A Eulogy for #Occupy

Just read Quinn Norton’s A Eulogy for #Occupy at wired.com, via the boingboing blog (hat tip to Marc).

It’s a powerful litany of brutality and hope (theirs and ours). It doesn’t shy away from holding up the mirror to how our dynamics mirror those of the 1%. Is that an inevitability?

Maybe folk from the UK (and elsewhere) would argue that the ‘Eulogy’ reflects US society and US Occupy. Maybe. Maybe not. All thoughts welcome.

Anyway, don’t spend more time reading this, because there’s nothing I’m going to say that Quinn  won’t say better.

Matthew

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Occupy London – series of community themed assemblies

Occupy London are inviting people to a series of assemblies to discuss ideas, experiences, visions and strategies that will make better social living a practise. Everyone is welcome, especially those working at the grassroots, as activists or within organisations and community groups.

The sessions will take place every Saturday afternoon from 2 – 4pm on the steps of St. Paul’s, starting from the 16 June until August. For more info see http://occupylondon.org.uk/page/2.

Occupying direct action

I spent Sunday morning in Southend-on-Sea at the Occupy National Conference. I was there running a short (2 hour) nonviolent direct action (NVDA) workshop, as well as getting a feel for this particular moment in Occupy UK.

Whilst you can’t satisfy everyone in every workshop, the energy, engagement, and conversation afterwards spoke to a decent workshop. My sense of the Conference was that it had involved (and would go on to involve) a fair bit of sitting and talking. So we focused on doing – exploring a few physical aspects of NVDA (holding a space, passive resistance and so on) and using those as stepping-stones to talking about communication, safety, comfort, mutual support and more. There were those in the group with considerable experience of NVDA, so it felt very much like an informal co-facilitation. And that’s a good thing. I recently wrote that I thought Rhizome hadn’t engaged enough with Occupy. Nice to redress that balance, if only slightly…

 

Spring into action

The 99% Spring has started. From 9th to 15th of April, US activists will:

“gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country.” http://the99spring.com

So what about here in the UK? What if you’re a community, activist group, NGO, trade union wanting to prepare for nonviolent action? I thought it was worth reminding ourselves of the resources out there. Sources of training include:

Rhizome trainers will be at work in public sessions at:

We’re more than happy to tailor something specific for your organisation. We can also help you develop your own pool of nonviolence trainers. Get in touch. And of course there are plenty of reading and self-study materials out there including on The 99% Spring website.

Occupy London – 3 weeks of Truth

This from the latest National Community Activist Network update (well worth a read – why not sign up to NatCAN?). I’ve reproduced the full article….

Occupy London – 3 weeks of Truth, by Robin Smith

Few understand what made St Paul’s a model of a society that could really sustain itself – me neither until months later.

It was rough and ready, but it worked perfectly for a while. Then after 3 weeks it declined… and fell.

In that short time, a majority of Occupiers had put aside their prejudices by:
· Giving all people equal space to speak, right or wrong
· Made it a first duty to help others before themselves
· Abolished respect for all leaders and experts on camp
We were asking on a level playing field: “What is the cause of all the problems?” We were blaming no one and proposing nothing. WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE?

And the result was?

Something we call “Energy”. An almost magic force that just made things work. Some said we were lucky. I say it is because we told the truth and helped each other… from the heart, not the pocket or the mind.

Occupy London successfully pushed back on, and exposed corruption for all to see, within the most powerful institutions in the land: The City of London, The Church, The Media, The Law. And the people of the country to a large extent saw it all play out because we told the simple truth. No spin, no experts, no intellect. None of us realised this at the time

This “Energy” is strange thing. I often found myself speaking to the camera in a way I had not learned. I was getting “help” from somewhere. Was that the “spirit” of our small social organisation, or something else?

We had shown that if the people get up and make a stand, change could happen. But you have to get up and do it. Yes that’s right, we took our bodies and sent them to the front line.

There is nothing special about an Occupier. I loved every minute of it. I will do it again, happily. We simply changed our minds and made a free choice all people have, to no longer submit to the corrupt. How quickly the powerful caved in. Astonishing. For me that free decision to commit to protest gave me enough confidence to overwhelm the cold, the danger, corrupt power.

The wider result, I think its fair to say, gave all people the confidence that they have the ultimate power too, if they make the free choice to use it. IF. So my approach to reform now is not to blame the powerful. But first to look deep inside ourselves as individuals and ask the big question:

“Do I really mean it. Am I part of the problem too. How can I improve things?”

Alas, we only had so much “Energy”. I’ve never burnt the candle more fiercely than this. In 3 weeks the Energy started to run out. We should not be ashamed of this. We could not keep such a high maintenance, un-grounded, dangerous activity going forever. The authorities knew this but it took them a while before they stopped having a go. They knew we would cave in soon if they just waited. In Wall Street, they were not that smart.

So, even we finally became recaptured by the corrupt regime we were protesting against. Isn’t it ironic?

Occupiers started to get flattered by the camera, became arrogant of the success, saw a future career working for the 1%, got media bribes to say what the press wanted, were given front seats in the church and within legal counsel, were misdirected with “coaching” from outside experts. We succumbed and let our ego’s steal that magic, “The Energy”.

Sound familiar? All things that today’s mainstream society carries out without even knowing it. The people have got used to corruption. Does this mean the people have become corrupt?

I was guilty too but stayed for another 9 weeks, in denial of the loss of something so special. This takes nothing away from the protest. It simply shows how deep the problem goes. We are all at it, Occupiers are trying hard to stop it but are still a part of the system. We cannot live in an arrogant vacuum of perfection.

For a grown man I shed a lot of tears at St Paul’s, many times when observing the completely unnecessary depravity society knowingly commits some to and then leaves them to die. Or how the same utterly hopeless cases immediately found a purpose for life and began to benefit others after realising they were now part of their own small community.

But the most tears came when normal people, maybe a 1000 passers by at my tent, who made special trips from across the nation, to tell their story. They would say:

“All we have done is worked hard, built good businesses, the system has fleeced us. Now we are in desperate trouble, we want to get a tent and protest with you, to be Occupiers too, but cannot because we are so afraid of losing our jobs and families if we do so. We have come to say thank you for doing it for us.”

We say, these visitors are as much Occupiers as anyone who chose to share tents with the vulnerable.

Or the police who actually protected us during our stay. We were not in conflict. They had nothing to do. The camp managed itself well compared to how the City and the Church treats its vulnerable. Initially under command they refused to speak to us. But after a few days of utter boredom they would open up. They asked the same questions as anyone else:

“What are you here for and what do you hope to achieve?”

Within 10 minutes of chatting they were talking about why even their wages were falling compared to the cost of living. We would say:

“Yes we know. THAT is why we are here. Come the eviction, please remember that?”

The moniker of the Occupy Movement is “The 99% versus the 1%”. I do not believe in this marketing for a moment. It too is inherently corrupt – divisive rather than uniting. It blames rather than accepts own complicity.

I believe that my life, our society and the world we have been loaned are about the 100%.

Only when putting the care of others first, is written on our hearts, can the enormous gift of abundance, freedom and security be permanently sustained.


Step outside for a moment…

Occupy London was in court last week. The court found against them and, subject to appeal, the City of London can proceed to evict. The occupation is illegal.

I can’t help feeling that the power of the Occupy movement is tied into that very illegality. In a way I’m glad the court ruled as it did. I’m not glad that the individuals involved have had all their hard work in marshalling and presenting a case dismissed (read one perspective on the Occupy London site). I’m not glad that the encampment outside St. Pauls won’t be there to continue the outreach, education and activism it’s been doing so well. I’m certainly not glad that in the near future activists may be involved in a potentially traumatic eviction. But I am glad that Occupy still occupies the ground outside of the law. Occupy has set itself against the system. The law is part of that system.

