Some Preoccupations About Occupy Wall Street

I was one of the dismissive ones at first. I was even, I am a bit sorry now to say, on Ginia Bellafonte’s side when she wrote, in The New York Times, that “the group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face – finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out.”

A former graduate student who is underemployed and struggling to repay student loans myself, I connected personally with Bellafonte’s lament. I even bought into her critique of the protesters for using Macbooks and iPhones to do their organizing. (Later, when many people basically told me that anyone who got behind that critique obviously had his head up his ass, I started to wonder if I should be embarrassed about my earlier position. I’m not entirely, though.) My skepticism was kind of a recoil from previous bristles with this kind of activism. I love anarchism as a way of living and as a utopian vision, but I have participated in horizontal activism before and seen ugly Ego rear its head and tear the whole thing down. When Occupy started, and even as it began to prove its tenacity, I wanted to believe in radical politics but I desperately needed proof.

I still do. Though I’ve now visited Zuccotti Park about fifteen times, sometimes spending hours absorbed in Working Group meetings or participating in and documenting the General Assembly, I am still looking for something that will help me truly believe that this will lead to change. Read more


To Demand Or Not To Demand?

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

This quote by Frederick Douglass was read to the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park on Sunday, October 30th, as the Demands Working Group prepared to make the case for Occupy Wall Street to adopt demands. And they wanted one demand in particular to start with:

“Jobs for ALL – A Massive Public Works and Public Service Program:

We demand a massive public works and public service program with direct government employment at prevailing (union) wages, paid for by taxing the rich and corporations, by immediately ending all of America’s wars, and by ending all aid to authoritarian regimes to create 25 million new jobs to: Read more

What Will Come Of The American Autumn?

Is one demand enough?

The Arab Spring toppled dictatorships, the European Summer raised awareness about the consequences of austerity measures in Greece and Spain as well as minority youth marginalization in London, and the American Autumn, so far, has at the very least showed the world that Leftist politics are not dead and neither are Americans complacent or asleep.

But what will come of the Occupy Wall Street movement? I don’t think that the organizers or supporters will be satisfied with the movement unless it bears results, though it alone is certainly an accomplishment: thousands of people have marched with OWS, labor unions and universities have become aligned, and occupations have sprung up in solidarity throughout the U.S. And the general assembly, as you know if you’ve seen it, is a beautiful expression of democracy at its most direct and most representative. Every person’s voice is heard while respecting the needs of the group.

As one must-see video explainer about the democratic consensus-building process says, the Occupy Wall Street general assembly is meant to be an end in itself, not merely a means to something different.

And yet, Adbusters sent out an email today suggesting one very specific demand: Read more