Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Problems of Occupy: Condescensed version.

The Core of the problem.

Bad theory leads to bad practice and vice versa in a horrible feedback loop.

Bad understanding.

If you fail to understand the problem then you fail to know how to respond and offer naïve unthought out solutions.

Occupy failed to understand this simple truth:- in a capitalist society money is power, money equals overwhelming influence.Therefore those who have the most money have overwhelming influence over governments and government will voluntarily or by necessity bend their will to meet their wishes. Governments rely on the economy to function and so must do whatever those with the most money need. There is no way to sever this link other than to abolish capitalism and the state.

 The problem of Liberal theory.

Liberal theory in occupy lead to reformism, pacifism, class collaborationism, being pro-police, not being anti-capitalist,

The problem of  the slogan "we are the 99% vs 1%".

"We are the 99"  and "The 1%" is problematic because it is vague about what it is referring to. It suggests that none of the occupiers are or could be oppressors, that the oppressors are distant and some evil group rather than systems themselves. It personifies the oppression whereas the oppressions are systems, patterns of thought and action especially those in institutions which  oppress people. It is not about criticizing individual capitalists who may or may not commit wrongdoing but the system which encourages them to act and think in those ways.

The vagueness of "We are the 99%" attracted everyone and lead the occupy movement in often opposing directions. Attempting to be a popular front organisation does not work. Normally popular fronts are sold out by the most pro-establishment forces or destroyed by the more authoritarian ones or become a mockery because of the most inoffensive liberal or conspiracy tendencies.
 If Occupy had declared itself a left wing group it could have excluded right wing elements especially fascists, racists, right-wing libertarians etc.

A basic statement of principles would've clarified what occupy was opposed to and could have sketched roughly what it supported instead. It did not have to offer a blue print and I think that (1) is impossible and (2) is deeply undemocratic to do so. But Occupy should've said what it was about. This would've meant that conspiracy theorists, right-wing libertarians, anti-feminists etc lost interest and would've helped to keep them out.

 "we are the 99%" led to an ignoring of privilege and privilege theory  which was fed by having no or insufficient safer spaces policy.

"We are the 99%" lead to a misunderstanding that the police were on our side whereas history shows differently that they are the last resort of the state and capitalist class when propaganda, lies and ideology fail to trick people. Any movement which fails to understand this and take it truly seriously by failing to prepare mentally and physically, will face the violence of the state and will be crushed. If the movement aims to be revolutionary and is serious about it,  it cannot be a pacifist organisation.

Camping was useful for provoking debate and getting the movement going and being pre-figurative(building the society we want to see) in a sense but quickly got the movement bogged down in it's day to day running and failed to deal with it's own issues. It also had potential to draw in people we couldn't deal with or to created a 'US campers' vs everyone else mentality.

I don't think occupy had to have demands. Revolution or just to reclaim public space was enough of a demand. Demands meant reformism and being co-opted. Though it could've benefitted from coherence and clarity about whether it was a movement which aimed to reform capitalism and the current system or to abolish capitalism and the current system and replace it with something else. Those two goals are incompatible if reforming capitalism is an ultimate end goal for one group and that is where they stop.

To improve:-

  1. Must recognise that 99% is problematic for implying or camouflaging diversity and subsuming it into a homogenous mass which didn't help the problems of privilege and oppression( the countless records of sexism, homophobia, racism the rape in Glasgow, Sexual harassment) existing within the camp. 99% implies it's the 99% vs the 1% which implies that the 99% is not divided within itself and/or cannot be oppression to each other which is untrue and dangerous
  2. Must have a basic statement of principles explaining in simple language what the problem(s) are and how it aims to work towards tackling them and what it aims for roughly instead- without having to provide a fully fleshed out blueprint. A statement of principles would make excluding conspiracy theorists, racists,anti-feminists etc possible.
  3. Must understand that all oppression is interdependent and interconnected and you must tackle it all otherwise you don't truly tackle any oppression.
  4. In accord with that must have a proper safer spaces and worked out procedure for dealing with breaches of the safer spaces policy.
  5. must engage with local communities.
  6. must not go to parliamentary politics , must not affiliate with politicians or political parties. Must be grassroots and direct action orientated.
  7. Must explicitly adopt ways of challenging informal hierarchies and remain committed in principle and in practice to being a leaderless movement
  8. Must become better organised.

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