Beyond Occupy

by Martin Kich

Martin Kich

Martin Kich

The Occupy Movement has been the first major grassroots progressive movement in the United States in decades. But, at its core, the appeal of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been that it is politically unaffiliated, and that lack of structure, or, more precisely, that lack of structural purpose, has also been its undoing. Occupy Wall Street has been more successfully expressive of political discontent than persuasive about progressive remedies to that discontent mainly because persuasion requires objectives that can be targeted, if not always achieved.

Many Millennials seem to have an aversion to conventional politics, but if they ultimately want to build a third political party that is more truly progressive than the Democratic party has become, the quickest route to accomplishing that goal may be to build a movement within the Democratic party that can either re-assume control of the party or that can draw away enough resources, candidates, and voters that it renders what remains of the Democratic party inconsequential.

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Coin of the Realm: Sprawling Police State Brings the Wars Home

police_tankLife During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency
Edited by Kristian Williams, William Munger and Lara Messersmith-Glavin
AK Press, 2013

Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America
By Matt Apuzzo & Adam Goldman
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2013

Anyone who spent 10 minutes at an Occupy encampment knows that the police response was intense, invasive, unconstitutional and bordered on the deadly. In New York, Oakland, Boston and in hundreds of other locales nationwide, the police were not there to serve and protect nonviolent protesters, let alone the general public. To quote Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s infamous words during a week-long police riot against anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, his cops were there “not to create disorder but to preserve disorder.” Who can improve on Daley? Life During Wartime tries. I think it fails, though the trying is well worth the effort.

A ponderous book that’s impossible to read in one sitting, or even 10, it’s filled with much-needed information on counterinsurgency efforts at home and abroad. It chronicles mainstream institutions such as the media that serve to legitimize the existing social order and cool out, co-opt or crush dissent. It examines everything from state violence to an Orwellian manipulation of language. It also speaks to the capacity of social movements to act smarter in response. The breadth of its examples and the understanding of its 15 contributors of the depth of manipulation alone makes the book necessary reading. That’s where it succeeds. Continue reading

What Occupy Wall Street did in real time @ForRespect is going to do for real lives.

by Jim Nichols

(Nov 24) So I’ve got final papers for class to write so I don’t really have time to do the kind of in-depth structured/well-edited blog post I want to write on yesterday’s historic Walmart strike and the solidarity picket lines held all across the country.

Instead I’m going to throw out some of my thoughts and some of the pictures I shot from yesterday’s action here in Atlanta. Hopefully it’ll come out clear and coherent enough for you.

Pardon my ramble…

As someone who was watching the Occupy Wall Street movement quite closely from right out of the gate I can say that I’m feeling the same level of excitement with what transpired all across the nation yesterday that I felt with Occupy.

I remember sitting at the Occupy Atlanta General Assembly the weekend before OA voted to occupy the park being simply overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

I also remember quite clearly driving back into the suburbs that evening to meet up for dinner with the wife and some friends and being struck with internal confusion about the fact that neither my wife nor friends could really care less, nor quite catch on from my slight pokes and prods about the reasons for my jovial excitement in regards to what was about to blow up here in Atlanta.

I feel a similar sense of excitement about the efforts by employees at Walmart @ForRespect.

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Occupy Wall Street plans day of action, calls it a general strike

by Laura Clawson

Here we go again: Occupy Wall Street, I love much of what you do, but you don’t call a general strike unless you have some reason to believe—like, say, months of organizing and a ton of people committed—that people will actually stay out of work in response to your call. But no, Occupy Wall Street is calling for a general strike on May 1.
New York City’s unions aren’t on board even to the extent they’d be legally allowed to be. Their answer, even those most supportive of Occupy during the fall, is a pretty flat no—or would be if they’d been consulted about it. But at least some Occupy organizers say that doesn’t matter:

“Frankly there’s not enough union people in this country anyway, so even if you made every union person strike, you still couldn’t have everyone not working,” said Jeff Smith, an organizer since the beginning of Occupy.

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Piven: Labor Revival Needs Push From Outside and Below

by David Moberg

Francis Fox Piven

Frances Fox Piven, the City University of New York sociologist best known for her work on poor people’s movements (which led to unwanted attention as the bete noire of right-wing fulminator Glenn Beck), turned her attention last week to an oft-repeated question: “Can American labor recover?” Her short answer might be: Maybe (I hope so), but not on its own, and not without a push from outside.For more than a century, Piven told an audience primarily of University of Chicago graduate students, most visions of the left revolved in some way around the unions and their power to organize the working class at work and in politics, thereby disciplining capitalists and supporting social democratic gains or the flimsy U.S. “safety net.” At its high point after World War II until the 1970s, the unions created a “tacit social compact” with broadly shared benefits.

But the left, in and outside of unions, has also typically criticized unions and many of their leaders as too bureaucratic, oligarchic, stuffy; or too discriminatory against women, people of color, or workers in the secondary labor market. During the time of the social compact, despite support for some unions’ support of the civil rights movement or other political insurgencies, she said, unions gradually became more distant from other popular movements and less of a movement itself.

