HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Activism » Occupy Underground (Group) » To occupy or not to occup...

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 12:53 AM

To occupy or not to occupy, that is the question

There's been a rather noisy and highly visible debate going on within and around Occupy concerning non-violence, transparency, the black bloc, and "diversity of tactics." But there's a second question that just as pivotal but isn't being addressed as directly -- and that is whether the tactic of "occupying" is still valid in itself, especially with so many states and cities going out of their way to prevent it, even to the point of passing thoroughly unconstitutional laws.

I started thinking about that this evening because of an article at American Prospect that rubbed me the wrong way, though I couldn't quite put my finger on why:

http://prospect.org/article/occupys-return-hibernation

As winter fades, the Occupy Wall Street movement is heating up again. But don’t expect the same focus on physical encampments and rowdy protests. While the blood of the 99 percent is still boiling at the injustice of growing inequality, in organizing meetings and workgroups, cooler heads are prevailing. This is Occupy 2.0—the mainstreaming of momentum.

From my conversations with Occupy organizers and supporters, my sense is that the main thrust of organizing energy and attention will go toward Occupy Our Homes— a coalition of Occupy activists joining with existing grassroots groups to support families that are facing foreclosure or have been evicted by big banks. . . .

The great thing about Occupy Our Homes as a tactic is that there’s still a tangible way for the tents and sleeping bags set to be involved (as when Occupy supporters camped out on the lawn of the home of an Iraq War veteran near Atlanta, ultimately saving her home from foreclosure) but foreclosure prevention also creates avenues for other types of engagement, whether bringing a casserole, writing a letter to a bank, or joining a prayer vigil. Such actions put a broader face on the 99 percent movement, not just punk kids in bandanas but middle class families threatened with homelessness standing with block association presidents and pastors and grandmothers (i.e., my mom).

Say what you will about mainstreaming, that’s how movements evolve being a fringe concern to a force for change. I don’t mean to disregard the role of the vanguard, those at the leading edge of a movement’s origins who take the first, bold steps and, often, risks. But vanguard leaders should be self-aware and situate themselves in a larger context, seeing the prospect of mainstream appeal as a sign of their success not a threat to undermine it.


All very sensible -- but probably too damn sensible. Mainstreaming, cooler heads, prayer vigils, casseroles -- none of that has the kind of crazy energy and willingness to throw yourself into the gears of the machine that initially got Occupy off the ground and turned it into a force its originators had never envisioned. But "craziness" is not a argument you can make to people who are looking for sensible. So on what basis is it possible to argue against mainstreaming?

Then I followed a Facebook link to a Firedoglake item about the "Occupy Exchange Program," whose first project is to send three members of Occupy Buffalo down to Occupy Little Rock to exchange information -- and it gave me a clue as to what was missing from the American Prospect piece:

Meet the first three Occupy Exchange Fellows from Occupy Buffalo: Samantha Colon, Robert Albini and John Washington; three outstanding organizers whose local activism on education, mass transit and foreclosure mills has been a model for other occupations across the country.

Right now they’re on their way to Occupy Little Rock, where local occupiers have taken the encampment off the grid using solar panels, wind turbines, a grey water system and an urban greenhouse.

As Occupy Buffalo and Occupy Little Rock have openly demonstrated through their work, occupy encampments are vibrant communal spaces where people can come together to solve problems and demonstrate a model for the world as they want it to be. By sharing and exchanging strategies, experiences and skills – and then publishing them online to make them available to the rest of world – the Occupy movement can continue to not just demand change, but provide strong alternatives for a more equitable society.


Right there, I think, is the essence of the encampments, and why they can't be neatly folded back into a world of prayer vigils and potluck dinners. They're about creating "vibrant communal spaces ... a model for the world as they want it to be ... strong alternatives for a more equitable society."

It's one thing to chant "We are unstoppable, another world is possible." But that doesn't amount to much unless you can offer some indication of that other world in tangible form -- solar panels, grey water systems, and all.

I'm out in the middle of nowhere and (like the mother of the American Prospect writer) I'm too old to start sleeping on the ground. So it's easy for me to say that Occupy has to find a way to continue creating voluntary communities -- because I'm not the one who has to do it.

But they do have to -- and I would sure like to see as lively a discussion about that as the one about the black bloc.

13 replies, 4885 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread

Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 01:03 AM

1. We are the 99%

as long as we recognize this and we recognize and support the Occupy movement we will make a difference. Don't underestimate the ripple effect. I wish I could do more than just show up occasionally, but the rigors of school have proven to be formidable. If I wasn't old and sick I could do both, but it is what it is. I can however, write/email Reps and attend some protests and other things besides just twiddling my thumbs. I am taking a political science course, to better understand how things work or at least how they are supposed to work. I am getting a lot of valuable information from that. In any case, what we can take away from this is that we have to empower ourselves and stand up to the system while we can still stand.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 01:19 AM

2. Occupy the ballot box. n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to jaysunb (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 09:56 AM

4. Interesting to see this kind of a comment here in the Occupy forum -

I would expect it out in general but not here.

There is nothing wrong with voting, and as a socialist I still vote (even volunteered for the campaign in 2008) - but the point of Occupy is to pick up where voting leaves off. We all voted for Obama, yet look at how little progress he was able to make. We have some things that are positive for sure - Lily Ledbetter, the Health Care improvements, continued UI for those who need it ... It is erroneous to think that the President has the power to make big changes. Any significant changes that have happened in this country to benefit average people (as opposed to the 1%) have come to fruition due to resistance, protesting and sometimes even war (in the case of abolishing slavery).

Your comment "occupy the ballot box" is naive at best, subversive at worst - as in sit back and vote and wait for the change (thereby undermining the entire Occupy movement) ... It doesn't work that way.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to TBF (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 26, 2012, 02:36 AM

11. The corporations have power because we give them power.

We let them buy off our elections because we don't vote. Low voter participation in the United States is a black mark on our democracy. Yes, occupy everywhere, and that includes the ballot box which is probably the mother of all occupations. How can we be claiming to take the country back without encouraging political involvement? I haven't seen a single Occupation denounce voter participation against politicians that don't represent the 99%. Who that is and who that isn't is for each person to decide, but I for one, have a pretty good idea of who the problem pols are and I'm willing to stand up for candidates that oppose them, but not at the cost our handing our country over on a platter to the people who have ransacked it in the first place.

Throw the bums out by the ballot, end the corporate game.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ellisonz (Reply #11)

Sun Feb 26, 2012, 10:28 AM

12. If you'll re-read it you'll notice that I didn't advocate not voting -

and I mentioned I volunteered for the 2008 campaign.

The problem is in concentrating all of our efforts on voting. You could have 100% voter turn-out and it's not going to change anything because 1% of the people in this country control nearly 1/2 the wealth. Until we get rid of the capitalism this is what we'll have - too much influence in the hands of a few because that is how the system works.

But if we give Occupy a chance to put pressure on the elite maybe we'll get some changes. That's our only chance, really. Otherwise conditions will get even worse for large segments of this country and then you get to the point where violent revolution becomes an option for people - and I'd really prefer if we can transition in a peaceful way. That may be naive on my part.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 05:19 AM

3. K&R

A movement that represents 99% of the population has to have a big, big, big tent over its head and cannot present a threat to the very 99% that it stands for. So, I agree with those posting on this thread. There are different aspects to the Occupy movement.

It joins those of us whose idea of political action is talking to voters, our families, neighbors and friends as well as those of us who can build small but sustainable communities and post the information on the internet.

It joins all kinds of movements from Move-On to Rebuild the American Dream to a number of other groups.

Occupy has already worked a miracle just in getting the real issues on the mastheads of a few newspapers across the country even if only for a brief time. That is amazing.

Thanks to the Occupiers. I will never forget the feeling of solidarity when the police first went to evict the Portland Occupiers. Thousands of people just showed up to demonstrate their appreciate for the courage and nonviolence of the Occupiers. That's what it is about -- the 99%, unity, courage and nonviolence.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 10:13 AM

5. "Occupy" didn't just appear out of thin air,

folks have been protesting a long time, worldwide, against capital in various ways. Civil rights movement, Haymarket are the most obvious in this country ... many international examples as well.

I think what we have now is a group of activists leading behind the scenes (particularly in NY) who are being very careful given the Patriot Act et al. I think they have been absolutely brilliant with their "leaderless organization" approach.

I love this: "occupy encampments are vibrant communal spaces where people can come together to solve problems and demonstrate a model for the world as they want it to be. By sharing and exchanging strategies, experiences and skills – and then publishing them online to make them available to the rest of world – the Occupy movement can continue to not just demand change, but provide strong alternatives for a more equitable society"

And not just exchange amongst Occupy USA ... capital is global so resistance will have to organize internationally as well. Europeans see that and immediately started putting up "occupy" signs when OWS started. They were doing that to show their solidarity and willingness to work together. I think we need to take them up on that.

Thanks for your OP.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 10:48 AM

6. For me, Occupy's reclamation of the "village square" as a commons for the people to CONNECT

was/is an extremely important aspect of the movement.

T.P.T.B. benefit from the many trends that have tended to isolate us from one another -- excessively long work weeks, ubiquitous tv screens trumpeting Fox, the privatization of real and virtual public spaces, etc. -- and make it easier for them to convince us that their propaganda is prevailing.

When we get together physically, we learn otherwise, and can start working together.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to snot (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 06:31 PM

8. Good Points.


"T.P.T.B. benefit from the many trends that have tended to isolate us from one another -- excessively long work weeks, ubiquitous tv screens trumpeting Fox, the privatization of real and virtual public spaces, etc. -- and make it easier for them to convince us that their propaganda is prevailing."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to snot (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 07:42 PM

10. BINGO

 

"We Are the Village Green Preservation Society". - The Kinks

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 12:23 PM

7. Here's one more relevant point -- about caring for the homeless

http://lisalongo.me/2012/02/24/how-to-change-the-world/

For a few months, Occupy camps nationwide were feeding and caring for the homeless, and more than anything, that respite is needed. At Occupy Philadelphia they not only fed the homeless, they provided warm clothing, medical care and companionship. I am sure the other camps did the same.

We need to reinvent the Occupy camp concepts. Find a way to work with city & state government to have permanent Occupy sites that work with existing services and organizations to provide shelter, solace & sustenance to those in need. . . .

I am asking each one of you who reads this to join me in changing the world. We can find a space to setup an Occupy Camp Shelter, we can care for each other.

If we don't stop and change the world, who will?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to starroute (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 06:43 PM

9. Yes, and strangely enough, Forbes.com is the ones who first got it right.

Occupy is about occupying physical space and creating a physical community for democracy and dissent. Ignoring that is getting off theme.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=439x2049429

Now why there are so many Occupy-friendly articles on Forbes, probably has something to do with the number of anonymous Paulbots working there or something. But this article (see link) doesn't read like a fan of Ron Paul -- it reads like an unreconstructed leftie libertarian idealist.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Leopolds Ghost (Reply #9)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 08:34 PM

13. Yes, I've been surprised at the positive articles in Forbes.

From the beginning there were some good articles on Forbes' website. Maybe they have been closer to the problems that caused the financial meltdown and understand the terrible impact it has had on ordinary people globally. Hard to ignore that, if you are an honest journalist.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread