The following text comprises a presentation and analysis of the Occupy movement in the United States, by the Lost Children’s School of Cartography. The text was used as a basis for an event on the Occupy movement, that took place at the Skaramanga occupation in Athens, on November 25th, 2011. The brochure published for the event, including this text in Greek, along with the video screened on the night are available here.

Lost in the Fog: Dead Ends and Potentials of the Occupy Movement 

Introduction

So what do you make of this Occupy movement in America? Of course it is the news that everyone wants to hear about. Al Jazeera claimed shortly after the encampment near Wall Street was founded that the Occupy movement in America was facing a mainstream “media blackout.” But in reality, it seemed that nearly every media source was dedicating coverage nationally and internationally. Despite all the press, if one added up the total number of participants in the fledgling occupations throughout America at that time, he would end up with far less than the total number of demonstrators at a general strike in Athens, or a single American anti-war demonstration from 2004.

This alone should serve as a cause for skepticism, although perhaps it is only predictable that in America, of all places, a social movement would arise firstly as the mere spectacle of revolt. After all, its initial coordinators intended from its inception that the Occupy movement of America be a copy of a copy. The genuine, spontaneous, and seemingly unstoppable surge of rage–the insurrection–in the Arab world had already been watered down into the pacifist indignados movement of Europe. Next the American radicals who called for an occupation of Wall Street would try to copy-and-paste the indignados movement to America by sprinkling a tactic–occupation–on what they hoped would prove grounds fertile enough to grow a movement.

That movement now seems to be swept up in its own momentum, and every day there are new developments in what seems to be a genuinely unpredictable and leaderless social reaction. While the occupations were perhaps first populated by the same cliques of activists who had championed the previous failed American social movements, the encampments and demonstrations have grown because they have attracted the self-identified American “middle class.” As American society comes under further blows of the so-called “crisis” of capitalism, the illusion of middle class comfort dissipates, revealing its previously hidden, but now more apparent, dispossession. The Occupy movement is an opportunity for the middle class to protest the “unfairness” of their proletarianization. In part thanks to widespread disillusionment with political representatives, previously non-activist citizens are suddenly eager to participate in an activist social movement. Paradoxically, the brightest hope we can find in this situation is also the grimmest fact: the increasingly dire economic situation is not turning around, and life will not go back to the way it once was. It is precisely because the movement for a preservation of the illusory American dream is doomed to fail that the Occupy movement has the potential to supersede itself.

Of course, regardless of its active decomposition, the middle class carries its values into the movement–the ideological values of the good citizen. One could characterize the Occupy movement as a citizens’ movement for the survival of capitalist democracy in a moment ripe with potentials for true rupture. Here, self-described radicals, anti-authoritarians and in some cases even anarchists may play the most critical but hidden roles in recuperation, if in their well-intentioned attempt to “build the new world in the shell of the old” they actually succeed at protecting the core of the old world in the shell of the new. (We will elaborate on this in a moment.)

But there is also a beautiful discord within the situation. The Occupy movement can hardly be summed up by any particular ideological stance, and its greatest potentials spring from its chaotic features and resistance to definition. Anarchists who have stubbornly refused any participation in what they have disregarded as merely a bourgeois movement have safeguarded their identities as the most radical of all at the cost of guaranteeing their own irrelevancy in the developing situation. In order to move the Occupy movement in the direction of genuine upheaval, anarchists must participate to cause sustained and intensifying disruption and destruction of the apparatuses of capital in order to make this movement a threat to capitalism, aiming to outflank the state by generalizing these tactics. We will also explore the developments in this direction so far as well as some future potentials.

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Defend Capital?

May 3, 2010

Reactionary news blog Gothamist has posted a new video from the May Day action at which several corporate storefronts, including American Apparel, got their windows smashed. In the video, a hip looking dude (possibly an American Apparel Loss Prevention Officer) gets punched in the face while calling the police on the march. Hilarity ensues.

The video is made by a group called “Defend Capital.” A commenter by the same name left this reply on the article:

On May 1, the police arrested 5 persons of seemingly anarchist descent on suspicion of hooliganism after 3 patrons of the SoHo American Apparel bravely responded to a broken window by threatening to “fuck everyone up” and then just calling the cops. We were those brave patrons. This is a call to defend capital.

This is a call to all of my well tanned, gym going, condo owning/leasing brothers and sisters to defend the stores we love from a rising tide of anticapitalism. To all wall street analysts, advertising professionals, celebrities, journalists of a certain caliber, famous chefs, legacies, and confused members of the middle class. Do you want your luxurious lifestyle to go away? Your Gaps and American Apparels? Your iPhones and iPads? Do you want to be equal to the guy who makes your latte?

No?

Then Defend Capital!

Cause thats what these anarchist or communist or whatever the fuck they are punks want.

So Defend Capital from gross crust punks that are always ruining my day by asking me for change when I try to hang out on St. Marks. Defend capital from shoplifters and worker sabotage (snitch on your coworkers!). Defend Capital from student protesters, insurgents, taliban, Al qaeda and all the other terrorist assholes on teh news. Defend Capital from its own youth, who’ve learned to hate it so passionately. But most of all Defend Capital from those who have none.

– Defend Capital

We’ve been getting some calls and texts that a May Day breakaway march caused havoc in the East Village today around noon, with several banks and corporate stores smashed up. More information to follow.

The crisis is not a natural disaster that simply happens; the crisis is the outcome of the choices of all those who want to maintain this system, in which we are exploited, repressed and governed. Their proposals on how to come out of the crisis do not differ from suggestions on how the existing situation could be reinforced and take root. Our propositions can be nothing less than strikes and solidarity, occupations and sabotage, expropriations and mutual help… in order to create the world that we choose for ourselves, against all kinds of segregations and hierarchy.

-Assembly of the revolted in (the island of ) Salamina, (and the neighborhoods of) Perama, Keratsini, Nikaia, Koridallos, Piraeus

While the IMF meets in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Greece’s financial troubles have continued to deepen. Greek Prime Minister Papandreou chose the remote Aegean island of Kastelorizo on Friday to announce his government was to activate the IMF-EU “rescue” plan, effectively throwing the proletariat and lower middle classes in the country at the mercy of international financial giants. IMF loans always have nasty strings attached, rules that force the recipient to re-structure their economy along a neo-liberal, privatized, U.S. friendly model due to the influential U.S. position in the IMF.

The current situation in Greece has many similarities to the IMF crisis in Argentina in 2002 that sparked a nation-wide rebellion and created a of worker-run businesses in its wake. Add to this crisis the recent revelations that the Greek ruling class has been evading paying its share of taxes for years, and you have a country that is turning into a powder keg.

This is social war at its peak; this is the guarantee that the Greek standard of living will be crushed, and that a dictatorship of capital shall reign.

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Advance The Struggle

Tables of Contents

  1. Introduction to March 4th
  2. October 24th Compromise
  3. City committees: Oakland and LA, Class Struggle Left Committees
  4. San Francisco: Center Wins Over Left
  5. UC Berkeley vs. UC Santa Cruz: Campus Committees Choose Focus
  6. UC Davis and CSU Fresno: Central Valley Consciousnesa
  7. Seattle: Worker-Student Power
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
    1. Canada Community College
    2. UC Berkeley marches to Oakland
    3. Youth lead in Oakland
    4. CCSF

I. Introduction

Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born.

– Hegel

March 4th provides us with a snapshot into the strategic and theoretical frameworks used by the Left to understand, develop and radicalize consciousness; we begin to see patterns emerge as this consciousness is translated into working class action, and we begin to ask ourselves what is needed to learn from these actions and begin developing a revolutionary consciousness and practice to address the ongoing crisis of capital.

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Press Release from the I Am collective:

Today in Brooklyn NY, the NYPD entered without a warrant 13 Thames Art Space, a Bushwick based art and performance space where members of the Independent Anarchist Media (I AM) Collective have been organizing the Fourth Annual NYC Anarchist Film Festival in honor of Brad Will.

Two plainclothes detectives entered first, followed quickly by a Lieutenant and vans full of blue shirt officers. After corralling everyone present in the back room, they searched the space and detained two members of the collective.

The I AM collective was preparing for the NYC Anarchist Film Festival, a showcase of resistance movements and insurrectionary events from around the world presented from an anarchist and anti-authoritarian perspective.

Our response to the raid: regardless of these attacks, the film festival will happen as planned on Friday April 16, 2010 at Judson Memorial Church. The voice of decentralized creative communities will not be silenced by police repression. They cannot raid us, because we are everywhere.

Trailer for the Film Fest:

Takethecity.orgRecent events have raised many important questions: What does a real and vital movement look like?  What is the nature of leadership in struggle?  Is there a ‘correct’ way for us to fight against our conditions? Below is a statement from some friends addressing theoretical and practical concerns that have arisen in the last month or so.

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“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language…. The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.”  Karl Marx – 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The above quote is just as integral to revolutionary struggle in the 21st century as it was for France in 1852.  Across the vast human topography of class society, clear lines are being drawn between those who parody and fetishize the movements of dead generations in order to dominate the movements of today, and those who seek to expand forms of praxis and theory created in the current cycle of struggle, through the self-directed struggle of workers and students themselves.

After several weeks of smears, ad hominem attacks and political diatribes, the conversation surrounding the events of March 4th has finally shifted to the terrain of tactics and ideology.  The small segment of humanity actually paying attention to this debate has been gifted with lapidary critiques of Anarcho-Imperialism, Anarcho-Situ-Autonomism, Demand-Nothingism, and – most recently — dangerous, “anger-based” Anarcha-Feminism.  While these critiques are coming from various activist quarters, they all focus their attention on the supposed Take The City “Organization.”  Each of these critiques (even if accurate) could land only a glancing blow, because the people who comprise their opposition are neither a party, nor an association nor even a website.  In fact, the alleged saboteurs of March 4th, the occupiers of last April, the self-proclaimed “bitches,” the militant feminists, and many others are merely tendencies within a larger, informal network.  This group has no party-line, no hierarchical structure and little theoretical unity.  The only thing that unites us is camaraderie and solidarity on the one hand and an understanding of direct action and self-organization on the other.  The following is a partial critique, by one tendency within this group, of the tactical and theoretical composition of what has been called the ‘student movement’.

Can a couple hundred students at an outdoor rally at Hunter be considered a movement?  Can six or seven hundred people standing in a Midtown police pen be considered a movement? The reason the NYC ‘student movement’ must be put in quotations is because the label is largely self-flattery.  We hope to show below that the tactics of the coalition of movement-builders are, at best, unhelpful to the development of a strong and vital movement and, at worst, preventative of one.

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