What’s here is the second of a multi-part post on the Occupy movements, presented as though it amounts to notes for a briefing. Combined, they address selected aspects of the causes (Part I), conduct (Part II), cognition (Part III), and consequences (Part IV [pending]) of the protests. The posts are mostly done from a TIMN perspective about social evolution, but Part III is also done from a cognitive STA (space-time-action) perspective, in a nod to this blog’s other theme besides TIMN.
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Part II: On the Conduct of the Occupy Protest Movements
As noted at the end of Part I, the Occupy movements are doing more than other movements to express and propel the rise of the network (+N) form of organization. They will succeed to the extent that they continue to do so, presuming it’s in a constructive manner (to be discussed in Part IV).
To my knowledge, many ways in which the Occupy protesters are advancing the rise of the network (+N) form arose with the key “social netwars” of the 1990s: the Zapatista movement in Mexico, and the Battle of Seattle. Yet, other activist movements have mattered as well, such that by now a vast deep infrastructure exists for conducting activist campaigns across all sorts of issue areas and boundaries.
Points that seem significant to me, based on past research on organization, strategy, and narrative matters, are as follows:
• Organization matters: The Occupy protesters are trying to operate as a 21st C. information-age network — in many respects a peer-to-peer (P2P) network — whose design is ostensibly open, inclusive, horizontal, bottom-up, decentralized, collective, leaderless, and non-hierarchical, even anti-hierarchical.
* This is most noticeable in their efforts at direct democracy in general assemblies held in parks and other Occupied spaces. These assemblies, as well as their lateral working groups, adhere to those design principles in ways that reflect modern anarchist thinking, but also strive to enact cutting-edge network notions (especially about collective intelligence and open-source creativity and productivity) that have taken hold irrespective of any overlap with anarchism.
* Various pluses and minuses, lots of praise and criticism, have attended these exercises in direct democracy (see readings in the Addendum). Yet there’s a broader TIMN matter to wonder about: Whether this Occupy-type activism really does represent a deepening of new network modes of organization, decision-making, and strategy — or a recursion to classic tribal modes? After all, gathering in open assemblies, providing opportunities for all to voice their views, and using consensus methods to arrive at decisions, without imposing a hierarchy, are what characterize episodes of democracy in (T-type) tribal settings, as do fission and forking by dissidents. If what has been occurring in the Occupy encampments is truly of the new (+N) network form, the movement will manage to resist tribalization (not to mention re-hierarchicalization). But it’s still not clear what the new form will look like at its full-fledged best, and how it will be distinct from and more suitable than the other TIMN forms.
* The answers may not lie in the Occupy encampments. They, their assemblies, and related gatherings have garnered much attention and analysis. And why not? They are the most visible aspects of the Occupy movement. What are missing — yet surely as interesting and potentially more important from a TIMN perspective — are data and analysis about the broader organizational networking that is occurring in the background, surely involving myriad NGOs, media, and other actors all across America and abroad. I’ve seen references to ideas for linking the various assemblies into a vast network; but important as the assemblies are for the Occupy movement, they may not be its key factor, or actor. This may become evident if/as the city encampments become harder to sustain. The key may be the background network (or set of networks), partly because of its “monitory” potential.
* This speaks to a distinction about three kinds of democracy: assembly, representative, and monitory. The efforts at assembly democracy may suit many purposes of Occupy’s encampments, but this early kind of democracy has major limitations as a basis for broad-based governance and long-range evolution. Meanwhile, the Occupy activists have good reasons to be critical and suspicious of what has become of modern representative democracy; though more complex and capable than assembly democracy, it has become deficient for guiding the evolution from triformist to quadriformist societies in the 21st C. Instead, a key to the next phase transition may be “monitory democracy” — a concept from John Keane (2008a, 2008b, 2009, 2010) — whereby vast sensory and organizational apparatuses are developed, especially in civil society, for scrutinizing and appraising what is going on in a society, and for generating policy inputs that require accountability and responsibility from state and market actors. If Occupy’s background network (or set of networks) is headed in this direction, it could make a significant contribution to the emergence of the +N phase. I shall return to this prospect in Part IV.
• Strategy matters: The Occupy protesters are conducting what amounts to a “netwar” — our term for a mode of conflict that revolves around the use of network forms of organization attuned to the information age. In so doing, they are increasingly adopting “swarming” as a strategy and/or set of tactics.
* As John Arquilla and I have commented to each other, 2011 has been the year of social swarming; swarming is the story of the year. And the ideas we fielded about swarming and the future of conflict over a decade ago still look apt:
“Swarming is a seemingly amorphous, but deliberately structured, co-ordinated, strategic way to strike from all directions at a particular point or points, by means of a sustainable pulsing of force and/or ﬁre, close-in as well as from stand-off positions. This notion of “force and/or ﬁre” may be literal in the case of military or police operations, but metaphorical in the case of NGO activists, who may, for example, be blocking city intersections or emitting volleys of emails and faxes. Swarming will work best — perhaps it will only work — if it is designed mainly around the deployment of myriad, small, dispersed, networked maneuver units. Swarming occurs when the dispersed units of a network of small (and perhaps some large) forces converge on a target from multiple directions. The overall aim is sustainable pulsing — swarm networks must be able to coalesce rapidly and stealthily on a target, then dissever and redisperse, immediately ready to re-combine for a new pulse.” (2000, p. 12)
* So far, the Occupy movement has generated no major incidents that fully manifest swarming. But a lot of statements (see Addendum) speak to its attractiveness; and swarming is implicit in the efforts at multiple occupations — a swarm of occupations. By some accounts, the swarming phase of the Occupy movement is just beginning; if so, it may take the movement in new directions against new targets, perhaps especially if the physical occupations of parks and other sites are ended.
* Recent police and other security operations against the Occupy protests indicate that counter-netwar and counter-swarming methods are being learned, shared, coordinated, and applied across multiple cities and agencies. Particularly notable was the Los Angeles Police Department’s operation to end the encampment there. (See readings in the Addendum, plus chapters by Arquilla and others in this NPS study.)
• Narrative matters: As the information age deepens, conflicts revolve increasingly around narratives — around whose story wins. So far, the Occupy movement has fielded some major slogans and other pointed memes. It’s clearly a movement whose messages are critical of what has happened to capitalism and democracy, and whose proponents hope for solutions to emerge from civil society rather than state or market sectors. Yet, there is still no clear narrative; it’s all quite inchoate — and for now, that appears to be by design, even to make deliberate sense. Occupy activists have opted to promote a nonviolent values-oriented revolution that, so far, is more symbolic than concrete and specific. Many protesters have declined to compile and field specific demands, despite criticisms and pressures to do so. Instead, they have emphasized projecting the kinds of values, morals, and ethics that they think should be brought (back?) into play.
* Occupy’s media strategy is to occupy minds, even more than physical sites. Many activists believe they are creating a new global consciousness. They are out to shift public opinion, public debate, and public will. Yet many protesters are focused on fostering bonds among themselves — connectivity, solidarity — even more than on attacking outside targets and opponents. In large part, Occupy’s key audience is the movement itself — to make it grow, and for supporters to feel they are part of something big that is getting bigger. Some activists deem education to be a major purpose of the movement, especially for the long struggle that is thought to lie ahead.
* The Occupy approach to developing a narrative, or a set of narratives, is being conducted as an open-source multi-voice network, even a marketplace of ideas — not as a sectarian tribe or ideological hierarchy of ideas. This network of ideas revolves around values, goals, and grievances that stem largely from the Left. But it’s also evolving in ways that seem open, adaptable, and resilient, partly to attract adherents from the Center, even the Right. There are key themes — e.g., democracy, equality — but care is being taken not to let any one become singularly or permanently paramount. Indeed, some Occupy activists favor the absence of a precise set of demands and the appearance of disorganization, not only to help attract new people, but also to prevent being co-opted or put in a labeled box by established actors such as political parties and labor unions. Occupy’s network of ideas may thus seem amorphous, but the aim is to make it polymorphous.
* Responsibility is emerging as an important thread. Many Occupy activists talk about rights — Occupy as a continuation of the civil rights revolutions of the 20th C. But I detect an even stronger emphasis on responsibilities — Occupy may develop into a responsibilities revolution more than a rights revolution. Corporate social responsibility and government accountability are already part of the Occupy schemata. If monitory democracy is to take hold in the 21st C., it may make sense for Occupy activists to press on civic responsibilities even harder than on civil rights.
* Nonviolence has been a key thread in Occupy’s narrative from the start. Most Occupy activists are intent on nonviolence as a value and strategy. It is central to their unfolding narrative — the story they want to win with. They’ve had to counter appeals by “black bloc” anarchists, not to mention possible provocateurs, to opt for violence. A point I’d offer, from a TIMN stance, is that setting nonviolence aside — opting for violence — would drive many parties back into tribalism. Moreover, if Occupy turns violent, a street-level realpolitik will become ascendant again, and the movement will splinter and lose its new advantages at noöspolitik (for definition, see next entry).
* Occupy’s narrative directions are in line with our past RAND work on the concept of noöpolitik (or noöspolitik; 1999, 2007), including our forecast that it would gradually supersede realpolitik and favor non-state actors as the information age deepens. No Occupy-related statements have used the term, but many substantiate its conceptual bases:
“By noopolitik we mean an approach to statecraft, to be undertaken as much by nonstate as by state actors, that emphasizes the role of informational soft power in expressing ideas, values, norms, and ethics through all manner of media. This makes it distinct from realpolitik, which stresses the hard, material dimensions of power and treats states as the determinants of world order. Noopolitik makes sense because knowledge is fast becoming an ever stronger source of power and strategy, in ways that classic realpolitik and internationalism cannot absorb. . . .
“Noöpolitik upholds the importance of non–state actors, especially from civil society, and requires that they play strong roles. Why? NGOs (not to mention individuals) often serve as sources of ethical impulses (which is rarely the case with market actors), as agents for disseminating ideas rapidly, and as nodes in networked apparatuses of “sensory organizations” that can assist with conflict anticipation, prevention, and resolution. Indeed, because of the information revolution, advanced societies are on the threshold of developing a vast sensory apparatus for watching what is happening around the world. . . .
“Against this background, the states that emerge strongest in information–age terms — even if by traditional measures they may appear to be smaller, less powerful states — are likely to be the states that learn to work conjointly with the new generation of non–state actors. . . .
“. . . Realpolitik is typically about whose military or economy wins. Noopolitik may ultimately be about whose story wins.” (1999 / 2007)
• Spatial matters: The preceding points about network organization, netwar swarming, and noöspolitik sum up my main impressions about the conduct of the Occupy protests from a TIMN perspective. In addition, I’ve spotted a lot of interesting activity around the concept of “space” — what it means to occupy and fight for a space, to penetrate physical vs. media spaces, to create and hold sacred spaces without fetishizing them, to convert private into public spaces and both into common spaces or even “temporary autonomous zones” (TAZs). The importance of spatial thinking also echoes in referents, often metaphorical, to opening avenues, overcoming barriers, avoiding being put in a box, making connections, building bridges, disrupting capitalist webs, and upholding the dignity of the individual, yet keeping identity obscure. And of course, much is still made of how the new information and communications technologies alter the nature of space (and time).
* There are ways to relate all this to TIMN — e.g., by reiterating that each of the TIMN forms involves preferences for particular space-time action orientations; or by noting that many spatial references by Occupy activists occur in the context of commenting on the matters discussed above — network organization, netwar swarming, and media strategies. Doing so would justify expanding on the point in this post.
* But besides TIMN, the point relates more to this blog’s other focus: how and why people’s space-time-action orientations (STA) shape their mindsets and behavior patterns. So I’m going to elaborate on the point in a separate Part III post. I’ll put in its addendum a large set of readings that I’ve compiled about spatial orientations written by Occupy activists and observers.
Wrap-up comment #1: The Occupy movement has conducted itself as an organizational network, and much as a network should. It is helping pioneer the rise of the +N form, and thus augurs the emergence of a quadriformist society. It has some tribal characteristics — and in some places it seems to oscillate between its tribal and network potentials. But it keeps resisting a reversion to the tribal form, and co-optation into established institutional and market folds.
This makes it quite different from the Tea Party movement. Despite a few network characteristics, it was originally quite tribal in form. Moreover, it longed for a rectification of America at its triformist best. And much of it has ended up being co-opted by established institutional and market actors who represent the triformist era. Tea Party activists used social networking, but that’s different from being committed to the rise of the (+N) network form of organization.
Wrap-up comment #2: In focusing this post on the Occupy movement in the United States, I’ve rather neglected the conduct of related movements elsewhere around the world. It seems to me, however, that they (or at least their cutting-edge activists) manifest quite similar themes about the appeal of open-source network organization, direct democracy, netwar swarming, noöpolitik, and strategic nonviolence — shaped and qualified, of course, by local conditions.
Such similarities appear elsewhere partly because these activists are all trying to connect, inspire, and learn from each other. Indeed, as some of the Addendum readings document, activists who have mounted protests in places as far apart as Buenos Aires, Cairo, Madrid, London, New York, and, Tunis, sense that they are creating an interconnected world-wide movement for societal transformations that will curtail patrimonial corporatism and enable a truer democracy.
Potential consequences and implications will be discussed in Part IV.
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ADDENDUM: READINGS FOR PART II
A collection of quotes, gleaned from browsing online write-ups about Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and related protests elsewhere. Inclusion does not mean approval, only that I sense a bearing on matters raised in the main text of this post. Arranged according to whether a quote speaks mainly to the causes (Part I), conduct (Part II), cognition (Part III), or consequences (Part IV) of the protests.
In my initial notion of doing a post or two on the causes and consequences of the Occupy protests, I did not plan to discuss how they were conducted. But then, unexpectedly, I started seeing statements about swarming as an approach to strategy and tactics — a theme in John Arquilla’s and my past work. I also saw discussions about direct democracy in general assemblies that seemed to reflect tribal practices (the T in TIMN). And I was impressed by statements about the symbolic imagery the activists sought to project — for they seemed in line with our past work on information strategy and the future-oriented concept of noöpolitik. And threading through a lot of this were statements about spatial concepts, such as autonomous zones — a theme that relates to my interest in people’s space-time-action orientations (this blog’s secondary focus, aka STA). Thus, I’ve ended up accumulating lots of materials that relate to — even confirm — our past Rand research. The Occupy movement is turning into quite a laboratory for further inquiry.
So I’ve opted to do this separate post on the conduct of the Occupy protests, and to present my accumulation of related readings, plus a few remarks, as follows below. A large set of readings about spatial orientations that relate more to cognitive STA matters will appear in a separate post in the near future.
Conduct of the protests: direct democracy in general assemblies — These quotes relate the protesters’ preferences for open general assemblies whose organizational design is ostensibly leaderless and non-hierarchical, in order to heighten participation, discussion, and consensus-building. It’s a design that draws on anarchist thinking about direct democracy. While it seems — even aspires — to generate an approach to democracy that is based on modern (+N) network principles, I continue to feel that aspects hark back more to classic (T-type) tribal principles.
“Get ready for jargon: the General Assembly is a horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought, and it’s akin to the assemblies that have been driving recent social movements around the world, in places like Argentina, Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and so on. Working toward consensus is really hard, frustrating and slow. But the occupiers are taking their time. When they finally get to consensus on some issue, often after days and days of trying, the feeling is quite incredible. . . .
“Fortunately, though, they don’t need to come to consensus about everything. Working alongside the General Assembly are an ever-growing number of committees and working groups—from Food and Media to Direct Action and Sanitation. Anyone is welcome to join one, and they each do their own thing, working in tacit coordination with the General Assembly as a whole. In the end, the hope is that every individual is empowered to make decisions and act as her or himself, for the good of the group.” (source)
David Graeber (as summarized by Matt Wasserman):
“In Direct Action, Graeber fleshes out an argument that he has made elsewhere: The ideology of the alter-globalization movement was contained in its practice. What seemed to outside observers like a chaotic mish-mash of messages at protests staged by Marxist groups was actually a conscious choice to allow a diversity of viewpoints to be expressed. And what seemed like a tedious attention to meeting process was the result of a commitment to direct democracy and rejection of a politics of representation in favor of a politics of participation. Instead of focusing solely, or even largely, on ends, the global justice movement focused on means, attempting to live out its ideals in the present and sneak moments of liberation on the sly. . . .
“While anarchists formed the avant-garde of the global justice movement, they generally did not try to convert other protesters and sympathizers to an explicit belief system. Instead of pushing a party line, they spread practices, advocating the adoption of affinity groups, consensus-based decision-making and spokescouncils. Graeber argues that the Direct Action Network, the most significant organization of the global justice movement, while short-lived, was extraordinarily successful in diffusing a directly democratic model of organizing.” (source)
“From what I have seen, the major challenge the Occupy groups are dealing with is about who is authorized to do what on behalf of, or binding upon, participants, without infringing on individual participants’ autonomy. . . .
“It will be interesting to see how the Metamovement evolves processes and positions on matters of authority, responsibility, representation and power. These are issues, after all, that are at the heart of the Metamovement’s dissatisfaction with the de facto rule by the corporatist 1%.” (source)
“. . . #OccupyWallStreet, to me, is about institutional failure. And so it is appropriate that #OccupyWallStreet itself is not run as an institution. . . .
“Now one needs a network. #OccupyWallStreet is that network, the headless tail. Even it's not sure what it is. . . .
“What's happening is an attempt to define a new public, now that we can. . . .
“What #OccupyWallStreet has done with considerable success -- as the best hashtags and publics do -- is open a conversation, one we must have, about the shape of our nation and society and future. If you don't like their manifesto and demands, fine: What are yours?” (source)
“An agenda—and an organization, and some kind of leadership that could speak and be spoken to—would violate these rules. Distilling things down to a simple set of demands would be hierarchical, and commit a crime of exclusion. Having an organization with some sort of leadership would force some to speak for others, the crime of representation.
“But without those things, as Jodi says, there can be no politics.” (source)
“As they first formed, the assemblies were invigorating and uplifting. We were creating a new community, I was told. We were making new friends. We were hearing from new people. We were enjoying an environment where dissent was the norm. But as days passed, and then weeks, it got too familiar. And it wasn’t obvious to folks what more they could do. There weren’t tasks to undertake. We weren’t being born anymore, we were dying. It was hard. For many it was impossible to keep learning and keep contributing. There was a will, but there was not a way. Folks didn’t have meaningful things to do that made them feel part of a worthy project. We felt, in time, only part of a mass of people. . . .
“Folks recounted all these dynamics very graphically and movingly. No one said that people stopped participating in assemblies because of fear or the cops or depression over the newspapers. No one said people left because they had developed doubts about protest or resistance, much less about the condition of society. Instead, everyone I spoke with, and it was a lot of very committed people, told me participants left due to lacking good reasons to stay. The bottom line was that the assemblies got tedious and, ironically, even disempowering. Folks wondered, why must I be here every day and every night? The thought nagged. It led to legions moving on. . . .
