Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

"On Playing By The Rules The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet"

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
Home » Discuss » Editorials & Other Articles Donate to DU
bleever Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-11 02:21 PM
Original message
This is a very interesting article by long-time activist and social scientist David Graeber about what went right with OWS, and the social and political factors involved.

He looks at the history of various protest movements, and what makes OWS different, and powerful. I paced about the Green, I noticed something. To adopt activist parlance: this wasnt really a crowds of verticalsthat is, the sort of people whose idea of political action is to march around with signs under the control of one or another top-down protest movement. They were mostly pretty obviously horizontals: people more sympathetic with anarchist principles of organization, non-hierarchical forms of direct democracy, and direct action. I quickly spotted at least one Wobbly, a young Korean activist I remembered from some Food Not Bomb event, some college students wearing Zapatista paraphernalia, a Spanish couple whod been involved with the indignados in Madrid I found my Greek friends, an American I knew from street battles in Quebec during the Summit of the Americas in 2001, now turned labor organizer in Manhattan, a Japanese activist intellectual Id known for years My Greek friend looked at me and I looked at her and we both instantly realized the other was thinking the same thing: Why are we so complacent? "Why is it that every time we see something like this happening, we just mutter things and go home? though I think the way we put it was more like, You know something? Fuck this shit. They advertised a general assembly. Lets hold one.

So we gathered up a few obvious horizontals and formed a circle, and tried to get everyone else to join us. Almost immediately people appeared from the main rally to disrupt it, calling us back with promises that a real democratic forum would soon break out on the podium. We complied. It didnt happen. My Greek friend made an impassioned speech and was effectively shooed off the stage. There were insults and vituperations. After about an hour of drama, we formed the circle again, and this time, almost everyone abandoned the rally and come over to our side. We created a decision-making process (we would operate by modified consensus) broke out into working groups (outreach, action, facilitation) and then reassembled to allow each group to report its collective decisions, and set up times for new meetings of both the smaller and larger groups. It was difficult to figure out what to do since we only had six weeks, not nearly enough time to plan a major action, let alone bus in the thousands of people that would be required to actually shut down Wall Streetand anyway we couldnt shut down Wall Street on the appointed day, since September 17, the day Adbusters had been advertising, was a Saturday. We also had no money of any kind.


Ordinarily...the plight of the indebted college graduate would not be the sort of issue that would speak directly to the hearts of, say, members of New York Citys Transit Workers Unionwhich, at time of writing, is not only supporting the occupation, but suing the New York Police Department for commandeering their buses to conduct a mass arrest of OWS activists blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. Why would a protest by educated youth strike such a chord across Americain a way that it probably wouldnt have in 1967, or even 1990?

He offers some excellent insights in answer to this question. A bit of a long read, but I recommend it for anyone with an interest in the how and why of OWS.
Refresh | +21 Recommendations Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
bleever Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-11 02:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. Hat tip to Sam Seder,
who posted it on Twitter.

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Sam Hain Donating Member (46 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-11 06:08 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. Did you seem him on Up with Chris Hayes this weekend?
Brilliant guy!
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
snot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-11 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
2. Good article! I liked this (esp. for DU'er's):
Edited on Wed Oct-19-11 03:50 PM by snot
Others suggest is a well-meaning progressive whose hands are tied; or, alternately, blame progressives for not having mobilized to provide sufficient pressure to his Left. The latter seem to forget the way the grassroots activist groups created during the campaign, which were expected to endure afterwards for just this purpose, were rapidly dismantled once Obama was in power and handing the economic reigns of the US over to the very people (Geithner, Bernanke, Summers) responsible for the crisis, or how liberal groups that actually try to mount campaigns against such policies are regularly threatened with defunding by White-House friendly NGOs. But in a way, this feeling of personal betrayal is pretty much inevitable. It is the only way of preserving the faith that its possible for progressive policies to be enacted in the US through electoral means. Because if Obama was not planning all along to betray his Progressive base, then one would be forced to conclude any such project is impossible. After all, how could there have been a more perfect alignment of the stars than happened in 2008? That year saw a wave election that left Democrats in control of both houses of congress,<5> a Democratic president elected on a platform of Change coming to power at a moment of economic crisis so profound that radical measures of some sort were unavoidable, and at a time when popular rage against the nations financial elites was so intense that most Americans would have supported almost anything. If it was not possible to enact any real progressive policies or legislation at such a moment, clearly, it would never be. Yet none were enacted.<6> Instead Wall Street gained even greater control over the political process, and, since Republicans proved the only party willing to propose radical positions of any kind, the political center swung even further to the Right. Clearly, if progressive change was not possible through electoral means in 2008, it simply isnt going to possible at all. And that is exactly what very large numbers of Americans appear to have concluded.

Say what you will about Americans, and one can say many things, this is a country of deeply democratic sensibilities. The idea that we are, or are supposed to be, a democratic society is at the very core of what makes us proud to be Americans. If Occupy Wall Street has spread to every city in America, its because our financial overlords have brought us to such a pass that anarchists, pagan priestesses, and tree-sitters are about the only Americans left still holding out for the idea that a genuinely democratic society might be possible.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
bleever Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-11 08:24 PM
Response to Original message
3. Another snippet:
Back when I was in college, I learned that the difference between capitalism and feudalismor what was sometimes called the tributary mode of productionis that a feudal aristocracy appropriates its wealth through direct juro-political extraction. They simply take other peoples things through legal means. Capitalism was supposed to be a bit more subtle.<2> Yet as soon as it achieved total world dominance, capitalism seems to have almost immediately begun shifting back into something that could well be described as feudalism. In doing so, too, it made the alliance of money and government impossible to ignore.

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-26-11 07:06 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. Very impresive and rather succinct
Account of what has gone on over the last forty years.

You know, about six months ago, I found some old Insight Magazines that I subscribed to -- way back in the eighties. I took a lot of flack for those magazines when friends saw I had them. They felt my money shouldn't go to the RW. "But how can we understand them if we don't know what their journalists are telling them?" I would say in my defense.

Well, now, in re-reading them, every other point made in those articles - that tariffs are very important, that monopolies are bad and AntiTrust laws are needed, all that has been scrapped. By both parties. And I was amazed to find out that in the mid eighties, many of the RW columnists were quite concerned about "Supply Side" economy and de-regulation. Theywere very upset about the new economic theories. There were several columns about the importance of Glass Steagall, and how we would endanger our entire way of life without that one set of laws.

The nation's basic everyday business life has been altered over the years by Both Parties, to the extent that right now, these RW "fanatics" from the mid eighties would not even be accepted by Democratic centrists!
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-11 03:43 AM
Response to Original message
4. Wow! kr nt
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-11 11:23 AM
Response to Original message
6. K&R OWS is happeing because the tipping point- people said "Fu*k this Sh*t"
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-26-11 06:58 PM
Response to Original message
7. K & R for later. n/t
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
DU AdBot (1000+ posts) Click to send private message to this author Click to view 
this author's profile Click to add 
this author to your buddy list Click to add 
this author to your Ignore list Mon Jan 22nd 2018, 01:49 PM
Response to Original message
Advertisements [?]

Home » Discuss » Editorials & Other Articles Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC