One of the Founders of Occupy Wall Street, David Graeber, Answers Your Questions on Slog

Comments

1
What a Nimrod.....

btw-
Charles has an interesting post today about the Death of the American Family.

The numbers in the article Charles links point out the lie in Danny's assertion that Marriage is alive and well.

Only half of American adults are married currently,
compared to over 70% 5 decades ago.

Married two parent households
provide the best environment to raise children into functional contributing adults.

Children raised in other circumstances
find themselves featured in Danny's"Every Child Deserves...."
and camping out in public parks demanding that the government take care of them.
2
How do you bring back people who are not of various 'revolutionary' persuasions and have no desire sleep outside, fuck the police, or take part in long nightly meetings?
3
Do you believe that the only way to solve our problems is to overthrow the government? If not, do you believe you can solve our problems without a politcal party?
4
Question#1: Do you see any parallels with OWS protesters and their tent city encampments and Israeli Settlers in the West Bank and their Wildcat Settlments? Both appear to have the same insane reaction when a tent or a cargo container is removed. Do you plan on eventually giving up on tent cities?

Question#2: Iits painfully obvious that the anarchist thug elements are part of OWS. Their goals differ slightly in that their objective is to directly confront the police and its this aspect of the protests that are turning so many people away. You cant kick this group out, or any groups out, but still want to win people over to join the cause. Cant have it both ways, is there a plan to resolve this problem?

5
Occupy is passe.
6
Most of the way through Debt--can't wait for the reading.
7
I have two questions --

1) What's your take on how (or whether) the labor movement can reach out to work together with OWS? As both a radical and a union organizer, I understand why Occupy folks are wary that labor may try to co-opt the OWS movement into the Democratic political machine, but I think collaborating on action has the converse potential to radicalize labor (at least the rank and file). And labor, after all, even in decline, can still bring some real resources to the movement, not only in membership and funds but also in organizing/mobilizing know-how. Thoughts?

2) I want to become a radical public intellectual like you. Is grad school the best path?
8
The leftist activist and journalist Al Giordano wrote a thoughtful piece comparing the Wall Street occupation of October 1979 to today's Occupy movement. He is critical of consensus decision making, and also of undertaking large Actions without extensive training in the nonviolent tactics and discipline that were mandatory for participants in many leftist Actions of the 60s and 70s. Do you have any response to his criticisms?
9
@5 I'll tell the bankers at Davis that. It's the main topic in about 1/5 of the panels.

Occupy Davis ftw.
10
Hey David, I'm wondering if you have read the anonymous Mr. Teacup's critique of you and anarchism and if so what did you think?
http://www.mrteacup.org/post/anarchist-a…
11
here's my response to #2 (#1 was erased)

Hello!

Just figured out how to work this thing... (Amtrak apparently blocks Democracy Now but I can see the rest of the page)

This is responding to question 2: well, OWS works on a principle of self-organization. There's no leadership structure whose responsibility is to come up with ways to include or activities that will appeal to this or that type of person. We're more providing a model of how you can go about doing direct democracy, direct action, etc, and encouraging people to take it up themselves in any way they care to. A lot of people have done that: we have Occupy Writers, Occupy Economics, Occupy Libraries, Occupy anything you want to name, which hardly involve sleeping in camps or picking fights with people in blue uniforms if you really think that sleeping in a camp is doing that. We have to stop looking to leaders to tell us what to do but start doing things for ourselves. The one thing that is often lacking, when camps get shut down, is an obvious place for people to go to plug in, where they know they can meet people and get information whenever they happen to show up. We really need to develop permanent and well-publicizized publicly welcoming and available spaces.
12
response to #3

I think the system that we have is in no sense a democracy, it's basically a system of institutionalized bribery in which there can only be two parties and both are controlled by the #1. Forming a new party or lobbying within a system created by big money to serve the interests or big money is like showing up at a gunfight with a pea shooter. You can only lose. I think the only way to get anywhere is to make the political elite aware that Americans no longer see them as their legitimate representatives. We need to make an issue of the nature of the system, and you can only do that from outside.
13
You have said before that the Radicals in the Occupy movement need the Liberals*, and the Liberals need the Radicals. At Occupy Seattle, there seems to be a deepening rift between the two tendencies. As a Radical, do you think Occupy still needs Liberals? If so, why do Radicals still need Liberals, and what do you think Radicals can do to bring more Liberals into the movement, or to bring back Liberals who have drifted away?

