December 4, 2011
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
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.
November 25, 2011
808. However, the other aspect of spirit’s coming-to-be, history, is that mindful self- mediating coming-to-be – the spirit emptied into time. However, this emptying is likewise the self-emptying of itself; the negative is the negative of itself. This coming-to-be exhibits a languid movement and succession of spirits, a gallery of pictures, of which each, endowed with the entire wealth of spirit, moves itself so slowly because the self has to take hold of and assimilate the whole of this wealth of its substance.
November 24, 2011
Since November 17th, students, non-students, workers and others have transformed through political occupation a formerly isolating, frigid and closed study space into a 24hour educational hub for not just all students, but all people. We have held this space for seven days and in that time we have set up multiple general assemblies, established a safer spaces group, dismantled institutional oppression with the immediate creation of gender neutral bathrooms, fed and housed over 200 people, provided teach-ins from an anti-capitalist perspective on the financial crisis and political struggle, and created a gathering place for political conversation. In reclaiming a New School building, a private university with astronomical tuition, there has been a sometimes pre-conceived perception of elitism and exclusivity; some have said they feel alienated, that the space is still too white, or that the theoretical discussion is too pretentious or academic. Some of these issues weren’t resolved nor they could have been resolved in such a short window. But this contradiction–where anti-capitalist/anti-racist debate is viewed as an elite politics–is precisely what we are in the process of shattering in this space. Hundreds of people have come to hear talks and have conversations about capitalism, revolutionary practice, anti-oppression, queer politics and international struggle. Most who have had problems in the space have consistently returned, recognizing that the politics surrounding the occupation are not solidified, but are instead immanent to the space itself.
Last night, November 22nd, marked the first attendance by many emphatic participants in the General Assembly. Through several manipulative acts, including the creation of a town hall that was somehow broadly attended in spite of a mere two hours notice, the Assembly was packed by antagonists including several faculty and a large group of students who had not previously been involved in the occupation. For many of us the large attendance was a success, but very soon it became clear that the sole goal of the majority of participants present was not discussion, but a yes vote for the destruction of the occupation. The intention was to disrupt any possibility of dialogue and to frame the voting of the assembly in the manner of representational politics and parliamentary theater.
At this assembly the faculty, the bureaucratic manipulators and students hand picked by administration revealed their faces. Arguments about race and alienation, couching pro-capitalist rhetoric and theatrical fear mongering, were used to disrespect and disempower the open assembly. Immediately after a perceived victory in “accepting” Van Zandt’s proposal, these individuals removed themselves from the process and demonized the continuing deliberation of the assembly’s remaining participants. We are writing to expose the misinformation and the constant sabotage that has being circulating through media and disseminated by specific individuals whose only purpose is to break this occupation from within. We also see this document as an opportunity to put forward a political perspective on these events, and on hopes for the future.
It is clear that we should not have trusted negotiations with the President of the New School about the security and the character of this occupation. After six days of dealing with this matter it is evident that it has caused fragmentation not only of the occupation itself, but poses a larger threat for the entire student struggle and the growth of the occupation movement. Political organizations still playing ping-pong on the back of the student body, in favor of specific ideological positions and with vested interests, have succeeded in the creation of media misrepresentation, the recruitment of students against the occupation, and the disruption of any possibility of dialogue. This has happened only for their own benefit to legitimate their bureaucratic actions, and to expand their conservative and archaic way of organizing. This method of organizing is one that they are unable to and refuse to transform when confronted with a movement that is against of any form of leadership or representation. The struggle can only develop with the opening of a space that is initiated by political praxis that remains open for any political analysis. Any jeopardization of autonomous practice will doom the struggle to failure.
November 23rd , 2011
March 11, 2010
Greetings, they varmints. In case you were beginning to think that NYC women couldn’t throw down like our comrades in Cali, here are some friends’ response to the recent shit-storm that’s erupted around the events of March 4th. They call out the way that the language of race and gender has been used to mask reactionary politics and erase active participants from militant struggle, while making clear that there is no excuse for the use of misogynistic language by friend or by foe.
Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires: A Statement Regarding March 4
Over the past few days, dozens of communiqués, letters, and statements have been circulating regarding issues of race, gender, and disrespect on M4. We have no intentions of addressing or disputing particular accusations or narratives regarding M4 in this statement; these things will inevitably be argued about elsewhere. Here, we attempt to discuss the language and politics that have been used in framing these issues.
As queer women of color, we feel as if we are trapped in the middle of all of this talk about identities. We have had, for some time, our own frustrations with and critiques of a number of white men with whom we have worked. At the same time, we are uncomfortable with the way in which the identities of “people of color” and “women” are being used to critique and condemn the events of M4, because we – as queer women of color – don’t agree with how these critiques and condemnations are being framed. In fact, we’re not just uncomfortable; we’re actually really angry about the way a small group of people, purporting to speak for the entire population of CUNY, has hijacked this rhetoric of talking about privilege and identity and deployed it in a fashion entirely too simplistic, generalized, and essentialist. Issues of privilege and identity are incredibly important to us and we wholeheartedly agree that they should be talked about. But as it stands now, identities like “person of color” and “woman” are being invoked in order to mask reactionary politics, and furthermore, are being employed in ways that contribute to the erasure of our identities as active participants in militant struggle.
Our political position is not one that comes from a platform. It is not even really a position so much as complete contempt for the system that forces us into the positions of “queer” “women” “of color” and everything that these socio-structural locations imply. White supremacy and patriarchy do not simply function by awarding some (white males) with privilege while denying it to others (women of color). Rather, the same mechanisms that create and maintain the identities of “women,” “queer,” and “people of color” also inflict their damage upon straight white men. And furthermore, we are all fucked over by capital and the commodity form indiscriminately. Liberal feminisms and anti-racisms taught us that we just want what rich white men have – but we have since come to realize that we do not want that either. Our socio-structural positions mean we are even more fucked over under capitalism than any rich straight white dude, and because of this, our need to destroy this world is infinitely more urgent.