It seems to me that there is plenty of organisations that fill the role’s that lawful activism can fill, and with some obvious success. But there is this other role – refusing to allow our activism to be framed in terms of legal and illegal, and instead doing what is right, just and necessary. That seems to be the role that Occupy should stand for, and hold out for.

All this got me thinking of facilitation. Is the same true? Do we all too often try to fit our values, our state of mind as facilitators into roles that the mainstream frame for us? Do we need to occupy ground well outside of the norms of mainstream facilitation-lore? There are certainly folk trying their hardest to create new spaces and explore new roles away from these norms – many of them referred to elsewhere on this blog : Viv McWaters, Johnnie Moore, Chris Corrigan to name a few.

When Rhizome met as a co-op back in November we spent a good while talking about our work. We reiterated that we saw ourselves as radical, but, in honour of our diversity as a collective of facilitators, we consciously refused to define that in any one dimension. We spoke of radical politics, radical process, and radical relationships within Rhizome and without. We also spoke of doing work that was radical for the groups we work with, whatever that may be for them. Seems to me that it’s about standing for the roles that are less comfortable, that are not filled elsewhere, in the mainstream.

We’ve been consciously trying to design our work with that in mind. I felt we were doing that well when Maria and I sat down to plan our recent facilitation training with the staff team at 38 Degrees. From the outset we let them know that we wanted to work with them on shared attitudes, values, and states of mind rather than facilitation technique, tools and skills. Our designing process had real energy and excitement – we tried to be intuitive and innovative. On the day we threw them into learning by doing right from the start with a series games that gave them the choice to compete or to share facilitation and co-operate. Out of their individual and diverse experiences of the same activities we were able to open conversations about their margins and mainstreams and those of the supporter groups they meet with. It felt like we were at least in the region of a radical approach to working with this group – getting to the root of what it means to be facilitating rather than do facilitation. It wasn’t perfect – there were some tools and approaches that at least some of the group would have liked to explore in more depth, for example, but it felt like there was some good learning happening. I know there was for Maria and I.

A new space for community and voluntary action?

Here’s news of an interesting event….

NCIA Assembly at the Bank of Ideas
Occupy community groups and public services: a discussion to find a new
space for community and voluntary action.
Tuesday December 13th, 2pm to 4pm, Room 1.05, The Bank of Ideas, 29 Sun
Street (near Liverpool Street station), London

Amongst other things billed as: “one of those unexpected opportunities: to make links between voluntary sector workers and activists, find out what is emerging and imagine alternatives.”. More details follow (and on The National Coalition for Independent Action website)

NCIA has been documenting threats to voluntary action from cuts, commissioning, top-down management methods, and loss of confidence and purpose in organisations. Meanwhile, people persevere in local community action – they care for each other, organise support and activities, ask questions, challenge and change the status quo.

In a recent Guardian article, Stuart Hall notes that weighty professional voices have joined protests against structural reforms and cuts. But he also highlighted the role of unexpected developments and counter-movements, resistance, alternative visions. All are welcome to listen to some of our members talk about their experiences and to join in open discussion about how to defend our unique, ungoverned space.

Invite friends and colleagues, but let us know if you’re attending if possible, so we have an idea of how many to expect. If you’re coming from outside London, we may be able to cover some travel expenses. Please get in touch with us first to check:
rachael@independentaction.net or melaina@independentaction.net.

Occupy: learning from Climate Camp? Part 2

We’ve had a lively 3 way conversation about what the Occupy movement can learn from the experience of movements such as Climate Camp. We (Dwight Towers, Seta and myself) ranged quite widely – leadership, accountability, meetings that work even for those with little time and so on. One area we didn’t cover was vision and values.

I’ve heard many conversations about how Climate Camp lost its way. It started as a direct action focused, radical, one-off event to kick-start climate activism in the UK. There are those that would argue that by its second year (one-off, remember) it was already losing focus on action, especially affinity group direct action, and instead becoming more about education with a set piece mass action of dubious value. And yet, talk to some of the people who came into the movement via Climate Camp and they’ll often rave with enthusiasm about the very same event being written off by the original visionaries as having lost its way.

Wherever you sit on the issue, what happened and why? How can Occupy guard against the same thing happening? Indeed, should it?

Does a clarity of vision, especially radical vision, alienate others or inspire them? Can we bring new folk into a movement that’s taking a stance that the mainstream would see as hard-line, even extremist? As always I have my own views on all this, but I’m more interested in yours….

Transition US on Occupy and lasting change

The latest Transition newsletter has some interesting looking links to conversations on all kinds of Occupy related topics. You’ll find them on the Transition US website under the heading of resources for creating lasting change. Sounds good to me.

As with all these things there are links to pages with links and so the journey goes. If you come across anything particularly good (I’m sure it’s all good), let us know about it.

http://transitionus.org/stories/occupy-and-transition-resources-creating-lasting-change

Occupy: Learning from Climate Camp?

Until recently in the UK Climate Camp could, with some justification, have been called the most dynamic force in activism. Now that baton has passed to the anti-cuts movement, and specifically the Occupy movement.

There are lots of similarities between Climate Camp and Occupy.

  • Both have strong anti-capitalist leanings (it’s not true to say that to a (wo)man they’re all anti-capitalist)
  • Both have their primary tactic in the title
  • That tactic usually involves taking and holding a symbolic location and creating an autonomous and sustainable zone, however temporary
  • Those autonomous zones are one element of practicing alternative social structures. Other aspects often include using consensus decision-making and non-hierarchical organising, or at least attempting to
  • Both use direct action
  • They believe themselves to be useful entry points for newcomers to their particular form of activism
  • Their core support is the mainstream of activist culture in the UK – white, middle class and educated, although both might consider themselves at the radical end of that culture
  • They’re proactive with the media and have caught the attention of the mass media

Given the similarities it seems appropriate to have a conversation about lessons that Occupy groups could usefully learn from Climate Camp. Climate Camp had some undoubted successes, but slowly and inexorably self-destructed (or at least ground to a halt). So we’re going to have that conversation, and who better to have it with than you and Dwight Towers, a fierce critic of some of Climate Camp’s choices and culture, and an equally fierce proponent of effective movement building.

So lets start nice and broad and see where it gets us…. We’ll use the comments function to keep the conversation going over the next week or so, so bookmark the page, and more importantly join in. Over to you and Dwight.

QUESTION: What are the most important lessons that Occupy Groups can draw from the Climate Camp (here in the UK, or the many international Camps) or indeed similar movements?

Process, power and privilege in the Occupy movement

Ivan Boothe has written an excellent post on the Fellowship of Reconciliation website. He talks about the cornerstones of the process used by the growing occupy movement in the States such as the people’s mic, consensus decision-making, and general assemblies – useful stuff about the purpose and problems associated with them, including some insights for facilitators and organisers.

He also talks about the racism and classism of the movement, caused in part by these very processes, and offers an analysis of its causes. Here’s a snippet, but there’s plenty more:

In an ideal community, participants would collectively decide how to debate and pass proposals, and would learn from one another about how that process operates. In most cases, however, differences in experience lead to some people having more familiarity and comfort with things like consensus and spokescouncils. Since those “some people” are usually white college-educated activists, community organizers with decades of experience among working class neighborhoods and people of color can feel culturally marginalized.

Organizers often want to undermine the traditional hierarchy of leader-oriented movements. Without adequate transparency, however, this quickly becomes the “tyranny of structurelessness,” in which existing ties between individuals become unofficial — and therefore unaccountable — decision-making structures in which others find impossible to participate.

An unfamiliar process combined with poor facilitation, poor communication, and the inevitable rush of activist planning leads to a unaware but pervasive racism and classism that makes the setup feel far more oppressive than majoritarian voting systems with which people are familiar.

He also talks of the rarely acknowledged privilege that allows people to engage in the Occupy movement:

“Occupy” encampments take an enormous amount of privilege. The privilege to take time off — from family, work or school — and participate in an overwhelming and sometimes confusing community. The privilege to, in some cases, risk arrest simply by participating. But more than anything, the privilege to debate things like “an ideal community” in the midst of life-or-death struggles going on on the ground.

I guess that applies to bloggers too!

Facilitating occupation

In another recent post Chris Corrigan (see our previous post) has also collated a few links to support Occupy protests in facilitation.

Plan to Win have done the same in their #Occupy 101 post, with some specific tools for general assemblies of the kind being used at Occupy Wall Street.

The resources include a fantastic 8 minute video about consensus at Occupy Wall Street, which gives a passionate introduction to the process. I’m sure it’s not all perfect there (where is it?) but it’s a great reminder of the energy and joy that consensus can bring to a movement. I’ve embedded it below. Watch it!. 8 minutes well spent. But that’s not an excuse for not visiting Plan to Win’s site. The other resources are well worth checking out.

In the spirit of signposting resources, here are more links taken from our resources page (many more where these came from). All of these sites have invaluable materials on them on topics like facilitation, but also nonviolent action and strategy:

And of course there’s our own materials.

In praise of activism

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about recent posts on the Occupy movement. Not because I’ve said anything that on reflection I disagree with, but because I know that I’ve been offering a negative critique of both choice of tactics and the robustness of the actions so far without balancing it with a positive critique. So it’s good to read a positive assessment of activist organising from Chris Corrigan and be reminded that whilst, as a community of changemakers, we could undoubtedly do things much better, we’re pretty damn good at it most of the time. Whilst not Occupy-specific, in his post The activist model of action Chris makes an upbeat assessment of those working for change and shares some observations about how to organise most effectively:

When you are working for community change, there is often more at stake than working within organizational settings.  Leadership in organizations, especially commercial organizations tends to focus on efficiency, production and increasing revenues.  Within communities, change is often precipitated by the threat to lives or livelihoods, addressing violence or inequality and improving complex indicators of health and well-being.  Those needs have a way of focusing activist on doing things well, and people who don’t work in this world would do well to learn from those that do.

Starhawk has also been blogging from the Occupy frontline in the USA, and finding real power, energy and inspiration on the streets. Despite my reservations about the choice of tactics, like Climate Camp, Occupy protests are providing a focus and a way in to people who are just starting their activist journey.

I particularly appreciated Chris’s words on activist’s power and privilege, an issue that plagues parts of our movement, and is deservedly getting more attention nowadays than when I first got involved:

If you come to a change initiative with privilege (ie you have power within the system) the best thing you can do to enable change is to check in with your privilege and step out of the conversation to create space for new leaders and new forms of leadership to come forward.  Asserting your privilege closes space down.  Becoming an ally to change initiatives is a powerful and important way to support emerging solutions and to allow leadership to come from anywhere.  People with power and privilege can open lots of space if we get real about how our power works.

So many tactics. So little time….

The Academy of Change (credited with a significant role in preparing the ground for the Egyptian uprising) have posted Political activists reveal 65 ways to start a Syrian revolution, which gives some examples of the range of tactics open to activists. Clearly Gene Sharp, and others, have compiled similar lists in the past, but it’s always good to see what’s current and is working in what context. Here’s a significant chunk of the post handily broken down for individuals, groups, and society as a whole:

The first 18 suggestions include ways that individuals can participate in the Syrian revolution, and this includes: providing food and medicine to protesters, utilizing the internet to convince people to participate in the revolution, transferring news and information to those demonstrating and protesting in Syrian cities, putting up pro-revolutionary posters, raising revolutionary flags, conducting dialogue with pro-government soldiers and police to convince them of the merits of the revolution, providing financial support to revolutionary activities, providing financial support to the poor, amongst other suggestions.

As for ways that groups (between 3 – 5 people) can participate in “developing the revolution”, this includes: painting the walls of certain important buildings in pro-revolutionary colors, changing the names of streets so that they bear the name of martyrs of the revolution, carrying out campaigns to convince neighborhoods of the merits of the revolution, defacing and fabricating official state-affiliated newspapers, making pro-revolutionary banners, obstructing certain streets with cars, creating a new constitution, and preventing government officials from going to work.

The website also included 25 suggestions for ways that groups of thousands of people can contribute to the Syrian revolution, and this includes: acts of civil disobedience, marching in the streets, including marches with demonstrators all wearing the popular anti-establishment Guy Fawkes “V” mask, taking part in strikes, bicycle rallies, withdrawing funds from government banks, not doing business with companies or shops loyal to the regime, amongst other suggestions..

As for the AOC’s suggestions for ways that millions of Syrians can join together to participate in the revolution, this includes; refusing to pay electricity and water bills, refusing to pay government taxes, boycotting official state celebrations and events, disobeying unjust laws, and other widespread acts of civil disobedience.

Am I advocating these specific tactics for the Occupy movement or others? No. Tactics are context specific. A tactic that forces the hand of a dictator may not even register here in the UK and vice versa. But we do need to be thinking of possibilities, customising tactics that work elsewhere, finding action that ordinary citizens can engage with, breaking down ideas and making them accessible, and of course getting the ideas out there.

Essentially this is an appeal to be strategic on some level or another. Strategy is a hard one – there are those I’ve spoken to who argue that we simply need to go where the energy for action is, which is as good a criterion to use as any since we can’t ever know the outcomes of our actions. Others advocate understanding theories of change, and planning each and every tactic like moves in a game of chess.

The Occupy movement has of course named itself by a tactic, which may limit its range. But a friend of mine reminded me the other day just how many ways there are to occupy. Clearly there’s the occupation of public space – bridges and squares, but, for example, there’s also the occupation of switchboards and websites (what used to be called phone or fax blockades – a constant barrage of calls, faxes, emails to a corporation or government that strains its communications systems to the point of breaking). I’m sure others spring to your minds as you read.

 

Post-capitalism – errr, I thought you had a plan?

After my last post on the tactics of Occupy movement an old friend called and berated me (nicely) for not giving an alternative vision to capitalism. So here goes. And before you put the kettle on and settle down for a long read, no need. I’ll be brief:

I don’t know. Nor do I feel the need to know. What I do know is that capitalism doesn’t work. It preys on the worst aspects of the human psyche – limitless greed and the desire to hold power over others.

We need to clear the decks, pause and take stock. We need to make space for alternatives. So my alternative is making space for alternatives. Cop out? Stay with me. Whatever exists post-capitalism needs to be defined in its own terms, not with reference to capitalism. Like the black consciousness movement, or feminism, or indeed any liberation struggle we need to refuse to frame the conversation in the language of the oppressor, or with reference to the oppressor’s values. Let’s get rid of capitalism and not rush to fill the void. That void doesn’t have to be a vacuum, sucking in a new ‘system’ whole and complete.

What I do know about my personal vision is that it involves autonomy and diversity. And it involves continuing, and continuous (r)evolution

Autonomy and diversity?

Many folk involved in grassroots direct action will tell you that when we work in affinity groups we’re not only confronting injustice, but we’re living a structure that provides an alternative to the unjust systems we confront. The autonomous affinity group, often working in a collective with many other groups. That’s my picture of the future, but for affinity groups read communities.

And diversity? You can’t impose autonomy. So other communities may disagree, they may organise in ways that don’t work for me. It’s not just likely, it’s an inevitability. If I can’t tolerate that diversity, then life’s going to be tough, because persuading each and every one of you that I’m right and that I have the one truth is going to take more of my time than I’m prepared to give, and the broad beans won’t sow themselves.

And yet one of the biggest issues for groups that subscribe to this same model of autonomous affinity groups working in collaboration seems to be an intolerance of diversity, an inability to use consensus (understood to be the core process of such an approach) in groups with significant degrees of difference. A challenge then for life post-capitalism.

Continuous (r)evolution?

A wise and radical Methodist theologian of my acquaintance once wrote words to the effect of revolution not being the answer. Revolution, to his mind, implied a single turn of the wheel, moving on a fixed point and replacing it with a different fixed point. Regime change. He advocated being radical rather than revolutionary and thinking in terms of a constant motion of the wheel. Doesn’t every generation have its revolution only to find that its children feel the need to revolt against the new world order their parents created? Yet somehow we find ourselves thinking in terms of regime change rather than expecting, inviting and preparing for continuous change.

Only last week I was discussing utopia with Carl, my Rhizome co-founder. We’re meeting in early November with 5 or 6 others who are interested in getting involved in Rhizome (we’ll tell you more about that as it happens) and we’re planning an agenda that allows genuine space for dialogue about what Rhizome is and could be. It was refreshing to agree that we didn’t have a utopian vision that all potential Rhizome folk have to sign up to, and to acknowledge that our own visions and values already differ considerably anyway. I’m enjoying that diversity and look forward to more of it. Hopefully we can do a little bit of modeling the possibilities of autonomy, diversity, and ongoing reflection and change.

Are we overly occupied with occupation?

The Occupy movement is spreading. The Occupy LSX camp outside St Paul’s in London continues to make it into the news bulletins (even if a lot of the coverage isn’t about the real issues). And yet I feel dissatisfied.

I get the reasoning. The Arab Spring has galvanised people, created hope that systems can change for the better, left us in awe of what people power can achieve. And occupation of symbolic spaces was a key element there. No wonder that we’re inspired to do the same. I also get that there’s a powerful upside to the tactic. Starhawk’s blogging about her involvement with the movement in the USA. In a recent post for the Washington Post she says:

At its essence, the message of the Occupations is simply this:

“Here in the face of power we will sit and create a new society, in which you do count. Your voice carries weight, your contributions have value, whoever you may be. We care for one another, and we say that love and care are the true foundations for the society we want to live in. We’ll stand with the poor and sleep with the homeless if that’s what it takes to get justice. We’ll build a new world.”

And I don’t doubt any of that. I also recognise there are other positives.

What I do doubt is that the holy trinity of Strike: March: Occupy! is, in our context, what an occupation of Tahrir Square was in Egypt, and that it has the same revolutionary potential. What happened in Egypt and elsewhere was so much more powerful. In occupying space, making a public stand, activists there risked everything. I recently heard a snippet of a documentary in which an activist said that they went out on the streets expecting to never return. Arrest, torture, death.  The unholy trinity of the repressor. These were the likely outcomes of protest. These regimes could not tolerate such public shows of dissent. And that was the power of the movement. It forced the intolerable onto a regime. The regime had to respond and in doing so escalated the resistance and ultimately guaranteed its own demise. Of course it’s never clear-cut as to whether the resistance can take the increased repression for long enough to overthrow a regime, but there are enough case studies of nonviolent resistance to suggest it’s a distinct possibility.

Are we doing that here? Are we consciously choosing tactics that will force the system we protest about to show its hand? Is our action intolerable to the state, the financial system? I think not. And I think if we’re serious about revolution it needs to be. So occupy if that’s the appropriate tactic. But occupy spaces that genuinely stop the system functioning. Be creative in making it happen so that the police cannot repel us (more or less anything is possible to a well organised affinity group and there’s experience to support that). And escalate continuously. Don’t get stuck in a tactical rut. I’d call on folk to connect with the intention behind the Arab Spring, with the level of provocation and protest, and not the tactic used.

I’m not on the streets right now, so easy said. At least those in the tents are there in body as well as spirit.

Of course we don’t have a brutal dictator to depose. Our system is far more subtle and seductive (at least for now). Mother of all parliaments, NHS free at the point of delivery and so much more. But the repressions still there, and getting more obvious by the day. Our job is to bring it out into the sunlight. And we need to find tactics that do that most effectively. I’ll hand over to Martin Luther King Jnr to end:

“we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” Letter from Birmingham Jail

Occupy Wall Street

Some interesting stuff over in New York. Good site to look at – Occupy Wall Street for an ongoing story of the occupation and resistance. Some food for your media thoughts in the week running up to the Rebellious Media Conference. And if you’re just thinking of going we’re afraid it’s sold out.