On #Occupy, Suppression of #Dissent, Power Politics, problems of representation and the #BernieSanders Campaign

Saturday March 12, 2016

So the last 24 hours have been quite interesting in the world of Occupy and activism and this is going to be a rather long post. It all started when we saw that Occupy Wall Street was hosting an event in zuccotti, which is awesome, I don’t think Occupy Wall Street hosted an event in Zuccotti in a very long time.

But there was a problem — the event was a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, a telethon in fact. Now a lot of us, me included are supporting Bernie to win the nomination, and eventually the presidency. In this world of limited choices, he is obviously the only choice. However, there is something wrong with campaigning for him in name of #occupy — namely when we started this movement, back when we were in the thouthands, we all agreed that to stop cooption of this concept by any political party we will adopt a statement of Autonomy — which basically says that we will not become a tool of any one party, and we will not endorse any one candidate.

This has a lot to do with our ideas of leaderless movements. You can’t discredit an idea by discrediting the leader if there are many, tying yourself to one candidate can be problematic. In a sense the social movement will become absorbed by the political parties and by their hierarchical nature Beyond that a lot of us wanted to build an alternative to the 2 party system, give people more direct power in their lives — direct democracy was our dream. we experimented with general assemblies, with spokes and so on.

So what happened? How did #OWS go from this statement of autonomy, embracing of different voices and tolerance to becoming an extension of a presidential campaign? well that is a long story, but in a nutshell once we were all evicted out of our camps, a small group of activists started working to consolidate all the twitter accounts and Facebook pages under their control. Some of these methods were super problematic — for example the main twitter account of occupy wall street nyc (@occupywallstnyc) was hijacked by a person who changed all the passwords and locked everyone out. he then when faced with an actual lawsuit related to the theft punted the account to one of his accomplices, and we didn’t have time or resources to really go after the 2nd person…. so we just let it lie and focused on our own organizing work over the last year. But to get some idea of what went down you might want to read these 2 links: 

The underlying theme here is that a new “model” has emerged — for lack of a better term we can call it capitalistic social media activism. This activism relies on having access to large social media networks, controll of large movement social media accounts a necessary ingridient, parachuting into disaster areas and using that media power to setup ngo type organizations that raise money and provide “services”. Now the key point here is parachuting it — true to the existing old ngo model they dont actually create local, empowering organizing — no these efforts are controlled by chiefs who have access to these large diffusion pools, and they use these to suck resources and space that would have been available for local groups and activists to enrich themselves and the organizations they control.

Now these people decided they will engage in electoral politics in context of occupying the democratic party — great idea actually. but why do it in name of #OWS when there was this whole big deal made from the get go not to do this in name of #OCCUPY? well they said hell with it we control all the accounts, so we will just speak for the movement. And hence the big conflict about representation was born.

So when we saw this event,

the implied endorsement of a political candidate was unmistakable and, I reached out to one of the organizers and started discussing it with her. Now i was not just working by myself, there were a number of other people in the room with me when i chatted to her, and there were a lot more in global rev Facebook group, and on chats that went back and forth about this issue. and we had some proposals on how to alleviate this problem — namely just make the telethon about Bernies ideas, which are mostly amazing, dont make it a campaign event, i think everyone in the community could get behind that, or remove occupy wall street as the hosting entity — do anything to remove this outright endorsement that was in total violation of this statement of autonomy. The answer i got was a dismissal of the concept of consensus period, that the people who were with us in 2011 and 2012 who agreed to all this were irrelevant and so on. There was no interest to accommodate any of our concerns, so after some time we decided to just setup an event on fb to show up in Zuccotti and recite the declaration of autonomy as it was passed by the general assembly. (it can be found here btw: http://www.nycga.net/resources/documents/statement-of-autonomy/)

The event we setup can be found here:

What followed next was actually quite unbelievable. We got attacked, ridiculed and accused of trying to divide the movement, accused of supporting donald trump and on. This in spite of the fact that we communicated to the organizers of the Bernie telethon that we were a. non-violent, and b. intended only to assert and call attention to obvious contradiction and hypocracy of people acting in direct violation of consensus while representing themselves to speak for occupy. As conversations continued the attacks turned personal against me. So now we have the pleora of these movement accounts controlled by this small group such as OccupyWallStreet Fb page and @OccupywallstNYC twitter account (yes same account that was stolen from all the people who were actually speaking as part of occupy) posting stuff like this this:

and a direct message to people in the movement along these lines:

and then out of the twitter account this:

Shame on you Justin Wedes

Shame on you Priscilla Grim

You are calling on people to lynch me today in zuccotti not because I am 1% but because I call out your corruption and stated on your event that the pigs have moved into the manor. So go ahead lynch me I dont care — the truth will be known

And one last thing I want to say is that Bernie Sanders if he is a decent man, he should speak to these people who are coordinating his social media campaign. and he should tell them — give back the accounts back to the social movement. Bernie you dont need our accounts you will win without them, and with integrity