Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 5, 2011

Pham Binh radio interview

Filed under: Occupy Wall Street — louisproyect @ 10:20 pm

I think most people are aware that Binh has been writing some of the most profound analyses of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Listen to this interview with him conducted by another sharp guy Richard Estes.

http://www.kdvs.org/show-info/1865?date=2011-11-04

Plus, an article on occupations past and present.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/11/occupiers-past-and-present/

 

45 Comments »

  1. 9
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 9TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 5:30 PM TO 7:00 PM.

    9-1) This visit was to attend the sympathy march for the Oakland General Strike, which was happening that day. Prior to that, though, I spent some time walking around the OWS space. Much has changed. Since the victory over Mayor Bloomberg and his oinks several weeks ago, on, I believe, October 14, the use of tents has proliferated.

    9-2) This proliferation of tents has resulted in much less space within Zuccotti Park for debate and discussion. In fact, I noticed that most of the debate and discussion is now taking place in the much-reduced space around the staircase at the southeast corner of the park and in an around the library space at the northeast corner. Also, the space around the media center, the kitchen, the labor table and all other functions is sharply reduced by the tents.

    9-3) As earlier, I saw three or four people smoking dope. Bizarrely, I have also seen a proliferation of people smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

    9-4) To put it straightforwardly, the general level of spontaneously joyful behavior and open discussion has been sharply reduced. This has been replaced by a somewhat grimmer, tighter and, paradoxically, more chaotic attitude. This is, of course, my subjectinve impression.

    9-5) After some confusion, the march began at about 6:30. There were some preliminary speakers who, in my opinion, did little or nothing to either inform the audience or motivate them. The “mic check” system was used for a relatively small crowd. One speaker, a woman whose name I didn’t catch, gave a speech on the connection between the events in Oakland and those in New York. The other speaker, an African-American man, talked about racism and what could be done t help the people in the ghettos.

    9-6) The only left group in evidence was the ISO, which had a lit table in a very good position at the northeast corner of the park, at one end of what I call “the living poster wall,” where people stand with various posters facing the heavy traffic on Broadway, the most traveled street in Lower Manhattan. However, the table had no handouts, pamphlets, leaflets, etc., directly addressing the OWS or the events at Oakland that day. When I pointed this out to one of the comrades at the table, he seemed not to understand what I was talking about. He pointed to copies for sale of Socialist Worker, whose lead article was, indeed, about OWS.

    9-7) The march began with a circling of the park twice. There were so many people jammed into the park at that point, and on the sidewalks around the park, that the march was virtually invisible. Just as the second circuit was completed and the march was about to step off towards City Hall and 1 Police Plaza (New York City Police Headquarters), a large, spirited march of students that had come down from Washington Square Park, joined up at the rear and provided a lot of new energy.

    9-8) The line of march was north along Broadway to the north end of City Hall Park, where it turned east, marched through the Muncipal Building, to the plaza beyond it which is also connected to 1 Police Plaza. The march covered three city blaocks. I estimate the crowd at about 2-3 thousand. The cops had blocked off all the side streets, so the march could proceed directly to 1 Police Plaza with not stopping for lights. The entire march lasted about twenty minutes. We were flanked by cops on motorscooters and on foot the whole way.

    10-9) The only organized political group evident during the march was the Workers World Party, which had a large banner and numerous placards. Once the march reached the end, a rally began. At the point, I ducked out.
    RED DAVE

    8
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 8TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 5:30 PM TO 7:00 PM.

    8-1) This visit also had the purpose of attending a Labor Support/Outreach Group meeting, which I was finally able to do. But before that, let me make some observations on OWS as a whole. The overall situation seems slightly grimmer. (Remember, these are subjective observations of mine.) It is, of course, getting darker and colder. (Snow is forecast for the weekend.) However, with all the talking going on, “mic checks,” etc., there does not seem to be any growth or development at the site.

    8-2) The only Left group that I saw present tonight was the Workers World, which had, in addition to the usual boring lit table, a leaflet dated October 19, which manages, on the one hand, to mention the working class, and on the other hand to make it marginal to other struggles going on.

    8-3) At the meeting, which was in the basement of District Council 37 (the umbrella group for AFSCME unions in New York), it was cool to actually be in a union headquarters and see the OWS Labor Outreach Group meeting on the bulletin board (to say nothing of the fact that DC is lending its space). As the meeting opened, most of the people there were alter cockers like me. (For you boychiks and girlchiks who don’t know what an “alter cocker” is, it’s a Yiddish phrase meaning “An old and complaining person, an old fart.” http://www.sbjf.org/sbjco/schmaltz/yiddish_phrases.htm). But, gradually, as he room filled up, there were more and more young(er) people. I would guess that at the height of the meeting, there were about 80 people.

    8-4) The first order of business involved a sister from Occupy Chicago, a journalist, who earnestly asked permission to attend. There was all kinds of quibbling and nonsense until it was approved. I am always amazed at how important some people think everything they think or have to say is important. (I am an alter cocker, indeed.) It is easy to grow impatient with the hair-splitting over small details. And some micro-discussing (to coin a phrase), leads to bureaucratic mainpulation to keep things moving.

    8-5) The chairperson of the meeting was a facilitator from some larger grouping within the OWS and a union member (CUNY staff congress, I think). (It’s amazing how fast a structure has evolved on the one and, in the absence of real organizational democracy, a leadership with a genuinely bureaucratic style has also evolved.) He attempted to run the meeting GA stylebut the meeting was obvious bored by his presentation of the minutia of finger wiggling.

    8-6) A retired brother from the longshore union next gave a report on the upcoming general strike in Oakland. I forget his name, but he was obviously an experienced left-winger. He gave a history of the previous general strike in 1946, the last general strike in the US. What was not clear to me was the relationship between Occupy and Oakland.

    8-7) Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment, I was only able to stay at the meeting for an hour, and at that point I had to leave.
    RED DAVE

    7
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 7TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 6:00 PM TO 7:45 PM.

    7-1) This visit had a purpose: to attend a Labor Support/Outreach Group and to attend a meeting of the General Assembly. The Labor Support/Outreach Group meeting was postponed to 6:30 PM, Friday, October 28, at DC 37 Headquarter, 125 Barclay Street.

    7-2) Practically the first thing we saw when my wife and I arrived was a group from a Brooklyn SEIU local, but they left before I could find out why they were there

    7-3) My general impression of the OWS site continues to be one of stagnation. While there was, as before, a large amount of purposeful activity going on, it all related to the maintenance of the site and none of it related to activities to bring the Occupation out from the site.

    7-4) Outreach activities are going on in the form of almost-daily marches, but, again, there is no development or escalation. And the marches seem to have heft only when they have labor participations.

    7-5) Then General Assembly started promptly as 7:00. I was fortunate to be able to get a spot right next to the facilitators. Unfortunately, I had to leave after half an hour, but I got a pretty good idea of how the GA functions. (This is not to say that I have a bead on the issues it’s dealing with.)

    7-6) The GA is perhaps the best example I’ve ever seen of the manipulation of a rank-and-file by a leadership. The fact that this leadership is unelected and supports the illusion that it is in fact not a leadership makes this even more reprehensible. To add to this the cumbersome, rapidly evolving structure, and we get a very gamy situation.

    7-7) I have a half hour video which I shot showing the GA addressing the issue of the schedule that the Drum Circle was to adhere to. Much of what went on was familiar: a speakers list, a secretary (a woman) taking minutes, etc. What was different was the weird handsignals and the very blatant manipulation that was obviously occurring. When any kind of problem arose during the discussion, concerning, especially, information about what was going on in other groups, the facilitators quickly consulted among themselves to see who had the information and what the answer would be. The “hidden leadership” of this GA was about 5 people. The attendance was about 60-70.
    RED DAVE

    6
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 6TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2:45 PM TO 4:30 PM.

    6-1) This being a Saturday, there were less people taking a break from work or coming to work or going home. However, the number of people at the site was huge: the biggest I’ve seen yet. Spirits remain high. The overall impression, for me, was one of constant, largely purposeful activity but still unfocused. There is no sense of stagnation or decadence. The only sign I saw of the latter is that the site, in addition to the occupiers, has become a camping ground for some obvious drug users.

    6-2) Surveying the geography of the site, it goes something like this: the total rectangular area is, I’ve read, about ½ acre (about .2 hectares). It is bounded on the north by Liberty Street (hence the common name “Liberty Park”), on the south by Cedar Street, on the west by Trinity Place (which changes its name a few block north to Church Street), and, importantly, one the east by Broadway, the major artery in Lower Manhattan. It is one block east of Ground Zero. It shows up on Google Maps as Zuccotti Park. (John Zuccotti is the current chairperson of the Brookfield Corporation, which actually owns the site.)

    6-3A) The internal geography of the site is something like this (I’ll divide this into several entries: if this bores you, skip to entry 4): on the east side, facing Broadway, there is free access, and this is the location of what I call the “living poster wall.” This I call the East Sidewalk. Here, people stand facing Broadway with mainly homemade signs on a huge variety of subjects. On the southeast corner, on the sloping steps, under a huge, orange sculpture called “Joie de Vivre,” is perhaps the main speaking area, where, I believe, the General Assembly is held. There is a sidewalk along the north side of the site (the “North Sidewalk”). There are also numerous posters displayed along this side, plus some other activities, such as street theater (which curiously doesn’t seem to be too common). Right behind the North Sidewalk, below the steps leading onto the site from the street level, is a north-south passage, which I call “East Street.”

    6-3B) Also, along the North Sidewalk, you can get a t-shirt silkscreened. About 30 feet in from the north sidewalk is what I call the “North Lane,” which runs east to west for then entire length of the site, gradually curving north to meet the North Sidewalk at the northwest corner. Walking along the North Lane, first is the Library, with tubs and shelves of free books on many subjects. Then comes the Media Center, which includes a live feed to a website. Just about opposite the Library is the Labor Table, where a bunch of old farts are generally sitting around talking about the Spanish Civil War and playing pinochle (not really). Just at the Labor Table is a passageway connecting the North Lane and the South Lane (see below), which I am call the “East Street.” Continuing down, on the left is the food areas, which is well-organized and the food actually looks good.