“Ideas that resonated in the many discussions, and that activists involved felt needed preponderant support, included: once an occupation has a lot of people, have subgroups initiate other occupations in more places, all federated together and providing one another mutual aid. In the most local, neighborhood occupations, visit every home. Talk with every resident. Involve as many neighbors as possible. Determine real felt needs. If what is most upsetting neighbors is housing concerns, daycare issues, traffic patterns, mutual aid, loneliness, whatever, try to act to address the problems.” (source)
“. . .The modified consensus processes currently used by Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy initiatives are extremely powerful tools. Their power comes primarily from their ability to enable a group to include all the voices, insights, and energies of its members in making high quality, readily implementable decisions. But this power assumes a level of shared values, shared purpose, shared reality, shared intention. Its vulnerability lies in its effort to include voices and energies that come from people who do not share the same values, intentions, and worldviews. Ideally we want to include everyone and everything. But this effort can lead us into extremes of chaos from which our community may not emerge intact.” (source)
“ . . . The movement has become consumed with its own internal dynamics at the expense of pushing a larger message. And it’s not simply a matter of message — the functions described in the link roundup, such as internal politics, freeloaders at encampments, issues of self-management, sanitation, and crime themselves are serious problems that threaten the organization’s ability to maintain itself.
“So why is the movement having such difficulty in maintaining a strategic focus, especially after we were told by a bevy of social media gurus that they were utilizing a hitherto superior method of organization rooted in decentralization, co-production, and social networking that would enshrine a new era of participatory politics? A method that was so self-evidently superior that it rendered the idea of goals or strategies passe? . . .
“The idea inherent in much of the OWS strategic commentary is that information-age social networks could help the occupiers build up a strategic infrastructure through viral replication. . . .
“However, such an infrastructure, once built, has its own upkeep costs—which can be steep.” (source)
“Fifth, as we learned the hard way in the 1960s, consensual democracy is not identical to participatory democracy. For affinity groups and communes, consensus decision-making may work admirably, but for any large or long-term protest, some form of representative democracy is essential to allow the broadest and most equal participation. The devil, as always, is in the details: ensuring that any delegate can be recalled, formalizing rights of political minorities, guaranteeing affirmative representation, and so on.” (source)
“In Britain, critics of the Occupy movement have cited the numerous causes espoused by the protesters as a sign of their incoherence of purpose. In reality, the protesters understand that a complex but nevertheless identifiable system – which puts profit and power before people – is responsible for a wide range and variety of malign outcomes, . . . They have therefore taken up the duty abrogated by the political class to subject those choices, and that system, to proper critical scrutiny and challenge, within the particular context of their own local circumstances. That is the connection between Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, the City of London, and scores of other locations worldwide.” (source)
“New social movements based on open assemblies are emerging in ever more places in Europe and North America as a response to bank bailouts, unemployment, austerity measures and growing economic inequalities. This is not the first time in history that assembly movements have appeared, and there is a great deal to be learned from the gains and mistakes of such past experiences.
“One of the most recent instances appeared in Argentina in what has been called the first rebellion against neoliberalism in the 21st century. . . .
“Most of the assemblies in Buenos Aires sprung up in December 2001 and the first few months of 2002, but by the end of 2002 and early 2003 most of the assemblies had already disappeared and the movement had lost its momentum. Thompson offers two main explanations of why the assembly movement so rapidly vanished. The first is the exhaustion of its members due to the involvement and actions of political parties. The second is the concessions made by the government to the demands of the assembly movement, and the subsequent return of their trust in the state political system.” (source) (alternate)
“Movements today are truly global. They work in symbiosis, learning from and imitating each others' strategies. Occupy Wall Street reflects this: the call for Occupy protests came from Canada, the General Assembly structure came from Spain, and the outcry of "We are the 99%" came from Italy. Many occupiers took inspiration from our Tahrir Square; now, the Occupy movement across the United States is inspiring us in Egypt.” (source)
“Well, I think there are many reasons why this has worked. You know, obviously, we have a great history behind us. Tahrir Square, the indignados in Spain—these are movements that are, you know, very, very similar to our movement, you know, the way that we are organized: direct democracy, egalitarian values. These are things that we think deserve to be central in every movement, and we think that’s a big reason why we have been successful, is that our tactics and our values and our goals, they’re all the same.” (source)
Conduct of the protests: social netwar and swarming — Since John Arquilla and I did so much writing about swarming, and the future of conflict over a decade ago (esp. 1998, 2000, 2001), I’ve zeroed in on a spate of statements that highlight network organization and swarming (and counter-swarming) strategies and tactics in the conduct of the Occupy protests. The spread of social swarming by activists may well be the story of the year. Counter-swarming by police may turn into one of next year’s big stories.
[ADDENDUM — January 23, 2012: For additional background and references about swarming, see a long comment I left at the ZenPundit blog a while back. Also see a mostly-similar earlier discussion in a post here at my blog.]
“No doubt, Occupy is both a political movement and an early example of how the Net is profoundly enabling a reshaping of the status quo at multiple levels. Occupy's loose-knit web of hyper-agile, group-led "adhocracies" are — thanks to our growing addiction to social media — both inevitable and impossible to ignore. Can such digital organizations topple governments as we know them? If you count the Arab Spring movements, they already have. What's not so obvious is what comes next.” (source)
“At the bottom line, what sets a Swarm apart from traditional organizations is its blinding speed of operation, its next-to-nothing operating costs, and its large number of very devoted volunteers. Traditional corporations and democratic institutions appear to work at glacial speeds from the inside of a Swarm. That’s also why a Swarm can change the world: it runs in circles around traditional organizations, in terms of quality and quantity of work, as well as in resource efficiency.” (source)
“Last week, the movement crossed a threshold. A localized set of swarm events evolved into a distributed swarm network. . . .
“OccupyWallStreet is a new kind of political movement. . . . the movement is political, but this is a different kind of politics, which seeks to circumnavigate the tactics and fora of established political action. . . .
“OccupyWallStreet is not a political movement in the traditional sense. It is a countercultural swarm. We need to see it as a swarm to understand why people are drawn to it, and what makes it the most important political force on the planet today. . . .
“Swarm movements shape identity in a completely different way. First off, they are issue- or cause-based, rather than identity-based, movements. Instead of seeking to reduce the movement to a single set of grievances representing the struggles of a single group identity, swarm movements affirm the diversity of participants as their fundamental strength. This diversity is irreducible to a single identity, but it is powerful when focused on a common cause. . . .
