June 5, 2012
Please delete or suspend all general OccupyWallStreet/NYCGA fundraising buttons

I suggest people stop donating directly to , which is flush with cash. Move money to local occupies or .

Tweeted on October 17th, 2011. Retweeted over 35 more times.

Soliciting donations to something that doesn’t exist

Nycga.net, and now Occupywallstreet.net, host a button to an account that is obsolete. It is to a general OccupyWallStreet fund that is directly controlled by the Accounting Working Group, and whose funds are supposed to be under the control of the New York City General Assembly. There is not New York City General Assembly. Therefore, the button must be erased. There need not be any decision made in any body that doesn’t exist. The button must simply be deleted. If the General Assembly returns, the button can return, but without a body to make decisions over the fund, without the body even existing that the fund is a donation to, the fund itself must cease to exist.

There is no argument to keep it. You can’t suggest “We need to get consensus” in a body that doesn’t exist. Period. So shutter the button and stop receiving donations.

Does this mean fundraising should stop? No. But all fundraising from henceforth should be intentional and directed. The idea that the NYCGA would have a general fund was foolish to begin with, and laid us open to graft, a resource war, and what everyone should agree was the deevolution of the General Assembly, which slid into becoming a chaotic foundation offering grants. That is the very type of institutional bureaucracy people like me are completely uninterested in participating in, and there are plenty of foundations to promote in that way without creating a new one. A new one with far worse issues of accountability.

It also became a massive security issue. It opened OccupyWallStreet up to investigation and the entrance of a legion of vultures and leeches who sought to swindle and scam money out of this massive budget. And those swindlers helped kill the energy and imagination that we had been creating.

How to Keep Fundraising

Instead, we should receive donations to very specific funds which are controlled by specific working groups or collectives. For example, the Tech-Ops Working Group should have its own fund. The NLG and a bail fund make absolute sense. Outreach, the Street Medics, Livestreamers, Arts & Culture (or individual artists), and perhaps specific political projects like Liberation Summer, F the Banks, and the Summer Disobedience School could have their own buttons, using wepay, indiegogo, or kickstarter.

But there should be no general fund, especially without a body which it allegedly funds. Delete the button and stop taking donations into that account.

May 2, 2012
3 ways New York City OWS should assess May Day

The big day is done and the energy spent. How do we look back on a single day that was the culmination of hundreds of other days of collective efforts to promote, build and create an experience that can move us forward? Here are the three ways that I think it is useful to honestly review New York City’s May Day, from an Occupy Wall Street perspective.

The Expectations

Looking at May Day from a perspective of the massive expectations is not going to be pretty. Promotional materials overwhelmingly declared a General Strike, and the actual participation in the strike could hardly expected to have been a single percentage point of the workforce, shoppers and students. It was not a general strike, though it was billed as such.Strikes are not personal choices that individual workers or students make- they are conscious decisions by a workplace or by the working class and its allies as a whole.

Many declared that tens of thousands of people would be in the streets, and the numbers did not cumulatively build up to over twenty thousand, according to someone who does headcounts. It was suggested the city would see its largest shut down ever, but it paled in comparison to some surrounding the Iraq War and the Republican National Convention, not to mention the blackout, the transit strike, and other events. The 99 Pickets largely did not happen, in what instead became a roving and merging series of marches that visited multiple sites. The tunnels and bridges functioned normally, and there was no insurrection on Houston. The expectations were set as high as the greatest mountains, and they were not nearly met. There’s a clear lesson for next time. Don’t bluff, or expect your language to simply create the conditions for the realization of your goals.

The Day in itself

The day in itself was arguably pretty great. Bryant Park probably topped off at two or three thousand people, who broke into large picket lines of between eighty and 674 at nearby labor disputes and corporate headquarters. A march of 1,471 people followed the Guitarmy down to Union Square. There was a weak emphasis, however, on promoting next steps or creating space for new participants and attendees to plug in and feel a sense of commitment.

Union Square Park in particular needs to be understood in the context of New York City’s previous May Days. On the one hand, it was the united mass that had failed to materialize when two separate May Days happened at Union and Foley Squares in previous years, and that is a particularly exciting development.

