the left sees as an overwhelming endorsement, is seen as evidence that the terms of the debate have been shifted.

    Some of how the Occupy people operate has to do with making sure the movement cannot be co-opted or taken control of by a charismatic figure, and seems sloppy and messy and is. But to the extent that their message has filtered out, it could be that the general sense of disgust that many Americans have over the bank bailouts, the unfairness of corporations making record profits during a recession, government policies focused only on the supply side, foreclosures, is becoming less generalized and more in the front of peoples' consciousness. That's the goal anyway, and the hope.

    Officialdom has been keeping an uneasy eye on the movement, making occasional runs at it, but it looks like Tuesday's election results have sped up the efforts to break up the camps. Portland's was cleared out over the weekend, Oakland's this morning. You have to keep asking yourself, what are they afraid of? Why do they want to put this movement down? It's because of the extent to which it does reverberate, and the extent to which consciousness is being raised and the conversation being shifted, and because there is a critical mass that could be reached at any moment. The Left sees Obama's decision to further study that tar sands pipeline as huge. It's approval was virtually a given until a couple weeks ago. Their whole reality has changed because of it, overnight. They see now that the debate doesn't have to be shifted very far for some of the possibilities on the right to suddenly fall off and new ones on the Left to appear, as I say, overnight.

  3. All very good points you raise here, particularly controlling the media message. The current administration seems inept in this regard, always reacting rather than setting the debate. It's all very Machiavellian to talk of media messaging and propaganda but I prefer it when this administration is reacting to voices on the left than ginned-up outrages and nonsense on the right. If this is the short term victory of the Occupy Movement than so be it.