One of the major lines of discourse over the past few days has been about how a group of “outside agitators” attempted to get wild without the consent of the Hunter student body. We do not need the “consent of the people” – and when you sound like the fucking Constitution, it’s difficult to believe you really understand the material conditions of being a queer woman of color under capitalism. We cannot sit on our hands until “the masses” decide to act.
Of course, increasing capacity is crucial to building a critical mass of individuals who have the ability to shut down the system: a clandestine vanguard is not the answer. In a situation like M4, people are becoming aware of their collective anger and their collective desire to do something more than stand around and chant. This anger can be facilitated by working to stoke the fire or, alternatively, can be slowed when radicals prematurely throw logs onto the flames before people are in the moment. This is not to suggest that folks are not already angry or that they need to talk about their feelings to come to the realization that they’re against the system; rather, it’s to point out that there are better and worse ways to increase our revolutionary capacity. This is a conversation about tactics, one with important ramifications for “oppressed identities” most affected by capitalism and ineffective action against it – but it has been framed as though the privileged want action, while the oppressed want peace. We oppose this dichotomy wholesale: we assert that it is in fact the most privileged who have the luxury not to contemplate these issues in terms of effectiveness and totality.
The Hunter walk-out was called in response to a national statement from California demanding a general strike. The group who organized at Hunter in the weeks leading up to M4 included many of those denounced as “outside agitators” – individuals who were from the beginning interested in a day of direct action. A vote for having an indoor demo was passed by a coalition of (mostly) Hunter students. There was a framework in place for militant action to occur – if anyone hijacked anything, it was the people who colluded with campus security, the Hunter administration, and the police (these are all synonymous) by herding folks outside. This effectively crushed the radical potential of the indoor demo, and reduced the action to a PR event for the Left.
Some have claimed that the speakers at the rally were composed of women and people of color, and that interrupting them was misogynist and racist. We disagree with this employment of critiques of privilege. We are not against “straight white boys”; rather, we are against the processes that create and maintain these identities of “women of color” and “straight white boys.” Whether or not the speaker at a rally is a woman or a person of color or queer is irrelevant in this moment: when she is speaking AT the crowd, when she is colluding with the State to crush militant potential, when she is maintaining the systems that oppress us, she is a politician. She is our enemy. To assume that a woman of color has our interests at heart, simply because she is a woman of color, is essentialist: fuck Condoleezza Rice.
We realize that some are put at risk by introducing arrestability to situations. We cannot dispute this. Some of us have been relegated to solitary confinement when arrested with a group of white people for no other reason than being brown, we have been sexually harassed in jail, we get slapped with more charges than our white friends. We are fully cognizant of the fact that some people are exponentially more susceptible to arrest, brutality, and sexual assault for no reason other than their skin color and/or gender. That said, these are also vulnerabilities we face walking down the street. Being arrested in a political situation means we are more likely to be protected to a certain extent from these possibilities. Our politics demand solidarity: we do jail support to keep tabs on those in custody, we know how to sweet-talk the bailiff to speed up the process, and we know how to get hooked up with lawyers – all of which mitigate the dangers that follow being arrested. Blaming the escalation of tactics for our vulnerability completely denies the fact that it is the cops who are doing the arresting, the state that presses charges, and white supremacy that puts us more at risk for arrest.
Finally, it bears mention that the reactionary use of politics based on race and gender obscures much more important conversations about racism and misogyny. It is crucial that we address the sexism of a dude using the word “cunt” as an insult, and more importantly, of furthering shame and stigma around STIs – which is problematic in and of itself, but also hampers the disclosure of STI status that is necessary for informed consent. More generally, “playing the race/gender card” to talk about strategic and political disagreements – for example, using the term “anarcho-imperialist” to create a narrative about “white downtown anarchists” rolling into the “POC” CUNY campus uninvited with intentions to colonize – makes it even more difficult to call out legitimate instances of racism and misogyny.
Perhaps some tactical missteps were made in the course of the events on M4. This is another conversation, one that should – and will – be had. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that something is always better than nothing: everyone is already complacent, already alienated. California said March Fo(u)rth – not stand around.
Some Queer Women of Color
Brooklyn, New York
Following Thursday, March 4th’s Berkeley to Oakland march and rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza for the statewide strike and day of action against budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs to public education, a second march commenced. 200-250 students, educators, and activists marched from the close of the rally to the exterior of Mark Yudof’s office for a street dance party. The group then made their way toward the I-880 freeway, where 150-200 elected to enter on foot to shut down traffic.
All traffic slowed to a stop, and no individuals were in in any danger of being struck by automobiles. The riot police pursued them as they hopped over barriers in an attempt to make their way to the Jackson street off-ramp. As police closed in, most of the group sat down in anticipation of being arrested.
The police were violent with many of the protesters, using excessive force with their riot batons. None of the arrested were reported to be carrying weapons of any kind, and none were attempting to attack any of the officers. The police shut down the freeway in both directions, handcuffed and escorted the marchers to the Jackson street offramp where police busses slowly arrived to take the prisoners to North County and Sana Rita Jail facilities.
155 individuals were reported to have been arrested, in addition to some minors who were released into the custody of their parents. Francois Zimany was taken to the hospital after either falling, jumping, or being pushed by police off of the freeway, and is now at home with his family. The group was held over night, and released periodically throughout the day on Friday.
You can learn more by visiting indybay.org. All photos were taken by BLR DJ Paisley Cuttlefish who was among those arrested. She sustained a bad fracture to her elbow after being hit with a police baton.
February 28, 2010