Perhaps 15,000 people were in Union Square, and more than 11,000 were in the march down toward Wall Street, which should be seated in the reality that in the last few years’ May Days, I personally counted between eight and ten thousand marchers. The sad reality is that the unions, and I am a radical who is still pro-union, could have brought out numbers that brought the day up to forty to seventy thousand, or far more, but they chose not to exert their energy. The numbers themselves belie the significance of Occupy Wall Street. OWS was never strong based on numbers, and likely has never seen over twenty or thirty thousand in the streets of New York, numbers dwarfed by the many hundreds of thousands in the streets against the war in Iraq and Bush in 2003 and 2004. But OWS hit nerves and created space for mass participation. Don’t count the heads or feet, count the hearts and minds. Leave counting the bodies to me.

Students did walk out, inspired by OWS. Some businesses were indeed closed, hundreds joined together across the Brooklyn Bridge, the marches felt positive, and the assemblies on Water St gave a space for speech. A united mass march, the united action of Brooklyn-based occupy assemblies,  and the coalitions that kept the day together are of particular note.

Militants engaged in a Wildcat March, one of many unpermitted marches, that did not steepen repression for the rest of the day’s participants, and hardly gave the press anything to divert attention away from the political significance of the day. Several other alleged militant marches failed to materialize. Far fewer were arrested than expected, though the over ninety arrests throughout the day did measure up to the worst arrest toll since November, and few if any will need bail.

The day was also notable as a day which was not at all strong on direct action. In point of fact, I’m not sure I can point to any at all outside of the few work stoppages or student walk-outs. But it was still a great day, and most responses I heard on the ground were positive and filled with hope. The day was not groundbreaking, but people felt an energy that comes from numbers, standing together in coalition, and variety of creative actions. Those left in the streets at the end had to deal with some police repression and a sense of confusion at the next steps, but most people left feeling that they were not alone in their indignation and desire to act against structural inequalities, termed capitalism or corporate greed or austerity.

Today for Tomorrow

The final, and perhaps most important, evaluation comes not from the yesterday or the today, but from the tomorrow. Were next steps actions well promoted? Did demonstrators see the significance of returning to the streets, the workshop spaces, the assemblies or actions of the ensuing days, weeks, or months? And did people leave with heightened energy that will propel us forward.

It’s hard to tell, but I think on these levels it may prove lacking. The May 10-15th days of action (#anotherNYC) were hardly discussed. Liberation Summer and the Summer Disobedience School did not become the watch phrases. Plans for further engagement at Sothebys, Capital Grille, and other local labor struggles may not have immediately panned out. Many people who had not felt a leg into OWS in months definitely came out, and some of them will be people mobilized as actors, not simply bodies in the streets.

Nothing was occupied or maintained in the way that we saw on March 17th and again over the next five weeks, where hubs and excitement over spontaneous shifts were seen at Union Square, Wall Street and Nassau, or the Federal Hall steps. Coming out of March 17th in particular, Occupy Wall Street found a reinvigorated sense of street and plaza presence and a dynamic capacity to adapt to changing conditions in those streets. It remains to be seen if May Day inspired a similar effect.

Concluding

None of this is to take a one sided perspective of May Day, or to shit on people’s incredibly hard work. But we should tell no lies and claim no easy victories in the words of Amilcar Cabral. Our honest capacity for self-criticism and assessment helps us see what works and what doesn’t, and in a rapid and constant beast like OWS, allows us to look at where we are at in any given phase or period. May Day was a beautiful day in itself, a day that simply could not reach its massive expectations, and its effect on the immediate days, month or months afterward remains to be seen. New York City is a great city capable of some spectacular forms of resistance and creative experimentation with direct democracy, just as other cities have very distinct strengths in those fields. Occupy Wall Street is not going away, and our persistent work toward the campaigns and struggles that we plan or spontaneously move toward will take us forward. Just so long as we take pauses to assess that work and where we find ourselves.

April 2, 2012
Believing a Republican win will usher in a social revolution is an infantile disorder

For those of you who didn’t turn away right at the title, I have some really cogent analysis up ahead. Okay, not really cogent. It’s actually a little ‘correlation is causality’. But let me indulge. The perspective \one gets from some fellow #OWS radicals on this topic suggest the same poor sense that I’ve heard from dear friends for at least all of these years since Bush was handed the state of Florida in 2000.


