What Really Caused the Implosion of the Occupy Movement—An Insider’s View

By Yotam Marom, an organizer, facilitator, and the Director of the Wildfire Project. Originally published at AlterNet.

I’m in a warmly lit apartment on the Lower East Side. It’s a cool night in early October of 2011, the height of Occupy Wall Street.

What a fucking whirlwind it’s been. Two months ago I had just moved into my parents’ basement, feeling deflated after the end of Bloombergville (a two-week street occupation outside city hall to try to stop the massive budget cuts of that same year), convinced this country wasn’t ready for movement. Now I’m in this living room with some of the most impressive people I’ve ever met, at the shaky helm of a movement that has become part of the mainstream’s daily consciousness. It’s my first time feeling like the Left is more than a scrawny sideshow, and it’s surreal. Truth is, I wasn’t much of a believer until I was caught up in the mass arrests on September 24th, until Troy Davis was murdered by the State of Georgia and I felt the connection in my body, until more people came down and gave it legs. But now it’s real. The rush of rapidly growing numbers, recognition from other political actors, and increasing popular support and media acclaim is electric and overwhelming. It feels a bit like walking a tightrope.

I’m a leader, and people know it, but no one says it. It’s a strange feeling. I’m not the only leader, of course — there are many. In this room, we’re a wide range of people. Some of the folks go back to the Global Justice Movement, but most of us have met in the middle of the whirlwind, building the kinds of relationships you can only build in crisis or struggle. Some of the room is seasoned and experienced, some very new to this type of thing, but all of us have demonstrated leadership early on (some before the thing even really started) and come in with lots of relationships. Between us we lead a number of working groups, drive some of the major mass actions, play formative roles in much of the media being pumped out, and more.

The meetings are closed, and we all feel kind of bad about it, although this is another thing we don’t talk about often. There isn’t much coherence to how we ended up here in the first place — one person invited a few over and the next invited a couple and so on, until the room was full. It was as arbitrary a time to stop inviting people as any, but this is how things often happen in movement moments. We justify the boundary by reminding ourselves that we are certainly not the only collection of people meeting like this — there are many affinity groups and other kinds of formations — and that we are here to plan and strategize, not to make decisions.

But we also know that there are a lot of movers and shakers in the room, and that this affords us a disproportionate ability to move things through the rest of Occupy. We know the age-old pitfalls of people making plans in closed off rooms, and it’s not lost on us that — while this space is also led by some of the most powerful women and folks of color in the movement — most of us are white, middle class, and male. If someone had asked any one of us directly, we’d likely have agreed that, collectively, we have quite a bit of power and aren’t being held accountable to it.

But for the most part, we keep that nagging feeling under wraps, so we can continue the work. There is a confidence we seem to share that we are filling a void, meeting a real need, putting everything we have on the line to keep momentum going. We seem to agree, even if quietly, that movements don’t exist without leadership, that the general assembly has been more performance art than decision-making forum since the first couple of weeks, that leaderlessness is a myth, that we need a place to have sensitive discussions hopefully out of reach of the surveillance state. And in truth we know our jobs aren’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination; after all, a good deal of the efforts of the folks in the room are aimed at getting occupiers port-o-potties and stopping the incessant drumming.

We know we’re breaking the rules, but for the most part we conclude that it must be done. And besides, we’ve broken the rules our whole lives — it’s how we ended up here.

Torn at the Seams

It wasn’t too long before it came crashing down. It got cold, the cops came, the encampments were evicted, and momentum died down, as is to be expected. This is the story we tell, and it has some truth in it, but those of us who were on the inside know there was more to it than that.

Truth is, we hadn’t planned that far ahead. Probably because not many of us thought it was going to work. As the folks at Ayni’s Momentum trainings will tell you, all movements have a DNA, whether it’s intentional or not. When movements take off and decentralize, they spread whatever their original DNA is, and while it’s possible to adjust it as it goes, it’s sort of like swimming against a tide. Our DNA was a mixed bag. The title had the tactic (Occupy) and the target (Wall Street) baked into it, the 99% frame demonstrated some level of shared radical politics, and the assemblies represented a commitment (an obsession, perhaps) to direct democracy. But we didn’t have too much more than that. As Occupy grew and spread, its DNA evolved to its natural conclusions: On one hand, a real critique of capitalism, powerful mass-based direct action, a public display of democracy. On the other hand, an infatuation with public space, a confusion of tactic for strategy, a palpable disdain for people who weren’t radical, and fantasies about leaderlessness. And then there were the questions we had never answered at all, which were begging to be explained now that we were growing: How would this transform into something long-term? Who were we trying to move? What were we trying to win?

But there’s more to it than that too. There was, alongside the external pressures of growth and definition, an internal power struggle, as there so often is in moments like this.

It happened in many circles of Occupy, and it happened to the group I was a part of, too, in that Lower East Side apartment. Some of the folks in the group got frustrated, and pulled away. They accused the rest of us of being liberals (this was a curse-word), said we were co-opting the movement for the unions, claimed that even meeting like this was a violation of the principles of the movement. Those claims were false, but they were hard to argue with, because most of us were already feeling guilty for being in closed off rooms. So we shrunk. Sort of like when an over-zealous white “ally” trips over other white folks to call out an example of racism; the first to call it out sits back smugly, having taken the moral high ground and pointed a finger at the others, and then the rest clench their jaws and stare at the floor guiltily, hoping the storm passes over them.

We tried to stop the split. We slowed down. We spent time trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. We tried to be honest about how much of this had to do with differences in politics and how much of it was really just ego on all sides. Some of us tried to reach across the aisle, to mend broken relationships. But in the meantime, the folks who had taken the moral high ground had begun building a separate group. That split happened in October in that living room on the Lower East Side, perhaps in other circles in the movement around the same time; by November it was playing out in the movement more broadly, until in December there were distinctly different tendencies offering different directions to the movement as a whole. It would be overly simplistic to trace the overall conflict inside the belly of Occupy Wall Street to the dissolution of this one group or even to in-fighting more broadly, but at the same time, it was a significant factor. All movements develop mechanisms for leadership and coordination, whether formal or informal, and they suffer real setbacks when those systems collapse.

Of course, in the midst of the squabbling and the confusion about our direction, the state came crashing down on us. We became a real threat and the men in suits and uniforms who make decisions about these sorts of things realized that that the benefit of being rid of us outweighed the negative press they would get for the state violence necessary to do it. They were right. The mayors got on conference calls to coordinate. The newspapers turned on us. They dragged us out of parks and squares all over the country, arrested thousands of people. We did our best, but we weren’t organized, disciplined, or grounded in communities enough to stop it in the end. Ultimately, we weren’t powerful enough. Without the park, we were rootless. It got cold. We had no way to huddle together, to learn from what had happened, to support one another through what had become an existential crisis. We met in union offices instead of public squares, and the organizing core shrunk. We went from actions in which the whole base participated to projects different collectives tried to drive on their own, and ultimately, that dwindled too. By the following summer, the true believers who insisted that Occupy was still going strong had become an endangered species.

But the truth is, it wasn’t the state, or the cold, or the media. The real problem underneath it all was a deep ambivalence about power. In fact, all of the things that made Occupy Wall Street brilliant had this paradox built into them, this politic of powerlessness woven deep inside, like a bad gene or a self-destruct mechanism.

For example, the mantra of leaderlessness came from a genuine desire to avoid classic pitfalls into hierarchy, but it was, at the same time, a farce, and divorced from any sense of collective structure or care for group culture. It foreclosed on the possibility of holding emerging leaders accountable, created a situation in which real leaders (whether worthy or not) went to the shadows instead of the square, and made it impossible to really develop one another (how, really, could we train new leaders if there weren’t supposed to be any in the first place?). Similarly, the refusal to articulate demands was brilliant in opening radical possibilities and sparking the popular imagination, but it also meant we didn’t have a shared goal, meant the word winning wasn’t even part of the movement’s lexicon. In many ways, it was an expression of a fear of actually saying something and taking responsibility for it, and it encouraged the often-repeated delusion that we didn’t even want anything our enemy had to give, that Wall Street and the State didn’t have any power over us. The vigilance against co-option came from honest history of movements falling prey to powerful forces hoping to dull or divert their aims; but it ultimately became a paranoia more than anything else, a tragic misunderstanding of the playing field and what it was going to take to build popular power. Instead of welcoming other progressive forces and actually co-opting them, purists shamed “liberals,” cultivated a radical macho culture more focused on big speeches at assemblies and arrests in the streets than the hard organizing behind the scenes, and turned Occupy into a fringe identity that only a few people could really claim to the exclusion of the hundreds of thousands who actually made it real.

Occupy Wall Street created a new discourse, brought thousands of people into the movement, shifted the landscape of the left, and even facilitated concrete victories for working people. But at the same time, a substantial chunk of its leadership was allergic to power. And we made a politic of that. We fetishized it, wrote articles and books about it, scorned the public with it. Worst of all, we used it as a cudgel with which to bludgeon each other.

Sure, the cops came for us — we invited them, after all. But we were the problem: When the state tugged hard enough, we tore at the seams.

The People Went Home

I spent years being angry about it. I was angry at the people who had attacked the group I was part of from the inside, the people who bullied me into giving up every piece of leverage I had by making me feel like I didn’t have the right to organize the folks I had access to, who punished me every time I was quoted or interviewed, who came to the meetings I facilitated and intentionally disrupted them. The stories are too long and too many to recount here, and anyone who was in the middle of it has their own share of war stories too.

But more than anyone else, I was angry at myself for letting it happen. I spent months waking up in the middle of the night, replaying the different moments I had capitulated to cool kids and given up real opportunities to grow the movement out of fear that I’d be iced out if I didn’t. And the truth is, I had no excuse. I had already learned this important lesson at the New School in 2008 when a couple hundred of us occupied a building to get a war criminal thrown off the board, win back student space, and push forward student self-governance and responsible investment: Bad politics don’t go away on their own, you actually have to fight them.

Maybe it’s counter-intuitive, and it’s certainly unpleasant, but it’s true. In those moments, when we refuse to engage in these fights because they feel childish and below the belt, we forget that the majority of people are standing in the middle, wondering what the hell is going on and looking for people they can trust. When those of us who are thinking about power and trying to grow the base don’t step up to that challenge, the folks in the middle assume that the people bringing in toxicity are the leadership, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. They find no other voices providing leadership they can feel a part of. So they go home.

And that’s kind of what happened. The state upped the ante, raised the heat on us. Shit got ugly, and directionless, and toxic. The self-destruct mechanisms went off, the politics of powerlessness played out to their logical conclusions. The folks best equipped to offer leadership in that moment didn’t step up. So everyone went home.

And as I think back on the mistakes I made — among them, this grand mistake of shrinking from the responsibilities of leadership, however personally costly — I can’t help but feel a little bit ashamed. We did a tremendous amount. But we could have done more. We could have lasted longer, brought more people into the movement, established more powerful institutions, won more material gains. If we understand the prison industrial complex and climate change and wealth inequality and the foreclosure crisis as hard and tangible threats to people’s literal survival, then we have to see, with equal clarity, that our movements are nothing short of an attempt to save lives. And we could have saved more lives.

The Politics of Powerlessness

Many of us left that moment bitter, depressed, heart-broken. Some of that is predictable, maybe, on the downward spiral from such a high. Some of it was the product of a lot of young folks experiencing their first tastes of movement and thinking the result was going to be a revolution. But some of it was specific to this toxicity, the sudden snapping of this unbelievable tight rope we had been racing across.

From there, I went wandering. I bumped straight into the movement’s social media call-out culture, where people demonstrate how radical they are by destroying one another. It felt like walking into a high school locker room. In this universe, we insist on perfect politics and perfect language, to the exclusion of experimentation, learning, or constructive critique. We wear our outsiderness as a badge of pride, knowing that saying the right thing trumps doing anything at all. No one is ever good enough for us — not progressive celebrities who don’t get the whole picture, not your Facebook friend who doesn’t quite get why we say Black Lives Matter instead of All Lives Matter, not your cousin who mourned the deaths in Paris without saying an equal number of words about those in Beirut. Instead of organizing these people, we attack them. We tear down rather than teach each other, and pick apart instead of building on top of what we have.

And of course, the politic of powerlessness doesn’t only live on social media, but in our organizing spaces as well — and it’s in the realm of identity that so much of the battle takes place. We confuse systems like white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism with individuals we can use as stand-ins for them. We use the inevitable fuck-ups of our potential partners as validation that we should stay in our bunkers with the handful of people who make us feel safe instead of getting dirty in the trenches. We imagine identity as static and permanent, instead of remembering that all of us — to borrow terminology from organizations like Training for Change — have experiences of marginalization that can help us support one another, and experiences of being in the mainstream that can help us understand the people we want to shift. We forget that, while identity gives us clues and reveals patterns, itdoesn’t fully explain our behavior, and it certainly doesn’t determine it. We abandon the truth that people can transform, that ultimately we all — oppressed and potential oppressors alike (if such simplistic frames should even be entertained) — can and must choose sides. So we shirk this ultimate responsibility we have as organizers: To support people in making the hard and scary choices to be on the side of freedom. In all of this commotion, we turn inward. We forget the enemy outside, and find enemies in the room instead, make enemies of one another.

And here, just as from Occupy Wall Street, the vast majority of people — those great many on whom this system relies and the very same ones we will need to organize to make it come to a screeching halt — grow tired. So they go home. And we lose.

Compassion and Curiosity on the way to Power

It’s October of 2013, brisk and breezy, with the leaves changing in dramatic colors. I’m in a Mexican restaurant in Minneapolis with organizers from Occupy Homes — the same folks now part of the leadership of Black Lives Matter MN. We’re debriefing the retreat a couple of us just held for them as part of the Wildfire Project. Wildfire supports new, radical groups emerging from movement moments with long-term training and support, and connects them to one another to help them become greater than the sum of their parts. We’re tired from a big weekend, and I’m getting feedback on my facilitation.

The organizers tell me to step up. They notice that in the training, I didn’t tell my story, shared very little of my experience at Occupy or elsewhere even when directly relevant, evaded every opportunity to offer opinions on their strategic plan even when asked, deferred to the group on everything. They say they know I have more to offer, that they asked me to come here because they trusted me, that they demand that I bring more of myself next month. They want to invest in me, they explain, because they need me to be my most powerful self so I can support their members in that same transformation, and so I can go out and help build a powerful network for them to be a part of.

The feedback makes me a bit blurry. I can’t remember the last time anyone told me they wanted me to be powerful. I’m a straight, white, class-comfortable male in the North Eastern United States, certainly not part of the groups most impacted by the systems we are fighting. I’ve spent the past few years duking it out with the voices in my head — on one hand knowing I have something to offer in this important moment, and on the other hand internalizing deep shame about where I come from and guilt over the mistakes I’ve made along the way as a result. In the midst of those mistakes and in the face of a movement culture that seemed to see me as a threat, I internalized the message that the best thing I could do for the movement was to mitigate the damage I’ve done by existing — that my job, really, was to disappear. There are historical reasons for this dilemma, and current reasons that our movements have adopted these knee-jerk responses to what it perceives as power or privilege. But in the end, the impact was that it made me less effective, whether as an ally to other oppressed people, a leader in Occupy, or a facilitator with Wildfire. This is part of the politics of powerlessness, I think to myself as I sit in this restaurant booth in Minneapolis, and it has found its way into my bones.

But the demand to become powerful comes from the folks to whom I am most accountable — heroes who are defending themselves from foreclosure, occupying already-foreclosed houses to keep people off the street, taking over local political offices to try to use eminent domain to take back people’s homes, and asking Wildfire for support — so it feels different this time. I go home to New York and I do the work. I go through all sorts of transformative processes to remember where I come from, to try to understand the conditions that made me internalize those self-sabotaging politics. I find partners who want to win more than they want to be right, who forgive me and help me forgive myself, who invest their time and love and energy in me while holding me accountable and demanding I do the same for them. I re-commit to using everything I’ve been given in the service of the movement.

Along the way, I start to internalize wisdom taught me by a mentor and coach from Generative Somatics, an organization that fuses emotional healing, physical practice, and radical politics: People do what they must to survive. Our behaviors — even the self-sabotaging ones — are our bodies’ responses to threat. Our instincts are clumsy at times, and they often cut us off from our better options, but credit where credit is due: these instincts, at some points, probably saved our lives. Instead of hating those traits so much, we might be better off tipping our hat to them, thanking them for the safety they have provided us, and letting them know that we don’t need them anymore — that we want to practice something new instead. It doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior in ourselves or the movement; it means understanding where it comes from for the sake of changing it.

This is our task as organizers and revolutionaries: to become our most powerful selves and supporting the whole movement in that same transformation. In the service of that goal, my anger thaws into compassion and my self-righteousness becomes curiosity, and it’s with this lens that I start to look at the movement with fresh eyes. I wonder what really caused the implosions at Occupy in the first place, and why those behaviors persist across the Left. I start to try to figure out where the politics of powerlessness come from, what needs they meet for us. And as I dig below the surface, I can’t help but notice the shifts that the Black folks rising up across this country have already offered the movement; so many enormous contributions in the struggle for freedom, but even something as small as hats that say power on them are a challenge to the politics of powerlessness, a reflection of our ability to make and practice new rules for ourselves as we transform.

Undoing the Politics of Powerlessness

Today, when I think about the politics of powerlessness, it feels clear as day to me that the source of all of it is fear. Fear of leaders, of the enemy, of the possibility of having to govern, of the stakes of winning and losing, of each other, of ourselves. And it’s all pretty understandable.

We call each other out and push one another out of the movement, because we are desperate to cling to the little slivers of belonging we’ve found in the movement, and are full of scarcity — convinced that there isn’t enough of anything to go around (money, people, power, even love). We eat ourselves alive and attack our own leaders because we’ve been hurt and misled all our lives and can’t bear for it to happen again on our watch. We race to prove we are the least privileged, because this is the only way we can imagine being powerful. We turn our backs on people who don’t get it, because organizing them will not only be hard but also painful, because we will have to give up some of our victimhood to do it, because it will mean being vulnerable to the world we came to the movement to escape. Our ego battles are a natural product of a movement that doesn’t have a clear answer for how leadership is to be appreciated and held accountable at the same time. Our inability to celebrate small victories is a defense from having to believe that winning is even possible — a way to avoid the heartbreak of loss when it comes.

And perhaps most importantly: Our tendency to make enemies of each other is driven by a deep fear of the real enemy, a paralyzing hopelessness about our possibilities of winning. After all, whether we admit it or not, we spend quite a lot of our time not believing we can really win. And if we’re not going to win, we might as well just be awesome instead. If we’re not going to win, we’re better off creating spaces that suit our cultural and political tastes, building relationships that validate our non-conformist aesthetic, surrendering the struggle over the future in exchange for a small island over which we can reign.

The politics of powerlessness is a defense mechanism, meant to protect us from our worst fears. And as I’ve been learning, it never works to hate one’s defenses, to bang our heads against them, to bend them into submission. No, the way we change is by really getting curious about their source, and trying to address their root causes. Of course we’re afraid. Fear is a totally grounded response to what is happening around us. We need to sit with that. And we need to find new practices for dealing with our fears, because in the end, those hard truths are precisely the reason we need to do awaywith the politic of powerlessness.

This defense mechanism, which may have saved our collective lives somewhere along the way, has outlived its usefulness. It has become a barrier to the success of the movements being born around us, the flourishing of our people, the world we want to win. We are standing against a series of crises one more terrifying than the next, stemming from systems more towering than ever before, guided by people who are happy to kill many of us to preserve their wealth. If we don’t get powerful soon, we’re going to lose. And in this case, losing means not only the immense oppression, exploitation, and repression this system guarantees; it also means the extinction of our species. Challenging the politics of powerlessness and replacing it with something that can win is not an academic question; it is truly a matter of life or death. We had better get our shit together, and quick.

We need to replace judgment and self-righteousness with curiosity and compassion. Those are the tools that will help us support each other in the face of the crises ahead, and they are the qualities we will need in order to truly understand the very many people we still need to organize. They will help us become facilitators instead of polemicists, teach us to build instead of tear apart. Flexing these new muscles, we must convert a politic that punishes imperfection into one that uses everything at its fingertips to win — that compels each and every one of us to turn our gifts into weapons for the sake of freedom. We need to build groups — collectives, organizations, affinity groups, whatever — because groups are what keep us in the movement, they’re what keep movement moments going, where we transform, how we fight, and the best way to hold each other accountable to the long struggle for liberation. We need to win small victories that open up space for bigger ones, and we must celebrate them, because that’s the best inoculation against a politic based in fear that nothing is winnable. We have to develop powerful visions for the world we want, so we can put those small victories inside a broader strategy that strikes at the roots of the systems we face. We must all engage in the hard and transformational work to become our most powerful selves; after all, it is truly the only way we even stand a chance.

Honoring Fear

I’m at a retreat center in Florida, at the first ever Wildfire National Convening, with 80 members of organizations from all over the country: folks from Ohio Student AssociationDream DefendersGetEQUAL,Rockaway Wildfire, and the Occupy Homes groups in Atlanta and Minneapolis. It’s the first night, and the organizations are performing skits that explain their origin stories. It’s Rockaway Wildfire’s turn — a group that formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, merging the relief effort with organizing in Far Rockaway, Queens. Out there, floods fell on top of broken schools, impoverished projects, and a population that was drastically underemployed and over-policed. The folks in the Rockaways were losing their homes to foreclosure before the floods wrecked them, losing their sons to prisons long before the storm came to displace them.

The skit begins, the lights go down. We hear the pounding of feet against the floor, which sounds unmistakably like heavy rain. And then a chorus of howling that sounds like the violent wind that battered the New York area that October in 2012. Then heart-wrenching wailing, like a child crying. Pounding and howling and wailing that get more and more intense like an orchestra building up to its crescendo. Suddenly, I’m crying. The sounds catapult me back to the hurricane, but also to the fear I carry with me of the many more hurricanes surely on the way, and the children and parents and friends we will have to protect when they come. Suddenly the sounds come to a crashing halt, the lights go up, dimly, and I realize most of the other people in the room are weeping too. There is silence, the kind of hanging stillness you stumble on rarely, when a room full of people dedicated to the struggle are all quietly reckoning with the fear we carry in us every day and the doubts we have about whether we can do what must be done. Then one of the actors breaks the silence with the last line of the play, delivered soothingly to her child, as if she has read the minds of the 80 fighters gathered here: “Don’t worry, baby, don’t worry. We’ll be alright. Momma’s gonna start a revolution.”

The fear is real — palpable and also grounded. In addition to good organizing, it will take some small miracles to win the world we all deserve. It’s better to acknowledge that than to try to bury it. At least it’s honest. And who knows, maybe there is something about fear that — when we turn and face it — can be grounding instead of handicapping, can help us sit in the stakes rather than live in denial, can compel us to take the risks we need to take rather than to hide, can drive us to be the biggest we can be instead of shrinking. Or at least, that’s my hope.

And when I’m in doubt, I remember the most important lesson I learned at Occupy Wall Street: We don’t know shit. The secret truth is that Occupy Wall Street wasn’t supposed to work. But it did. It created a whole new world of possibility. That possibility is here — we can feel it in the very heart of the movements being born around us. And we have been invited; the only question, now, is whether we will rise to the challenge.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. washunate

    Great read. This has got to be one of the best guest posts ever, right?

    The discussion about power reminds me of debates on free will. Our agency as human beings doesn’t mean the absence of hierarchy; that’s an illusion. Rather, it means that we get to choose the master we wish to serve. Occupy hoped in the illusion that the 99% all desire the same results. But the existing power structure includes a lot more adherents than the top 1%. Some way, some how, we are going to have to figure out how to stand and fight them. Hopefully peacefully and civilly and politely and democratically and so forth, but actively opposing them nonetheless with an alternative power structure. People in positions of power yield to demands by the citizenry, not requests.

      1. susan the other

        Yes, me too. I thought Occupy Wallstreet was a screaming success because it changed the very atmosphere. And I still think a “leaderless” movement was brilliant. The fact that winter set in was inevitable. And it didn’t matter because so many minds were changed; so many people agreed with Occupy. It seems the author’s “ambivalence about power” applies to TPTB as much as to the demonstrators. It is like the late 60s all over again – it will cause much deeper change than anyone anticipates even in its disintegration. We should never give up just because change comes gradually. And also too, the old system is in ruins and everybody knows it full well. So here’s to Occupy, because it never really imploded – it just internalized.

        1. Inverness

          Susan, moving forward, it’s important to also assess what didn’t work with Occupy. By not making demands, and this fear of leaders, Occupy lost the momentum it was building. A major movement can’t just be killed by winter. This was a huge missed opportunity. The mind reels to think what actually could have happened were real policy recommendations provided. It is healthy to recognize what went wrong, so we can do better, next time.

          Furthermore, we cannot simply expect change to come gradually. The kinds of changes desperately needed will not happen without massive citizen engagement: Sanders made this clear. If he’s elected, he won’t be able to push for his kind of progressive agenda without the support of many Americans. The elites are extremely well-organized, and are comforted by the general lack of organization and the failure of Occupy to produce much beyond a change in the public discourse. I’m not discounting that, but let’s not call Occupy a huge success. It was not.

          We need to rediscover what kind of activism leads to real, lasting change. Thankfully, there are some great examples from the Civil Rights and Labour movements, just from the last century. While nowhere near on the same scale, students in Quebec, just a few years ago, showed how a mobilized population can force their government officials to not have tuition hikes. Real organization, and real demands matter. They were very well organized, militant, and weren’t afraid to say: do not raise our tuition fees!

          1. perpetualWAR

            Thank you.

            I dispute the “success” of Occupy with other activists, which gets me into hot water with people who attach fond memories to OWS. Unfortunately, fond memories will not prevent the next foreclosure from occurring.

            Occupy just didn’t get that millions were losing their homes. They still don’t. I’m shocked that this article even mentions foreclosure, because the movement sure ignored people like me, fighting the banks for our homes!

          2. Elizabeth Burton

            And let’s not forget that the opposition has been organized for six decades; they know precisely what they intend to accomplish, and have the power and money to advance their agenda. To expect to combat that with a disorganized, amorphous collection of everybody doing their own thing is absurd. It’s the old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie “Let’s put on a show” mentality writ large, as though any successful “show” doesn’t need a director and a stage manager.

            Everyone is now decrying how social media has failed to bring about the revolution, but it’s not the medium but the lack of a coherent message that’s the problem. Not everyone needs to be marching in the streets. One can also educate oneself on how the opposition is using both the mainstream and social media to disseminate propaganda. Witness this past weekend, when we were treated to, first, an essay on how poor Hillary Clinton is being attacked as a woman no matter what she does then, second, how she’s the candidate most likely to advance the progressive agenda.

            Suddenly, intelligent women who are clueless about the real situation are empathizing with poor Hillary, embracing the idea that they need to support her because she’s being victimized as a woman. It’s a corollary to the “I’ll vote for her because we need a woman in the White House” theme, and her campaign is playing it like a Stradivarius.

            I could go on, but I’m sure I’d be mostly preaching to the choir, and I have the sense that’s one of the things this article is warning against. I’ll just note there’s a reason it’s called “organized labor,” and while like any large movement, it’s had its evil monarchs and sociopathic minions, it accomplished exactly what we need to accomplish now.

            1. tegnost

              I recall washunate put forth an excellent roadmap to a coherent policy in a recent comment that I’m re posting here…
              December 26, 2015 at 8:43 am
              It is very difficult to get a handle on the debt-free money proposal because it is hard to find one with any details.

              I cannot help but note the irony here. It is quite difficult to get a JG/ELR/FE proposal with specific details. Even securing the most basic elements of a plan, like specific dollar figures for revenue and taxation for the federal budget, or a specific schedule of wages and benefits for JG workers, or the criteria by which to determine which public jobs are JG and which are not JG, or the management structure for how specific jobs are to be created and supervised, is like pulling teeth.”
              Red meat for the hungry, in this case isolated to jobs guarantee (don’t know what ELR or FE is…)

            2. RWood

              Nor pass over the establishment’s immense infrastructure. Need a social net for those kettled and charged — and those brutally injured.

          3. Dk

            occupy wouldn’t have grown in size and exploded like it did if it had “leaders”.
            the beauty of it is that everyone felt like they were in charge of themselves and their reasons for being there.

          4. Lucia

            Hi. I got across your article, and decided to tell you what it happened to Occupay in Spain, in La Puerta del Sol in Madrid. I was in London, and arrived the third week, ready to put into action, what we learned in the G8 on Scottland, that ended up with the bomb in London, as a result, of the revolutionary tactics, that were used and invented by all the Europeans, more than half a million, that went in the 2005. This was thanks to the auto-attack, by Bush and Tony Blair, worked to make dissapear from all the news, that Europeans had Stop a Secret Meeting in Scotland. Were they were planing, the Crissis to this War they want to proceed as planed. (Albert Pike 1871 Wrotte how it would be done the WW1-2 and 3.)
            So, In Scotland the fact that there was put into action, the same way Military Cells are built, as to say, Cells of no more than 10 or 12 maxim, independent, in style or action, to protect or to have their own actions. Did work better than expected. The videos on youtube shows the videos at Glenn Eagle and Edimburg was paralized for almost a full month. Every worked better than well, as every Cell send one person to the general meetings, and they were free, to join other cells with similar ways, but there was a clear direction, wich was, Stop the Secret Meeting on the Mansion in the middle of the Higlands, far away from every town, and difficult acces. ( sorry my spelling I am spanish),
            Ok, so, after that experience, when Occupy happended in Europe, and Spain, i decided to go, to show them what we have learned, and in only two days, was obvious, that the Revolution was directed from within. They were vage, and absurd, only talking, no planing, on real terms anything. It had being controlled, by a Gang of ThinkTank that through Fundacion Everis, gave this proyect called, Transforma España to the King Juan Carlos, in hand ( There is fotos in internet, about this, event), just a year or so, before the Occupy Movement was made.
            As to say, that ThinkTank, is a Rockefeller and New World Order, Organizations, and Fundación Everis, is an arm of ThinkTank Spain. You can also verify this).
            So, the worse is, that in their False Revolution Plan, was to controll the situation, that as you mention, was also happening in Spain, people loossing them houses, but nothing of the Banking Crash, New World Order, Corruption, and Forcing the Parlament to advocate, was mention. The Real Issues, were turn into vanal ones, and all that was planned just that way,
            People like Enrique Dance, Masons IT Teachers of Universities, had them Students involved, they have apartments around g the situation. They were the upper clasess kids, with apple mac laptops, no idea of politics, and very right wind, but dressed as working class. Disidence Controll was also part of these False Directed from USA and EU Goberments, Movement, found out many real activists, and since then we have being all persecuted, and killed. One by one in our homes, or streets, as if accidental. Many others, they created situations to jail them. The result, is that the Occupy movement, was very handy to find all activists, and smart experienced fithters, agains the New World Order and Creation Crisis for WW3.
            The first time they try to kill me, was in la Puerta del Sol, after they find out, I hab being on the G8 in Scotland, they attacked me, inside one of the Tens, about 18 people, surrounded me, took my bag with compter from me, and then they proceeded to try to rap me my head into a blanket. As I started to wet my pants, became submisive, and I do not know how, jumped out into the floor, outside the Tent, and starting running. Some of them came behind me, when I approach the police, asking for help, saying that the have stoled my bag, with all my ID and computer, and they say, they had Orders, they could not go into the Occupy Area, even to protect a civil. The ones came runing behing me, show them a police batch, so I keept running, understanding, the reality of Occupy by Infiltration of Goberment, to make sure, nothing was going to happen.
            Since these happening, in 2011, I have 2 familly memebers being killed, and they have follow me all around europe. Tray to kill me 4 times more. The last one, has being in my own house, with guns, and sicarios, that did not even hide. Police coming, and not doing nothing, That is the state of my life now.
            They called me Activist, and we have being persecuted to death. Many are death, my friend lover in Scotland was killed, pushed down a staris. My uncle in Madrid, has being killed, pushed on the street by a latino sicario, and two friends, that have helped me are also dead, and disappeared. Police do nothing, as they are all involved, because it come from Gob plan.
            Now, I showl be dead, after the last attacked, were they even, had the plan to involve mafias, that are going to keep my propierty in Spain. And just, the bomb in France, and now Germany with the million, inmigration, raping and destroying europe, after they found out, 2 weeks a go, that ISIS is NATO-USA-EU. They have become, very violent, and sad enogh, for me has being the chance to scape to UK, and maybe being alive now.
            The Occupy Movement, was a Troyan, sad but totally true. That is why it had no, direction, and they did not allow the information from the G8, to get to the people, so they learned how to organize, and win.
            I did not know, that what we did in Scotland G8, was so important until I arrived in Madrid 5 years later. Now, after 5 years, being persecuted. Being under dead threat, and have to hear them saying they are going to kill me and my daughter, rob my property, wich at moment, I had to run away from, after the last brutal attacked, for a full week, my car has dissapeared, my friends have dissapear, my familly has being killed. .
            They, New World Order, has bein killing everyone experienced activist in europe. I am enclosed in the house in UK, since 5 weeks, when I managed to scape fron that Island, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, were all are scared to death, from how the Germans, mafia y Gob, are killing and robing properties with police protection.
            Too much for my brain to deal with. Because, there is other issues here, that link to the obsesion they have on my asessination. The fact that, I kno just because I was in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, that Obama and NATO, have build the NEW GUANTANAMO in Gran Canaria, in POXO IZQUIERDO, a Macro Jail, one of CMX, Crisis Management Exercise, now mutated to other name, have being training civilians, that are now, all displaced all around euope, ready to start de WAR 3.
            Now the imigrants have arrived, and they started to destroy the citys, and rape the woman, the CMX Cells ISIS for Europe, are on place. and what a coincidence, that the Macrocárcel en Castillo de Romeral, just at the entrance of the tourist town, called Playa del Ingles, have being build, and is a secret NATO.
            That is why, when the ISIS from Africa come to the island, for brakes or practice, they all need prostitutes, that have being stolen, by the mafia from East Europe, and Africa. Girls have being slaved, and are, in werehouses, and they take them to sex the soldiers, marines and so, and then returned to the factory. It is brutal what is going on, so they have being killing proprietors to obtain more places to rent and make the new business, added to the cocain trade.
            Well, yeah! nothing to do with Spain mainland, because is such an small island, but in Spain, same thing has being happening. UN Spanish Ambassador, did say, Spain, will keep collaborating with NATO training the especial forces. So Spain has being one the the mayor ISIS bases, to build the mercenary soldiers, from Latin America, arabia and Africa, ase well as the European ones.
            This information, is first hand, as I have being leaving for 8 years, on and off in the island, that I use as my Art Studio in the winter, when is very cold in UK,

        2. Will

          Leaderlessness is very different than having many leaders. The strongest movements have many leaders that each know/feel when/how to lead and follow and cooperate in turn. Many powerful people, powerful enough to know that power does not mean dominating others in the movement. Such a movement will be much harder to stop than a leaderless one, where the FBI can easily insert its own leaders and derail the whole thing.

          The author doesn’t address it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those emotional bullies he describes were gov’t plants. Building a movement full of physically and emotionally powerful people is how to combat such tactics.

          1. different clue

            The author may be too young to know about it. A detailed study of FBI and other infiltrationism into various movements through the 50s , 60s, 70s would repay the effort.
            Perhaps field guides should be written on how to “spot the agent”, “spot the plant”, “spot the disruptor” etc.

            1. dave

              Assuming that everyone you disagree with is a federal agent isn’t exactly a great recipe for movement building, either.

              1. different clue

                Well bless your heart, Dave. If you can find something in what I wrote indicating that I assume anyone who disagrees with me is a federal agent, you just speak right up and say where I said it, y’hear?

          2. neo-realist

            The Black Panthers arguably had some physically and emotionally powerful people, but TPTB, through intensive internal subversion and external force, eventually destroyed them. Maybe you also need the buy-in of the critical mass, which the Panthers didn’t have. But you need widespread and constant dissemination of your message which only corporate media has the capacity to achieve.

        3. Propertius

          I’m sorry, Susan, but I just can’t agree with your assessment. No matter how it changed the “atmosphere” or “minds”, down here on plant Earth things are at least as crappy as they were before Occupy. In my book that makes Occupy a dismal, if earnest and well-intentioned, failure.
          The old system isn’t “in ruins”, it’s working exactly as intended.

          Occupy didn’t achieve any concrete objectives because it didn’t really have any concrete objectives.

    1. perpetualWAR

      It is my belief that TPTB will not give in and give up the inherent bribery corruption embedded in our system without force.

      Hence, my continued advocacy for building a guillotine. THAT they would understand.

      1. kimsarah

        A guillotine is a nice, clean way to get rid of the corrupt PTB, and the blade stays pretty sharp for a long time. Those waiting in line for their turn next can do the cleaning up.

  2. Herbert Davis

    Want to be a leader or don’t want leaders? Consensus sure seemed like fun. Reminds me of how the baby boomers decided all kids should get a trophy for participation, who needs winners and losers? Almost funny.

      1. Christian B

        Sorry Lambert, but he does have a point. Many people misunderstand the anti-heiracical nature if anarchism and think that it means we each have an equal say, or in other words “everyone gets a trophy”. Nothing could be further from the ideals of anarchism. It does not mean that one never gives up their authority, but rather, they see when someone has a lehitamite and/or useful use for that authority. This means that we need to understand that there are some people that are better than oneself. And instead if being jealous, we have a shared joy for their brilliance.

        I have seen this “everyone gets a trophy” in the NC school system and it is teaching a horrible life lessons. we need to instead be teaching children that we can share in someone else’s success, be happy for them, and know or real place in the world.

        I have been fighting plans for my town to put in a cement trail through the last bit of pristine wilderness in town soley for access to the handicapped. On my side is a woman confined to a wheelchair who sees it would be selfish of her to destroy the habitat for her needs. That attitude is what Occupy needs.

          1. Christian B

            I guess he did not make his point clear, or I misinterpreted it. You make me sound malicious and full of intent.

            1. different clue

              His point seemed clear to me. He asked why you used the baseless age-cohort smear of “baby boomers” as having something to do with what you describe.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Laziness. It’s a little more difficult to name or describe the psychological movement that promoted the “everybody gets a trophy” idea – or the valid insights it misinterpreted. It was a period, not a generation, since relatively few people actually got on board. It was, however, fairly powerful within education, as Christian B is saying.

  3. Inverness

    Fine piece. Beware of purity. You will always find fault in the other’s politics, which will never be pure enough. However, most of us share common grievances and must not get hung up on identity politics.

    I like the connection with high school cliques. Too often we can get aristocratic with our jargon and politics, which is where you lose the masses. If we are, indeed the 99%, then finding common cause to fight isn’t so difficult.

    1. norm de plume

      I think John Berger’s conception of our modern capitalist world as prison, with our political and institutional leaders as jailers (or ‘herders’) is a useful framing mechanism. It allows for genuine divisions (and even high school cliques) along with elite sponsored ones, within the overarching apprehension that as fellow prisoners ‘we are all in this together’

      ‘take note that what they have in common—which is their unnecessary suffering, their endurance, their cunning—is more significant, more telling, than what separates them. And from this, new forms of solidarity are being born’

      There is a video of Berger delivering this essay via audio-tape to a Harvard gathering, with Chomsky providing a thoughtful reply. His imagination and his gentle English brogue contrast with, but are complemented by Chomsky’s matter of factness, and dry, angular delivery.

  4. Ulysses

    Yotam Marom, who wrote this important piece, has drawn some important lessons from our experiences the last few years.

    “Challenging the politics of powerlessness and replacing it with something that can win is not an academic question; it is truly a matter of life or death. We had better get our shit together, and quick.

    We need to replace judgment and self-righteousness with curiosity and compassion.”

    Holier-than-thou attitudes destroy movements. Of all the moments that Occupy rose to the occasion, to me the most impressive was long after Zuccotti had been cleared. My good friend N., a Latina woman,along with thousands of others, had just lost her home in Rockaway to SuperStorm Sandy. We were able to reach out to many retired police, firefighters, and other “unenlightened” cisgender straight white males in the neighborhood to organize aid. This was needed to supplement the woefully inadequate “official” response of Red Cross, government, etc.

    In the course of this, one retired NYFD guy mentioned to me that he had grown up in Rhode Island. He encouraged me to join him in reaching out to friends up there to get them down to Queens. I rode with a couple of these humanitarian convoys and was moved to tears by the generosity of everyone involved. On one trip, as we approached the TriBoro, I lamented how much dough we were forking over in tolls. To my immense amazement, my co-pilot in the Budget rental, a retired cop from southeastern MA., said to the toll-collector: “This Occupy Sandy guy has been paying tolls while on humanitarian duty bringing supplies down here to victims. Can you give him a waiver this time?” And she did!!!

    1. nobody

      Anybody who says, of Occupy, that “everyone went home,” doesn’t know what the fuck they are talking about.


      “Homeless people make up a significant proportion of participants in the Occupy Movement in cities across the United States, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, where at times they comprise an estimated third of the occupiers… Despite stereotypical beliefs that homeless people are not interested in politics, the homeless actually have perhaps the least to lose and the most to gain from being involved in the Occupy Movement.”

      (Matthew Charles Cardinale, “U.S.: Homeless Play Key Role in Occupy Movement,” from December, 2011.)


      “[The social composition of the movement is] quite varied. Occupy Oakland, for example, is perhaps 50% black and Latino, whereas occupations in other parts of the country may be mostly white. Some occupations are primarily very poor people, homeless people, etc., others include a lot of white-collar workers. Young ‘précaires‘ [people whose work situation and future prospects are precarious] are certainly among the most numerous participants.”

      (Ken Knabb, “The Occupy Movement at Its Peak, November 10, 2011)

      1. Yves Smith

        Yes, there was a 17-city, coordinated paramilitary crackdown. All in one night. I watched and chronicled the live stream.

        Occupy had very much depended on “place” as in the actual occupations. They had a great deal of difficult regrouping after that.

        In NYC some group continue to do good work, most notably Occupy the SEC and Alternative Banking. Occupy Sandy was VERY important, and some of the many Occupy Homes groups were effective but not give much credit or even notice in the media.

    2. Rhondda

      And here this insightful article had me feeling all compassionate and curious.
      Only to be sucker punched by your comment. Yah.
      Best to stay home and stay out and stay away all you cisgendereds.

      1. LifelongLib

        I look forward to the day when terms like “LGBT” and “cisgendered straight white male” make people either scratch their heads or burst out laughing, but I’m not holding my breathe for either…

        1. Active Listener

          I live a couple of hours away from New York, and have income that is below the poverty line. For about six months, I was going to an Alternative Banking meeting every few weeks, even though it was difficult to afford the train fare from New Haven to 125th Street. (I am well-educated, but I don’t have a background in finance.) My goal was to learn, and to contribute to finding solutions to the financial exploitation that is the root cause of so many of society’s problems. But my experience of being repeatedly misgendered by a couple of the older white men who were enthusiastically participating in the group left me feeling uncomfortable and unsure whether I should speak up and risk diverting the group’s finance-oriented conversations in order to educate them more assertively, so I started to rationalize why I wasn’t really needed there in the first place. “Let them focus on the things that are really important… I’m just one person,” I said to myself. “I can work here on my own.”

          I tried working on a project without attending meetings for support (as a full-time pursuit), but being alone in my work, I eventually ran up against obstacles I couldn’t seem to surmount, and also felt overwhelmed by the scope of what I was trying to do. Eventually, I got lost in the details and the additional research I was doing to reconcile Modern Money Theory with all the work I’d done up to that point. I came to doubt whether I could contribute anything useful at all, despite my good intentions.

          Three years have gone by, and despite many months of hard work on my project, I’ve barely contributed anything to the ABWG since that last meeting I attended in September 2012. I actually feel ashamed about my failure, and it’s left me feeling… pointless and irrelevant. That’s still where I’m at.

          1. LifelongLib

            I’m an older white man and I’ve made a similar mistake a time or two the men in your group did. There’s a person in my circle of acquaintance who’s in the midst of transitioning from male to female and self-identifies as a woman, but who I’ve more than once referred to as “he”. It was not in my case an attempt to inflict pain or ridicule but an unconscious slip. I hope the same is true of the men you encountered. You certainly shouldn’t have to put up with personal insults or situations where you feel uncomfortable, and I’m probably less aware of how that can happen than I should be.

            1. Ulysses

              I didn’t mean to imply, in my comment, that there was anything o.k. about chauvinist attitudes held by many raised in this still far too white supremacist, patriarchal society. I certainly didn’t mean for anyone to feel “sucker-punched” by it! My point was that, in a crisis, insisting on only collaborating with people who are already fully enlightened, on all fronts, is self-defeating.

              One positive development, that came from the collaboration between very diverse people in Occupy Sandy, was that some (certainly not all) of the older, hetero-sexist, racist, etc. people involved were moved to greater enlightenment by watching those they had always regarded as “other” pitching in– to carry water and work hard. Indeed, I know of more than one individual who was moved by this experience to re-establish connections with family members who didn’t conform to their former ideas of “normalcy.”

    3. Inverness

      Thank you, Ulysses, for this comment. We are human beings, and most of us can relate to, and want to alleviate, human suffering. Our goals should be inclusive enough to invite the masses in.

      1. Steven D.

        I recall that initially there was some attempt to recognize police officers as working people who have common interests with the OW movement.

  5. MarcoPolo

    For about a year I’ve wondered why NC could be so hard on Syriza while continuing to run that embarrassing Occupy banner at the top of the page. And you’re fond of quoting Gandhi, (you lose, you lose, they give up, you win). But while you’re losing you’re getting beat up. And that’s the problem with Americans generally; can’t take a punch. Glass jaw.

    Jesse published a quote from Fredrick Douglas a couple of weeks ago. I can’t find it now. But it speaks to that; the commitment and preparation necessary to take the kind of punishment you must. When leadership isn’t willing to make that commitment there is no organization. And with no organization we’re left with “going postal”. Americans are much more adept at that.

    Consider this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6YNlI8T4RE

    1. Yves Smith

      You are seriously going to revisit this topic? Syriza’s most important campaign promises were contradictory: to stay in the Eurozone and win meaningful concessions to austerity. That might have been worth a try, but by the end of February, as we documented and as members of the Left Platform pointed out, it was clear that strategy would fail and the Eurozone would not give ground. Rather than change course, Syriza acted as if it had leverage it did not possess, and failed to resolve its contradictory campaign promises. We pointed out that the ECB had the ability to discipline Greece through the ELA and its control over the Greek banking system. They did, by shuttering Greek banks for 2 weeks, which destroyed businesses and further reduced employment. And don’t get me started on that stunt of a referendum, which was a desperate, cynical measure. It also fell well below international standards for referendums and the handling of it broke Greek election laws.

      Syriza had a duty of care to the Greek people. It instead harmed Greek citizens, delivered a victory more complete than the neoliberals could have engineered on their own, and is now a Vichy Left party.

      Occupy Wall Street, a small dissident group, by contrast, has moved the Overton window to the left, had some concrete impact on US regulation (the efforts of Occupy the SEC), did important relief work (Occupy Sandy, which ran rings around every other major relief effort), and has also saved homes from foreclosure (Occupy Homes). Its record is better than Syriza’s and it had far less power.

      1. Fiver

        I’ll never fathom what the leaders of Syriza thought they were doing with The Long Bluff as a bargaining strategy having already tossed away their real leverage at the outset (exit).

    2. MattZN

      I view the whole Greek mess in a completely different light. NO real change is possible if the attitude of the people cannot be changed. For better or for worse, Syriza forced the Greek people to face a certain degree of reality… that all the screaming about doing away with austerity (regardless of whether we think austerity is good or bad) wasn’t going to change the fact that Greece had no alternative if it wanted to stay in the Euro.

      It doesn’t really matter *what* his policies were, or how two-faced his talk has been. That wasn’t the point. I would say, in fact, that he knows this very well and that he has been able to accomplish some degree of change in the attitude and thinking processes of the Greek people.

      The book isn’t closed yet. It is clear that people do want to stay in the Euro, and it is just as clear that doing so will result in just as much pain as leaving it would cause. The Greeks are at least thinking about the issues more realistically now which is something they were not doing a few years ago. I don’t know which is the better solution, but my feeling is that the path to staying in the Euro is mostly out of Greece’s hands and requires a sea-change in how the rest of Euroland views their monetary union. So Greece could still very well end up moving to its own currency anyway, but if it happens at least it will happen with the people’s eyes wide open rather than wide shut.


  6. JTMcPhee

    The guys and gals that meetup at Bilderberg gatherings and ALEC covens don’t seem to have any problems with leadership roles and grasping the levers of power, and I doubt they spend many hours on introspection and consensus and sensitivity and all. Those folks have an organizing principle, so did Gompers and those leaders and the as yet less propagandized working stiffs who were not afraid of a fight. One wonders how to code and then activate the DNA of “movement people” to defeat the oncogenes of the Existing Rulership…”

      1. Ché Pasa

        The original post did not credit anyone and it was erroneously interpreted as Lambert’s work. He corrected the post as I and others pointed out where it came from. I asked for my post above to be deleted as a duplication, but it didn’t happen.

        Oh well. No one ever said the internet was perfect.

  7. Ché Pasa

    Interesting that I didn’t see any recognition that Podemos has won electoral victory in Spain (May have missed it, long article and all). Podemos grew directly out of the Indignato movement which was a precursor and model for the Occupy movement in the US and latterly around the world.

    Whether Podemos will go the way of Syriza and basically become the leftish face of neo-fascism and colonialism remains to be seen. They say they learned from the Greek tragedy and they won’t make the same mistakes Syriza did, but power does strange things to its holders and implementers.

    The occupied squares were cleared by police in Madrid and the rest of Spain, sometimes over and over again and with as much violence as the police displayed in the United States and elsewhere, but the movement did not die in Spain. It dispersed and in dispersion, it built a politically potent element that now has control of the Spanish government — at least in theory. We’ll see what happens when “reality” sets in.

    The movement was not destroyed, it was dispersed in the US as well. Hundreds of localized programs and projects grew out of the dispersal of the Occupy movement, many of which continue and grow. The dispersal of the movement was akin to the broadcast of seeds over fields.

    Unlike the situation in Europe, however, there appears to be little effort among the dispersed elements of the movement in the United States to achieve political power. The stronger effort here is to create a viable alternative to the current corrupt and destructive political/economic system, to step outside it and grow something else again.

    That’s more in tune with the anarchist roots of the movement than trying to obtain control of government.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      There’s a gigantic inertia in the us in favor of the two crap political parties which systematically dis empowers people on both the left and the right. Every political tendency gets distilled down to mushy, market based milquetoast.

    2. salamander

      69 of 350 seats “now has control of the Spanish government – at least in theory?”

      I want a puff of what you’re smoking…

      1. Ché Pasa

        One toke over the line…

        Podemos is here referred to as the “potential kingmaker” in the Spanish parliament , and through their “surprising showing” in national and regional elections, they are effectively the controlling interest in forming a government. How they will ultimately use that power remains to be seen, but there’s no denying they have it.

        On the other hand, like Syriza in Greece, they run the risk of being run over by the Infinite Power of the Berlin-Brussels Axis (with a little push from DC.)

        We shall see.

  8. nobody

    The secret truth is that Occupy Wall Street was supposed to work. And this is how it was supposed to work:

    “A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future… The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people’s assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

    “The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.

    “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.

    “Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?… something all Americans, right and left, yearn for and can stand behind.”

    And what happened to that idea? David Graeber and his friends derailed it:

    “Two days later, at the Outreach meeting we were brainstorming what to put on our first flyer. Adbusters’ idea had been that we focus on “one key demand.” [sic] This was a brilliant idea from a marketing perspective, but from an organizing perspective, it made no sense at all. We put that one aside almost immediately. There were much more fundamental questions to be hashed out. Like: who were we? Who did want to appeal to? Who did we represent?”


  9. perpetualWAR

    I disengaged with Occupy when I was shot down from targeting wrongful and unlawful foreclosures. Some douchebag group of Occupy told me “the true proletariat is property-less.”

    1. Yves Smith

      What Occupy group was this? There have been Occupy Homes groups around the US that were opposing wrongful foreclosures. But my impression is they were formed after the encampments were broken up by the officialdom.

  10. Christian B

    There were only a few people at Adbusters who knew the philosophy and spiritualusm of anarchism that started Occupy. The rest had a superficial understandomg and wanted to continue the same economic structure but with the 99% in power instead of the 1%.

    Yotam still does not get it. Instead of wanting to be the “biggest be can be” he needs to completely understand that he is nothing and completely powerless. After all, are not the 1% also trying to be “the biggest they can be”?

    When you are nothing you can walk through fire and not get burned.

    1. perpetualWAR

      While Occupy is contemplating “powerlessness and I am nothing,” the 1% is grabbing more.

      Your argument is precisely why Occupy floundered.

  11. Eureka Springs

    I think consensus and or more democracy ran into the brick wall called among other things our republic. Our republic is designed to stop democracy. And this is what we all learned in school onward, yet cannot figure out – trying to put a square peg in a round hole can never work. Much more needs to be discussed among the peeps in this line. I mean why do we want a president to lead or any political candidate to come up with the answers… when something like the party platform should be hammered out by us all…therefore the “leaders” are actually representatives and have their orders in the platform.

    OWS didn’t have consensus/democratic tools to move beyond one group at a time… Because in our society they don’t exist.

    1. LifelongLib

      “Leaders are actually representatives…”

      Yes, they’re supposed to be people who have temporarily been delegated authority for specific limited purposes, not better people than us whose success we vicariously participate in. But in the U.S. at least that idea of leadership seems not to have taken hold…

    2. Min

      “Our republic is designed to stop democracy.”

      During our founders generation and the next, if not later, people distinguished between two types of republic, an aristocratic republic and a democratic republic, and Americans in general believed that the U. S. was a democratic republic. For one thing, we have no aristocratic titles.

      Around 1980 I observed the arising of the meme that the U. S. is a republic but not a democracy. It was promoted by those who wished to legitimize the destruction of democracy by wrapping themselves in the flag of the founders. It is true that the U. S. was not as democratic when it was founded as it became, and it took the Civil War and more than one social movement to make it more democratic. It is also true that the opponents of democracy have been making inroads for more than a generation. But it is too soon to throw in the towel. It is important not to accept their claims of legitimacy as true.

      1. LifelongLib

        Expanding the franchise to include all adults (actually as well as legally) was and would be a great step forward. But many of the measures intended to make the political process more democratic seem instead to have opened the door for special interests to manipulate things. Formal democracy isn’t enough. Citizens actually have to participate in an informed way. If they can’t or won’t we might be better off with smoke-filled rooms.

  12. hyperpolarizer

    With all due respect, I think it was huge that there was nationally coordinated campaign to bust up OWS sites and violently evict the people.

    I think the present narrative, despite the insider view, neglects that aspect of the downfall of Occupy. It started out about the same time as the Tea Party, and look what we got stuck with.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      You’re overlooking the fact that the Tea Party, early in its existence, was taken under the wing of ALEC and its ilk, which provided the kind of organizational leadership Occupy rejected. In addition to having funding for outreach, the Friedmanites provided cheerleaders (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh) and ensured there was no police interference when a Tea Party demonstration was underway.

      As Mr. Marom came to realize, you can’t fight organization with disorganization. This isn’t about some nebulous desire to each be allowed to do our own thing without interference. It’s literally about saving this planet from total destruction. That’s not going to happen without the same level of consensus the opposition has had since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

    2. marym

      Yes. And the violent attack on the encampments didn’t just disperse the people. Cops destroyed food and food service supplies, shelter, electronic equipment, libraries, and medical and first-aid supplies, much of it likely donated by people not necessarily able to be part of an encampment. For some campers this was maybe most of what they had or, for the homeless and other marginalized people who came to the camps, more than they had. If we do build a movement, if bringing about real change will require people to strike, or boycott, or occupy vacant land or buildings, this kind of community support is crucial. We ought not discount (the “authorities” certainly didn’t) the material and psychological impact of this destruction beyond just the local participants; and we need to find more sustainable, less vulnerable ways of providing community support.

      1. Jim

        So what is the lesson from this type of response by the national security state?

        It may be worthwhile to take a more careful look at successful occupation strikes.

        For example, Solidarity in Poland, after 30 years of average citizen political defeats, managed, through a carefully thought-out and premeditated assertion of power to occupy the Lenin Shipyard, in August of 1980, and to also create an interfactory strike committee which at the beginning consisted of 20 supporting enterprises that insured lateral lines of communication between the occupying sites within the entire Baltic coastal region–in order to ultimately accomplish was was thought of as impossible–the achievement of a self-governing trade union independent of the party state.

        When the strike was initially announced at the Lenin Shipyard Walesa said the following:

        “I declare an occupation strike. I have been given the trust of the workers. We are occupying the shipyard. We aren’t going anywhere until we’re sure we’ve gotten what we wanted. We’re staying. This is an occupation strike. I’ll be the last one to leave.”

        They had a single strategic goal with some 20 additional demands backed by a self-created institutional structure (with significant leverage) that was able to protect its citizens and leadership within the shipyard from the State during the time of occupation.

        Serious politics with extremely high stakes that managed, for a time, to shift the balance of power, within Poland–and people who participated in this success talked about how their personal fear, in the process of this democratic assertion of power, began to dissipate.

        1. likbez

          There is a difference between “color revolution” style event which promote neoliberalism and Occupy style event that oppose it.

          In case of color revolution style events the participants can relay on all the power of Western embassies, NGO, intelligence agencies and flow of money and equipment.

          Training of leaders would be provided, “revolutionaries for hire” will emerge, etc.

          Occupy was against the most powerful state in the world without any substantial external support.

          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Sharp

          1. Jim

            I anxiously await your evidence about how the creation of Solidarity in Poland in August of 1980 is in anyway related to “color revolution” style events!

  13. ElViejito

    I would distill my history of activism since the 60’s by claiming that the new society will grow within the cracks of the old. I turned from working on “the revolution” a long time ago and now focus on small, achievable projects that have a potential for lasting and making a difference – a progressive forum that brings in speakers to a monthly potluck, a progressive film festival that encourages wide-ranging political discussion, a small think tank consisting of volunteers researching local issues (tax increment financing, anyone?).
    Many of us Professional-Managerial Class (PMC) activists are hampered by having been told implicitly and explicitly for our entire education that we are the leaders of the world when we are at best lieutenants of the 1%. For dealing with the rest of the (non-PMC) world, I recommend the strategy suggested by Lois Mark Stalvey in The Education of a WASP: (Loosely quoting from memory) Go to meetings run by minorities (or non PMC-types), do not take over the meeting or offer advice – just be there and help with whatever project they are working on; develop relationships. Experience being the minority. Later, when you have become accepted as a member of the group, only make suggestions and proposals that promote progressive values and build on the group’s already existing values. Always be respectful of the group and its members. This is the best training for dealing with the world and building connected centers of resistance.

  14. GlobalMisanthrope

    Sorry everybody, but I’m going to go against the grain here. Putting to one side the intolerably wise-whimsical tone, I read this piece as hagiography posing as critique. (It’s mortifying to read, especially the struggle as raison d’être trope where he’s totally cribbing and doesn’t even seem to know it, even though this has been put forth as recently as this year to much fanfare and criticism by Ta-Nehisi Coates. No, he thinks he made it up. Yikes!)

    Human history is disheveled, spasmodic attempts by those of us who would really rather get on with our lives to stop the ruthless from making that impossible. This battle rages and recedes over and over, sometimes for centuries. Just look how the revolutions of Christianity and capitalism completely reshaped the world and in both cases for good and for bad. Good grief, son. Read a book.

    What’s more, if you need Gestalt therapy to evoke fear in your heart, then you either aren’t paying attention or are on the safe side of the fray. The rest of us are daily made aware that power and powerlessness are not cosmetic and that those are the forces that shape our lives while we try to live in them as best we can. And yet we find the courage to smile at our children. As a life-long member of the working class I find the suggestion that I need to be schooled in the ways of courageous resistance breathtakingly arrogant. I am not charmed.

    The sort of utopianism on display here is not only callow and tiresome (and precisely why Occupy failed), but also depressing. And if it reflects the level of understanding held by “activists” of the nature of the crisis we face, I am not heartened.

        1. JTMcPhee

          I wonder how many of “us” are unaware of the Bonus March and labor violence and other outbreaks of ordinary people under the tightening screws of kleptocracy …

    1. Nick

      I agree completely. This recap is self-absorbed, naive, and absurd — it reminds me in many ways of the business plan of a start-up that has no clear route to actually making money. It’s impossible to imagine a movement of people who think like this accomplishing anything, because they have no model for the outcome they want; what they do have is a model for how they want themselves to be. Naturally, it turns out after a while that they all have different models for how they want themselves to be, and then it breaks up like an unstable bunch of polyamorists who can’t stand the constant negotiating anymore.

      I’m trying to imagine a leader of the civil rights movement writing a post-mortem like this, and simply can’t.

    2. Norb

      I understand your position very clearly. Everyone is trying to get on with their life. But at what point do you make a stand against the status-quo? Fighting a strong foe is not pleasant- especially a foe willing to inflict massive damage on anyone offering resistance.

      Fear and Power are the lessons here. The will has to be present to exercise power to obtain ones goals. Getting by, while noble in many respects, is just the thing the powerful count on to remain in power. Power will keep pushing to see just how much they can “Get Away” with. Without a counter force, there is no incentive to stop.

      I have a question for you. If a movement arises that actually tries to meet force with force. To truly disrupt the corporate oligarchy where it has an impact, which side will you be on? Will you support the utopian ideal that corporate power must have limits?. That the utopian ideals of justice for all and democracy are worth physically fighting for? Or do you hold the view that the corporate oligarchs represent the best humanity has to offer. Capitalism breeds oligarchy.

      In many respects, nature is probably going to kick all our asses so the whole argument is moot. I feel strongly that any society remaining will be better served with thoughtful and compassionate individuals like Yotam.

      Occupy shows us once again the power of divide and conquer. Fear, in all its forms is the powerful wedge used to accomplish that task.

      1. GlobalMisanthrope

        You say you understand my position very clearly and then completely mischaracterize it. This must be my fault for sending off a rushed response on my way out the door to work. Let me try again.

        I reject your premises, but have an answer nonetheless.

        My point is that the problems of ruthlessness and the fear it engenders are ancient problems that reoccur with such regularity that, although I believe the view to be simplistic, one could be forgiven for thinking they arise from our nature. When we forget this as individuals or unlearn it as a society, we are at risk of making the kind of brash and/or hasty moves that leave us more vulnerable. I favor the mundane struggles of vigilant action over the heroics of reaction and catharsis.

        The contemporary crises we face as supporters of democratic rule are hard upon us and not to be romanticized with valiant talk of violent struggle. I believe that approach actually trivializes the lives and efforts, however small they may be, to be a decent parent, spouse, neighbor and citizen in a hateful, punitive society driven by the lust of animus. It also ignores the fact that our very urgent problems have been a long time in the making.

        It isn’t romantic or exciting or flattering to our notions of ourselves to plod along day after day trying to create justice everywhere you have the ability to create it. But that was the work needed to keep us from getting here. It is a shameful insult to cast the ameliorative as the last refuge of cowards. The damage is real and being done to real people on a constant basis. So, what? Pshaw to relief?

        No, you’ll answer, it’s not enough! But I believe that it not only is enough, it is the essence of our power. It is what drives those who would consolidate power to expend the greatest portion of their resources on keeping us addled and apart. Anyone who needed Occupy to show them the power of divide and conquer really isn’t paying attention at all and definitely doesn’t know her history. Least of all the history of struggle.

        And, finally, hope and sentimentality are the enemies and to be utterly resisted.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Per some telling of the Pandora myth, “Hope” was the last of the plagues on Humanity to escape from the Fateful casket, and the worst…

    3. animalogic

      Thank you, GlobalMisanthrope, I agree.
      Credit where due, the author has reached out for some knowledge of both self and circumstances, however, that knowledge is symptomatic of someone lost in the the land of PC idealism.
      Frankly, the “bad conscience” is alive and well in these ones. Callow indeed. In the face of one of the most vicious oligarchies in history, these amateurs fret and fight over the simple VALIDITY of leadership.
      Perhaps, I should not be unfair: after all, how could people cultivated lifelong in the playroom of PC/Identity politics ever gain the knowledge, let alone the INSTINCTS. sufficient to fight our oligarchs ?
      Indeed, PC/identity politics has been one of the oligarchs greatest assets over the last few decades:
      1. PC etc has usefully SPLIT workers etc into descrete, often contradictory, even isolated, movements. Divide and conquer politics.
      2.PC etc has DISTRACTED effort away from core economic issues onto social/cultural ones, which have little to no real bearing on their wealth/power. Or does anyone really believe that the real elites give a SHIT whether (say) gay people marry or not ?
      3.PC etc has given them a wonderful stick with which conservatives can beat their “liberal” enemies. Can we not admit that PC often slips over into the ludicrous ?
      4. And, in some ways best of all, PC encourages a fearful self censoring citizenry. Indeed, the author is a perfect example of a guilt ridden, confused, trivial modern citizen…really, anything to fear there ? Lol.
      Roll on the crypto (?)fascist state….

    4. Ulysses

      “As a life-long member of the working class I find the suggestion that I need to be schooled in the ways of courageous resistance breathtakingly arrogant”

      Well said!

    5. washunate

      And if it reflects the level of understanding held by “activists” of the nature of the crisis we face, I am not heartened.

      And yet, that’s part of the power of this post. It is rather honest in this flaw, is it not? You say go read a book. Well this, is a first hand account of trying to do something. Those things are inherently messy. I would be more concerned about a tone that was too clinical, too distant, too unengaged.

      The difficult truth for comfortable liberals is that things are much worse than they (we) have experienced personally over the past couple decades. This post examines a manifestation of that condition in excruciating detail. We should not feel heartened about what has happened.

      A somewhat similar dynamic is happening as some of the Black Lives Matter energy has morphed from initial protests on core issues like human dignity and the two tiered justice system to the watered down, establishment friendly tactics like focus on narrow issues such as policing. As if Obama’s task force on 21st century policing is part of the solution rather than part of the problem. (I’m thinking of things like Campaign Zero on this front).

      1. GlobalMisanthrope

        In the quote you lifted from my post I was referring to the callow utopianism on display in the piece. How is that the power of the post?

        As for whether it is honest, I say outright that I read the piece as hagiography posing as critique so I obviously wouldn’t agree. If what you’re saying is that you find his sincerity credible, I say that he appears to me to offer his sincerity as proof of his credibility, thus begging the question.

        You say that “we should not feel heartened about what has happened.” No idea what you’re referring to with “what has happened,” but I was simply saying that I was not heartened by the callow, utopian “understanding” on display in the piece. I did not mean to suggest that I prefer political analysis to be uplifting.

        Where policing is concerned, I agree with Naomi Murakawa that reform just means more policing and that we need to dismantle the carceral state. But that #BLM moved from protest to policy offerings wholly distinguishes it from Occupy, so I don’t understand your point.

        You may find this rude, but your comments show a lack of intellectual discipline and logical rigor that only serve to reinforce the concerns the essay raised in me about the state of youth activism and the future it portends. If that hurts your feelings, I offer the following recipe as a salve.

        Felix’s World Famous Chocolate Cake

        3/4c unbleached white all-purpose flour
        1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
        1t chemical-free baking powder
        1/4t sea salt
        1/8t white pepper
        1/2c sugar
        2 large eggs
        1/4t pure vanilla extract
        1/2c whole-milk Bulgarian-style yogurt
        1/4c extra-virgin olive oil

        Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grease and flour a loaf pan or other mold of your choice.

        Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and pepper into a bowl. In larger bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, the eggs, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the olive oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place on the middle rack of the hot oven. Immediately reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

        When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

      2. Norb

        I don’t get how some people can interpret self reflection and doubt as a weakness. I would guess that a society without compassion breeds this view. No wonder we also have such a problem with religion and science.

        1. Inverness

          Thank you, Norb. I also don’t get how the author of this piece is so self-absorbed. He is not only a highly committed activist, but is willing to learn from his mistakes. This isn’t some hedonist. There should be tolerance of those who are highly reflective. It can be rather narcissistic to dismiss someone because his manner is not the same.

    6. PQS

      I was not charmed either. All his talk of guilt and powerlessness and arguing over minutae of “organizing” or “not organizing” or seems very tiresome and ultimately pointless. The kind of exercise that most volunteer organizations descend into, unless a “leader” (!) emerges to provide some focus and direction.

      I don’t want to be too hard on the writer, though. He does seem to “get it” at points:

      And in truth we know our jobs aren’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination; after all, a good deal of the efforts of the folks in the room are aimed at getting occupiers port-o-potties and stopping the incessant drumming.

      This is the workaday level of activity that all organizations require in order to be successful. More of this, please. Stop worrying about identity politics and everybody’s feelings all the time. Anybody who wants to focus on their feelings isn’t interested in either change or a larger mission. They just want to wallow and bring everybody down with them.

      1. Lucia

        Exactly, in the G8 things worked because it was on an Scotish Style. Cells of 10, of trusted friends, known people. Thes make it impossible for infiltration to occur. Secret planning and non-hierarchical, inside Cells, they all give ideas and make decitions quick, voting, and otherwise discussing the strategies of the group, until consensus.
        The guide made put it this way

        With Cells of 6 to 12 people that are idependent, organized in a non-hierarchical and self-sufficient way, and can eitheract on their own or as an autonomousgroup withing larger ones and protests or actions. These small groups being called Affinity groups. They form sub-groups of 2-3 to act as Buddies.
        It was invented the Buddy System. Buddies are 2 or 3 people, who stick together and look after each other throghout an action, never leave each other. Ensuring no one gets forgotten. It is good to have buddies in each cell, or afinity group.
        Have guides with Roles on Actions. Each Cell chooses their roles of action. Cells makes their lists, of roles of action that need covering and decide who will do what. Having a total understanding of what their role involves. They also need to stick to their role throughout the action, and never leave their cells for anything, alone. Roles vary from action to action, and sometimes cells take more than one action, always consensuated, voting, and so on.
        In these way, thousands of Cells were build in G8 in Edimburg and Glasgow, toghether with Factories Transform into Wellcome Homes for the thousands that arrived, for weeks in Scotland for these massive event, that were cover up by the media with the London-Bomb.
        Because, we won. Thanks to the Revolutionary New Demostration Way, that was design here. Because did not allow infiltration of any kind, as well as it was imposible for Police and later de Militars that arrived in helicopters to tárget, people that broke up into all directions, very well organized, in cells that protected each other, and others. At same time, and descentralised there was not THE WAY, or ONE WAY to go, to Glean Eagle, as each Afinity Group, has their own secret plan, that they could share or not with other groups.
        That is why they put a Bomb in London, to shut to the wold what PEOPLE without FRONT MAN, as the Scotts will say, No One King, as Here We are All Kings, did manage to do. A Demonstration of True Revolution from the people, and their capacities, as to scare to death, Bush and Tony Blair. I will leave you of the end results, of the one month journey to Stop New for the creation of the Crisis to the Plan WW3.
        Ones you close the Parlament. The Next Lesson and SHOWING US THE FACT OF WHAT TO DO, IS Island. As to say, you put on Jail the responsables for the Bankins Crashed Rip OFF, and Politicians involved in creating the War in Africa with the False Flags, and 9-11 False Terror Attack. Then Vote to a list of best CV;s from the country, Workers with a wage, that have to represent the best interes, with the best knowledge, on how to solve the situation. An not, partys, than represent an abstract idea of citizens representation, now a days.
        Again, sorry for my writting mistakes, as this is my second languaje.
        From here from UK,
        Saludos, and Keep in mind, that we are all these time, having a COMMON ENEMY, wich is a ONE WORLD GOB that do not represent, the values of humanity and respect for life and citizens of the world, as to exist.
        Do not allow it to happened, they will kill us all, and make the next generation in a test-tube, easy to cheap and order what to do. A One World Fascist Domination of Human existence, and race. A complete catastrophe for humanity in the earth.

  15. different clue

    Weren’t the very first few days of Occupy Wall Street conducted by semi-spontaneous contemporary young people in part responding to a slogan written and a call issued by Kalle Lasn of Adbusters Magazine ( “Occupy Wall Street”) called-for to happen on a particular day? This is just sketchy memory to be sure. And it became worth much more than one day’s involvement.

    But after the very first few days, I read somewhere that David Graeber and other older-generation holdover-anarchist-nostalgiasts crashed the movement and infiltrated the leadership and degraded it into a live-action display of “this is what Anarchism looks like”. If that is part of the problem of what happened, then younger people will have to analyse that very carefully and if they have another upsurge, they will have to rigidly exclude and reject any David Graberoid self-actualizing/validation-seeking aging Anarchist Nostalgiasts from any contact whatsoever from a genuine upsurge-of-the-young movement.

    They might also do some careful thinking about what they actually DO want, and WHY they want it . . . in actionable specificity.

    1. washunate

      Agreed, I think underlying intergenerational dynamics are one of the wildcards we’re not discussing openly. There is a lot of tension just beneath the surface, both within segregated racial communities and between younger and older Americans more generally. The events that made OWS and Ferguson (TM) certainly had elements of that dynamic.

  16. JIm

    Nothing focuses the mind like a good defeat.

    Reasons for this Defeat?

    “The meeting are closed and we feel kind of bad about it, although this is another thing we don’t talk about.”

    “…we have quite a bit of power aren’t being held accountable to it.”

    “We seem to agree, even if quietly, that movements don’t exist without leadership, that the general assembly has been more performance art than decision-making forum since the first couple of weeks, that leaderlessness is a myth.”

    “Truth is we hadn’t planned that far ahead.”

    “On the other hand, an infatuation with public space, a confusion of tactic for strategy, a palpable disdain for people who weren’t radical and fantasies about leaderlessenss.”

    “We had to be honest about how much of this had to do with differences in politics and how much of it was really just ego on all sides.”

    “Until December there were distinctly different tendencies offering different direction to the movement as a whole..”

    “Of course in the midst of the squabbling and the confusion about our direction, the state can crashing down on us.”

    “The State upped the ante, raised the heat on us.”

    “I’m a straight white, class comfortable male in the north-Eastern United States… the best thing I could do for the movement was to mitigate the damage I”ve done by existing.”

  17. jbr2001

    I compare this post with memories of Detroit in the 60’s, Berkeley in the 70’s and my long search for the inner me that would be able to continue the battles. I found it and am growing it toward my particular forms of powerfulness thanks to a 12 Step group, Codependents Anonymous (CoDA).

    Please don’t dismiss me as another religious proseleytizer. CoDA is where I learn how I sabotage my power by focusing on others. So I see it as a personal resource where radicals can regularly go for the communal recharge we all need to pick away from below day by day and be ready to command from above when the “moment” comes.

    If I had CoDA back in those times I might not have stepped aside from the battle and could have been contributing my considerable talents these many decades. I am sure that is true of others as well. So I urge political activists to use the well-developed, anonymous programs of 12 Step spiritual growth, especially in CoDA, to sustain them for the long haul toward human survival.

  18. sid_finster

    Y’all really really need to study the works of V.I. Lenin.

    Whatever else you may say about Lenin, his goals, his means, or his beliefs, he had a remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental view of power and how one goes about getting it and how one goes about holding on to it.

    1. Jim


      From my perspective the Leninist alternative dismisses any interest in a democratically self-organized society.

      In postulating a disciplined revolutionary party to act in the name of society he completed the final arc in a profoundly undemocratic political trajectory from which the traditional Left has not yet recovered.

        1. likbez

          “In postulating a disciplined revolutionary party to act in the name of society he completed the final arc in a profoundly undemocratic political trajectory from which the traditional Left has not yet recovered.”

          May be “the traditional Left has not yet recovered.” but traditional right fully adopted under “color revolution” banner.

      1. GlobalMisanthrope


        I’m interested in exploring this. You make a tidy point, but I’m not sure history really supports it. I’m not being coy. I’m really not sure. When you refer to “the traditional Left” it isn’t obvious to me who or what you mean. Can you elaborate, please?

        I will say that one needn’t swallow the whole of Lenin’s work as a pill for what ails the Modern world. (Somebody still needs to prove to me that we live in a post-Modern one.) The bits that Sid refers to do seem helpful. I think it’s possible to get very close to Lenin’s thinking without becoming doctrinaire or Machiavelli’s without becoming cynical, much as one can stand at a large open window without falling out.


        1. Jim

          Hi GlobalMisanthrope:

          I’m fascinated with the history of Solidarity (see my comments above) because it appears to represent an extremely sophisticated organizational victory against a “traditional left” political formation which deteriorated into a Leninist Police State.

          I consider Solidarity to be a genuine democratic, non-traditional left political formation which used some of the tactics of the sit-down strike combined with organizational innovations like an interfactory strike committee, as leverage, to create an independent trade union separate for the Leninist Polish Workers Party which no longer represented worker interests in Poland.

          I see the structure of power within the U.S. as incrementally moving in a police-state direction with most of its “democratic” institutions no longer representing the interest of the average citizen.

          Consequently the potential validity of the Solidarity organizing experience to the present situation in the U.S.

          Solidarity was able to recruit large numbers of people to perform the public acts necessary to create of popularly-based self-governing institution.

          It was a significant organizing achievement from which can learn many things–people in this formation acted and not simply talked about acting.

          1. Robert Dudek

            One must remember that Solidarity’s ultimate victory was a long time in coming and was assisted by outside forces including:

            1) Nearly the entirety of the Polish diaspora
            2) The Catholic Church
            3) The United States and most of its allies.

            And yet who can say if it would have ever exceeded if not for the coming of Gorbachev.

            What outside forces are there working to help the American “Resistance” – maybe RT and little else.

            1. Jim

              Indeed the 1980-1981 victory of Solidarity was a long-time in coming and much of its success was based on the complete failure of uprisings in Poznan in 1956, 1970-1971 and 1976.

              On those occasions workers in Poland tried to march to the center of the city and then burn down party buildings before getting into violent confrontations with the police–which cost many lives.

              But participants learned–and these lessons were carried in their heads.

              It should also be pointed out that the conventional views on Solidarity tend to privilege the work of Warsaw intellectuals like Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik, who had organized themselves into a group known as KOR.

              But a close reading of what actually happened with Solidarity differs fundamentally from the intelligentsia-centered view of what went on.

              The Baltic workers did not require instruction in occupation strikes or the merit of a free trade union. Each was an important part of their work heritage.

              The prewar occupation strike had been a dramatic weapon against employers. Leninism suffocated that formula with a challenge the prewar labor heritage could not answer: how to strike against a force that controlled the State.

              But by August of 1980 they had organizationally figured this out. It was primarily their accomplishment.

          2. Knute Rife

            Autumn 1981 didn’t seem like much of a victory. My Polish friends who were still able to contact me certainly didn’t think so.

  19. XonX

    Here is some local colour on when Occupy came to Vancouver… in 2011 I was working for a financial services company. At the end of September 2011, Dick Cheney had come to town on a book tour and the CEO made a public display of attending. Nice folks. One month later and a week prior to Occupy arriving in Vancouver October 2011, administration, aka back-office (where I worked), was in non-stop planning. In addition to the usual business-disruption planning we might do for any big event (like the Olympics), it was mostly about security. Security for the foyer, the elevators, for underground parking, personal security, body guards, home security for executives. This was crazy for us; by any measure we were small-potatoes in the Vancouver and Canadian business scene. But the reason we were doing it was fear. You could hear it, see it, feel it throughout the office. The word “protester” was never used when describing Occupy; our office emails always referred to “these hooligans”. What clinched it for me was when I read the latest installment of an external business-motivational email thread that made it through our office every week. For years it had extolled “when life hands you lemons, what would Jesus do, take a walk in someone else’s shoes, you only make a first impression once, etc. (plus MANY snopes.com-debunked truths on humanity)” and the essence of the message that week was “OCCUPY: GET A FUCKING JOB YOU HIPPIES!!”. The execs and their fluffers had basically lost their shit; the dicks weren’t big and swinging that week, and it’s a very, very thin veneer that Occupy successfully scratched.

  20. RBHoughton

    I have not read all the posts so if this has been said before, please excuse me.

    The surest way of promoting change imo is to form a new political party and shape your concerns within the existing structures for such groups.

  21. different clue

    Someone named Al Giordano was a community organizer who also founded Narco News and has done some other stuff. He has a website called Report From The Field. In one of its articles he briefly described an organized student movement in Mexico which wanted certain things. (In hindsight, I don’t know how much of those things it got). He described where it appeared at the time to be functioning better than OWS had functioned, and he said why. His analysis may be useful. Here is the link.

  22. Paul Tioxon

    Yotam, you have written a very brave piece about yourself and how you tried to connect yourself to the world in a meaningful political way. I have watched Occupy from the TV, the internet and some local accounts. But yours is deeply insightful, especially for younger people who want to give of themselves to making a new and better society than the one we have now. I will not comment on what Occupy really is or isn’t, I have not participated in it but certainly admire the effect it has had in broadcasting widely the economic inequality in the concise statement that we are the 99% and the 1% represented by Wall Street finance industry are objectively identified as the political group that dominates the rest of us.

    You have experienced what most alternative institution builders have discovered and have struggled through to a valid conclusion. We are all socialized by the culture we are born into, and to think we can change by reading some books, writing some blogs, or getting in a few arguments with like minded people who plan a direct action of some sort is to come face to face with the depth of the change we have to undergo individually and in larger social groupings. You don’t just wake up one day and your a leftest. There is no university that is transmitting the culture of political change, but plenty that offer MBAs and the other sustaining elements of the superstructure of the society as it is. The chief imaginings about power is that because the people who have power have produced injustice, economic inequality, political oppression and violently guard against real political empowerment of the citizenry as a whole, then anyone who tries to garner any power in a meeting or a movement has to be denounced as the new boss that will simply replace the old boss.

    No manager management, no leader leadership, no hierarchy groups are really just denial about what goes on in front of us everyday in alternative community based groups, protest planners and so forth. There is always a leader, there is always someone who guides and sets the course of direction and keeps it on course by swatting down attempts to change the course. All of course under the guise of consensus or group decision making or what ever mealy mouth platitude is offered in place of conscious, explicit and agreed upon methods. When radical groups opt for the kind of no leader approach, right away, leaders emerge or else next to nothing would get done. And when it comes to the attention of the group that they need to formalize some kind of process for making sure that things do get done, then explicit leaders are tasked and they keep things on course with everyone’s full awareness. That doesn’t mean that conflicts over power, over who gets what they want and how they want it, do not occur. That is part of the struggle of building alternative institutions from scratch. Fortunately for you, you have found a community of political activist with training programs. In previous times, this problem was widely discussed upon basis of an article by Jo Freeman.
    “Freeman wrote four classic feminist papers under her movement name “Joreen”, which analyzed her experiences in the women’s liberation movement. The most widely known is The Tyranny of Structurelessness,[17] which argued there is no such thing as a structureless group; power is simply disguised and hidden when structure is unacknowledged. All groups and organizations need clear lines of responsibility for democratic accountability, a notion that underlies the theory of democratic structuring.”

    This is from the Jo Freeman Wikipedia entry.
    Also, another corroboration of the leadershipless fallacy of self styled radicals and dissenters can be found at length here:


    “Those who romanticize the concept of leaderless movements often misleadingly deploy Ella Baker’s words, “Strong people don’t need [a] strong leader.” Baker delivered this message in various iterations over her 50-year career working in the trenches of racial-justice struggles, but what she meant was specific and contextual. She was calling for people to disinvest from the notion of the messianic, charismatic leader who promises political salvation in exchange for deference. Baker also did not mean that movements would naturally emerge without collective analysis, serious strategizing, organizing, mobilizing and consensus-building.

    Baker, a lead organizer in multiple groups dating back to 1930, a colleague and critic of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the impetus for the 1960 formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), knew this better than anyone. Although she objected to the top-down, predominately male leadership structures that were typical of groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and the NAACP in the 1950s and ’60s, she realized the necessity for grounded, community-based leader-organizers such as sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer and Cleveland, Mississippi-based local organizer Amzie Moore. Baker was not against leadership. She was opposed to hierarchical leadership that disempowered the masses and further privileged the already privileged.”

    People who are radicals seek power. But not to duplicate the cruelties of those who have power now, but to acquire power and use it wisely. Easy enough said. Certainly I believe we need to immediately start building at least 100 5-20 Gigawatt Solar Panel factories. Of course, this will create jobs but will also kill the coal industry. Others will be displaced as these factories are built. Does that mean there is a fascist solar power movement afoot? Hardly. Seeking power, even if you are a white male, hetero and maybe even have a halfway decent job does make you some sort of privileged prick who will do everything in his power to exclude anyone but those exactly like him. Needless guilt for being lucky enough to be born into comfortable circumstances in the USA is not a crime, certainly not by someone who has dissented from mainstream of society and is learning to change himself in order to better change the widespread institutional arrangements of exploitation and oppression. Being conscious of who you are makes you more powerful. As Socrates said, to do good, you need to KNOW what is good.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Correction to sentence after solar factories sentences at very end of last para:

      “Seeking power, even if you are a white male, hetero and maybe even have a halfway decent job does NOT make you some sort of privileged prick who will do everything in his power to exclude anyone but those exactly like him.” The NOT is critical.

    2. Fiver

      I’m glad you made that comment. Given some too harsh comments above, I’m sure the author will welcome yours, coming from someone with a long history of engagement in real service to the greater good, rather than critics here who want to negate the value of the apprenticeship.

  23. sandra

    We came out of the sixties with the idea that those people who pushed political and anti-war meetings into internal conflict that was intolerable to sit through were often undercover government agents. Sorry, it has happened and has been documented from the sixties and into the present. If it is a natural phenomenon that political movements move though that stage of participants attacking each other to the detriment of everyone, it is something that calls out for recognition as an historical phenomenon that is repeated, and that wider perspective is necessary somewhere in your analysis. The occupy movement may have been short-lived and crushed by the power of the state. But it was successful in my experience beyond our imaginings. Your movement redefined everything that happened afterward. It is absolutely accepted that we live in an oligarchy, that wall street has destroyed the economy, that the banks are corrupt and the government is in their orbit. Your visceral reactions to the corruption that surrounds us made a profound mark upon the country’s understanding of itself. Do not underestimate that. The thinking about what to do next had not yet evolved. The corrupt capitalists are still in power and still control the major media, but they have lost the country. Sorry but there is no constituency there anymore to support their views. They must lie to us and trick us, as those in power have done. They must skew the elections. The path ahead was not clear to you or to us when your dramatic movement sprang up. And it is not clear now that we know these truths. We know how far away the power structure is from our values. And that is where we stand.

  24. Jerry Hamrick

    Yotam mentioned Occupy’s commitment to direct democracy. Then he describes at length how Occupy never really achieved it. The only significant direct democracy in world history was that of ancient Athens, and it took centuries to develop. But throughout that long period of creation there was a commitment to democracy and the city moved forward in fits and starts. The key is that the effort took place over generations and some of the most transformative changes took place when one citizen was given power to implement changes. So, authoritarian action to move toward democracy may be necessary to reach the ultimate goal. This means that leadership was hard at work all the time in order achieve limited goals, but nevertheless goals that moved the city closer to its ultimate form.

    In effect, some Athenians, even while under the rule of kings, acted as if democracy existed anyway. They formed groups that defined the common good, that then developed a consensus on how much was possible at the time and then worked to get what they could. It took a long, long time, but ultimately direct democracy emerged.

    Today, because we have the Athenian model to guide us, because we have mass media to communicate a course of action, we can move more quickly than the ancient Athenians. We can act as if democracy already exists and begin to form a government right now. Some group has to take the responsibility that they will provide the systems whereby the general public can participate in defining the common good and then can vote on it. The idea is that democracy can only be created by a democratic process and that process requires people who serve those systems, who do not guide the ideas but only operate a process whereby the ideas formulated by others can be chosen by the people as goals.

    Leaders will emerge. But they, like Pericles, will not have the power to order anybody to do anything. They will only be able to propose and argue their ideas. Others will vote to reject or enact those ideas.

    Do not get caught up in organizational structure. There is nothing wrong with hierarchy per se, the key is who has how much power. The groups who accept administrative power will provide systems that will enable other groups with transformative power to determine the course of action. Administrative power groups carry out the transformative action plans developed by other groups which are large and their members each have very little power–they have only the power to vote. The leaders really do not belong to either group, although they can, but they propose and argue for their ideas. Ideas control the movement, the people in the movement are merely acting within a democratic structure from the start.

    I shouldn’t have to say it, but democracy is a form of government that obeys the will of the people, that defines and implements the common good. Only the mass of the people have the transformative power to define and implement the common good. This means that the government should be structured so that the people can define the common good, and approve the forms that will implement the common good. This means that a system for defining the common good, must be administered by those who keep the movement in action but do not try to control it. Their only duty is to make sure that the process, the system, will enable others to present their ideas, argue for or against these ideas, and then vote.

    Those who manage the systems will simply be enabling the people to come together, propose, discuss, and vote. Out of that process will emerge a course of action and there will be plenty of people to take that action. But the process of democracy is the only thing that can create an actual democracy.

    1. Jim

      “But the process of democracy is the only thing that can create an actual democracy.:

      Great comment. Tend to agree with you about Athens.

      It is important to keep in mend that there then existed, in classical Greece, an elaborate world of city-states. What I like about such an environment(100s of city states) is that the apparent foundation of its democratic, economic and cultural flourishing, was quite different than the more modern narrative of political and economic development supposedly necessitating the existence of a large, centralized and often autocratic State.

      One of the great tragedies of the Left, is that it has narrowed its politics and economics to an acceptance of the assumption that only a large State is capable of ameliorating social inequalities.

  25. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

    “Occupy” failed because it had no goal, and having no goal, it didn’t know how to get there. See: http://goo.gl/m6qmGn

    Here is a quote from the above June 2012 article:

    It goes on and on, protest after protest. Anti-racial profiling. Anti-union busting. Anti-tuition increases. Anti-school closings. Anti-mortgage fraud. Anti-unsustainable development. Anti-corruption. Anti-this, anti-that, anti-the other thing.

    For reasons unknown, the Occupy movement seems to take a perverse pride in being leaderless and directionless, preferring to run hither and yon, protesting whatever strikes their fancy. No focus. No plan. No idea. Just protest.

    The Tea Party has a simple, easily understood focus: Lower taxes. What is Occupy’s simple, easily understood focus?

    The business and political leaders, against whom Occupy protests, have learned one thing: Do nothing. Occupy will protest and then they will be gone, and we can resume business as usual.

    The public grows weary of ineffectual, random, aimless protests, and Occupy, which began with such great promise, becomes last week’s newspaper. A lost opportunity is a step backward, as people become discouraged and slide into lethargy.

    Somewhere, in board rooms around the world, the 1% is laughing.

    1. washunate

      Do nothing? I’d be curious to hear what you mean on that. It took incredibly coordinated state action to defuse Occupy, not public weariness.

      It’s unfortunate Occupy was not able to organize in a way to neutralize such action, but at the very least, it pulled back the curtain on the police state specifically and the power of government more generally in a way no one can deny moving forward. That’s the spark of hope from the various events of the last few years. The elites want us to believe they are all powerful. But it is actually taking them quite a bit of effort to maintain that illusion. In reality, they are strategically weak and vulnerable. And they know it.

      Which is why the Democratic party has had to become so blatantly pro-inequality. Even a modest opposition to fascism on their part would ruin the efforts of the past few decades.

  26. Erwin Gordon

    I always thought that occupy lacked clear direction and was destined to fail because of a couple of key things which is tied to them not coming to questions the underlying assumptions on which this system is built.
    1. We live in a democracy – Despite the fact that we get to vote once every 4 to 6 years and then politicians are allowed to do basically whatever they want while the main recourse we have against this is screaming and ranting in the street while a policeman cracks a baton on our head or pepper sprays us, most people never question is this is an essential part of the democratic process. For me, it’s a FAT LIE! If we really had a democracy we would have a direct vote on any and all changes that impact on our lives. That would mean being able to call binding referendums once a certain threshold is met in terms of a petition. Once striking is that none of the so-called leaders of the Occupy Movement thought to focus the movement around ensuring that across the country at local, city, state and federal levels that we have this fundamental right as par and parcel of living in a real democracy. Only the 1% and the sycophants (i.e. politicians and MSM whores) of the 1% would argue against it. Everybody else across all political divisions would be on board with pushing for the necessary legislation to make this a reality across the country. It would seriously undermine the ability of the 1% to make policies that strip us of our wealth and liberties.

    2. That the question is one of socialism/communism vs capitalism. We don’t have capitalism, we just have a form of socialism that provides for wealth extraction that benefits primarily the 1% with some crumbs for the 99%. If you’re arguing for socialism or communism, which seem to be the case of many of the leaders of the Occupy Movement all you’re doing is arguing for EXACTLY the same thing that the 1% is doing to the 99% percent (i.e. wealth extraction). The problem is that as they have the resources that can be moved outside the country at a moment’s notice plus they are the ones through whom their donations put the politicians in power. It doesn’t matter whether they are democrat or republican because irrespective of what happens at the edges, all you have to do is look at the policies that are common to both sides to understand what the 1% want. That’s why there is essentially no difference between Obama and Bush Jr. The leaders seem blithely unaware of the power of impact that point 1 could have on this question, so you’re playing THEIR game from an already weak position by trying to help tweedle dee get in power who still receives political donations from the 1% and ultimately answers to the 1%. Rather than try to beat them at their own game, why don’t you actually change the game. The problem is one of wealth extraction which happens via money printing, via dumping externalities on the public, and via taxes. If you argue from the standpoint that everyone should be the one who decides how they money is spent, you are able to argue from a position again people across all political divisions can agree on. Only an idiot would argue that they know what’s best for you to do with your own money. From that basis, you can again leverage the power of direct democracy by arguing for a legislation that requires that any direct or indirect taxes must go through a referendum. This is something that again people across the political landscape can agree on and again hits the 1% directly where they are most vulnerable.

    3. The same flaws exist in how the Occupy leaders view health (i.e. they are completely sold on the belief that allopathic medicine which is one of the top 3 killers – iatrogenic deaths – of people every year in the US is the best and only type of medicine. Similarly nothing against the damage to the health of the nation through the corrupting of the land, food and environment via GMOs. And the same with the damage to the environment done with toxic or nuclear waste being dumped or washing up on our shores but being ignored. Again all areas where a massive impact could have been made by again using the power of direct democracy.

    But unfortunately the Occupy leadership didn’t grasp the opportunity that was presented to them and we are all poorer because of it.

  27. Oregoncharles

    ” We could have lasted longer, brought more people into the movement, established more powerful institutions, won more material gains.”

    The Indignados, the immediate inspiration of OWS, became powerful when they turned into Podemos. That’s an “institution” capable of taking power, as, to some degree, it just did. Political parties, or institutions in general, can be run quite a bit like OWS; but political parties have confusion about leaders and power.

    The article is both inspiring and illuminating about the fate of Occupy, but not very surprising. Anyone who’s experienced an organization knows that there were leaders of some sort; the real question is what sort, and how could they be held accountable? One good reason for keeping them undercover was stated by some unnamed Occupier: “Why would we give them a martyr?”

    Again, the real reason Occupy never named demands or addressed the election was that it couldn’t – the members were too diverse to agree on demands or candidates. Perhaps more open leadership would have helped; there is no knowing.


  28. Anarcissie

    This will go against what almost everybody here seems to think. I thought Occupy Wall Street was a terrific success. It was for me, anyway. After I had labored in the shadowy outlands for decades of seemingly useless activism, suddenly hundreds of people stuck themselves directly in the craw of the State, promoting ideas like mine. Even the boss media got caught up in it. I was thrilled; I ran right down and gave them what little money, food, and equipment I could afford. Occupy changed the whole public discourse of the country; it put the fear of God into the most cynical upper reaches of the Democratic Party. I was not troubled by their lack of leaders, goals, or demands. The State knows how to suborn or disappear leaders, to confuse and obscure goals, to deflect demands. But it did not know what to do with Occupy, so it had to crush it. That was a great victory, because it made Occupy into a legend instead of one more dreary institution being poisoned by the surrounding domination and exploitation. I await the next outbreak, which will come, although most of you will not be part of it.

    May I suggest this: If you know so much better what is to be done, why don’t you do it?

  29. Norb

    Calling out the injustice of or current system is a never ending battle. We all have to adjust our lives through action and example. Many people will not care or criticize. It is new institutions and ways of living that we must build.

    I think this transformation is well underway. Its having heart not to turn back.

  30. RWood

    Here is an important statement:

    As Ruth Wilson Gilmore said “Prison is not some building ‘over there’ but a set of relationships that undermine rather than stabilise everyday lives, everywhere”.

    This came in this story:

    This is the infrastructure of our anti-democratic nations. I will attempt to absorb what GlobalMisanthrope, JTMcPhee, and Robert Dudeck insist on.

  31. MattZN

    Great read. I’ll tell you what I saw as the movement unfold in Berkeley and Oakland, as an outsider. I saw a lot of frustration. A huge amount of frustration over the relative powerlessness many people found themselves in. The same frustration in Occupy that in fact also seeded the Tea Party movement. I’m sure people might disagree, but both movements have always appeared fundamentally the same to me. Driven almost entirely by frustration.

    The reason Occupy failed is that frustration does not equate into policy. It was doomed to fail from the very first protest and it was obvious that was going to happen. What’s the point of protesting when you can’t offer concrete alternatives? When you can’t tell the politicians that can actually be enacted into law? I got the idea that people just wanted to magic-up lots of money out of thin air to ‘fix’ the problem… something that city and county governments can’t actually do. Its kinda like the idea of printing a one-trillion-dollar coin to fix the budget (or maybe it has to be a 10-trillion-dollar coin now)… easy to say, but has not one chance in hell of being even remotely feasible in real life. That was the problem with Occupy in a nutshell.

    What I find the most interesting about this mess is that the Tea Party actually gained traction using almost the same argument (just very slightly more cohesive). Regardless of whatever complaints conservatives might have over it being co-opted by larger powers, it still put people in power across the political scene and that is something that Occupy was never able to accomplish. But the result is nearly the same. Getting into a position of being able to make change is only half the equation. Once you get there you actually need to come up with realistic policies that can be enacted into law. The Tea movement has fallen well short in that regard. (Some would argue that the whole point of the Tea Party was to *stop* making new laws, but that hasn’t really led to an improvement since we are left with all the laws that are already on the books which aren’t actually any better).

    So we have a story of two extremes here, and both have hit up against the wall of reality… the fact that regardless of rhetoric, there’s just no point if you can’t actually make laws to govern the land.

    And now we have a major presidential election coming up. The frustration is still very much in the drivers seat as anyone who actually tries to talk real policy gets buried in an onslaught of name calling and screaming on available media. If people don’t get a grip we are going to wind up in real trouble. What, we aren’t in trouble already? No, we aren’t. We haven’t seen what real trouble is, yet.


  32. Shane

    I was mesmerized by what happened during the occupy movement and I’ve thought about the conflicts that erupted because of them.
    I think that what happened, and you sort of state in your article, is that individual identities could not be melded into a cohesive and long lived movement(to poorly paraphrase). In particular, the police intimidation that I read about basically state that they “grab someone with a backpack”. So, to get to my point, I wish that everyone in the Occupy had been in suits, literally. The suit could have been the uniform that would have defeated much of the police intimidation. As much as it is the uniform of the opposing team, it would have been wonderful camouflage. Imagine that the police mistakenly arrest a “real wall-streeter”? It would have addressed corrupt police tactics. It would have been one more thing that could have elevated a group of individuals into a ‘movement’.
    But I don’t think anyone ever really thinks of uniforms any more. But they should, and they shouldn’t be afraid to consider that what you do might actually be more important than what you look like doing it.

  33. different clue

    Butch Swaim once said: ” Before there can be a revolution, there first has to be a revolution between the ears.” ( Anyone who knows who Butch Swaim was . . . knows something that Noam Chomsky does not know). Part of that “revolution between the ears” might involve finding and digesting large amounts of informative well-written material about various aspects of the problem. It would take years. And such material would have to be reliably available for many years to come . . . enough time for people to pursue their self and mutual education.

    Perhaps the shattered remnants of the Occupy people might consider the creation and “booking up” of Occupy Reading Rooms organized the way that Christian Science Reading Rooms are organized? It would take many regionalocal movement-loads of people to organize the finding and aquiring small bases and facilities to fill up with the sort of books and etc. which were in the Zucotti Mothership library. The one which Mayor Bloomberg was so very attentively careful to see to the specially targeted destruction of. Or then again, perhaps Occupy Flame groups ( “keep the flame”) could view public and college/university libraries as their periodically accessible reading-resource rooms, and organize groupmember reading of the relevant materials found in those places. And discussions about what it means and what to do with the knowledge . . . either by lone wolves or wolf packs or whole herds of people as appropriate and called for. There are many things the emotional lone wolf can do within the law. And even the lone wolves can have periodic lone-wolf-meetups to discuss what eachother does on their own and how it does or does not work. And what things might work in what ways if enough lone wolves did them separately at the same time and over time.

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