”Swarms are vectors of mass transformation. They sweep across societies on the diagonal and reset political cultures in their wake. The protesters in Liberty Square and across the US are engaged in a more serious business than contesting dominant institutions. They are knitting together new cognitive maps based on peer-to-peer strategies and open source ethics and reworking politics from below.” (source)
“Today’s movements . . . arise in a world where the Web’s networked many-to-many architecture and the “individual super-empowerment” resulting from free global platforms enable individuals to take on giant institutions as equals. Networked movements, with virtually no permanent administrative apparatus, swarm giant institutions without warning and far beyond their power to cope.” (source)
“Small groups acting more or less autonomously toward common goals is a matter of principle as well as of pragmatism. These groups, in turn, can voluntarily coordinate with each other in spokescouncils. Operating this way reflects the kind of values that many in the occupation movement insist on: individual autonomy, consensus decision making, decentralization, and equality. . . .
“We already know that power structures which rely on violence are helpless against coordinated nonviolent action. During the civil rights movement, a highly structured and disciplined action in a segregated city like a sit-in or Freedom Ride had the capacity to confront the system in a very direct way, presenting the powerful a dilemma between violent overreaction and capitulation. Such actions, however, have since turned ritualized and generally ineffective in American protest movements. But Occupy Wall Street commends to us the anarchist insight that, in much the same way, hierarchical command structures are highly vulnerable to non-hierarchical action. . . .
“Diversity of tactics is a form of political disobedience par excellence, as its emphasis on autonomy rather than authority represents a direct contradiction to the kind of order that ordinary politics presupposes.” (source)
“The ultimate object of this is to overstretch an opponent’s resources and capacity to maintain the status quo — so that its own supporters and enforcers begin to doubt whether the existing system can be operated satisfactorily for very long. No oppressive or abusive system which is opposed by a popular, civilian-based movement is forever implacable; those who defend the system can lose their morale (or even resign or defect) as readily as that can happen to a movement, prompting the opponent to stand down or settle on terms advantageous to the people. The challenge for a movement is how to plan, innovate and sequence tactics so as to force that result.” (source)
“OWS currently consists of thousands/millions/hundreds of millions of cognitive nodes:
• Connecting/infecting new nodes. As part of this, the organization is generating memes, testing against live audiences, and dropped if counterproductive. Trying to build sufficient capacity before…
• Probing attack vectors. A botnet, like a storm, emphasizes growth of its own capacity before attacking (or raining). Mild DDoS on the Brooklyn bridge or around the Bank of America in SF. Anonymous phishing for corruption, etc. This is enabled by…
• Decentralized command and control. Perhaps more specifically, modular design. Each protest in each city is led by independent affiliates (if not further broken down). Crashing a protest in Ohio has no impact on the rest of the network.” (source)
“Lasn and White quickly hammered out a post-Zuccotti plan. White would draft a new memorandum, suggesting that Phase I—signs, meetings, camps, marches—was now over. Phase II would involve a swarming strategy of “surprise attacks against business as usual,” with the potential to be “more intense and visceral, depending on how the Bloombergs of the world react.” . . .
“No matter what happens next, the movement’s center is likely to shift from the N.Y.C.G.A., just as it shifted from Adbusters, and form somewhere else, around some other circle of people, ideas, and plans.” (source)
Conduct of the protests: counter-netwar and counter-swarming — Since these readings keep growing, I’ve separated out the ones that mostly concern police and other security responses.
“In short, the swarm attack is best met with counter-swarms — often comprised of local police and civilians working together or in tandem. . . .
“In an era when far more deadly adversaries than the criminals who wreaked havoc in England are combining swarm tactics with sophisticated communications technologies, recognizing that well-prepared civilians can play a key role in successful counter-swarm tactics is vital to a nation’s security.” (source)
“The raid against Occupy Wall Street came just days after similar actions to break up Occupy Portland and Occupy Oakland -- and a half-day before Occupy Toronto, Occupy Calgary, Occupy Zurich and Occupy London were similarly confronted by authorities. . . .
“On Monday, the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which conceived of the movement -- and apparently aware of the multi-city crackdowns yet to come -- said the protesters should “declare victory” and head indoors to strategize. "OWS isn't a geographical place so much as it is an idea and an attitude," spokewoman Balicki said.” (source)
“As cities across America evict encampments of the Occupy Wall Street movement, similarities of timing, talking points and tactics among major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs have led critics to wonder: Is some sort of national coordination going on? . . .
“But a little-known but influential private membership based organization has placed itself at the center of advising and coordinating the crackdown on the encampments. The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. The group has distributed a recently published guide on policing political events. . . .
“These current and former U.S. police chiefs -- along with top ranking police union officials and representatives from Canadian and British police -- have been marketing to municipal police forces and politicians their joint experiences as specialists on policing mass demonstrations.” (source) (more) (contrary critique)
“My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict. The “Battle in Seattle,” as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community.
“More than a decade later, the police response to the Occupy movement, most disturbingly visible in Oakland—where scenes resembled a war zone and where a marine remains in serious condition from a police projectile—brings into sharp relief the acute and chronic problems of American law enforcement. Seattle might have served as a cautionary tale, but instead, US police forces have become increasingly militarized, and it’s showing in cities everywhere: the NYPD “white shirt” coating innocent people with pepper spray, the arrests of two student journalists at Occupy Atlanta, the declaration of public property as off-limits and the arrests of protesters for “trespassing.”
“The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country.” (source)
“A few comments: This video, and others, illustrates a new era in the policing of protest. Now, basically any protest of significant size will likely be recorded by bystanders with smartphones. For example, when a protester was injured by Oakland police a few weeks ago, there was a video showing that the guy was just standing around. The immediate question is how the administration will deal. So far, badly. The long term question is how police departments will change in an age where everything is filmed.” (source)
“In short, bots will increasingly allow a VERY small group of people (in our case, a small group of plutocrats that act as the world's economic central planners) to amplify their power/dominance in a the physical world to a degree never seen before.” (source)
“It is reasonable to project that in a mere five years, a protest like Occupy Wall Street wouldn't be possible. Here's a scenario to get your head around how things will change due to the introduction of bots (every bit of tech seen below is available and in most cases deployed already):” (source)
“And here's one more thing I was wrong about: I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.
“But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government "committed" to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.” (source)
“So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.” (source)
Conduct of the protests: symbolic narratives and noopolitik — Many statements explain why the protesters have refused to compile and field specific policy demands, despite outside criticisms and pressures to do so. Instead, they have emphasized projecting the kinds of values, morals, and ethics that they think should brought (back?) into play. Education is deemed a key purpose, especially for the long struggle that is thought to lie ahead. Moreover, the protesters seem interested more in fostering bonds among themselves — solidarity — than in influencing outsiders. There is a media strategy to occupy minds, not just the physical environs. This reminds me of our RAND work on the concept of noöpolitik (1999, 2007), including our forecast that it would supersede realpolitik and favor nonstate actors as the information age deepens.
“I think it is a good thing that the occupation movement is not making specific policy demands. If it did, the movement would become about those demands. If the demands were not met, the movement would be seen as having failed.
“It seems to me that the OWS movement is moral in nature, that occupiers want the country to change its moral focus. It is easy to find useful policies; hundreds have been suggested. It is harder to find a moral focus and stick to it. If the movement is to frame itself, it should be on the basis of its moral focus, not a particular agenda or list of policy demands. If the moral focus of America changes, new people will be elected and the policies will follow. Without a change of moral focus, the conservative worldview that has brought us to the present disastrous and dangerous moment will continue to prevail. . . .
“Remember: The Tea Party sees itself as stressing only individual responsibility. The Occupation Movement is stressing both individual and social responsibility.” (source) (alternate)
"I would imagine the end game of any movement against Wall Street corruption is going to involve some very elaborate organization. There are going to have to be consumer and investor boycotts, shareholder revolts, criminal prosecutions, new laws passed, and other moves. But a good first step is making people aware of the battle lines." (source)
GET Strategy/open source ideology: From the beginning, the occupation was meant to take on a life of its own. Organizers and occupiers alike have not tried to maintain control of the message or methodology for spreading ideas or occupations. Anyone who wants to support Occupy Wall Street can just do something, trusting they'll be able to connect to the movement. Hence OccupyHistory and hundreds of like sites. . . .
GET Infrastructure/network amplification: Though the number of people in any individual occupation has tended to be small (relative to the biggest civil rights marches, say), thenumber of people acting as network amplifiers has been large. Bloggers like BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin have become key nodes for disseminating information as have internal activists. . . .
POST Idea/inadequacy of politics: Approval of Congress and President Obama are near all-time lows. The idea that our politics are not up to the serious tasks we face in fixing our economy and society has become widespread. Instead of pointing that out, as many have, Occupy Wall Street simply ignored mainstream politics. As the press clamored for position papers and lists of demands, OWS responded by paying no attention. There were two messages in that relative silence: 1) your media is inadequate to convey the scale of changes necessary and 2) your politics are inadequate to make the scale of changes necessary.” (source)
“OWS organizers are, moreover, acutely aware that the movement’s extraordinary potential lies in its ability to bring together a range of participants who coalesce maybe once in a generation: anarchists and Marxists of a thousand different sects, social democrats, community organizers, immigrants’ rights activists, feminists, queers, anti-racist organizers, capitalists who want to save capitalism by restoring the Fordist truce, the simply curious and sympathetic. Republicans like Eric Cantor have denigrated Occupy Wall Street as “a mob,” and the right-wing press has raised the specter of “anarchism” to distinguish OWS from populism. But it is, in fact, the movement’s emphasis on direct democracy, derived from anarchism, that has allowed such an unwieldy set of actors to occupy the same space. . . .
“At the moment, the movement’s energy is overwhelmingly directed at keeping this fusion of forces alive, to focus on what unifies—the common belief, for example, that capitalism is out of control and that the political system has broken down—rather than what divides; and to debate without hard preconceptions a range of solutions. As Kobi Skolnick, an Israeli-American activist who comes out of the peace movement, put it, “Socialism is a great idea. Anarchism is a great idea. Moderating capitalism is a great idea. We can’t afford to have an either/or mentality anymore.” It’s a message that even Occupy Wall Street’s revolutionaries can get down with, for now. As Alexandre Carvalho says, “We are on a path that goes to revolution, but it can pass through reform.”
“In this early stage, the movement seems both extremely fragile and extremely potent. The threats of police action, internal rancor, negative public opinion and burnout all loom; like the winter, some of those perils are unavoidable. But so far the Occupiers have pulled off a remarkable feat—to summon all the specters of left history and yet slip past the fatal noose of infighting. Who knows how long this will last? If it does, perhaps the culture of anarchism will be remembered as the left’s exonerator instead of as its hangman’s knot.” (source)
“The real support that non-occupying supporters can give the Occupy Wall Street movement, then, is to draw from it the conclusion that the time is right to go on the offensive, to move from Real Politiik to principled politics, to expose and attack the real roots of social injustice rather than only ameliorate their worst manifestations. If they are being accused of not formulating concrete and feasible programs to achieve their clear goals, there are plenty of other organizations and individuals around who can do so. Rather than blaming the occupiers for not doing it, let those who are working within the system re-double their efforts. The occupation movement is no substitute for the labor movement, for urban social movements, for radical think tanks, for insurgent political organization; it is rather a call to arms for their further mobilization.” (source)
“In this sense, claims of rights, perhaps in the form of manifestoes, rather than political laundry lists of demands, are indeed the way to go: understanding rights as statements of principles, sharp enough to reveal concrete positions on broad topics, perhaps with examples, but not confined to specifics. Occupy Wall Street is not a lobbying movement, but a movement for social change.” (source)
“Today, as the Occupy movements debate whether or not they need more concrete political definition, we need to understand what demands have the broadest appeal while remaining radical in an anti-systemic sense. Some young activists might put their Bakunin, Lenin, or Slavoj Zizek temporarily aside and dust off a copy of FDR’s 1944 campaign platform: an Economic Bill of Rights. . . .
“Today, of course, an Economic Bill of Rights is both an utterly utopian idea and a simple definition of what most Americans existentially need.
“But the new movements, like the old, must at all cost occupy the terrain of fundamental needs, not of short-term political "realism."” (source)
“. . . We have now entered the era of naked force. The vast million-person bureaucracy of the internal security and surveillance state will not be used to stop terrorism but to try and stop us. . . .
“The process of defection among the ruling class and security forces is slow and often imperceptible. These defections are advanced through a rigid adherence to nonviolence, a refusal to respond to police provocation and a verbal respect for the blue-uniformed police, no matter how awful they can be while wading into a crowd and using batons as battering rams against human bodies.” (source)
“Far more important than anything Occupy Wall Street achieves as a pressure movement, is what it will achieve as an education movement, teaching people ways to sustain themselves through peaceful production, cooperation, sharing and trade with other producers — all outside the corporate system. Far more important than what the demonstrators brought with them to Zuccotti Park will be what they take back home with them — a toolkit for fighting the system from where they live. Or as I put it in my previous column, “a general strike producing for ourselves.”” (source)
“The real purpose of the Metamovement, at least in North America and perhaps Europe, is not to get the corrupt political and economic corporatist 1% to cede power, or to reform itself, or to compel political leaders to dismantle it or tax it fairly or reform it on threat of replacing them with leaders who will. Only the hapless Tea Party faction of the Metamovement is naive enough to believe that can or will happen.
“The real purpose of the Metamovement, I would argue, is to re-engage the 99%, from the bottom up, community by community around the world, first to learn how things really work and what is really going on, and then to decide what actions need to be taken in response. In every nation and community the situation is different and the response that is needed will inevitably be different.
“The purpose of the Metamovement is education and then organization.” (source)
“To the extent direct actions are non-violent, to the extent they highlight the violence rained on those who occupy Tahrir Squares across the world, to the extent they begin to highlight not only the negative consequences of the 1%’s disproportionate influence within nations, but also the global flows of weapons across nations that reinforce injustices, we see not only a new expression of solidarity. We see a new meaning of solidarity too. This solidarity is not only about recognition and affirmation of those most like the Occupy movement. This solidarity recognizes the difference in struggles across the world, imagines the connections that make those struggles both similar and different, and shows how solidarity can be consequential. This could be consequential solidarity in the short run, and a different geopolitics in the long run.” (source)
“If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don’t come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history. . . .
“The most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is the construction of the linkages that are taking place all over. If they can be sustained and expanded, Occupy can lead to dedicated efforts to set society on a more humane course.” (source)
“The occupation isn't actually on Wall Street, of course. And while there is actually a street called Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, “Wall Street” is more of a concept, an abstraction. So what the occupation is doing is taking over a little (quasi) public square in the general vicinity of Wall Street in the financial district and turning it into something like an allegory. Against the abstraction of Wall Street, it proposes another, perhaps no less abstract story. . . .
“The taking of a tiny square in downtown New York hardly impinges on the power of the vector. It doesn’t even inconvenience the minions who work in the surrounding offices, but the actual occupation is connected to a more abstract kind of occupation, and the slightest hint that it could spread disturbs the fragile constitutions of the rentier sensibility. . . .
“The abstraction that is the occupation is then a double one, an occupation of a place, somewhere near the actual Wall Street; and the occupation of the social media vector, with slogans, images, videos, stories. . . .
“An occupation is conceptually the opposite of a movement. A movement aimed for some internal consistency within itself but uses space just as a place to park its ranks. An occupation has no internal consistency in its ranks but chooses meaningful spaces which have significant resonance into the abstract terrain of symbolic geography. . . .
“That it just doesn't do some of the things social movements do is part of why its working, at least so far. . . . For those who want a theory to go with the practice, you will have to look elsewhere than to Negri or Badizek (Badiou+Zizek). There's no multitude; there's no vanguard. . . .
“So as to how this plays out, nobody knows. That's how it is with weird global media events. It's a test of wills. . . . The key is keeping the focus on the abstraction that is Wall Street, the pernicious effects of which pretty much everyone feels in their daily life.” (source)
“After last week’s dead-of-night operation in New York to break up the protest site in Zuccotti Park, and similar actions in other cities, it is inevitable that Occupy Wall Street will eventually become more of an idea than a place. . . .
“. . . Still, Occupy Wall Street left many all revved up with no place to go. In addition to the 5 W’s — who, what, when, where and why — the media are obsessed with a sixth: what’s next? Occupy Wall Street, for all its appeal as a story, is very hard to roll forward.
“But if Occupy Wall Street seems inchoate and short on answers, it has plenty of company. . . .
“The people who make up Occupy Wall Street know enough to sense that a tipping point is at hand. Regardless of how the movement proceeds now that it is not gathered around campfires, its impact on the debate could be lasting and significant. If the coming election ends up being framed in terms of “fairness,” the people who took to the streets, battled the police and sat through those endless general assembly meetings will know that even though their tents are gone, their footprint remains.” (source)
“The narrative, the symbolic framing of the event specifically and the movement in general, once again, is in the hands of the protesters themselves. Unsure how to cover the movement, much of the traditional press has largely ignored Occupy with respect to the issues at stake. However, police brutality filmed by the protesters themselves has proven to be a powerful tool to capture national attention and sympathy on behalf of the movement.
“The police, once again, treated the crowd as if they only existed in physical space. But the crowd took photos, livestreamed and once again took charge of the symbolism. The lasting images of the raid have massive symbolic power: hundreds of officers dressed in heavy riot-gear looking prepared to handle terrorists or a dangerous drug cartel were barreling down instead on a couple hundred unarmed peaceful campers. The draconian and seemingly hyperbolic display of force proves powerfully symbolic in further reifying the “us” versus “them” framework Occupy has so far successfully pushed. . . .
“Police efforts to clear Occupations across the United States continue to grow (so far, occupations have been cleared in Atlanta, Denver, New York City, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Halifax in Canada). Thus, the Occupy movement has come to an inflection point: how can it continue to operate at both the level of the symbolic and simultaneously at the level of the physical? That double-punch has been a key to the movement’s success thus far.” (source)
“1. We should be non-violent because it is the right way to treat other human beings created in the image of God, and should not seek to create circumstances in which police violence is inevitably triggered unless we do so by ourselves being totally nonviolent in action and words. I’m in favor of non-violent disruptions of oppressive institutions (e.g. a sit-in in the Bank of America or in a Wall Street firm or in a corporation involved in illegitimate foreclosures or in producing military equipment or at the State Dept or the various offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Services given their vicious processes) as long as we keep a 100% non-violent stance. I do not think people need to sit down and get arrested–though that works in many cases; it is also legitimate to do nonviolent disruptions using mobile tactics in which demonstrators disrupt and then withdraw to disrupt somewhere else–as long as the demonstrators avoid destruction of property or creating a situation in which violence is inevitable. Non-violence does not mean passivity, but it must mean a fundamental respect for human life and for the dignity of human beings, including those with whom we strongly disagree. Our actions must reflect that sense of respect for the humanity of the Other–because that is precisely what is absent from the policies and practices of the 1% and those who do their bidding. 2. Though breaking windows or destroying property is not the same as breaking bones, it is perceived by much of the American public as a wrongful act, and a movement that engages in that activity quickly loses public support and isolates itself no matter how much the American public agrees with its goals. That is why the FBI and other elements of the “security apparatus” of the US government have consistently planted their youngest employees inside social movements with the goal of trying to encourage acts of violence so as to provide an excuse to repress those movements with public approval.