1967

The Black Panther Party is founded. Seven years of Democrats and there is a vast and increasing antiwar/anti-imperialist movement. Open rebellion in the streets of scores of cities had long since been waged by oppressed people. Before 1969, many other communities had formed their own Black Panther auxiliaries.Years of Civil Rights struggles, social upheaval and opposition to war become something different. A viable assault on the system itself. Begun under LBJ’s watch.

1999

The response to exploitation by common people is in disarray. The left has focused on environmentalist, prison, police brutality and sweatshop organizing. These issues begin to merge until the despair of declase workers and students finds its voice in an uprising that still resonates with people around the world today. The Battle in Seattle. The shut-down of the World Trade Organization rounds by a green-blue-red alliance that was never thought possible. Direct action becomes the watchword. Street medics, indymedia, food not bombs and other projects balloon. And the coming-out ball of the North American wing of counter globalization ferment has legs for two to four more years. Under Clinton’s watch.

2011

The whole world is watching the toppling of dictatorships in Tunis and Cairo. The revolt spreads across Spain where ‘indignados’ fight a ‘dictatorship of the markets’. Revolt breaks out in Tottenham, Chile, and once again, Athens. In Wisconsin, a nonviolent labor uprising emerges against a Republican governor, but nothing else measures up. Until Occupy Wall Street. Everyone around the world takes note. It spreads like wildfire. If we got anything right, it was the common enemy and the need for justice through our own means. Like the Panthers, like the IMF protesters, these people have taken on direct action. And we’re not done. To this day. Under Obama’s watch.

The Democratic Party is one of two bourgeois parties, in a republican electoral system that is properly known as a form of bourgeois democracy. A state (not Kentucky or Vermont, but the entire state apparatus) is a monopoly of violence that is dominated by a class, seeking to rise above society. Limited autonomy, but still wielded like a weapon by a class. In this case, it’s the boss class. The rich. The capitalists. The bourgeoisie. The 1%. So a bourgeois democracy is clearly a far better place to live than any two-bit dictatorship (unless you’re brown and poor), but it’s still a monopoly of violence built for class domination. Having two (or one or ten) parties is an element of that class domination. The only options you have are ones that will serve the rich. If the Chinese Communist Party chooses who you are allowed to vote for in Tianjin, then Wall Street chooses the viable candidates in Omaha.

Johnson, Clinton, and Obama bombed and occupied a lot of countries. The latter two presided over massive numbers of lay-offs, outsourcing, and privatizations. It is to unbounding heights of naivete that someone must climb to believe that the systemic oppressions under which we have suffered for so long might be vanquished because the wealthy have allowed us to elect someone from the vaguely less right wing party.

Do I have my street cred? Is my radicalism now an armored suit that allows me to say things you wouldn’t otherwise accept? Well, then, let me give it a try. Andrew Breitbart-usage of my words be dammed (literally), let’s be clear. Obama’s continued presidency is immensely better for the cause of social revolt in this country.

Set aside the question of whether Obama enacts policies that are slightly more benevolent than the other party, or just how much more or less incrementally he will cut down our social services and civil liberties.

The basic thesis is as follows: when a Democrat is in office, an amalgam of issues-based movements exist that begin to coalesce around coalitions that directly confront the system as a common cause; whereas during Republicans, we (as leftists, civil resistance, or whatever your chosen nomenclature) get drawn into fights around the president’s own crimes at war or in the course of repressive policies, and droves of people enter the streets to demand the removal, by resignation or election, of the INDIVIDUAL and his PARTY.  In essence, with the election of Democrats, we gradually move against the system, while with Republicans we move only against their political party, offering the Democrats as a plausible solution.

And there’s a little bit more. We get flabby. We get people with weaker politics and zero analysis who then bog down our movements into lowest common denominator politics. If those tens of thousands more hit the streets with us to confront systemic oppression, then we are in a stage of more wide-scale radicalization. But weaker politics and demands in favor of greater numbers of people with heightened senses of urgency is not a trade at all favorable to real social change. To opened minds and the possibilities of victory. To a more long-term and cohesive level of movement forming.

There are two alternative theories worth overcoming. One is the ahistorical delusion that the election of Democrats will help us usher in the world we want to see. I will leave it to centuries of other articles to argue the point that the wealthy will never allow us to elect a master who will derail this great set up they have going.

The other is the terribly misplaced idea that a more authoritarian, further right wing regime will inspire the masses to the streets ensuing in some great leap forward to social revolt. The revolutionaries need not organize, because the people will be ready to fight. 

Adventurous urban guerrillas attempted to actualize a similar outcome to terrible effect. They thought that violent assault on the system would catalyze the police state to move harder against the entire populace, and the oncoming fascism would propel the people into a death match against all forms of oppression. This indeed heightened authoritarianism in countries like Argentina and Brazil, and overtly failed to do so in Western Europe, Japan and the United States, but in neither set of cases did people find themselves closer to a revolutionary situation. They more often found their movements, and those around them, decimated.

Bringing it all back, let’s look what happened with Democrats in office. The Civil Rights Movement and angry street rebellions pushed Kennedy and Johnson towards reforms. People realized that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t that these laws were too little, too late. It was that people who had been mobilized now saw that forming the system is not significant. It doesn’t lead to liberation. Victories and state violence, a brutal war under the command of a Democratic presidency, and a general radicalization happening globally inspired some of the most exciting political organizing in our nation’s history.

The roll backs of the victories of the previous few decades began in earnest under Reagan. And the people were no longer mobilized to defend their meager gains. Some people put a lot of work into solidarity campaigns with revolutionaries in Central America and Southern Africa, and ACT-UP did incredible work around HIV and homophobia. Few, however, were in any way at a pace to challenge the system. Most work was defensive, or in opposition to offensives against third world peoples.

That remained the case into the 1990s. A number of causes became significant, among them environmentalist work, struggles around the prison system and police brutality, and anti-sweatshop campaigns. And something happened. A lot of work, coalition-building and militancy paid off. Tens of thousands of unionists, environmentalists, and radicals shut down the World Trade Organization rounds. The Battle in Seattle became one of the first significant moments in social conflict in this country that the rest of the world would point to in decades. It took the WTO years to find another location willing to host it, and then it went for a monarchist police state, Qatar. Emboldened, a myriad of activists stopped considering themselves simply working in causes that were in coalition. We continued to move. We shut down the IMF and World Bank meetings only five months later. Quebec, Quito and Miami were all shut down as they hosted FTAA summits, a hemispheric free trade body that our movements helped defeat outright.

And the demise of the counter globalization movement was largely blamed on 9/11, and the need to shift focus back against militarism, war and affronts to civil liberties. Drive out the Bush regime. Impeach Bush. By 2006, I personally advocated that we never mention his name or that of Cheney in our protests. They were lame ducks, and decoys at that. Eventually even the massive marches and city shutdowns that erupted around the Iraq war lost focus. The key for the progressives (RE: liberals) was to unelect the GOP, while radicals resorted to grasping at straws.

Which is what we were doing for the first chunk of Obama’s administration. We lost the flab of those whose only work was to elect the Democrats instead of the Republicans. We watched impotently as the Tea Party became the loudest voice in the streets. We tried to create something that would gain momentum. And in 2011, people who had been building up causes to defend social services, collective bargaining rights, jobs, public education engaged in a series of experiments. Most fell flat. The rising in Wisconsin in February, followed by whatever it is that we’ve been doing in lower Manhattan, nay, across the country, nay, across the planet since September 17th. We weren’t busy trashing Obama or the Democrats. We were becoming a mobilized force. We were striking terror into the heart of the system. We were inspiring ourselves in ways we’d given up on. We were forming a radical experiment in direct democracy, albeit subject to assaults from all of the byproducts of the oppressive structures around us.

In Spain and Portugal, where the indignados blasted open the complacency with which the citizenry let political change pass them by, the more right wing parties were elected. That wasn’t the fault of the 15-M or Real Democracia Ya movements. But they now realize how they could’ve planned with more long-term thought and self-awareness.

Occupiers are not a type that is open to silly groups advocating we focus on immediate demands.  We are not here to campaign. We are here because, what ever our place on the leftward wing of the spectrum, we have less than total faith in the electoral process under the thumb of big businesses. We will likely never endorse a candidate. But we have to be cognizant of the electoral context within which social movements expand and contract, and where wider consciousness opens and closes. If someone wants to work in the electoral system, they have a myriad of options that existed long before Occupy Wall Street.