(yes, this same question can and should be turned around and asked of Liberals, but I'm interested in your answer as a self-identified Radical)

 

* For those unfamiliar with the usage, I am using (and capitalizing) the term "Liberal" to refer to those on the left who believe in working within existing hierarchical structures to effect change. "Radicals", by contrast, believe existing social structures should be dismantled and/or replaced, and tend to reject working with and thus legitimizing those structures. This is widely understood usage within the Occupy movement, though not in the general public.
14
to question #4

sure, the Israeli movement, the movements in Greece and Spain, are all part of the same wave of rejection of the complete domination of our global political system by the 1%, and the resulting regime of institutionalized bribery dressed up as "democracy." There's nothing insane about objecting to the fact that the forces of order who are supposed to be protecting citizens and their rights to assemble instead are sent in to violently attack them. It's not like the protestors in Tahrir Square had permits or obeyed camping regulations either. The fact is the Bill of Rights says "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of assembly." If you have to ask the police for permission to say something, that's not freedom of speech, that's not having freedom of speech. If you have to ask the police for permission to assemble, that's not freedom of assembly, it's not having freedom of assembly. It's obviously unconstitutional.

as for the anarchist thugs - sorry, speaking as a lifelong anarchist, I've never actually met the people you seem to be describing. I suspect they exist only in your imagination. Nobody is picking fights with police. Police from the very beginning started picking fights with non-violent protestors. On the very first days at Zuccotti, I watched cops arrest people for chanting outside a bank, saying that the bandanas around their necks were masks, even they were
not actually over their faces, and arresting people for writing with chalk on the sidewalk - when people started pointing out to the cops that writing with chalk on the sidewalk is not illegal in New York, the arresting officer said "yeah, I know." Cops have used violence against peaceful protestors from the very start - since you know, arresting someone, throwing them to the ground, tying them up, shoving them in a jail cell, is an act of violence, even you don't use weaponized torture devices like pepper spray on them first. The degree of restraint by the protestors - including the numerous anarchists - has been extraordinary. So what you are saying simply isn't true. The cops have used a strategy of continually attacking non-violent protestors exercising constitutional rights, and then saying "oh, there are anarchist thugs attacking
us" - and even though their claims, as in Oakland, have been proved lies again and again when actual video documentary evidence is produced, naive
people like yourself still seem willing to buy it hookline and sinker.It's amazing what suckers so many Americans are. But it's exactly that naivete that allows
police who are sworn to protect the public and their rights to express their political views to instead attack them with chemical weapons and get away with
it.
15
to comment #5

um, then why are you participating in this blog?
16
@ 7, OWS should be actively seeking a voice within the Democratic Party. It's never going to shift back to the left if the hard left decides to go it alone. The hard right didn't give up on the GOP, and look where that got them.
17
A few months back, there were problems at some Occupy sites involving sexual assault. There were several internal responses to this, including referring the victims to the local police.

Is this referral to the external, hierarchical justice system consistent with Occupy's prefigurative politics? Asked another way, can a horizontal, leaderless society respond, internally and in a consistent manner, to acts of injustice committed by participants in that society? Can a structurally anarchist society have a "justice system" at all, as we currently understand it?
19
@18: YOU would think, but you don't actually know.
20
ok you just discredited yourself
21
20
ok you just discredited yourself
that was in reference to 14 stating anarchist thugs are imagined.
22
How does Occupy Wall Street seeks to encourage women to join the cause whilst securing their safety?
23
@17 actually, statistics show the level of sexual predation there is lower than that are of town overall.

Nice red herring.

I'll just follow the news from Occupy Davos instead, thanks.
24
reply to #7

I think it's absolutely critical that we work with labor, at least, as you say, as a way of reaching out to the rank and file. OWS was preceded by a similar anti-cuts camp, "Bloombergville" that was actually created with union sponsorship - but the unions all immediately withdrew once the camp started because they were working with politicians to come up with a compromise budget-cut package with the mayor and decided any direct action, however mild, and the fact that the campers wanted no cuts at all, would hurt this. Union brass always abandon us is our experience. To be fair, they are in a difficult position - they are allowed to be at the table sometimes with the big players but are always reminded they are _not_ part of the club - the head of the Transit worker's union if I remember actually spent weeks in jail for refusing a court order to desist from a strike, something that would never happen to a politician or Wall Street type no matter what they do. I think the amazing thing about the movement is the newfound solidarity between people who hadn't previously felt they had much in common: working class people, especially in caring professions like nurses, schoolteachers, etc, or for that matter transit workers who actually are suing the police on our behalf in New York over their commandeering buses to arrest us, and debt-ridden college graduates. This is an important new historic alliance.

Well, grad school has its pluses and minuses It holds out a certain prospect of having a life doing something you actually find interesting. But you have to put up with almost unimaginable amounts of hypocrisy and stupidity. Many find it worth it anyway.
25
reply to #8

Giordano is very much coming out of the '70s. At that time consensus was really a new thing, people were purists about it (they hadn't discovered modified consensus yet, or the need to combine consensus with decentralized bottom-up initiative, etc etc). I also think that while training for direct action is important, and we need to do a lot more of it, we also don't want t create some notion of a semi-professional activist elite that knows what it's doing running to show and everyone who hasn't had time to do months or years of training is at best a supernumerary or shouldn't show up at all.
26
@17

My question had less to do with sexual assault than with Occupy's internal response to acts of injustice committed by its participants. I really shouldn't have mentioned sexual assault specifically; I did so only because those incidents were what made me start thinking about the problem to begin with. My mistake.

Please replace "sexual assault" with "personal acts of grave injustice," for purposes of the question.
27
@10 - well, of course people who don't believe democratic participatory decision-making is possible are going to say that.
28
Do you have any comment on the slogan "All Cops are Bastards," (alternately "ACAB" or "1312") which was recently used on banners at an Occupy Seattle Action?
29
@16 - the situation is not the same, because the hard right doesn't take positions unacceptable within the system we have, which is one of institutionalized bribery disguised as democracy. it is completely absurd to say that the way to put an end to a completely corrupt system is to become part in the system of corruption, gain power through the system of corruption, and then eliminate the corruption. It's never happened that way anywhere as far as I know.

The only thing that will cause the democrats to budge from their current center-right position is a fire on their left and the threat of total delegitimization of the entire system over which they preside, and that's only going to happen from outside
30
@11 Thanks for responding.

Doesn't that sort of organization by design only attract those with sufficient time and passion to function in a leaderless environment? The reality is that while many people want to make changes in the economy or government but do not think the problems are as critical as more radical types think nor do they want to put that much time into it. I think a successful movement has to be able to engage the vast number of people who want to help, but don't want to commit to the level of work that what you suggest would entail.

I put myself in that camp.

@12 I don't buy it. We have exactly the system we deserve because when it gets right down to it we elect the leaders. You can complain all you want about the media or the parties, but they are only allowed to be as effective as we allow them. The system is not the problem, it is how we use it. There is nothing institutional that would stop a non-party or third-party candidate from winning office. It would take a lot of work and organization and it would mean starting with local and state offices, but it is eminently possible.

I just don't see this leaderless consensus model actually working. It sounds nice on paper, and it hits all the trendy points of modern political and other theories, but it lacks the ability to actually bring about the change it desires.
31
@17 - absolutely an anarchist society can and existing stateless societies do. The problem is you can't create an entirely new society in two months, especially with people who have no experience of solving problems without recourse to coercive authorities. People are definitely working on processes of mediation, restorative justice, and so on for the milder cases. Obviously when dealing with violence like sexual assault, one's hands are limited - if we tried to collectively hold someone accountable, and any force was used, even if it was only to compel someone to attend a public hearing or somesuch, we would ourselves be breaking the law and be liable for arrest. This definitely limits our options.
32
Clearly the right wing sees the Republican party as legitimate to their interests. And clearly the center does not see you or OWS as legitimate to their interests. It's only the left that thinks the system is stacked against them and they solve that by carping. And now you let the extremists take over with their "all police are bad" mantra of stupidity. Your model is broken. And I think your answer to my first question is yes without actually admitting it.
33
@30: Graeber has extensive research and analysis to back up the fact that is HAS and DOES work. Saying "I just don't see it working" from your computer is not very convincing. Read "Possibilities" and bring real points of debate to the discussion. Until then it's just a failure of your imagination.
34
@ 29, I think if you speak to actual tea partiers, they'll tell you exactly that - that the system is much like you describe it. They don't like the systematic corruption, either, even if they don't seem to mind the role played by people like the Koch brothers in their movement.

If Occupiers are going to remain outside of the system, they need to give the Democrats a reason to come to them. In the past, fires on the left, like the rise of the Green Party, led only to split votes because they only appeal to people on the left. Similarly, the center-right Reform Party really only attracted people from the center-right; in both of these cases, the candidate from the other side won the presidency.

There are examples of how groups can remain outside and influential; any number of religious right groups that were formed in the 70s and 80s, for example. Is this a good model for OWS?
35
@21 - or saying I was an anarchist myself. Obviously there are people who think targeted property damage can be an acceptable tactic under certain circumstances. But their are disciplines of Gandhi who believe, and do, that in India. The idea that such people are "thugs" is silly - I know a lot of Black Bloc people, they just about invariably turn out to be vegans who avoid stepping on worms since they would never hurt a living thing. You can disagree with what they (occasionally) do to windows, that's fine, but you can't call someone a "thug" who would never hurt anyone.
36
@22 - most of the early key organizers of OWS were women. We're right now in New York anyway putting our greatest priority on creating a "safe spaces" code and way to enforce that. It's pretty crucial before we can go ahead with anything else.
37
If I were talking to someone who was an expert in something I knew dick-squat about, let's say a scientist who studies DNA, and I said, "I don't know, I just don't see how DNA coding can actually create a living being" and thus dismissed everything he/she said, how fucking valid would my argument be? That's exactly how many of you on this thread sound.
38
You often use the term "Modified Consensus," which I think comes out of the Global Justice Movement. In practical terms, this simply means rule by supermajority; some Occupy sites use an 80% threshold, some use 90%. It strikes me that when you modify "consensus," what you get is unavoidably "not consensus."

Wouldn't it be a bit more honest to call the system used by Occupy's General Assemblies "Almost Consensus?"
39
@23 good point. People create little cities inside American cities, you can't completely prevent the same things happening that happen in... well, any other urban neighborhood. As in Oakland, someone apparently was killed because he was hiding there from rival gang members coming to kill him. Gang killings happen in Oakland all the time. It's not like the police normally react by clearing out all inhabitants from the neighborhood where it happened!
40
First of all, I agree with you that Freedom of Assembly is protected under the Constitution, but we saw that right ignored during WTO as well as with multiple war protests, the RNC Convention and with the Occupy movement. Is there a coordinated effort to ensure that a class action lawsuit be brought against local governments to provide an opportunity for this issue to be resolved by the Supreme Court? If multiple lawsuits could be brought in several states, at least a few could reach the higher courts and could theoretically build a precedent preventing local law enforcement from dissolving popular movements before they have a chance to gain substantial traction.

Secondly, do you believe that it is even possible that a revision of the tax code coupled with a better regulatory framework and investment in educational opportunities - as proposed by the President last night - could provide a sufficient basis for reversing the general decline of the Middle Class and help to reign in the excessive profits of the wealthy; or has Citizens United precluded the ability of average Americans to affect political change in a meaningful way going forward?
41
@28 - well I don't think it's accurate. Many individual cops are perfectly nice, as people. The point for me is that that ultimately doesn't matter because their job is to obey orders.

I think there's a problem because a lot of people are frustrated by this "the police are part of the 99%" rhetoric, which is silly - sure, they are as individuals, but their personal situation and opinions don't matter when they're acting _as_ cops, because as cops, their job is to follow orders, and those orders are given by political authorities whose aim is to protect the power of the 1%. So they overreact and say things that are just as silly on the other side. Both make the mistake of personally the situation. What any individual police officer is like, what their views, life experiences, feelings, political opinions, moral character, etc, etc are is ultimately kind of irrelevant. Many police in New York went out of their way to say they believed in our cause. Didn't stop them from attacking and beating the shit out of non-violent protestors when they were ordered to do that. Just as in 1999 in Seattle many riot cops were observed crying as they were ordered to attack, beat, pepper-spray, people practicing non-violent civil disobedience. They did it anyway. Obviously, revolutions generally happen when the guys sent to beat or shoot the revolutionaries do decide to disobey orders but we're nowhere near that point yet.
42
@33 Telling someone to go read a book is probably the laziest form of response imaginable. This is a comment thread on slog not a graduate seminar.

@31 Can you provide an example of this working on a scale larger than a small community? I am thinking something of at least 100,000 people but ideally millions.
44
@30 - first part: you're right, if you can only participate to a limited degree, there definitely should be better ways to plug in. Better dissemination of information is crucial here.

second part: I disagree with that part. No we don't get the politicians we deserve. The American constitutional system was invented to head off what john Adams called "the horrors of democracy" and it has always functioned that way. Why do you think so few people vote here compared to, say, Holland, or Ecuador, or Thailand, or almost any other democracy? Are Americans somehow uninterested in democracy? No, it's because they don't think their vote will make any difference and they're basically right.
45
@31

The whole point of doing things via Direct Action, rather than applying for permits and going through channels, is to delegitimize existing hierarchical structures.

So when you say a prefigurative society can't apply restorative justice due to fear of arrest, I tend to feel you're ducking the question. It sounds to me as if you'd rather not to explore the contradictions of using coercive force for purposes of restorative justice in a non-hierarchical society predicated on personal autonomy.

This isn't the first time I've noticed a curious deference to our existing society's laws in Occupy rhetoric; I was also nonplussed by an early explanation for the deployment of the People's Mic-- that the protesters didn't have all the proper papers and permits for sound amplification.
46
@40 The first amendment has never extended to breaking laws that are not related to content suppression like say traffic laws or park rules. The police haven't been suppressing OWS message, they have been ensuring that people can use the roads for travel and that parks are available for everyone and kept clean.

They have certainly gone overboard, such as what happened at UC Davis, but you don't get to prevent people from going about their business just because you have something to say.
47
@32 - what center? I think you watch too much media

last I checked Rasmussen, two thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 were willing to at least consider getting rid of capitalism entirely. The actual opinions of most Americans are simply not reflected in the media - and that includes "deviant" (which usually means, accurate) views on the right, like Ron Paul's views on the relation of militarism and our form of money-creation, which are quite correct actually, but also cannot be discussed in "serious" venues
48
@34 - there are lots of social movements that did not try to form a political party, or directly lobby candidates, and achieved spectacular results. Most of the really successful ones actually
49
@ 48, I believe I acknowledged that. Which ones do you believe are a good model for OWS to follow?
50
@38 - no, it's not supermajority. It's consensus with the option to fall back on a supermajority if you have a logjam. If you take part in the process you realize that consensus process from beginning to end in no way resembles Roberts Rules of Order style decision-making; the key thing is how you reshape and modify proposals with an eye to meeting concerns and coming up with something everyone can feel they've contributed to or can at least live with, which is not at all the way you proceed in other approaches. If you do that, even if you end by taking a majority vote, you are doing something profoundly different than traditional decision-making processes.
51
@42: Or don't read. Your choice, just don't question those that do on topics you know nothing about.
52
@44
"first part: you're right, if you can only participate to a limited degree, there definitely should be better ways to plug in. Better dissemination of information is crucial here."

Consensus! ;)

"Why do you think so few people vote here compared to, say, Holland, or Ecuador, or Thailand, or almost any other democracy? Are Americans somehow uninterested in democracy?"

Actually yes I think they are. I don't think we have a very good civic culture in this country. We also have large numbers of people who lack the language or other ability to take part. But even then in 08 we had nearly 60% of the voting age population taking part. That is not great, but not horrible either.

"No, it's because they don't think their vote will make any difference and they're basically right."

That's a copout. If the same number of people willing to camp out in parks in Seattle spent their time door-belling they could personally talk to nearly every single voter in this congressional district. They could also easily raise enough money for a basic direct mail campaign. Assuming that people actually do want an alternative to the current parties that would be enough to educate and inform them about an alternate choice and get that person elected. Repeat across the Country.

Hell it would be even easier if you started with legislative districts.
53
@40 - first part, well, I'd like to see someone do that, yes. It might be a tough slog but it would be very important
second part, no I think the whole system is so corrupt such tinkering is meaningless
54
@43 - to create a new culture of democracy in America, delegitimate the existing political order, and force us collectively to start thinking about how to create a political and economic system that might support a genuinely free society
55
@45 - it's not deference for laws it's choosing when you want to risk arrest. If you use coercion in a process of restorative justice and someone calls the cops on you, as they are likely to do, you can go to jail for a long time for felony assault. Obviously real criminals are unlikely to get much time for this but activists... why am I thinking suddenly they'll turn around and throw the book at them? We are dealing with a force of violent people just looking for an excuse to beat up on us. We are doing our best to create free spaces where we can ignore those regulations and codes and create our own, but you have to choose your battles!
56
@ 51, can you name some of the examples you're referring to @ 33? Those of us who haven't read Graeber's book can quickly check up about them online.

Keep in mind that reading Graeber's book isn't necessary for having an informed discussion with him. For example, he informs us @ 44 that other countries have greater turnout in their elections, but doesn't mention that nearly every other republic on earth has a parliamentary system. I'm guessing he's not advocating for America to do that, though.
57
@52 - the fact is in 2008 almost all the people who ended up in camps DID go around doorbelling and were inspired by Obama. We had a wave election, Democrats taking both houses of congress and the presidency, with a candidate promising "change," during an economic crisis so severe it was almost impossible NOT to change anything, and at a point where the public was so furious with Wall Street Obama could have gotten away with anything. But we still didn't see a single genuinely progressive policy implemented. How could a reasonable person not conclude that if it's not possible to achieve progressive change through electoral means then, it just wasn't going to happen in our lifetimes? When are such circumstances going to happen again? So no, I think young people concluding electoral participation was pointless (and indeed the youth vote declined 63% in 2010) were being completely realistic.
58
@55

Hypothetically, then, if you were out of reach of today's police and laws, could you have a consistent system of restorative justice in a non-hierarchical society predicated on personal autonomy?
59
@49 I think OWS is a good model for OWS to follow
60
Mr Graeber

Do you have any experience with or opinion on the creation of localized alternative (or 'complementary') currencies as a means to wrest back political control of one's locality? Clearly they can be used as a buffer to protect a local economy from the enormous tides of national currencies, but do you think they can be particularly useful political tools? Or community organizing tools? And Do you think #Occupy ought to focus on supporting them?

Thank you.
62
@ 59, that's a disappointing non-answer. Let's go back to what you said upthread.

there are lots of social movements that did not try to form a political party, or directly lobby candidates, and achieved spectacular results. Most of the really successful ones actually


If you mean none of them, you ought to say so, but I'd like to know if that means you* intend to just create this movement completely without guidance from the success and failures of past popular movements.

* "You" meaning either OWS or yourself personally.
63
Clarification @ 62 - Last paragraph should begin, "If you mean none of them are role models for OWS..."
64
It has been suggested that the Occupy movement is simply the ongoing Global Justice Movement, the only change being that the economically oppressed are in this case living in rich, developed nations, rather than the Third World.

You were present at a few of the organizational meetings for OWS prior to the initiation of the Action on September 17th. In those assemblies, and of the participants you were familiar with, what proportion would you say were not participants in prior GJM Actions, or perhaps even opposed to the GJM in one way or another?
65
@62 of course we are creating a movement with guidance from the successes and failures of movements of the past. One thing I've learned from the successes and failures of past movements is that successful movements don't "model" themselves on past ones. It's not like the populists "modeled" themselves on the abolitionists or the civil rights movement modeled themselves on the populists or feminism modeled itself on civil rights. All learned from one another.

I understood why you might ask, but I just don't think I could answer that question, as framed, in a particularly enlightening way, except to say I just don't think it's helpful to say "oh, we will take movement X as our primary model." We're doing something new.
66
@57 Do you really believe that the kind of radical change you seek can be accomplished in one election? That is, at best, naive.
67
@57 Because that was just one election? And not at all what I am talking about.

You are not addressing the main point which is that the current system provides a means by which you can start getting different people into power. We don't need a new system, we need people to actually use the one that we have. Sure you're not going to get the presidency right off the bat, but you could get some congressional districts in more liberal areas. That would give you a better platform to start trying to convince the majority of people in this country who are not in agreement.

A revolution ain't going to happen. We are far to rich and comfortable for that.

68
@64 actually I was at pretty much all the early GAs - I think I missed one. There was a huge influence. The problem is that an activist generation is really three or four years, you go away and come back four years later you'll see maybe 10% familiar faces. Most of the GJM people were burnt out, dropped out of activism, working on low-key projects or organic farms, gone back to school... Actually one of my main roles in the early days was trying to track old friends down and convince them, no, this time it's for real, something is really happening again - and getting them to come back and participate in trainings - legal, medical, CD, facilitation, which almost everyone had forgotten how to do properly. But people did start showing up, and once the movement took off, even more of them. So I'd say it was in the spirit of the globalization movement, there was a profound inner continuity, but it took a while before the concrete links were made.
69
@67 - why do you say "you" in your questions? If that's important to you, why not say "we", and talk about how you have been ringing doorbells, calling people, and generally trying to build support for the candidates you believe in? OWS isn't sucking all the oxygen out of the room, they're making it exciting to think about taking ownership of politics again. Do your thing -absolutely. And tell us about it!
70

Is this the part like in the 1980s, when all the 60s revolutionaries realized they had to earn a dollar and started selling books, and exercise tapes to "Their Generation" ?

71
@David, are there ways for people to try to build support (through direct donations or fundraising) for the training you were talking about earlier. With the caveat that non-trained people shouldn't be excluded, still, it would be better to have more people trained in non-violence -- how can I support that?
72
@ 65, fair enough. (I can't resist pointing out how Civil Rights leaders modeled their movement after Gandhi's, though - there is precedent for one successful movement following another's lead.)

It sounds like you are at least party inspired by past groups and their successes. It's natural that no group can replicate what was done in the past; each struggle has it's unique characteristics and circumstances which dictate tactics.

Thanks for your time.
73
@67 - actually it was two, 2004 and 2006, when participation and particularly youth participation went way up, and my point was that 2006 was under IDEAL circumstances. You're not going to have your party sweep into office across the board at the time of a global meltdown of financial capitalism when crisis measures are the only thing one _can_ do and the electorate is outraged at the existing economic power structure, again, any time in the foreseeable future. If you can't get a SINGLE PIECE OF PROGRESSIVE LEGISLATION passed under those conditions, it's just silly to say well, if you keep trying over and over maybe this will change.

The reason it won't change is precisely the thing OWS made an issue of. We don't have a democratic system at all. We have a system of institutionalized bribery where people are occasionally allowed to select between two candidates who have no significant policy differences on any of the issues those controlling the money really care about. To change that through participating in the system is by definition impossible and that's what most Americans are coming to recognize.

As for too rich and complacent, speak for yourself. I read that 1 out of every 100 Americans not just contemplated suicide last year, but actually made concrete plans of how they would do it. We are dealing with depression-level catastrophe over much of this country.

74
@73 - oops sorry I meant 2006 and 2008, obviously
76
..thank you for your time
77
@73 But that was backing major party candidates. Sure, yeah, supporting a centrist democrat like Obama is not going to get you massive change. Who'd have thought?

What I am suggesting to actually do the leg work to get people from outside that system into office. There is no reason why that would be impossible. It would take a lot of work and time, but it is possible. I'd venture it would be easier though that convincing more than a few people that we need a massive social revolution.

And while Obama has been disappointing, things like healthcare reform will and are having a positive impact on people's lives. That is not nothing.

Anyone planning suicide is a very bad thing, but depression is a mental illness and like most illness can occur no matter your circumstances. Is there some evidence that level is higher than what one would otherwise expect?

78
@77: "...depression is a mental illness and like most illness can occur no matter your circumstances."

Again, you are commenting on matters you know little about. Anyone who deals with mental illness for a living will tell you circumstances are an essential factor in most cases, especially economic circumstances. Sure there are anomalies.
79
@76 Seconded! This has been a very interesting discussion.
80
Wouldn't the most constructive thing for #OWS to consolidate its message around two or three themes, and then to human mic them to death? Off the top of my head, I can think of two: (1) End the rule of money in American elections! and (2) Abolition of egregious debt, whether from multiple credit cards, student loans, but most importantly foreclosed and underwater mortgages! Of course, a networked, decentralized movement is not going to always be on message, but if leaders in the various occupations focused on one or two messages, it might make a dint. I don't know how it would be done through distributed General Assemblies, but underscoring that times are desperate for many might focus attention.
81
Just right now, simplifying taxes might as well be a catchphrase, too. The trouble I have with garden variety anarchists (as opposed to fiscally literate ones) is they really do not acknowledge how much it is minutiae that determines our daily lives.
83
@78 So you have no answer then to the question of whether his number represents a divergence from what we have seen prior or could be expected to see?

It very well may, but without that context it is a meaningless statistic.

I'd remind you again that this is a comment thread on slog, not a graduate seminar or other such environment where you pontifications about actually knowing what one is talking about would be taken seriously.
84
Almost 45 minutes since his last comment? Is Graeber through here?
85
In the pages of The Stranger, much ink has been spilled over the fact that Occupy Seattle has not passed any of several proposed resolutions affirming OS as a nonviolent movement. This issue has divided readers of SLOG (at the very least), the public (possibly) and participants in OS (to some degree).

You've said previously that no formal declaration of nonviolence on the part of Occupy is necessary, because everyone involved in the movement realizes they have no right to put their fellow participants in jeopardy by initiating violence.

Would you be open to the possibility of revising that outlook if an Occupy participant were to commit an act of political violence?*

Can you imagine any circumstance in which the support from the general public secured by a resolution of nonviolence would outweigh the loss of support from those Radicals who can not, in good conscience, abandon the option to use violence?

 

* By "violence," I am referring specifically to deliberate damage to a human being, rather than property; to non-retaliatory violence; to violence against a person whose mere presence is not regarded as an act of violence**; and not to any act of self-defense. So, like, beating up a bank teller or knifing a yacht owner, for example, though I'd prefer a more general answer.

** e.g., a police officer or other government functionary: some Occupy Seattle participants define the very existence of policemen as an act of violence.
86
@82 Depression rates are higher among low income people, but there depression itself makes it hard to work or earn money. Somewhat of a cart and horse issue as to whether the depression causes people to low income, or whether being low income makes people depressed, or more likely that it is a combination of the two.

The suicide rate in the US has been heading up since the late 90's, but not that dramatically.
87
@42: Making up excuses as to why you shouldn't have to educate yourself honestly takes more effort than simply reading up on a subject.
88
@83: If you're saying this blog is for people who only talk out their ass, I tend to agree with you.
89
@87 It does? Really? Because that post took somewhere under a minute to type and I usually cannot finish a book that fast. Plus the stack of books I want to read, assuming they were stackable and not digital, is near as tall as I am, and cover topics I find much more interesting that radical political theory.

90
@73 - as I frequently point out the big problem with political debate in America today is people live in different realities. Sure, you know better. Whatever.
91
@77 - no it wouldn't take work and time it would take billions of dollars in fund-raising that you're not going to get from the people who have it. This has been attempted. I've even been involved in such campaigns. For fuck's sake, Obama has even been involved in them - the New Party, which we were both members of in Hyde Park in Chicago in the late '80s! We both came to the conclusion it is impossible the way they have things lined up.
92
Graeber will be at Elliott Bay Book Company in two hours.
93
@84
Matt, I suspect so. He was answering from the train ride up, and it's a three hour transit.
94
@80 - probably a good idea
95
@91 It would not take billions of dollars to run a congressional race or even any number of them. Not even close. Hell it doesn't even take that much to run a presidential race.

Like I said above a few hundred committed people, and you can't get much more committed than moving into a park, could personally contact every voter in a congressional district. That's worth more than any number of political ads.

The real problem I think is that people actually do tend to agree with the two major parties and are not all that radical.

96
Though I think a campaign and building a true grassroots political movement would be a great way to move them to the left. It has worked pretty well for the tea party and they have the disadvantage of being fucking nuts and totally wrong.
97
@95 "Like I said above a few hundred committed people"

if there were a candidate they believed in, as much as they believe in OWS, then yes, they'd be doing that work. If you like some candidate, why not tell us about that person, rather than talk about how other people should change the world on your behalf? They are being the change they want to see -- are you?
98
@97 Because that is a lot more work and I have other things I would rather do.

But, while I am not revolutionary of any sort I would like to see our political culture pulled toward the left and if OWS got their shit together they could do that instead of just serving as a sideshow. If they put up a solid leftist candidate I'd certainly volunteer for a few days of door-belling or phone backing and would toss a few bucks their way.
100
@98 they're not your lackeys. You have different interests from them -- they are revolutionaries and you are not. So don't expect them to do your work for you.
101
@100 I would never expect them too. Especially based on some thing as trivial as a comment thread on a blog. I think this is an interesting topic to discuss that's all.
102
@18 (Ken Mehlman):

"@11 I would think that a leaderless forum where everybody gets to talk would attract nut-jobs who just want to hear themselves talk."

While I support the core reason for the Occupy movement -- viz., to publicize and protest the fact that the 1% have hijacked the government, the economy, the country, and much of the world -- I can personally confirm that your supposition is correct. This makes it very difficult for people who are solution-oriented and who value their time to be willing to participate.

The public awareness generated by Occupy is still very valuable, but results-minded Americans will probably want to put their time into parallel efforts to change the fundamental things that have allowed our (imperfect) formal democracy to operate as a functional plutocracy -- efforts, for example, to radically reform campaign financing; to radically tighten conflict-of-interest rules for public officials; to eliminate the obstructive filibuster; to switch to a more representative, less gameable voting system; to deconglomerate, deconcentrate, and diversify the news media; to amend or withdraw from neo-liberal free trade agreements; and even to eliminate the corporate shield. Unless fundamental reforms such as those are achieved and defended, the Occupy movement is unlikely to produce any more durable changes than the hippies did and the country will continue its devolution into inverted fascism.

Just my 2ยข.
103
@77
What I am suggesting to actually do the leg work to get people from outside that system into office. There is no reason why that would be impossible.

If is not impossible, then can you point to *any* instances when that has happened in the USA? It should have happened by now, shouldn't it not?
104
@103 Bob Ferguson knocked off an entrenched and well supported incumbent doing just that. It might be apocryphal but he is credited with knocking on nearly every door in his district of over 100,000 registered voters.

There have been a number of third party members in congress. And look at what a member like Ron Paul has been able to achieve. Granted he is a nutty as shit libertarian but about every week he is on national tv during the republican debates expressing his own unique brand of batshittery.

I will grant that it is rare and what I am talking about has not really been done in the US, but then we have also never had a movement like OWS achieve much success either.

I think our political system is a lot more open than we realize.

105
@104 "And look at what a member like Ron Paul has been able to achieve."

Ron Paul is a total member.
106
So is most of Congress.

What a bunch of members.