“But non-violence has not been the stance of the inner core at Occupy Oakland.” (source)
Starhawk, Lisa Fithian, and Lauren Ross:
“While we’ve participated in many actions organized with a diversity of tactics, we do not believe that framework is workable for the Occupy Movement. . . .
“The framework that might best serve the Occupy movement is one of strategic nonviolent direct action. Within that framework, Occupy groups would make clear agreements about which tactics to use for a given action. This frame is strategic – it makes no moral judgments about whether or not violence is ever appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a lifetime of Gandhian pacifism, but it says, ‘This is how we agree to act together at this time.’ It is active, not passive. It seeks to create a dilemma for the opposition, and to dramatize the difference between our values and theirs.” (source)
“At the same time as these successes, several crucial questions continue to pop up. Confusion – both amongst the media and some protesters ourselves – about demands, principles, and tactics has led many natural allies and regular folks who are sympathetic to the movement’s goals to refrain from joining in themselves. In response to those sentiments, and in the spirit of solidarity, here are some suggestions for my comrades to consider as we figure our next steps. . . .
“1. The Tents were Great, but It’s Time for Something New ... 2. Acknowledge the Complexity of the 99% ... 3. Beyond Violence vs. Non-Violence: Let’s Talk Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility ... 4. If the Police can Coordinate their Actions, So Can We ...” (source)
“The Occupation movement that is spreading across the country has a number of purposes, plays a number of different roles, in the struggle for justice and a better life in our world.
“A confrontation function, taking the struggle to the enemy’s territory, . . .
“A symbolic function, The occupations show the existence and extent of a demand for change of many sorts, . . .
“An educational function, provoking questioning, exploration, juxtaposition of differing viewpoints and issues, seeking clarification and sources of commonality within difference. . . .
“A glue function, creating a community of trust and commitment to the pursuit of common goals. . . .
“An umbrella function, creating a space and a format in which quite disparate groups can work together in pursuit of ultimately consistent and mutually reinforcing goals, . . .
“An activation function, inspiring others to greater militancy and sharper focus on common goals and specific demands. . . .
“A model function, showing, by its internal organization and methods of proceeding, that an alternative form of democracy is possible and the process of change need not involve a reversion to hierarchical command structures of some previous revolutionary movements.” (source)
Kalle Lasn (via William Yardley):
“Mr. Lasn said that he and Micah White, a senior editor who helped start Occupy Wall Street, are in regular contact with some prominent protesters but insists they have no interest in a continuing leadership role, nor is it their job to speak for the movement, even if Adbusters would like some credit for starting it.
““This is what Adbusters has done for the past 20 years, to come up with these memes and to propagate them,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about: may the best memes win.”” (source)
“It’s perfectly possible that this perception will be borne out, that the raucous events of November 17 were the last gasps of a rigor-mortizing rebellion. But no one seriously involved in OWS buys a word of it. What they believe instead is that, after a brief period of retrenchment, the protests will be back even bigger and with a vengeance in the spring—when, with the unfurling of the presidential election, the whole world will be watching. Among Occupy’s organizers, there is fervid talk about occupying both the Democratic and Republican conventions. About occupying the National Mall in Washington, D.C. About, in effect, transforming 2012 into 1968 redux. . . .
“The most savvy and hard-nosed of the prime movers agree, and think that moment is coming soon. “My take has always been that this movement must move in the shape of an octopus,” says Premo. “The head of the octopus moves forward with a solid critical analysis of our economic and political system, but the octopus has eight tentacles, which can begin to gain concessions. There were organizations within the civil-rights movement that had the demands that allowed everything that was accomplished to be accomplished. The SCLC, CORE, SNCC, all the organizations within that movement had specific goals. And that’s the moment we’re in now, when we’ll probably see our SCLC, our CORE, our SNCC emerge.”
“For that to happen, OWS will need to achieve at least four things. The first is to survive the winter, literally and metaphorically, going into hibernation rather than withering and dying. And in this regard, Mayor Bloomberg’s clearing of Zuccotti Park is likely to prove a boon to the Occupy forces, allowing them to stop expending so much energy on defending space and more on movement-building. The second, as Gitlin puts it, is “dealing with the crazy”—avoiding instances of violence and property destruction that would taint the movement’s image in just the way that Republicans and their media allies are attempting to. The third is that the protesters will need to put the conceit that the movement is leaderless behind them. For OWS to attract new adherents, it must have a clear and compelling voice, amplified by the media. The movement has many candidates who could step up and fill that void, if only the rank and file will permit it.
“Fourth and finally, OWS will need to navigate the fork in the road between radicalism and reformism.” (source)
* * *
For additional readings, see the addendums to Part I, Part III, and Part IV [pending].
Many thanks to posts by Michel Bauwens and his P2P Foundation blog for initially pointing out many of the foregoing readings.
Many thanks to Richard O'Neill, director of the Highlands Group and Highlands Forum, for his overall interest and encouragement.
Great article, David. It's ironic that you wrote this passage just as Occupy Your Homes was getting underway:
"So far, the Occupy movement has generated no major incidents that fully manifest swarming.... By some accounts, the swarming phase of the Occupy movement is just beginning; if so, it may take the movement in new directions against new targets, perhaps especially if the physical occupations of parks and other sites are ended."
Every imminent threat of a camp shutdown has been met with a wave of swarming threats, or of theoretical observations by outsiders that it would result in a transition of just the type you mention.
John Robb suggested, on the evening of Bloomberg's first eviction threat, that the movement might shift to a mobile strategy of random and unannounced flash-mobs at strategic sites like the homes, country clubs, etc., of bank CEOs and politicians. And Occupy Your Homes seems to be the beginning of that kind of shift.
The widespread shutdown of camps nationwide may signal the emergence of the butterfly from its chrysalis.
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