by Jase Short
October 14, 2011
This document was produced in consultation with fellow socialists involved in the Occupy effort here in Nashville. It is based on our observations of problems that have emerged in our organizing efforts in Tennessee. The intent of this is to provide some grounding in our work and to start a broader conversation about how socialists ought to orient themselves to the Occupy movement generally speaking. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list, rather it is meant to be a starting point for helping us orient to these efforts in a constructive and helpful way rather than just being “along for the ride.”
Against Wall Street’s culture of economic exploitation, environmental degradation and human oppression we stand together to testify that another world is possible, a decent and humane world, a democratic world of liberty, dignity and solidarity.
- Our main focus ought to be support for the Occupy Wall Street movement with respect for our autonomy balanced by a coordination with other occupy efforts; united our movement will have impact, divided we will dwindle to nothing;
- Awareness and respect for the democratic process centered around the General Assembly is of paramount importance; cavalier “cowboy activism” only leads to fragmentation and easy targeting for provocateurs, as well as other forms of repression and misrepresentation (which discredits us);
- There is no such thing as “leaderless resistance” or “structureless organization” rather there are always informal leaders and structures in every such effort; we ought to avoid bureaucratized and elitist forms of leadership and organization, but this must be done via making our current structure more organized, transparent, democratic and accountable rather than recycling myths about “structureless”; there is a “tyranny of structurelessness” that must be combated (see this piece, though it comes specifically from a feminist movement source it is applicable to social movement work in general);
- Absolute independence from the two parties of Wall Street, their campaigns, their candidates and their agendas is a necessity; this includes independence from their grassroots arms, whether in the form of various Tea Party groups or those of MoveOn; further, we must remain independent of various groups dedicated to forms of social chauvinism (indirectly serving Wall Street’s interests) such as the Oathkeepers, who are attempting to divert our movement to nationalistic, conspiratorial and other forms of dead-end politics;
- We must recognize that the corporate media’s imperative to settle on a few demands is a red herring (if it was not that they would use something else to discredit us) but we must begin a process of defining what our demands our; the demands must be structured according to transitional logic in which anti-systemic impulses are built into the demands themselves (i.e. the demands ought to recognize that this is a confrontation and that there are no solutions amenable to both Wall Street and the 99%, the point is not to placate their anger but to strike at their power and thus build our own);
- Against all utopian projects and analyses we posit that this is no “spontaneous” effort but rather the culmination of years of micro-struggles and building rage by the vast majority against the transformation of our political and social system into tools to further the power of financial elites; movement-building is our goal and thus we must look at short, medium and long term strategy rather than immediate tactics; we are in this for the long haul;
- We must address the problem of privilege within our ranks if we are to avoid the reefs that previous movements in this country have run aground upon; the lesson of the movements of the 1960’s especially is that failure to address racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression within our movement will destroy us faster than external pressure from the carrots and sticks of Wall Street and its agents; we must a people’s movement and consequently must be more than a sea of white faces;
- We must strengthen our resolve in recognition of the fact that this crisis is unlikely to be solved by institutional mechanisms, that it represents a confluence of crises which are all mainly the fault of the dominant institutions of our social order and consequently we must have a democratic awakening of the populace—in the streets, in the home, in the religious sphere, in the workplace and in every major institution;
- We must promote and respect the self-organization of oppressed groups within our ranks, such as people of color committees, committees for “safe space,” and so forth;
- We must oppose all appeals to nationalism and social chauvinism in whatever form they are presented whether it is “buy America,” “rebuild the American Dream” or “take our country back”; all of these formulations—nationalist/protectionist, white supremacist and populist demagogic, respectively—are dead ends that will alienate masses of people and tend to attract the wrong kind of support.