But we do a great disservice to our struggles and dreams if we are incapable of looking beyond vague platitudes or ankle-deep analysis. If we want to continue passed indignation toward a possible game-changing moment, we will be better off without waging some errant culture war if we can put our sights on the system. The navigation of this particular fault line can’t be delineated by me alone. Marina Sitrin’s piece in Tidal, with which I have my caveats, echoes what she heard in the strategy of the Southern Cone. We must be Against, With and Beyond the System. We must refuse to vote or vote blank, we must vote, and we must create our own alternatives.

Our ambition is not to impress upon swing state voters that their plans to vote are counterproductive to the world we want to build. The election boycott is a tactic, not a strategy, and is invisible in a country with a long history of terribly low voter turnout. Allow some not to vote, or, like myself, to vote blank, which makes plenty of sense in the electoral winner-take-all system that will leave my voting area firmly in the hands of Democratic congressmen, senators, and presidents. But let’s not attempt to sabotage the victory of the Democrats any more than we seek to delegitimize the idea that a ballot box within a market dictatorship could make the change we want to see. The dog-and-pony show in Washington can impact where we are going, but the real power is in our communities, our workplaces, and our streets.

October 19, 2011
A Foreword in the Uprising.

There are flashpoints in our lives. Some of us see them, feel them more than others. We gravitate to them. Our entire lives are conflict, so we rush towards the sparks where those conflicts are most pronounced. Those moments where we might actually have a chance of winning.

I get mocked by my friends and comrades because I use we a lot. Because I am part of a family, a class, a international struggle, a movement, a network, an ethnic identity, and queer masculinity. And when I say we I don’t think I’m speaking for myself. But I am particular, just like anyone else.

In my lifetime I have seen many such flashpoints. Uprisings in Miami and Quebec against neo-liberal free trade, a double euphemism for stage what we might properly call neo-colonialism, itself a stage within capitalism. Uprisings in DC against that very same system that uses corruption, war and debt to grind underdeveloped former colonies into neo-colonial bondage. I have seen a United States military occupation, general strikes by immigrant workers, and ongoing democratic revolutions in Latin America. I have seen a massive anti-war movement, workers living months on the strike picket lines, and Hondurans living under dictatorship like each day might be their last. I saw people from New Orleans try to reconstruct their lives, and soldiers return from wars with a commitment against Empire. I was in Madrid for the Acampada Sol, and it reminded me of the convergence spaces before the counter globalization movement began to ebb.

And from afar, I watched uprisings in Seattle, Athens, Madison, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Palestine, Nepal, Iceland, Iran, Bangkok, Sidi Bouzid, Cairo, Buenos Aires, United States prisons. I was fortunate enough to often have friends who were there. Sometimes the people won, and sometimes they took victories imbued with defeat or a longer fight.

And I was bright enough to show up to Bowling Green on September 17th, twenty minutes late, before an uninspiring and smaller than expected crowd attempted to march on Wall Street from behind capital’s most legendary golden calf. I had friends there. We stuck it out through the weekend. Dropped back and forth that first week as if it was duty to support an uninspiring attempt at non-violent revolt against the corporations that present the great face of this modern stage of capitalism.

I sometimes sniped from the sidelines, while entering to support and volunteer and offer usually friendly criticism. I am a leftist after all, and I am used to defeat and swerve dangerously close to the guard rails that protect us from jaded cynicism. But the past month at Liberty Plaza, a spatial uprising that has inspired a truly global uprising in all of the continents, from North Pole to South Pole, has built itself up into a tide that offers us something. We have the opportunity to move on building our own direct democracy, devoid of their sense of order and etiquette, and seize the reins of our own fate through direct democracy.

I have seen Earth First disable logging roads, Anti-Racist Action end neo-nazi formations, Copwatch catch cops, the homeless seize vacant lots, workers seize factories (including once in this country), communities seize private colleges, immigrants descend upon violent ICE raids, militants defend homes from eviction, and the dens of the Boss Class shut down for business. That is direct action. It is a great part of what keeps me going.

When reporters asked us how we hope this ends, we told them we don’t believe it will.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »