Analytical & Strategic Considerations for Occupy*
First I have to thank many of my comrades for inspiration. Many of the ideas herein have been sourced from conversations and are directly ripped off from close friends. If the points below seem a little unruly at times it is because I have been working on this piece on and off between going to occupations all over the Northeast, but I do not want to hold off any longer. Like Bakunin often left us with pieces written in the heat of struggle, this is a work in progress. The first part is a brief analysis that should not be unfamiliar to anarchists so far, it has been a common theme in most critiques I have seen. The second half is some strategic considerations that hopefully will help us think more about our role in this movement.
NON-VIOLENCE & THE POLICE
Debating non-violence is pointless. Occupiers will learn quickly and really oppressed people already know what the interests of the Police are.
We should certainly highlight how the police work for the 1% and that not everyone who breaks the law are provocateurs, but is it really important to berate ideologically committed peaceniks? Is it strategic?
Anarchists maintain that class is a social relation. The 99% is many classes split between differing priorities. This is a movement striving to be the 99%. But the 99% also provides broad inclusiveness that explains the class relation better than saying “workers” or the “working class.” This inclusiveness is also interesting when we can hear from anarchist veterans that this movement is possibly larger than the anti-globalization movement, and possibly the biggest since the social movements of the 1960s.
We need to beware our enemies on the left, defenders of the status quo. This is also an opportunity to challenge many of the traditional left organizations to adopt the methods used by anarchists and solidify the influence we have had in social movements over the years. It is no surprise that as anarchists we have a critique of electoralism. But there is also barely any left worth speaking of left. This movement is proof enough that their children are with us!
Let's learn something from past movements. If we are going to win, lets focus less on tactics and more about relationship building, i.e. building our autonomous power. Let's work with this movement diligently as equal participants. If so we will see in the long term or social influence spread.
We can build a tendency for anti-authoritarian anti-politics, with those closest to us. Lets try to avoid arguing when possible and instead try to be persuasive. People can get very turned off when talking about the various “-isms.” Instead let's cut the issue, and talk about the very building blocks of the world we would like to see and meet people where they are at about the problems people are coming to occupy seeking solutions to.
REFORM OR REVOLUTION?
We are revolutionaries! Many have spoken about how the occupation movement is prefigurative, building the new world in the shell of the old. We should be equally beware though that this could lead to simply proposing that the occupation movement is an alternative to capitalism in itself instead of building a movement with the confrontational counter-power needed to create ruptures with everyday capitalist society. We need to explain that it is capitalism itself, not just a corrupt system and that just speaking truth to power or some simple reforms granted will only be a band aid on a much larger historical trend towards the degradation of human life.
There has been a lot of talk about whether the occupation movement should make demands or not make demands. This seems to be the wrong way of looking at things. It is pointless to make demands without building autonomous power needed to achieve them, and if we build that power we could easily realize those demands ourselves through direct action to “take what is ours.”
“But what about attracting people to the movement?” some will say. The occupation movement is at least for the moment is more a political movement of the oppressed airing grievances and trying to speak truth to power, than a recomposed and organized body of the working class ready to fight exploitation and domination. Considering this we could bring up the most impossible grievances to ameliorate under capitalism, like free healthcare, free public transit, abolition of debt, prisons an police brutality, etc.
As anarchists we should agitate for what we do best, direct action. There is a huge threat of stagnation with the occupation movement so we need to experiment. We can have thematic unpermitted anti-capitalist marches against austerity, the police and this prison world. We can disrupt every day life in our cities by block roadways, pass out our propaganda to cars and passerbies, encourage to share our rage by honking and generally being rowdy.
With direct action we can keep the initiative and the movement dynamic. Direct action pushes how occupations and assemblies don't need to follow the law or ask for permission, and instead are autonomous bodies building their own power.
Over time we can expand towards taking more creative forms of direct action by spreading the movement and encouraging things like refusing to pay rent, more directly blocking transportation, withholding our labor with strikes, and eventually the One Big Occupation aka the General Strike.
Many of these occupations are not actually disturbing power but are base camps where we are building new affinities and solidarities. Direct action will keep the movement focused.
One obstacle we are going to face as anarchists is making this movement of the working class as a whole. To do this we can't sit on the sidelines and critique the movement for not being anarchist enough, we need to agitate ourselves to step out of our bubbles. We also need to push the more liberal and downwardly mobile middle class people entering this movement to burst out of their bubbles if we are ever going to reach all the broad layers of the 99%. A lot of these middle class workers and students are confronting for the first time what the world is like for the rest of the 99% we need to keep pressure on this contradiction.
MUTUAL AID AND SOLIDARITY
The occupation movement is a great moment for us to share what we know. We have thought about transforming the world for a long time, it is time to communicate what we think. This means anarchists really should get involved with this movement however they are able. We need to bring our revolutionary mutual aid to the popular assemblies and occupations. They are are unconsciously anarchistic, if we stick with it they could become overtly anarchistic.
Mutual aid is not just about what we give but also being open to learning from other participants. What is important is not only that we should up and right for our ideas but that we listen and learn from our new comrades as well!
All anarchists should participate in this movement, whether they favor looser or tighter organization. We should get our community groups and unions to participate as well. For now these groups are way better off helping people deal with their grievances than the movement.
Through building direct relationships with occupiers we can build our solidarity networks and experience of winning struggles. We can bring people closer to our ideas by being productive members of the movement and gaining the respect of the occupiers.
Many anarchists and radicals have been acting as if this movement has stepped on their turf. This has lead to many anarchists critiquing the movement for essentially not being anarchist enough. This mistake was made too many times in the anti-globalization and anti-war movement for us to make it again. There was too much emphasis on demarcation and condemnation of those movements. This made a lot of people shy away from us. To avoid red baiting and accusations of being provocateurs we should strive for a comradely and principled relation with the movements in public and clear ways.
That being said we should be committed to anti-oppression but not blindly follow every demand to all that presents itself as anti-oppression. We need to fight racism, sexism, queer/trans-phobia, ableism, and ageism. We shouldn't reject such as just “identity politics” but call shit out for what it is and offer alternatives around such issues that help us build the movement instead of condemning people who do not yet know better, who might be potential allies. We can do this right this time via ways that aren't about blowing up peoples egos or ripping apart people who make honest mistakes but are open to learning and growing.
One role as anarchists we can play is to be conscious of the informal leaders that develop and encourage them to become more anti-authoritarian than managers of struggle. There is great possibility that informal leaders could end up taking over the movements media outlets or over the general assemblies, in fact this has already happened in some places. We should not be afraid to hold people accountable for their actions and work with them to better themselves, and if not challenge their power.
Just like we should guard against the fetishization of individuals, we should make sure to guard against the fetishization of any one form of organizing. It is important in order to keep the autonomous and popular character of the movement. We help to do this by proposing that we have a diversity of assemblies instead of just one centralized general assembly. Anyone who has been to a meeting of more than 25 people know that it is impossible to really be heard. As anarchists decentralizing the assemblies is an obvious tactic to push for.
In the place of the main general assemblies as decision making bodies we can propose them as general meetups for report backs from the various assemblies, working groups, and autonomous initiatives. After all this is a movement not an organization.
This can not be stressed enough. As anarchists we need to take initiative. We need to willing to hold forums, popular education workshops and discussions, take direct action. We can serve as a reference point and real resource for activity and not just a group telling people what to do from the sidelines.
We can form autonomous committees and working groups that can spawn their own assemblies or rejoin others. We should agitate for a consensus that everyone can start initiatives and not have everything just go to the preexisting working groups. Let the autonomous initiatives multiply!
SPREAD THE RESISTANCE
As anarchists it is up to use to ensure that this spreads ! We can complain about how the 99% is not represented in the occupations and assemblies but we have to take the initiative! We can do this at first by actually putting our money where our mouth is and start practicing a diversity of tactics. We can generalize the general assemblies! We need to be hitting the streets and the neighborhoods and spread this to our workplaces as well. Especially those of us that can not attend occupy 24/7 it is our job to communicate its message and methods to the rest of society. It is up to us to move from mobilization to massification, otherwise this movement will remain a mostly activist minority that can easily be squashed. We need to organize inside our mass organizations to promote the movement as well as going door to door building one-on-one relationships. Some plain old community organizing. It is also a chance to plant seeds of our movements within this movement, seeds that can lead to further struggle, if the movement turns to fizzle out. We can do this by connecting the movement to preexisting struggles or to start new ones from scratch, moving beyond the general aims of the movement as it exists.