    6-3C) Continuing along the North Lane going west, there are sleeping areas on the left and right. Just before the sleeping areas is another passageway connecting the North Lane and the South Lane (the “Center Street”). It was here I saw people who definitely looked like their presence was pre-pre-pre-political. At the northwest corner, of the site is an information table with some basic, very nonpolitical and boring literature.

    6-3D) There is a “West Street,” which runs down the west side of the site, separated from the sidewalk on Trinity Place by steel barriers. (This is only place on the site where these barriers reamin.) At the north end of the West Street is the Community Altar, a place for those inclined to spirituality (mostly non-Western) and meditation and such. The altar is attractive and very well maintained. Going south along the West Street is the main music area. During the day, there is almost constant communal drumming and much dancing. This is very reminiscent to me of hippy days in Tompkins Square Park.

    6-3E) Just north of the music area, the South Lane starts, which runs east-west connecting Broadway and the East Street and the West Street. It is much narrower than the North Lane, and on Saturday is was difficult to walk steadily. Mostly, the South Lane goes through the sleeping areas, but just beyond the Center Street the space opens up to an area where the are frequent circle meetings, etc. The South Lane continues to the base of the Joie de Sivre statue, where it joins the East Street. Finally, there is the South Sidewalk where there are several literature tables facing outwards. the South Sidewalk. About 2/3 of the way down towards Trinity Place, a low wall begins, which is festooned with posters and with people sitting on top of it. And now, after this little walk around the OWS site, you can buy refreshments from commercial trucks and food stands on Cedar Street, facing the South Sidewalk. ☺

    6-4) Finally there is an actual, if miniscule, LEFT PRESENCE!!!!!! I saw tables from:
    • the SWP – One small table, on the East Street, just north of the Joie de Vivre construction, manned by one person; all books, etc., wrapped in plastic. No handouts specific to OWS. No free stuff; finally got a copy of The Militant. The headline did not pertain to OWS. The comrade, a middle-aged woman, told me they, “Try to get down there for a few hours on weekended.” Verdict – BORING! Grade – D
    • IWW – One medium-sized table at about the center of the South Sidewalk. Lots of stuff on the IWW, but no handout specifically aimed at the OWS. Two 40ish male comrades (or older). Verdict – BORING! Grade – C-
    • PL – Two comrades, along the North Sidewalk, giving out copies of Challenge whose headline did not pertain to OWS. When I mistook them for the RCP, I came the closest I have gotten in six visits to being assaulted. (Not really, but they were mad!) The comrades were both women in their 50s or 60s. Verdict – BORING! Grade – D+
    • Socialist Appeal – Medium-sized table about the center of the South Lane on the south side, with three male comrades, 30s-40s, with lots of stuff, virtually none of it free. No handouts specific to the OWS. I was actually able to get into a discussion with a male comrade in, perhaps, his late 30s. Only then was I offered literature. Verdict – BORING! Grade – C-

    6-5) The above speaks for itself. The organized Left, at least with regard to a presence at OWS, does not get it. The very fact that not one group had a handout specific to the OWS. I not even going to mention the groups who didn’t bother to have their funky asses present to have a lit table and distribute literature to maybe 5000 people. You got something better to do?

    6-6) While there were posters expressing every possible politcal notion and demand, from election reform to revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the OWS remains pre-political. Except for one UAW lollipop poster, and the guys (all men in their 40s-60s) at the Labor Table, there was no organized labor presence on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.
    RED DAVE

    5
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 5TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 8:00 PM TO 9:30 PM.

    5-1) There was virtually no police presence at OWS. The police were confined to about 10 cops, mostly concentrated along the west side of the Occupation along, I believe, Church Street, the same number to the east, along Broadway, and a few on the north side, where their vehicles are parked.

    5-2) Because it was relatively late (the Occupation observes a quiet time from 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM), there was no drumming at the southwest corner, but there were some folksingers, who could have come right out of the Sixties.

    5-3) The OWS has put out a document: The Occupied Wall Street Spokes Council Proposal.
    http://www.nycga.net/spokes%20-council/
    It contains a detailed plan for the structure of the Occupation. There is a revleft.com discussion of it here:
    http://www.revleft.com/vb/important-ows-structural-t163086/index.html

    5-4) Without getting into the document itself, let me say that it represents a very cumbersome but sincere attempt to deal structurally with the ephemeral nature of those supporting the OWS, those actually occupying, passersby and, weakly, organized groups, especially labor. It should be seriously considered and discussed as this is actually, as for as I know, the first actual “official” document of the OWS.

    5-5) The OWS continues to struggle with the issue of demands (or goals). This is not an accident. The demands or program are close to the heart of any movement. And a movement so new as the OWS and largely run by people with little or no political experience should have difficulty with them. However, this difficulty also conceals the fact that this is a petit-bourgeois movement at this point, which makes it almost impossible for it to focus on a concise set of demands. Until the labor movement, organized and unorganized, and the organized left become involved, giving the OWS a “social weight” it currently lacks, this problem with program will persist.

    5-6) There was still no sign whatsoever of organized left-wing activity. We can no longer call this an accident. What few forces the organized left has should have been thrown into this struggle wholeheartedly. I am not talking about actually sleeping down there (not that a few resident comrades from each left-wing group wouldn’t be enormously useful), but maintaining an active presence. I saw no evidence of left-wingers engaged in debates (although this was after the nightly General Assembly) or of left-wing stickers, leaflets, newspapers, etc. It is obviously to me that the organized left, with few exceptions, is taking an abstentionist attitude. I mean, Comrades, not even one mass distribution? I know that some groups are working within their unions or with unions they are in touch with, but this needs to be publicized, especially at OWS itself.

    5-7) Kudos to the LRP for pushing through a motion at the New York Central Laor Council for a mass labor march on march, I believe, November 5th.

    5-8) The discussions that I heard going on, and I witnessed two or three of them, involved someone who was obviously a “leader type,” explaining to others the function, purpose and necessity of the structure as mentioned in “3” above. A leadership is emerging, as any leftist knows it must. However, it will act informally, without sanction, undemocratically, even clandestinely, so long as a real structure does not evolve, which is probably impossible at this point.

    5-9) The site, in general, is clean but had a generally disorganized look. However my overall impression was a heightening of discussion and more political focus.

    5-10) Reports I have read indicate that the reason Bloomberg backed down on clearing the site was the massive, if somewhat uncoordinated, organized labor presence on the morning that the clearing of the site was to take place. The occupiers were dug in to resist arrest, but the entire site was encircled by union people, with union jackets and hats, ready to resist the cops. The cops were vastly outnumbered by the workers.

    5-11) To summarize, the Occupation remains at a pre-political stage. There is more indication of labor presence. Still virtually no indication of a presence of the Left. The illusions of petit-bourgeois radicalism: extreme spontaneism, an absolute rejection of an effect structure geared for action, a lack of demands, persist.
    The beat goes on.
    RED DAVE

    4
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 4TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET – MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 4:30 PM TO 5:30 PM.

    4-1) Compared to a few days ago, the attitude of the police is noticeably different. They are not standing close to the edge of the site. They are not hurrying passersby along. They are mostly just standing around passively.

    4-2) Barriers remain along the west and north sides of the site. There is a stone wall on the south side. The east side, which faces Broadway (the busiest thoroughfare in Manhattan) is open.

    4-3) There are two focuses of energy: the southeast corner where the general assemblies are held and the southwest corner where there is constant drumming of about 6-8 drummers.

    4-4) Finally, there is a labor table. It was not manned nor was there any organized activity going on. The half a dozen people who were sitting around the table were all self-identified as union members, including one man from the structural ironworkers and one from the painters. This latter is interesting as during the time of the Civil Right Movement and the Vietnam War, the construction workers unions were the most reactionary.

    4-5) There was no sign whatsoever of organized left-wing activity: no stickers, posters, newsletters, tables, individuals leafletting, etc. THIS IS A FUCKING DISASTER, A SHAME AND SERVES TO EXPOSE THE WEAKNESS AND COWARDLINESS OF THE ORGANIZED LEFT.

    4-6) The site was noticeable cleaner and better organized. However, it should be noted that when I visited it last, it was disorganized but not particularly dirty.

    4-7) There is a noticeable absence of tension, probably having to do with the fact that the cops have been faced down and the mayor, may he rot in hell, backed off. I have read that the mayor’s live-in girlfriend is a stockholder in the company that actually owns the site.

    4-8) There is still virtually a complete absence of politics in the sense that the Left defines it. While there are constant little groups of people forming, reforming and talking, the issues are scattered and the discussions are unfocused and have a kind of casual nature. I may be projecting, but I get the distinct feeling that people are waiting for someone, some group, to make a definite statement or, at very least, provide a focus for the discussion.

    4-9) There is no indication of a coming together on a set of demands, goals, whatever. I heard people talking about: bribery of public officials, taxing the rich, use of hydrogen for power (I kid you not), etc. The self-identification of the occupiers as the “99%” is everywhere, but there is little beyond that in terms of a class analysis.

    4-10) The occupiers are mostly young, women and men, and beautifully ethnically mixed. Compared with a week ago, I would say there are less people hanging around the edges, less curiosity seekers and passersby. The novelty has worn off, but there is no “feeling” of jadedness. I do get an underlying feeling of impatience.

    4-11) To summarize, the Occupation is still at a pre-political stage. In my opinion, without the presence of organized workers, as part of their unions or as independent delegations from the unions (NYC is the most unionized city in the USA) and without the presence of the organized left, stagnation and frustration will soon begin to increase.

    4-12) Also, it should be noted, the weather is noticeably colder and it is getting dark markedly earlier than a month ago when the Occupation began.
    RED DAVE

    3
    Uncoordinated notes on my third visit to Occupy Wall Street – Wednesday, October 12 – About 9:00 PM

    3-1) The sensory impression of the Occupation at night is completely different than from the day. People are entirely within the barriers (still a large area of a full city block) and everything feels more concentrated, more intense.

    3-2) The impression is of even less politics at night than during the day. I had hoped to see a General Assembly or some large-scale discussion going on but no such.

    3-3) People are talking, talking, talking to each other. But there are few buttons, leaflets or any common method of conveying points of view. We are still at a very pre-poltical stage.

    3-4) The music and dancing (it shuts down at 10:00 PM) were intense, almost frightening. My wife, a professional singer and song writer said that the music was neither angry nor fearful by a way of avoiding anger and feear: “pure trance,” she called it.

    3-5) Absolutely no indication of the presence of organized labor or the organized Left.

    3-6) People are well supplied with food and plastic tarps against the weather. It rained briefly tonight, and the temperature is about 60 F with a wind blowing.
    RED DAVE

    2
    Uncoordinated Notes on My second Visit to Occupy Wall Street – 10/11/11

    2-1) Compared to 8 days ago, the Occupation is slightly larger.

    2-2) The attitude of the cops is slightly more hostile. Parts of the Occupation space are now enclosed by steel barriers.

    2-3) The space retains a distinctly hippy quality; however, the space is neither dirty nor does it have decadent feel to it. People appear positive and engaged.

    2-4) Dope smoking is going on relatively openly on the site.

    2-5) People with a “spiritual message,” i.e. yoga and meditation, are very much in evidence.

    2-6) While many of the slogans on the numerous signs are political, the Occupation does not have a political feel to it. It remains “pre-political.”

    2-7) While I was there, roughly at rush hour (4:30 PM to 6:30 PM), there was no evidence of a presence of organized labor.

    2-8) The only presence of the organized Left was a single, rather forlorn, individual giving out a leaflet for Socialist Appeal.

    2-9) Hostility to the Democrats is obvious.

    2-10) Hostility to the banks is prevalent, to other corporations less so.

    2-11) Generalized hostility to capitalism is evident and open.

    2-12) Use of the “human mic” is common. Whenever anyone speaks, people gather around and the human mic comes into use. It is quite amazing to see.
    RED DAVE

    1
    Okay, here are my impressions, that’s impressions and not any kind of systematic observations, based on a brief visit of less than an hour to Occupy Wall Street in New York. [October 3, 2011]

    1-1) The site is terrific: one block east and north of Ground Zero and a couple of blocks north and west of Wall Street itself. The park is a large open space with some trees with Broadway on the east and very tall building to the north and south.

    1-2) When I was there with my wife, about 4:30 this afternoon, grey skies and kind of cool, there were, I guess, about 4000 people there. There were a large number of tourists and people who work in the neighborhood and a group of about 500 who were engaged in the business of the occupation.

    1-3) The overall impression of the occupation is very positive. It looks and is very large for such an undertaking.

    1-4) The occupation itself, remember I’m viewing it from the outside, reminded me of the May Day Tribe demos in Washington in 1971. There was a purposeful, cheerful disorder. There are no tents allowed but there are make-shift one-person shelters (this is an inadequate term; think plastic sleeves with sleeping bags in them).

    1-5) There was a meeting going on when we were there, being carried out in Amislan (American Sign Language). It was difficult to discern if this was a group of deaf students just temporarily at the site or a permanent group.

    1-6) The most important communication medium for people there is large numbers of homemade signs on the ground on the north side of the site. People are encouraged to put make their own signs.

    1-7) There is a media center with a generator that connects the site to the Internet.

    1-8) There are tables, more like long, low platforms, where vegetarian food is served to all comers.

    1-9) Unfortunately, while we were there, the only group activity besides the Amislan group was a bunch of dancing Hari Krishnas without orange robes. It reminded me of Tompkins Square Park ca. 1968.

    1-10) There were no cops visible at all. None.

    1-11) My overall impression was of an activity more turned in on itself at this point. There was no systematic attempt to engage passersby. Since there is no coherent “official” line and not much organization, this is not surprising.

    1-12) There was no sign of organized leftist activity or organized union presence.

    1-13) I was surprised at how fast the whole thing has taken on a definite hippy look.

    1-14) Through my eyes, this occupation is at what I would call a pre-political stage.

    I’ll try to get back there in a day or two, but I work full-time, and I have a lot of stuff on my plate.
    RED DAVE

    Comment by RED DAVE — November 5, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

  2. Thanks for the compliment Louis. Red Dave’s comments are as astute as anything I have written. I’d be interested i hearing from him on some of the stuff I’ve written about the ISO’s practice with regards to OWS: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/encounters-with-occupy-wall-street/

    The only left group I’ve seen doing anything remotely useful/interesting was RCP. They were engaging liberals and people of color in sharp debates about corporate personhood, the Founding Fathers, and a wide variety of issues. Of course it went to hell when they began mentioning Bob Avakian’s latest disasterpiece of a book but they really did a good job connecting the dots with people (not for people, a subtle but important distinction).

    The Occupy movement is a tremendous opportunity for socialist regroupment in the U.S. It’s the moment the ISO has claimed it has been waiting for with regards to such a project. All of the radical, revolutionary, and socialist trends should be in a single organization with room for sharp, comradely debates a la the RSDLP. I don’t want to see this generation’s of Angela Davises, Peter Camejos, and Huey Newtons split up amongst a dozen or more sects.

    Comment by Binh — November 5, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

  3. Pham,

    I slept in the park for a couple nights last month. I’m planning on returning from Nov. 10-17. Do I need to bring my own tent? Will they provide one? The last time I was there tents weren’t allowed.

    Thanks!
    Jon

    Comment by heynowheynow — November 6, 2011 @ 4:22 am

  4. Binh, you have spent a lot of time and energy thinking and writing about the “Marxist left’s” shortcomings in relation to OWS. Can I make a few comradely suggestions:

    1) Why not write an extended critical letter to Socialist Worker (and whatever other publications you think deserve it) pointing out what you take to be their mistaken approach and what you think a correct one ought to look like. For instance, what it would look like to, as you advocate, “dissolve” into the movement– what important issues should be addressed or handled in a different way etc.? Very few ISOers and young radicals read this blog– why not publish your critique in the publication that everyone in the ISO –and a decent amount of people on the wider radical left– read?

    2) Propose to the ISO and other socialist groups a public debate over the role socialists should play in the movement– perhaps in a public forum.

    I can tell you that Louis has been beating the same drum about why the ISO should dissolve and help create a new RSDLP for over a decade and, for better or worse, it hasn’t shifted the ISO’s practice an inch. If you are actually serious about wanting to shake things up, might this not be the way to do it?

    I write this as one of those orthodox, “paper-selling ideologues” you love to hate on :), and who completely disagrees with you, but I would like to see a wider debate about socialists’ role in Occupy go beyond a single blog, great a blog as it is.

    If you think you have a serious critique to make, something more than a series of impressionistic assessments, step into the ring and fight for it.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew — November 6, 2011 @ 5:32 am

  5. Jon, they will do their best to provide tents. I know that is not a great answer but it’s the truth. They are cramped for space. The most important thing you can bring I think would be a really warm sleeping bag and enough warm clothes. So far the weather has been really mild but people need to really need to be ready for 20 degree weather, which historically is how cold the December-March period in New York is.

    Andrew, I don’t bother writing to Socialist Worker because they keep readers’ views down to a few hundred words or so and this is a topic that is very much connected to the issue of Leninism vs. Bolshevism, i.e. intervening in a movement versus merging with it in order to lead it. A few hundred words isn’t going to cut it.

    A public debate would be great, but the ISO will be more likely to go for it if it comes from within the ranks than from someone who opposes what the organization is and how it operates. You say you want to see such a debate, so here’s your opportunity to match your deeds with your words. Then we’ll see which one of us is serious about this question.

    Comment by Binh — November 6, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  6. Thanks Pham!

    Jon

    Comment by heynowheynow — November 6, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  7. Binh, plenty of articles in Socialist Worker are longer than a few hundred words. Why not just focus on socialists and OWS for now, and leave the long history of the RSDLP for another article? How many words do you need?

    “A public debate would be great, but the ISO will be more likely to go for it if it comes from within the ranks than from someone who opposes what the organization is and how it operates.”

    I can’t make your case for you or propose a debate on your behalf because it’s not clear to me what you advocate. For instance, you say socialists should “dissolve” and “merge into the movement in order to lead it.” Well that sounds interesting. But what, practically, does it mean?

    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew — November 6, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

  8. Andrew, you asked me to write a letter. The letters are limited to a few hundred words. Most of my articles on the movement alone exceed that. I don’t know how you think I can cram an analysis of the movement, what stage it is at right now, and lay out the tasks facing socialists in a few hundred words.

    You can’t make a case on my behalf because the debate was your idea, not mine. This is something the entire socialist left should be discussing — the entire alphabet soup, DSA, ISO, WWP, PSL, SPUSA — as well as independents like myself, Louis, and thousands of others — regardless of whether or not I am present.

    Comment by Binh — November 6, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  9. Speaking of Leninism, I strongly urge folks to look at Charlie Post’s review of Lars Lih’s new book on Lenin:

    http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2361

    Comment by louisproyect — November 6, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  10. thanks for doing this

    other than me talking too much, it was a great interview

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 7, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  11. The relative non-involvement of the old socialist left groups is a good thing. They are all products of the era of the Russian Revolution, an era that ended in 1991. If that historical passage means anything, it should show in the irrelevance of those groups to the new forms of struggle that will emerge, that are emerging now. Conversely, to the extent that they try to become “relevant”, their influence will be largely fractious, diversionary and dissipative, as they have all degenerated in one degree or another into hardened sects.

    I in no way romanticize the OWS form of struggle, but wouldn’t mind at all if it and its offshoots remained in its present protean form, so long as that grows and develops. This movement certainly has an internally coherent, implicit set of “demands”, – and it would be interesting if someone would take the time to catalog these, a task that would much like that of the botanist identifying species of plants – but it is not ready for a programmatic struggle at this point, IMO.

    I share the concerns with the political malfunctions of the “human mike” – I’ve seen this in action at the Oakland port shutdown march. At some point in front of the dock gates on the road, someone in the crowd present decided to do a “mike check”, and a crowd soon formed around this. Someone mentioned that “a march from San Francisco was occupying the (Bay) Bridge!: (between SF and Oakland), and the crowd became quite enthusiastic about wanting to join them from the Oakland side, and began to move towards the truck exit onto the (huge) Bay Bridge toll plaza – this being 6:30PM Wed. rush hour time. – chanting “to the Bridge! to the Bridge!” Keep in mind that the crowd involved was but a small subset of the ~5-7K march to the port. At this point I left the march, assuming that if anything actually happened, I’d see it in the news, or via Occupy Oakland. No such thing ever happened.

    Of more serious concern – one I expressed earlier – was the apparent hijacking of the process for the purposes of the Traveler’s Aid building action, this in turn becoming a platform for BlocHead antics. This further being broadcast over KPFA as “the will of the GA”! A real process fail, this one. This is inevitable with OWS in its present form, one more conducive to anarchism (or more accurately IMO anarcho-syndicalism, btw this corresponding to the actual historical class consciousness attained by the U.S. working class in its “militant” phases), than to socialism.

    This mechanism is also open to manipulation by the DPL (Democratic Party Left). They are the greater danger, and is one key reason to favor the growth of OWS-like movements in its present form, with its “organic resistance” to the 2-party snare.

    Comment by Matt — November 7, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  12. Whatever one thinks of the shape, form or condition of the “old left” socialist parties, there is one lesson from the Russian Revolution that is, I believe, beyond dispute: the proposition the parties represent classes and that the working masses need one of our own. It is hard to imagine this realization taking hold today without the contribution of those organizations that trace their lineage to Red October. If all the ISO and the U.S. SWP contributed were their respective publishing houses and books published, such as “Out Now”, which is relevant for today’s events, such a contribution would be well worth their weight in salt. I personally think they contribute much more than that, but that’s just me. I don’t see any evidence either of these two above mentioned organizations seek to control the OWS. Even if they did desire to do so, there would be no way to actually do it. But it’s a moot point, cause they don’t. The OWS has been a great inspiration, but it has it’s limitations as well. How far it goes and how long it lasts remains to be seen. And in saying so, I don’t believe I’m being pessimistic in the least. I think the wave that will qualitatively change things will come from the factories, in the form of a massive movement to organize the organized so we can organize the unorganized. But this won’t be in competition with movements like OWS that are on the horizon.

    Comment by dave r — November 7, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  13. Matt, I agree with you on the old red left’s absence being a key reason why this has gotten as far as it has. Sad but true. I addressed a lot of what you wrote in the interview posted here (Traveler’s Aid, etc.). I hope people check it out before commenting. There is a working group at OWS that is trying to do just what you’re saying — they are doing discussion circles with a recorder, asking people to write suggestions on little slips of paper, then compiling all of that raw data electronically and indexing it as well. It’s a monumental task (the working group is called “Think Tank” and see itself as a collaborative brainstorm. Demands, ideas, everything you can think of is being included). Here is their website: http://www.nycga.net/groups/think-tank/status/ I asked the facilitator of the group if they worked in conjunction with the demands group and he was of the opinion that formulating demands would end up excluding people, to which I replied not having demands was a smart move strategically in that it allowed everyone to bring in their own demand. On this, we agreed.

    In my experience, there is very little danger of the Democratic Party being able to successfully co-opt this movement in the near future i.e. 6 months or so (see: http://occupywallst.org/article/occupy-wall-street-obama-dont-be-big-banks-puppet-/ for example). Obama may be a slick politician but he can’t fundraise for the general among the 1% while trying to pretend like he is on the side of the 99% when the 99% are *in motion* against his financial sponsors. The people have woken up to their own power through mass action and it will not be easy for the Dems to put that genie back into the bottle.

    The main obstacle to the movement at this stage is its own organizational and political underdevelopment or immaturity. People are trying to set up local occupations without meeting chairs, without keeping speakers’ lists, time limits on speaking, and so on. Each occupation is at different stages and/or faces different challenges. In NYC, sexual assault is a big issue (for men as well, not just women. I know of two cases of men being victimized). In Portland I heard that the people running the website took a lot of donated money and ran. Some places have behind-the-scenes cliques and zero actual open process to debate, discuss, or decide anything. The stuff I see in the Marxist press about demands, cops, the need to articulate a strategy for the movement, whether or not to use the word occupy is not in any way organically related to what is going on or what is needed for the movement to succeed. There is talk making Occupied Wall Street Journal a national paper, getting a professional staff up and running to create a bona fide movement paper, and even press corps credentials for employees.

    Lastly, this video for the Nov. 17 day of action dovetails really well with my latest Dissent Voice article: http://vimeo.com/31114509

    Dave R, of course the 99% needs a party of its own. Most people haven’t reached that conclusion yet, but any socialist organization that isn’t a completely worthless sect should be trying to figure out how to create just such a party, a party worthy of the name, in and through the occupy movement in conjunction with its peers and comrades who in most cases are viewed wrongly as “competitors.” There is nothing special about the October revolution or the small groups that haven’t evolved beyond that point that prevents today’s occupiers from coming to this awareness on their own unless you really believe all that nonsense about socialist consciousness coming from outside the factories.

    Comment by Binh — November 7, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  14. I am an admirer of you Binh because you put your money where your mouth is. I am older than you and I’m afraid, less active. But in you and in others like you I find inspiration. But I don’t think that movement towards a revolutionary party will come from an OWS which somehow remains intact, and which includes — but which I do not believe is not dominated by — Democrats, anarchists and Ron Paul advocates, among others, but rather by those involved in this struggle who draw this specific conclusion concerning a need for a party, and join with others from corollary struggles, including in the mines, mills and factories, who draw the same conclusion. And in this sense the example of the Russian Revolution (and the Cuban Revolution, as well) are exceedingly important. These principals do not fall from the sky, but are in fact interjected, and they don’t come easy, nor are they a foregone conclusion. If the need for a party — really, the question of questions — were that apparent, we would not be preparing to have in 2012 the “why the Democratic Party is not a solution” discussion for the umpteenth time with fighters of impeccable good will.

    Comment by dave r — November 7, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

  15. Should read: “…and which includes — but which I do not believe is dominated by — Democrats, anarchists and Ron Paul advocates, among others…”

    Comment by dave r — November 7, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  16. One important thing to realize is that each occupation is predominately influenced by its local social and political culture, hence, Occupy Oakland is very different from Occupy Sacramento. Binh is correct to observe that Occupy Together has more immediate problems of day to day survival that, for now, trump expectations of Marxist organization. Furthermore, the movement is buffeted by requests of support from others, such as, for example, a proposal last night from UC students that Occupy Oakland participate in upcoming protests at the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday. Of course, it’s a great idea, consistent with the purpose of the movement, and expands links that already existed, but cuts against the notion of an inexorable progression towards a Leninist party structure. In any event, I think that everyone on the left, regardless of their orientation, is going to have to get used to the fact that the movement is not going to evolve into a clear Leninist, anarchist or social democracy direction (although, of the three, social democracy strikes me as most likely), but rather towards some new synthesis, depending upon events. For now, it remains a movement characterized by direct action, until such time as subsequent events create an opportunity for a more coherent ideological orientation. That might take awhile.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 8, 2011 @ 12:21 am

  17. 10
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 10TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 5:30 PM TO 8:30 PM

    10-1) This trip was for the purpose of taking a quick look at the site and then attending a Labor Outreach Group meeting. My previous observations on the general conditions stand. There are visibly more tents than even a few days ago, and the space for discourse inside the park is becoming more limited, thus forcing discussions more and more to take place at the periphery.

    10-2) There are continuous reports in the press of antisocial behavior, including rape. This is to be expected. In the absence of a viable security system for the park, such behavior must, inevitably, manifest. This has resulted in the women on the site building a “safe house” for themselves. There is also a piece the Daily Kos, written 2 ½ weeks ago by an African-American woman, describing the negativity that had already begun to accumulate. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/17/1027186/-A-Black-Woman-Who-Occupied-Wall-Street:-Why-She-Wont-Be-Going-Back (Thanx to tacosomoza at revleft.com for posting the article.) I myself witnessed an incident in which one individual was accused of stealing something. Some kind of “official” was called. In the end, I believe, the stolen items were returned.

    10-3) It should also be noted that on Saturday, November 5, toilets were installed near the site at the loading dock of a building owned by the United Federation of Teachers whose headquarters is nearly. This represents an indirect rebuke of Mayor Bloomberg who has opposed the Occupation from Day 1.

    10-4) At 6:00, I went over to DC 37 headquarters for the Labor Outreach Group meeting. Before the meeting started, there was already half a dozen people waiting, old lefties. By the time the meeting got underway, at about 6:15, there were over fifty people, self-identified as from over twenty different union locals. These included the TWU, CWA, Teamsters, UFT, Local 1199, UAW, SEIU, SAG and others. It is important to note that a goodly percentage of the attendees were self-identified as shop stewards, chapter chairpeople or lower-level union officials.

    10-5) In my opinion, the presence of so many people identified with the structures of various unions is not an accident. While the leadership/bureaucracy of the unions has been playing footsy with OWS, it is obvious that they realize that something has happened that can be used to their advantage. The fact that the OWS was defended largely by union members against Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to “clean” the site, is important. I’ll clarify that below.

    10-6) It was instructive to see how the “facilitators,” the leaders of the meeting, combined together to run the meeting. Often, when an unclear issue came up, a quick, informal, sometimes nonverbal consultation between the facilitators and a quick pronouncement from the presiding facilitator, moved things along. There would be nothing wrong with this, except that the facilitators are unelected by the bodies they preside over. The theory is that the only “facilitate,” the meetings they preside over. But this is an illusion based on some extremely bourgeois sociology. Here’s an example of the kind of material available:
    dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/MP43-373-3-2000E.pdf

    10-7) After some vague discussions about procedures, and introductions, reports were presented on various activities that the Labor Outreach Group is involved with. These included:
    (A) the November 17 mass action (http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=2286595&postcount=3);
    (B) support action for the locked out Teamsters at Sotheby’s (https://pastee.org/ffbt3);
    (C) a city-wide boycott of Domino’s Pizza;
    (D) solidarity with TWU Local 100 in its contract negotiations with the MTA (www.labornet.org/news/0000/twukick.pdf).

    10-8) After the reports, the Group broke down into smaller groups by unions. I was in the Teachers group. There was no real discussion in this subgroup, except the general impression conveyed by the three people in the group besides myself (public school and City Univeristy teachers) that there is broad, general support for OWS.

    10-9) After the groups reassembled, there were brief reports, mostly pertaining to the actions mentioned above. One significant moment came when there was a report from union workers at WNBC, who have been working without a contract for several months. They are planning a protest at The Today Show, and asked that the OWS support this. Almost immediately, one of the representatives of the Sotheby’s Teamsters said that their action is right around the corner from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where The Today Show is filmed and offered support for the WNBC workers’ action.

    10-11) Present at the Labor Outreach Group meeting was one member of Socialist Action and, I believe, one member of the ISO and possibly one member of LRRP. I could be wrong about the latter two.

    10-10) I am slowly beginning to come to a conception of the direction in which the OWS, and especially the Labor Outreach Group should go. I believe that the OWS has already become a focus for mass discontent with capitalism. While I am aware that there are diverse forces with the OWS, including such bizarre groups as the libertarians, the main thrust is anticapitalist, radical and to the Left. (I’m choosing these words carefully.) So what we are seeing is the largest anticapitalist movement in the US in at least forty years and one which has, up to now, garnered a huge amount of positive notice. And, for Leftists, the most important element here is that there is undoubted support from organized labor in the form of individual workers, union officials and material support from the unions.

    10-11) It is crucial to notice that, unlike the previous movements in Wisconsin and Ohio, union officials and the Democratic Party have no traction in OWS with regard to their agenda for pulling all movements in line with support for the Democrats.

    10-12) The most important element, beyond the fact of labor support itself, is that the unions are “using” OWS. By this I mean that they are participating in OWS activities to further their own agendas, which are not in conflict with those of the main thrust of OWS. This support includes, that I am aware of:
    (A) Direct labor participation in OWS actions, such as marches.
    (B) Direct, though not organized, labor participation, such as the rescuing of OWS from Mayor Bloomberg’s rather heavy-handed attempt to shut OWS down.
    (C) Indirect support for OWS through material contributions, such as the UFT provided toilets for the occuption site.
    (D) Participation of unionized workers, shop stewards and lower-level leadership in an OWS group and bringing this group (the Labor Outreach Group) into union activity, including contract negotiations.

    10-13) In sum, I believe that it will be possible, in the near future for the OWS, in the person of the Labor Outreach Group to engage more and more in labor actions, including negotiations, strikes, and, hopefully, organizing drives. It is this potential where there exists, I believe, a really fruitful opportunity for labor, the Left and OWS to grow into something much larger and powerful and far beyond the limits of the existing occupations.

    RED DAVE

    Comment by RED DAVE — November 8, 2011 @ 3:50 am

  18. Alll social movements go through various phases of development, rise and fall, and the Occupy movement will be no exception. In addition to throwing ourselves into building the Occupy movement, socialists presumably should try to build some type of organization to bring the lessons of past battles to bear on present and future ones. It seems to me that actually getting to work to build the future “party of the 99%” can’t be put off indefinitely. And if there were ever a good excuse for putting it off, there no longer is— we actually have a two-sided class war raging in this country.

    To those socialists like Binh who are contemptuous of the efforts of the existing organized forces to try to build up socialist organization in the present circumstances, I want to know what alternative you propose. Not what kind of party for the 99% would it be just wonderful if we hypothetically had, but what do you propose we do in the present to start building the organization we need? Scorn for the work of the very small forces of the Marxist left in the US today comes cheap; there’s an audience for it that’s happy to have their skepticism and prejudices reinforced. But if not paired with a practicable alternative strategy that can concretely answer what is to be done, what does this mode of critique really amount to beyond a familiar politics of resentment?

    Comment by Andrew — November 8, 2011 @ 4:23 am

  19. Hey Red Dave, thanks for this report and please keep them coming for us non-NYCers!

    I could not link to the article you mention on facilitation– can you either post the text of it or give another link? Thanks!

    Comment by Andrew — November 8, 2011 @ 4:32 am

  20. Dave R, there is no shame in being less active than me. The only reason I am down there so much is because it is a couple blocks from where I work. I go on my lunch and that’s about it. Lenin wrote a lot about how the art of being a revolutionary is figuring out how each person can play a role in the movement. Some people work the kitchen; others may flyers; someone else takes meeting minutes; and still others handle security. I do what I can during the day and write about it.

    You say you don’t believe a “movement towards a revolutionary party will come from an OWS which somehow remains intact and which includes … anarchists and Ron Paul advocates, among others”. The human material for revolutionary workers’ parties always come from places that are politically heterogenous. The American CP came from the the SP and the I.W.W.; the SP and the I.W.W. came from the United Mine Workers, the Socialist Labor Party, and other smaller unions; the Bolshevik Party came from the RSDLP, which itself came out of the Narodniks and other non-Marxist trends; the 1919 KPD came from the SPD, which itself came from a merger of the General German Workers’ Association and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party.

    If a revolutionary party (itself a loaded term to say the least) does not or cannot come from the actual movement of workers, students, and oppressed people that is the occupy movement then it won’t come from anywhere at all. Occupy has mobilized more workers in the space of 4 weeks than the entire “Leninist” left put together has in the past 4 decades. Trotsky wrote that a revolutionary party’s purpose was to raise the level of activity of the advanced workers, and OWS has done exactly that.

    Which brings me to Andrew’s comments:

    As it stands now, most at OWS see the existing socialist groups as outsiders coming in to hawk papers and attempt to recruit, and that is exactly what is going on here. Socialist Alternative has a semi-permanent table near Broadway; the RCP’s gray-haired cadres comb the park with their papers in hand; SPUSA leafletted and passed out their newsletter a while back. I can’t speak about the ISO, Solidarity, or the I.W.W. because I still have yet to see them. DSA is involved with the demands working group. PSL brings a bunch of signs to certain protests and hands them out in addition to emailing announcements about their flyering times in non-white neighborhoods to the people of color working group. Not one socialist group has a permanent presence or is one with the occupation, despite quite a few of them having paid full-time “organizers.”

    If this is what you mean by “the efforts of the existing organized forces to try to build up socialist organization in the present circumstances,” I’ll pass, and so will the most radical elements of the movement. I had a very long talk with someone who is part of the “class war camp,” about a dozen anarchists and Marxists who are full-time occupiers. He started reading Lenin at age 11 down in Florida (his mom was in CPUSA), but considers himself an anarchist. Why? Because “Leninist” organizations require everyone to argue the party’s position publicly even if they themselves disagree with it. He said he could not do that. It is dishonest and he refused to do it. This method or practice has no basis in the RSDLP’s history nor in that its Bolshevik wing, at least prior to the Stalin era.

    You want to know what is to be done? Off the top of my head, the things the ISO could do if it was so inclined would be 1) change Socialist Worker’s name to Red Occupier (or Occupy Capitalism) 2) Turn said paper into a 4 or 8 page weekly written mostly by occupiers 3) Call a conference six months from now along that goes out to the entire existing socialist left as well as anarchist, anarcho-syndacalist, anarcho-communist groups (most of whom are hostile to political parties because of their experience with “Leninists” and to a lesser extent social democracy) in order to form a party of the 99% (it could be called an association — the “party” label is less important than how it functions in practice — hell, call it the Red Bloc) 5) Do everything possible to prove in practice that this is not a scam, game, opportunistic maneuver, or pouring old wine into new bottles a la the Socialist Alliance and RESPECT party in Britain 6) Dissolve the ISO at said conference of some new party

    I agree that there is no excuse for putting off the forming of such a party any longer. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ISO or any group on the socialist left in this country is even seriously considering the prospect of regroupment and dissolution along these lines even though it’s long overdue.

    Comment by Binh — November 8, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  21. Binh, I appreciate your putting your cards on the table in this very concrete way. While I don’t agree with all of the ideas you have I think they’re absolutely worth debating and discussing. I think this kind of big strategic thinking is what we need, and I think if we argue our differing perspectives in a comradely, constructive way– not attacking others’ work, but also being “ruthlessly critical”– we can get somewhere together.

    Comment by Andrew — November 9, 2011 @ 5:32 am

  22. I should have more clear. I absolutely agree with you Binh that as a result of becoming active in movements like OWS, militants will grow in consciousness on all kinds of different levels, including coming to accept that capitalism needs to be replaced, and coming to accept the need for working people to form a revolutionary party to get the job done. The same was true for other notable movements, such as the movement against the war in Vietnam and the women’s liberation movement that sprang forth in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and the movement to overturn Jim Crow, to name three of the most important mass movements of recent history. These movements were great schools for millions of people, as everyone knows. What I meant was that I do not see the OWS progressing in a linear fashion towards a party, anymore than the anti-war organizations of the Vietnam era (which were qualitatively more powerful and broad than the present OWS, the operative word being “present”) morphed into a party. But rather that some of those who come out of this fight will become sufficiently convinced concerning the need to fight for socialism and as a result will join with others from other struggles, including those who fight inside the mines, mills and factories, who are, at the same time, drawing like conclusions. Organizations like SA, the SWP and the ISO have an important part to play in this unfolding and I don’t think it would accomplish a thing to dissolve into….well, dissolve into what?

    Comment by dave r — November 9, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

  23. Any organized framework which allows advocates of Ludwig von Mises and Karl Marx to march side-by-side (as the Occupy Movement does) is not going to be the basis for a party. The Occupy Movement has been nice for what it is, but there’s no point in trying to turn it into something which it is not. Even with the most open-minded approach, “Lenin Before Leninism” and all of that, it is unavoidable that a real political party would have to be more decided about such clear ideological dividing lines as Marx versus Mises. The strength and weakness of the Occupy Movement has been that it does not attempt to lay down such verdicts for participants but allows a wide range of views.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — November 10, 2011 @ 1:11 am

  24. Dave R: Obviously the occupy movement will not evolve in a linear fashion into some type of party formation. There are already tons of people who self-identify as socialists, class-struggle anarchists (meaning they don’t get into this Black Bloc stupidity, lifestyle crap, and are big on the Spanish CNT, the old I.W.W.), communists, and Marxists in the movement, and their ranks will only grow.

    The difficulty is that the existing socialist organizations are acting like this is just another movement (Andrew commented earlier: “All social movements go through various phases of development, rise and fall, and the Occupy movement will be no exception” — talking about the movement’s fall is extremely premature). They come, sell papers, try to recruit, do a limited amount of work in a few working groups, and that is the extent of their involvement. They remain in their essence outsiders to the movement, “intervening” from the sidelines, dipping their toes into the raging torrents of the movement.

    If that is all they can muster, then they are mostly irrelevant to the movement’s political and organizational development and bankrupt as a political force. Their methods have allowed this thing to be led by other, non-socialist forces, primarily anarchists.

    This is not just another movement. This is an uprising. This is the 60s, the 30s, the 1890s, not a replay of the run-up to the Iraq war or a slightly bigger repeat of the anti-globalization movement.

    Is it politically immature? Yes. Is it diffuse? Yes. Is it making mistakes and running into its own contradictions? Absolutely. But we can’t hope to influence the course of an uprising unless our people are in every cell, every fighting unit, every detachment, doing what we can to figure out the next step, even if that cell or unit is dedicated to cooking food, making copies, buying tents, or doing other forms of so-called “grunt work.”

    We also can’t influence that uprising if we ourselves are split up into competing camps — ISO, PSL, Socialist Alternative, SWP — each with our own “brands” of socialism. We can’t get to PatrickSmcNally’s “Marx versus Mises” party when the proponents of Marx are stupid enough to believe that differences of opinion between Trotsky, James Cannon, Tony Cliff, or Ted Grant (all of them deceased!) are so important that they justify the existence of separate organizations, complete with their own leadership bodies, newspapers, publishing houses, and websites, despite their nearly identical formal politics and practical activities.

    When I speak of “dissolving” into the movement, I’m talking about taking down the barriers between the socialist groups and between said groups and the movement (see my “proposal” in the second half of comment 20). Any occupier who decides to join an existing socialist group will find themselves in a self-enclosed world with practices, habits, culture, practices, norms, and hierarchy/pecking order that have little to do with changing the world, winning change, or leading struggles to victory and a lot to do with the self-perpetuation of the group. The primary focus of their practical and political activity will shift from the occupation to the group.

    This is the underlying reason why masses of rebellious workers, students, and oppresed people feel no attraction to these organizations and explains why “Leninist” organizations have never grown rapidly and exponentially as the Bolsheviks did during the 1905 revolution or the 1912-1914 period in Russia, although they managed to recruit outstanding individuals (Angela Davis, Max Elbaum, Dave Cline, Peter Camejo, Fred Halstead, Barry Sheppard, and many others) in the 1960s because they claimed to be revolutionary Bolshevik-type parties up to the task of leading a mass movement to end the rule of the 1%. The socialist left’s sterile, stultifying rigidity that guarantees its isolation from the masses was exposed by its reaction to the occupy movement (first they ignored it, predicted its failure, but were eventually pulled into it after two weeks; they played the role of rearguard, not vanguard, despite [or maybe because of] their “advanced” political undestanding).

    Now these groups are all about the occupy movement, but they don’t seem to realize: 1) what the secret of the movement’s sucess was and why it succeeded despite the socialist left’s predictions 2) that they have more to learn from the movement than they have to teach it 3) what is to be done besides integrating occupy into their pre-existing practices, routines, habit, conversations, and publications, i.e. what new tasks stand before the socialist movement now that the upsurge we have longed for has finally come.

    Comment by Binh — November 10, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  25. Actually, I didn’t write the paragraph after the words Dave R: in post 24 but I could have, because I essentially agree with what was said in that particular passage. And thank-you again Binh for some very insightful and worthy comments.

    I think you over-estimate the strength of the small, socialist parties. If every single member of the organization I am fraternal to — and fraternal because I agree, generally, with the political program and approach they advocate — were assigned full-time to the Occupy movement, they still would hardly be noticed. I don’t think they would make the choice to abstain from other, corollary struggles, such as the sugar workers strike in the Dakotas, to focus solely on this manifestation of the upsurge. That is to say, I think they see their main objective, given their limited resources and given their assessment of the broad outlines of the class struggle at this point in time, as the dissemination of the socialist world-view. I’m guessing they are acutely aware of their limitations to affect anything in a material sense (like they did as leaders of the anti-Vietnam war movement, or during the Battle of Boston in the mid-1970’s) in the present time. It would be nice, however, to have a unified — socialist — presidential ticket in 2012, with 10 or 12 transitional-type demands that we all could agree upon. But for that to happen all would have to make nice-nice and leave the bad blood from battles past at the door. Finally, if programmatic differences are deep enough to justify separate organizations until the struggle as a whole sorts things out, then I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with that, either. It really doesn’t make a difference one way or another at the present time. We still are at the very beginning of the great awakening of labor, and until that kicks in I’m afraid we are dealing with limits that are important to acknowledge.

    Comment by dave r — November 10, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

  26. When I wrote “Dave R:” I meant to address you, not quote you. Apologies.

    You are correct, they would hardly be noticed on the outside, to casual observers or to the corporate media. In NYC, there are probably 200 members of said organizations. Even so, 100 additional people divided amongst the 40 working groups (which themselves range in size from 5 to 50 people) would make a difference politically and organizationally to the overall direction of the movement since OWS is the “vanguard of the vanguard” to borrow another expression of Trotsky’s. Such common action would undermine the justification for so many separate organizations at the grassroots level through people’s real, material experience.

    As for other struggles, every cause and organization is attempting to link up with OWS. Haitians marched to OWS chanting “Occupy Wall Street not Haiti,” a few weeks ago; a group I never heard of, El Movemiento En El Barrio, made up of Mexican immigrants who live in East Harlem and are sympathetic to the Zapatistas (their paper is god) have gone out of their way to link with OWS; there was a march against the privatization of the Puerto Rican school system; activists fighting fracking and a proposed pipeline in western Manhattan did some joint OWS actions; OWS marched to the postal workers’ rally a month or so ago, doubling its size; Chinese immigrant workers in China town are asking for OWS help in a rally this Sunday, and then there’s Occupy 477 (google it) where tenants of a co-op are fighting predatory lenders and fellow tenants aligned with real estate interests are demanding heat and hot water for the winter.

    This is just a tiny number of examples I myself am aware of — there is a lot going on that I don’t know about, hence why I think this is best understood as an uprising rather than a movement. This is a historic opportunity to relink the politics of socialism with the mass action of workers and the oppressed, something largely absent from the American political scene since the McCarthy era.

    Comment by Binh — November 10, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  27. What I am trying to convey is that the question of how influential/small the existing socialist left is today is separate from whether or not said left begins to recognize the opportunities in front of us and what the practical implications of the new tasks we face are.

    Comment by Binh — November 10, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  28. Yes, I know what you are getting at and I assure you I take your opinions very seriously. I will leave it at this for the time being, but I think you should consider the possibility that not everyone, including some with quite a bit of history and experience, necessarily shares your assessment of the Occupy movement in all it’s dimensions, including how it compares to upsurges and rebellions of the past. From where I’m sitting — and admittedly I am at a disadvantage because I’m not in the thick of the struggle as you are — it looks a lot like the movement around nuclear power in the late 1970’s, and that includes the organizational components. But the final chapter has yet to be written and you may turn out to be entirely correct; that it will go deep — very, very deep. I hope it does, it may very well do just that, and I applaud the brothers and sisters now engaged.

    Comment by dave r — November 10, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  29. One place where I think the Occupy Movement is clearly different from the nuclear power activism of the 1970s is that this is much more of a diffuse response to a general crisis of capitalism. It’s not a response with a program that can actually be fought for. But the implications are much deeper than any of the kind of “single-issue” activist movements were. It’s as if after a whole century in which capitalism seemed permanently capable of defying every Marxist analysis of its impending doom, people have suddenly begun detecting the signs that there really is a crisis in the system at its very roots.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — November 10, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  30. Well said, Patrick. Lots of threads to this story. This might just be it for them, or the beginning of the end. I mean, look at the motley crew vying for the GOP nomination for President, which speaks volumes about their general health, or lack thereof.

    Comment by dave r — November 10, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

  31. For those who want more concrete info about where/how OWS got off the ground:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/occupy-wall-street-origins_n_1083977.html?ref=homepage

    Comment by Binh — November 10, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  32. I agree with Binh’s point that Occupy is better characterized as an uprising than a “social movement,” and that it has a strong, and growing, anti-systemic component. The point I intended to make is not that the movement is in any danger of going away— it is growing fast— but that it will have ups and downs, it will not develop linearally, there will be cycles of struggle, and that socialists have an important role to play in helping to make that in each cycle the movement is more powerful and organized than the previous one. I think Socialist Worker’s recent editorial “Occupy Is here to stay” covers this very well.

    http://socialistworker.org/2011/11/09/movement-thats-here-to-stay

    Comment by Andrew — November 11, 2011 @ 1:30 am

  33. From Binh:

    “The only left group I’ve seen doing anything remotely useful/interesting was RCP. They were engaging liberals and people of color in sharp debates about corporate personhood, the Founding Fathers, and a wide variety of issues. Of course it went to hell when they began mentioning Bob Avakian’s latest disasterpiece of a book but they really did a good job connecting the dots with people (not for people, a subtle but important distinction).”

    From RED DAVE:

    In my ten trips down to OWS, I’ve never seen the RCP. Hopefully, they and the Sparts will stay tightly packed in their own assholes and disappear forever some day.

    From Binh:

    “The Occupy movement is a tremendous opportunity for socialist regroupment in the U.S. It’s the moment the ISO has claimed it has been waiting for with regards to such a project. All of the radical, revolutionary, and socialist trends should be in a single organization with room for sharp, comradely debates a la the RSDLP. I don’t want to see this generation’s of Angela Davises, Peter Camejos, and Huey Newtons split up amongst a dozen or more sects.”

    From RED DAVE:

    I have heard or read this sentiment perhaps a dozen times in one place or another recently, and, as a sentiment, who can object to it? However (Ain’t there always a “however”?), this notion ignores the fact that many of the differences between the Left groups are quite real, and I’m not talking about Kronstadt, ice picks or whether Shactman or Cannon was right.

    Having worked with Orthodox Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists (Sorry, Comrades, but I grew up politically in the early 60s), anarchists, etc., any attempt to bring them together, once the smoke clears and the blood dries up, would produce little. On issues of tactics, strategy, style, whatever, the differences are real. Just as an example, the much-vaunted differences on the nature of the USSR actually, in practice, reveal themselves as different attitudes towards leadership and bureaucracy within organizations.

    Sure, we should work together to build OWS. But even that’s a very broad notion. For example, within the Labor Outreach Group of OWS, I have, with that sense that in the IS we used to call litmus paper, detected the present of at least three groups from the broad Trotskyist milieu. But no anarchists, Stalinists or Maoists. Now, since all these three tendencies are present in New York, I can only conclude that they are avoiding the Labor Outreach Group. This would seem to argue for strong differences in strategy already.

    I am all for left Unity. I have been looking for it for most of my life. But that unity will only be achieved in practice. Should various groups find themselves with the same or similar approaches to building OAS, by all means should they cooperate. However, I am not hopeful for any board unity across factions.

    Comment by RED DAVE — November 11, 2011 @ 4:45 am

  34. Thanks for the response RED DAVE. I was actually hoping you’d respond to my query in comment 2, but no matter.

    There are a number of separate issues that you raise. One is whether or not differences in strategic priorities (labor working group involvement) between the “competing” socialist groups precludes a single party with multiple tendencies within it a la the RSDLP. I think the answer is no. The problem with expecting groups who have a similar strategic approach to OWS to cooperate is that they are still separate organizations that are at some level in competition with one another for adherents. This competition might be dampened by common action but it is still the underlying problem. If each tendency on the socialist left in the U.S. emerges with twice as many members who are in it for the long haul the methodological problems that hamper our problem will remain unresolved, and things will look like they did after the 60s upsurge was over.

    Another issue is whether Stalinist tendencies would be willing to cooperate in any such project. I doubt that most of them would, but that is no excuse for 1) not taking the initiative (that would be tailism, and the last people you want to tail are Stalinists) and 2) keeping a non-sectarian approach at all times to such tendencies in spite of their current hostility because they might change their minds. #2 is especially important because there is a whole generation of young socialists who are influenced by Stalinist politics but are not in any organization. They deserve to be part of rebuilding the worker-socialist movement just as much as the class-struggle anarchists.

    As for the “different attitudes towards leadership and bureaucracy within organizations” that are supposedly based on different views of the USSR, the fact of the matter is that the Trotskyist movement has had tons purges, expulsions, miniature coups, power grabs, character assassination, and the disapperance of individuals from the movement’s historical record. When the Stalinists did it to the Bolsheviks it was a murderous tragedy, when the Trotskyists did it to themselves it barely qualified as a farce.

    We shouldn’t kid ourselves that a certain line on the USSR is some kind of vaccine against sectarianism or undemocratic practices. I’ve lost count of how many groups with Cliff’s state capitalist politics there are in England.

    Unity in practice won’t ever be achieved until we all take a good hard look in the mirror and think through carefully every practice we’ve taken for granted as normal and necessary.

    Comment by Binh — November 11, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  35. *If each tendency on the socialist left in the U.S. emerges with twice as many members who are in it for the long haul the methodological problems that hamper our movement will remain unresolved…

    Comment by Binh — November 11, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  36. The OWS is not an uprising. It is a reflection of middle-class sections of the population — and I do not use the term “middle-class” in a negative sense, but in a sociological sense — that are more closely tied to the working-class than not, coming to the realization that the traditional outlets and relief provided by the liberal bourgeoisie is no longer available due to the depth of the decay of the profit system worldwide. It is a sign of what is to come, possibly sooner as opposed to later. Keep your eyes on the factories. My guess is they are seething. In the not too distant future we may be using the term “uprising” in a more accurate manner than the way it is being used today by Comrades Binh and Andrew.

    Comment by dave r — November 11, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

  37. David, you are not using the term “middle class” in a Marxist sense. These are likely wage-earners of one sort or another, not small proprietors or upper level management, etc.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 11, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

  38. Wage earners who traditionally have had more options in life than they have today, who come from families that traditionally have been relatively well paid (and include small business-people and management) and who have traditionally been more confident that the Democrats will come to their aid in times of need. I am not being negative here, just so everyone understands. This is a GOOD development, but I wouldn’t call it an uprising.

    Comment by dave r — November 11, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

  39. The average auto worker in the 1960s made higher wages than me–a “petty bourgeois” programmer. I don’t think you are being negative, just a bit dogmatic.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 11, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

  40. My father feed a family and sent his two children to college working at the River Rouge plant in Detroit and later at Republic Steel in Cleveland. Those were the “good old days”, so to speak, when a union factory worker had the same standard of living as a draftsman, a school teacher or an experienced nurse. Not no more. New hires in auto are down to about 13.00 an hour. My last industrial job in a steel plant in 1998 payed 11.50 an hour and we were worked like dogs. Meat-packing and garment is now minimum wage. But I accept your criticism. A bit stiff, perhaps, but sufficient to explain why this, IMO, is not an uprising. Yet.

    Comment by dave r — November 11, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

  41. Dave R., quite a few wage slaves have been involved, especially after week one (see: http://www.indypendent.org/2011/10/05/ninety-nine-percent-occupiers/). One of the women who got arrested the other day at the Goldman Sachs protest works in a restaurant, an industry where union organization is close to non-existent. TWU and CWA members are regulars down there as well.

    Even so, since when are uprisings the exclusive property of the working class? Need I remind you of Russia’s peasants in 1917?

    Andrew, that S.W. article is good except for the part re: sexual harassment/assault at OWS. The attempt to self-police and avoid going to the cops is what led to those problems getting bad in the first place.

    Comment by Binh — November 12, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  42. On second thought, maybe it is a rebellion. Close enough.

    Comment by dave r — November 17, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  43. 13
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 13TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 5:00 PM TO 7:30 PM

    13-1) This was the evening of the mass labor march which took place two days after the police raid which closed down Zuccotti Park. As had been worked out the previous Friday, members of the Labor Outreach Committee were to circulate through the crowd with clipboards to get names of people interested in working with the committee and giving out leaflets detailing the committees workings.

    13-2) Originally, the form the march was to take was that “mic checks” would be set up in various places in Foley Square where people could testify as to the economic hardships they were going through. In my opinion, this represents both the best and the worst that OWS stands for. The best for its democratic spirit; the worst for the fact that it’s an opportunity for exhibitionism and self-indulgence. In fact, what occurred was that the SEIU showed up with massive sound equipment. (This was a legal demonstration, so sound equipment, unlike at Zuccotti Park, was permitted.) This was apparently in violation of an agreement that had been worked out between the OWS and unions. However, since the OWS is leaderless at this point, another expression of the best and worst of it, it was not possible for anyone to protest what the SEIU had done.

    13-3) The SEIU leadership, then, was able to set the agenda for the rally part of the demonstration, and the fact that the 99 people scheduled to be symbolically arrested included the National President of the SEIU, pretty much stamped this as a labor rally. This was both good and bad. Good in that it was the first mass labor rally in New York in decades. Bad in that much of the radicalism of the OWS was leached out of the event.

    13-4) The time for a mass labor demo was the day after the eviction, even if it had to be called ad hoc as was the labor resistance to New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s original call to clear the park back in October. The could have been coupled with an attempt to reoccupy the park. However, this would have been a far more radical move than the labor bureaucrats are willing to countenance at this point. It is obvious that the labor demo planned for December 1, under the slogan “Jobs and Economic Fairness,” which is an extremely watered-down version of a march that was passed by the Central Labor Council itself (responding to an initiative from OWS and spearheaded by the LRP), will fit nicely into the Obama Administrations slogans (as opposed to any actions) for the 2012 elections.