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After Dewey Sq: Where is The Occupy Movement Going in MA?

Sunday, March 4, 1:30-3:30 PM  The Democracy Center    45 Mt Auburn St (Harvard Sq.), Cambridge

Chris Faraone, The Boston Phoenix
Katie Gradowski, Occupy Boston
Betsy Boggia, Occupy Natick/Occupy the ‘Burbs
Moderator: David Knuttunen, Occupy Newton, Occupy Boston’s Free School University, and Boston DSA

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Stopping Evictions in Detroit

Steve Babson , People Before Banks

The Garretts

The scene is straight out of Charles Dickens: shortly before Christmas, bank officers notify an elderly couple that they will be evicted from their home of 22 years in the dead of winter. The Garrett family has fallen behind on the mortgage.

William Garrett, who is legally blind and disabled by stroke, can no longer work in his trade as barber and hairdresser. His son-in-law, whose name is on the mortgage and whose business has suffered in the slumping economy, can no longer help shoulder the cost. William and his wife Bertha are scrimping by on social security and disability payments of less than $700 a month. The sheriff has already sold the house at foreclosure auction to the bank for $12,000, and the court-ordered eviction was scheduled for January 31.

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Occupy! At CPAC

by Jo Freeman

Occupy! was a pervasive presence at the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held in Washington, D.C. on February 9-11.

In his kick-off speech on Thursday, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union which sponsors CPAC, gave the movement five paragraphs. [see sidebar] Seven minutes into Sarah Palin’s closing speech on Saturday she was interrupted by a dozen Occupiers yelling “mic check.” They were escorted from the ballroom while the audience yelled “USA, USA, USA” — a standard response at Republican rallies to drown out verbal disruptions. Once off the hotel grounds they read the statement they had not been able to read inside.

In between there were three demonstrations outside the conference hotel, zap actions inside, repeated referrals to Occupy by conference speakers, and a couple of panels inspired by five months of occupations all over the country.
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Occupy Wall Street and Labor: The Closest of Strangers

 by  Michael Hirsch

A sign on a lower Broadway storefront window just one block south of Wall Street reads “I can’t afford a lobbyist, so I organize.” The sign, one of many put up by Occupy Wall Street activists, sits inside a cavernous street floor space the United Federation of Teachers lent gratis to OWS for storage and coordination. The UFT, like other city unions, can afford lobbyists—subsidized by its own members through voluntary contributions. Like other city unions it operates an extensive volunteer political action arm, and massaging or muscling elected officials is seen as key to improving members’ wages and working conditions. And, like other unions in a state boasting the nation’s highest concentration of union households and home to the largest number of Fortune 500 mega-corporations and public-sector-union-averse think tankers, it also organizes aggressively.

Organizing and lobbying are tactics used by the Transport Workers, Service Employees, Communications Workers, AFSCME and Unite-Here, too— key supporters of the Occupy movement nationwide.  Yet the slogan hints at outstanding contradictions between two movements that view the world –at least right now—quite differently, even as its activists are building warm relationships with each other.

What labor and Occupy share is a common enemy in corporate America. What else shared is not so clear. Much of the discussion at a recent forum on “Can the Labor Movement and Occupy Wall Street March down the Same Road,” sponsored on Jan. 27 by The Murphy Institute, a graduate labor program at City University of New York, was about  fostering dialogue and the need to see things from others’ perspectives. Certainly the plague of joblessness, growing economic inequality, environmental genocide, needless military adventures and federal and state policies that reward the financial industry even after it sunk the economy are all powerful incentives for cooperation. But substantively, in my view, very little was exchanged.

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How “Occupy Our Homes” Can Win

by Amy Dean

An interview with anti-eviction organizer Steve Meacham of City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston

An Occupy Real Estate march in East New York protests bank foreclosures and encourages people to occupy empty buildings on December 6, 2011. (Photo: Brennan Cavanaugh)

Since most of the original Occupy encampments were evicted by wintertime, the question now is, what’s next for activists? One of the most popular suggestions is “Occupy Our Homes,” a campaign in which occupiers around the country would do actions at foreclosed houses or at bailed-out banks that are throwing people out of their homes. A national day of action on December 6 focused on this approach and featured home occupations or solidarity marches in 25 cities, including New York and Chicago.

Occupy Our Homes has three particularly good instincts.

First, it takes the general critique of inequality that the movement has been voicing – something often expressed in abstract charts and tables – and makes the issue concrete.

Since so many people in America are dealing with insecurity about their homes, the shift to doing foreclosure prevention and anti-eviction actions allows new groups of people  with a clear sense of their own connection to the struggle to engage with the Occupy movement. Social movements at their best are about helping people take their individual troubles and link them to a public problem and shifting the focus from trying to personally cope to taking collective action.

Second, the campaign connects the Occupy movement with organizing that has been going on for years. Community-based groups have been resisting foreclosures and evictions at least since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, if not before. Bringing the energy of Occupy to bear affords these campaigns more visibility and helps scale up local struggles, which can see themselves as part of a national movement.

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