Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Phila Unemployment Project

Homepage here: http://www.philaup.org/

Halfway between an unemployed council and a liberal coalition. Worth looking into.

Some visions for going forward

These are from various sources I respect, not by me.

I've had a love-hate relationship with Chris Hedges ever since he visited my school. He seems to point out all the right problems and no solutions, breeding cynicism. But even Hopeless Hedges has turned around his grumpy assessments in response to Occupy.
His column piece "Finding Freedom in Handcuffs" has good advice about how the movement should focus more on its cause(s), and less on the massive burden of maintaining an encampment. (This does not, however, imply we should abandon public spaces entirely -- mass meetings in public parks are still a great idea IMO. Just maybe not the expense of living there, which is difficult and non-inclusive for the working majority.)

Eviction Notice #2

On the news there has been talk of a 48-hour timeline being imposed, during which Occupy will have to dismantle its tent city and move across the street or probably face forceful police eviction. FYI.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Socialists are Failing at Occupy

(For the tl;dr crowd, just scroll to the bottom and read my proposed solutions.)

Usually socialists are fairly accustomed to leading almost every protest movement in the USA, or at least have led them a lot.

When a movement comes along that is so big and spontaneous that we have difficulty keeping up with it, that’s a good sign. It means we’re not the ones scraping the movement together by ourselves, that the movement has real energy and real mass participation.

However, in my experience, movements have usually benefited from socialist leadership. Socialist organizations give movements a revolutionary, system-changing vision which is inspiring and gives the right view about the way the authorities will deal with us, and how we should deal with them.

At the same time, socialist leadership gives movements a nuts-and-bolts pragmatism of knowing how to get things done, and efficient ways of making the movement as inclusive as possible for everyone who cannot afford a large time-investment. And all of this, without sacrificing revolutionary sincerity!

Why are we having trouble leading this time?

Our first instinct was to NOT take on the fundamental assumptions and organizational flaws of the movement. There were good reasons for this approach. Sometimes, indeed, it is better to go with the flow and build relationships than to take on every argument for the sake of principle. This is probably how arguments against informal leadership and consensus, and for declaring a formal list of demands, may have seemed in the beginning.

Informal leadership and consensus are also two huge reasons that we have been unable to lead in the style which we have enjoyed in the past.

The fact is, most people in the socialist movement are not interested in sacrificing all their time in order to shift the movement. The fact that someone would have to sacrifice all their time in order to shift the movement is a clear sign that there is a big problem. It means that the movement has obstacles to genuine democratic participation.

Likewise, when “no one is in charge” then the situation is biased toward the people who are there the most time being effectively in charge. And who is there the most? Who can afford it? An odd mix of college students, unemployed people, homeless folk, and crust punk anarchists who get a kick out of giving up all their material possessions and eating out of dumpsters (not something that resonates with middle America, even when class warfare does). In short, while Occupy may express the rage of the 9-to-5er population, it only allows them to participate very marginally.

You might argue that in a movement about occupations and encampments, the people who are there the most are the most deserving of having major influence. However, this is no way to include the working majority of the 99% who cannot afford the sacrifice in time which having a real voice in Occupy would require. In fact, if we are making a god out of camping instead of trying to make the movement as inclusive as possible to people who can only attend one or two hour-long meetings per week, we are truly lost. As a movement of the 99%, it should be a primary principle that we make it easy for the 99% to participate.

We have been trying to lead through working groups. Unfortunately, these are often as chaotic, consensus-ridden, and informally led as the entire movement. There are the same problems of the hardcore camping population having an extra moral authority even when their organizing style has massive limitations. This is why we need to lead the movement as a whole. Obviously socialists must unite with each other and our allies to do so because no single one of our micro-groups can do this alone.

Fighting against informal leadership and consensus is no longer a matter of principle, but a matter of tactics. These organizing styles are choking the movement. As socialists, let alone as bolsheviks, it is our duty to overcome anything that is choking the movement.

Such leadership is also what convinces people to join us. If I was an outsider looking in at Occupy, I would see absolutely no reason to join a socialist group. I would instead merely be an Occupy participant. Until socialists groups put themselves forward and take on the debates of the movement like we have in the past, there is nothing making us stand out as something to respect or join.

Furthermore, it is not only consensus that is choking the movement, but the expensive burden of maintaining the encampment tactic. Even more important than fighting consensus or informal leadership is pushing for a transition within Occupy, from being an encampment to being an organization.


Read the bottom of this site’s About page for a list of ideas, the most relevant being an informal coordination between socialist groups and any eager working groups or caucuses of Occupy, where we co-sign each other’s proposals, help distribute leaflets arguing for them, and support each other in numbers at the GAs.

Read this site’s proposal to transition Occupy from an encampment to an organization, starting a "99% Coalition."

Read this info on anarcho-purist organizing styles like consensus and informal leadership.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Continue the Movement or Die Trying

It seems that Occupy Philly could soon be reaching its demise. Tentative plan: meet at Rittenhouse Square at 4PM tomorrow (Friday 11/18). If you hear something more recent, go with the flow.


The police are raiding the City Hall/Dilworth encampment and clearing it all. The GA had an emergency vote to move to Thomas Paine plaza, but rumor has it the police are even blocking that.

Fucking pigs. Anyone who is still clinging to pacifism, read about how Jesus drove moneychangers out of the temple with a bullwhip in John 2:15. He'd be doing the same thing to those cops right now.

Hindsight is 20/20; I'm sure many are now realizing, if we had moved earlier maybe, there's a chance this could have been avoided. Then again, with the clear national campaign to destroy Occupy -- maybe not. However, that's not what's important right now.

The fight is going down and I'm pissed that I'm missing it. I'm permanently moving to Philly this weekend. Throw a punch for me, comrades.


The Occupy Wall Street movement has unleashed something unimaginable. To let it be jammed back in the bottle now would be as hideous as shoving a newborn back into the womb.

We are the 99%. Our movement will morph, mutate, and evolve. We will develop organization and discipline to match the world-overturning ambition we have already demonstrated.

I swear on my honor and my soul, that though I may take my plodding time, I will personally rebuild this movement from the ashes and debris. I will stand on the street corners, preach to the passersby, regroup the scattered, convince the unconvinced, and recruit the newcomer. I will gather whatever alliance of coalitions, radical organizations, and Occupy working groups & caucuses is necessary to make this a reality.

Not only will I regather the forces lost, but I will overcome all obstacles to rebuilding the movement on a new, firmer foundation of clear purpose, and efficient decision-making and structure. We will consecrate as our primary principle the inclusion of the 99% who cannot afford to get themselves arrested for no purpose, or waste countless hours on camping or consensus. I will remind everyone that while movements require heroes and martyrs, the real ones are not people who ineffectually assault the system head-on by themselves, but the people who patiently convince thousands of others to converge and stand together.

I will do this with or without your help. I will do it with or without your organization's help. I will bypass anyone who does not commit to this goal, and I will ally myself with newfound strangers and former foes.

This is bigger than worrying about a campsite. This is bigger than competing for recruits for your marxist micro-tendency against another marxist micro-tendency. This is bigger than any rules or habits you may have gotten comfortable with, or any smug complacency you may struggle to maintain as the world-change rages around you.

This is class warfare. This is democratic revolution. This is a struggle against the self-destruction of the human species by war, pollution, and viral epidemic. This uprising against disgrace and misery shall redeem our entire wretched history.

We have landed on the enemy territory and established a beachhead, a first foothold. We will fight to keep it, with our backs against the wall, taking not one step backward, hold our ground, drive them into retreat, and press forward onto their turf.

With the willingness that we fight physically, we must learn to fight organizationally.

I have done this kind of thing before. I know what I am doing. Let me show you how we can not only continue, but expand, and conquer.

Irreconcilables, unite here.

Join me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Labor Working Group Draft Letter to Occupy Philly

We, the members of the labor working group, stand with Occupy Philly, and respect the decision-making process of the General Assembly.

The labor working group aims to represent the broadest unity in the Philadelphia labor movement, and is comprised of a diverse representation of union organizers and labor activists who have been regularly involved with Occupy Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia labor community has been overwhelmingly in its support of the Philadelphia occupation. However, we are concerned by developments that may compromise our ability to unanimously defend Occupy Philadelphia at its current location, and wish to articulate a clear position on the question of relocation from a labor perspective.

We support relocation for the following reasons:

1) Jobs. We recognize that the construction industry has been devastated by the current recession, and right now suffers from over 40% unemployment. This unemployment is creating great hardships for many working families.

2) Access. We recognize that many of our differently-abled brothers and sisters have advocated and fought for equal access to the public transportation hub at City Hall for decades, and are finally seeing their efforts come to fruition through the planned renovation of Dilworth Plaza.

3) Framing. We are concerned that the Mayor has recently been able to use the issue of relocation to divide our movement and distract us from our core message of economic justice and democratic principles. The key issues for Occupy Philly must be movement-building, democratic process, and economic justice--not relocation. We have changed the national discourse; we must continue to do so.

4) Defensibility. We stand strongly in solidarity with the Occupiers and strongly support their right to occupy a public space. In order to successfully continue our support and defense of Occupy Philly, however, the labor movement must be able to remain united on this issue. If Occupy Philly remains at its current location, the issues of job creation and accessibility issues will make it impossible for labor to sustain that unity. Further, we fear that should the General Assembly choose to stay at Dilworth Plaza, and should a police raid at that location occur, the Occupy Philly movement may be damaged irreparably.

We again reaffirm our commitment to the Occupy movement, and to the decision-making process of the General Assembly. We propose relocation as a strategic act of movement solidarity.

In solidarity,

The Labor Working Group

Philly Eviction Notice

Alright friends and comrades, the gauntlet has been thrown down. All debates about whether we should have moved can wait for later; for now it's war. For the record, I personally am out of state and in the process of moving to Philadelphia right now, so I cannot take part in the scuffle to come. Feel free to call me chicken. :P

Urgent necessity #1: the entire GAs should dedicate 50% or more of their time to putting the entire movement through police confrontation training.
Urgent necessity #2: what is our next step if/when we lose our space? See my post about transitioning from an encampment to an organization and creating a "99% Coalition."

Don't forget that there is a march to the bridge tomorrow to underscore America's crumbling infrastructure and the opportunities for job creation -- but how exactly this will interact with potential eviction, I don't know, and I believe that if the encampment is under attack, the march should turn around and break the police line.