    13-5) The labor leadership/bureaucracy in New York is in an interesting bind. On the one hand, they are taking it on the neck again and again from the Bloomberg Adminstration and from the employers in general, and they have not been able to mount any successful fight backs. The OWS gives them an opportunity to wave a red flag in front of the ruling class, but, on the other hand, there is the danger that its membership will start to take all this radicalization seriously. This would threaten the bureaucrats on their shaky thrones and threaten their relationship with the Democratic Party. Thus, they are simultaneously trying to use OWS to win some limited gains. But they also have to stifle its radicalism, which defeats their purpose.

    13-6) All this creates an unparalleled opening for the Left and gives it a kind of access to the labor rank-and-file that it has not had since the 1970s. The organized Left was slow to pick up on the opportunity of OWS and did not fully exploit it before the expulsion from Zuccotti Park. There was no attempt by any Left group to systematically relate to the occupation. At best, attempts at leafleting and distribution of material were spotty, and the material that was distributed was laughably unsuited to the occasion. The Left failed in this regard.

    13-7) The next step, I believe, will take place at an intersection between OWS as a whole, constitutent committees of the OWS such as the LOC and the Demands Committee, the union leadership/bureaucracy, elements of the rank-and-file and individuals that are active independent of the bureaucracy and the Left. The Left has a crucial role to play. If individuals and groups get off their asses, stop debating trivia, rid themselves of petty-bourgeois illusions, we face opportunities that have not been present for three decades.

    12
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 12TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 5:00 PM TO 8:30 PM

    12-1) This visit was to attend meetings of the facilitators group of OWS Labor Outreach Committee (hereafter, the “LOC”) and then a meeting of the committee itself. Due to the Veterans Day holiday, the committee meeting was held at the headquarters of Local 1199, instead of the headquarters of DC 37. The preliminary facilitator’s meeting was supposed to be at a nearby Starbucks, but few people showed on time, and the place proved to be inadequate. The few of us who did show up moved the meeting to the union headquarters. (Part of this report comes from notes I took as the facilitator-notetaker of this LOC meeting.)

    12-2) The LOC has an agenda which it sticks to pretty closely, beginning with Introductions. The Introductions at this meeting indicated the presence of people from the following unions: Carpenters Local, UFT, UAW Local 2325, DC 37, SEIU, Local 30 Maihandlers, Local 100 TWU, Local 1199, Steamfitters Local 638, Musicians Local 802, CUNY Local PSC, Restaurant Workers, Teamsters Local 808 (Woodlawn Cemetery Workeres), Teamsters Local 814 (Sotheby’s Art Handlers), CWA. Hotel Workers Local 6.

    12-3) Reports to the LOC were as follows:
    A – SOTHEBYS – The LOC participated in the Sotheby’s picket line on Wednesday, November 9. People locked themselves together with bike locks. 8 people were jailed. At least 10 unions participated. There is a rally planned for December 8th.
    B – OCCUPY THE DOE – There was a GA Monday night (Nov. 7) at the Tweed Court House. Many teenagers there spoke out for their teachers. Future plans are to disrupt the next meeting of PEP (Panel for Educational Policy).
    C – IMMIGRANT AND NONUNION WORKERS – There is a call for a citywide boycott of Dominos Pizza.
    D) NOVEMBER 17 – The Labor part of the demonstrations begins at 5:00 PM at Foley Square. There will be lots of music. It was suggested that the LOC set up soapboxes and mike checks on economic horror stories. The demo will march from Foley Square to City Hall, encircle City Hall and then onto the Brooklyn Bridge. Organizations such as Unity New York, Local 1199, SEIU, UFT, 32BJ and many community groups are involved.

    12-4) Under General Business, the LOC considered a proposal, a demand actually, that originated with the OWS Demands Working Group passed the following:
    We demand a democratically-controlled public works and public service program, with direct government employment, to creat 25 million new jobs at good union wages. The new jobs will go to meeting the needs of the 99%, including educatin, healthcare, housing, mass transit, and clean energy. The program will be funded by raising taxes on the rich and corporations and by ending all U.S. wars. Employment n the program ill be open to all, regardless of immigration status or criminal record.

    The demand was accepted by consensus. Given discussions I have been involved in online, at revleft.com, for example, I assume that the origins of this demand and the strategy for its presentation is coming from the LRP.
    12-5) At the end of the meeting, the LOC considers requests for support fromm the Living Wage Campaign, the Verizon campaign of the CWA, the Anti-Super Committee (Social Safety Net) Campaign, Woodlawn Cemetery, Dec. 8 Sotheby’s, MTA Corruption, Stop PO Closures, Occupy DOE.

    12-6) The LOC voted to establish a mutual solidarity network,” whose purpose it would be to coordinate cooperation between unions to support each other’s actions. I feel that this move, which concretizes the best work that the LOC is doing, is the next step forward for the committee.

    12-7) At this point, the LOC stands, in my opinion, in the most crucial place in the OWS. It is attracting concrete labor support in the for of rank-and-filers actually engaged in struggles, shop stewards and low level union bureaucrats/leaders. While the OWS as a whole has served as a magnet for the labor bureaucracy and a focus for rank-and-file energy, the bureaucracy will always serve to use the OWS for its own purposes. The role of the LOC must be to, eventually, use the mobilzation which it helps to create, for its own far more left-wing purposes.

    11
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 11TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 4:30 PM TO 5:30 PM

    11-1) This visit was a short one. I wanted, as usual, to collect impressions of the current state of the Occupation, talk to people and pick up some literature. I also, at the end, want to continue some of the speculations I began in entry 10 about the direction that OWS should go.

    11-2) My general impressions over the past several visits continues. Physically, the tents have taken over more and more space, including several large tents which have been purchased by OWS itself. The net result of this continues to be the inhibition of political discussion inside the park and causing it to take place out on the sidewalk. There were no left groups present either inside or outside the park. There was, however, a very active anarchist table on the sidewalk facing Broadway distributing free literature, including pamphlets on basic anarchist theory, rejecting life-syle anarchism, Noam Chomsky on “Government in the Future” and one on racism and capitalism.

    11-3) During the course of my visit, I deliberately set out to talk to people sort of a random around the site. Previously, I have mostly just been an observer without talking much to people. My general impression, gained from talking to half a dozen people, is that there is still no convergence on program or demands, nor is there any convergence as to what the direction that OWS should go in.

    11-4) I want to make some theoretical points here. My notion, as a Marxist, is that what we are dealing with here is basically a petty-bourgeois movement. That is, the class base of the occupation is petty-bourgeois. This is reflected in the absence of demands, the absence of coherent leadership, the obsessive and debilitating focus on consensus and a host of other phenomena. This is to be expected. The working class has been locked into the continuously failing policies of the union leadership and have come up with very few initiatives in the past three decades that might provide new directions for struggle.

    11-5) A similar situation occurred during the early Sixties, with the mass petty-bourgeois movements, the Civil Rights Movement and the Ban the Bomb Movement. Both these movements did, in fact, have huge working class participation, but this participation was curailed and controlled by the leadership of these movements, a combination of liberal, petty-bourgeois radicals and trade union leadership/bureaucrats. As a result, once certain limited goals were achieved, nothing more could be done. And as the student movement arose, with its creativity and sense of initiative, it was unable to reach out to the working class and turned in on itself with the results we know.

    11-6) In my opinion, the organized Left needs to take a stand, that the Occupation movement needs to turn towards the working class, and the working class needs to embrace the Occupation movement. This needs to be the message of the Left. This needs to be expressed tactically, strategically, organizationally and theoretically.

    10
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 10TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 5:30 PM TO 8:30 PM

    10-1) This trip was for the purpose of taking a quick look at the site and then attending a Labor Outreach Group meeting. My previous observations on the general conditions stand. There are visibly more tents than even a few days ago, and the space for discourse inside the park is becoming more limited, thus forcing discussions more and more to take place at the periphery.

    10-2) There are continuous reports in the press of antisocial behavior, including rape. This is to be expected. In the absence of a viable security system for the park, such behavior must, inevitably, manifest. This has resulted in the women on the site building a “safe house” for themselves. There is also a piece the Daily Kos, written 2 ½ weeks ago by an African-American woman, describing the negativity that had already begun to accumulate. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/17/1027186/-A-Black-Woman-Who-Occupied-Wall-Street:-Why-She-Wont-Be-Going-Back (Thanx to tacosomoza at revleft.com for posting the article.) I myself witnessed an incident in which one individual was accused of stealing something. Some kind of “official” was called. In the end, I believe, the stolen items were returned.

    10-3) It should also be noted that on Saturday, November 5, toilets were installed near the site at the loading dock of a building owned by the United Federation of Teachers whose headquarters is nearly. This represents an indirect rebuke of Mayor Bloomberg who has opposed the Occupation from Day 1.

    10-4) At 6:00, I went over to DC 37 headquarters for the Labor Outreach Group meeting. Before the meeting started, there was already half a dozen people waiting, old lefties. By the time the meeting got underway, at about 6:15, there were over fifty people, self-identified as from over twenty different union locals. These included the TWU, CWA, Teamsters, UFT, Local 1199, UAW, SEIU, SAG and others. It is important to note that a goodly percentage of the attendees were self-identified as shop stewards, chapter chairpeople or lower-level union officials.

    10-5) In my opinion, the presence of so many people identified with the structures of various unions is not an accident. While the leadership/bureaucracy of the unions has been playing footsy with OWS, it is obvious that they realize that something has happened that can be used to their advantage. The fact that the OWS was defended largely by union members against Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to “clean” the site, is important. I’ll clarify that below.

    10-6) It was instructive to see how the “facilitators,” the leaders of the meeting, combined together to run the meeting. Often, when an unclear issue came up, a quick, informal, sometimes nonverbal consultation between the facilitators and a quick pronouncement from the presiding facilitator, moved things along. There would be nothing wrong with this, except that the facilitators are unelected by the bodies they preside over. The theory is that the only “facilitate,” the meetings they preside over. But this is an illusion based on some extremely bourgeois sociology. Here’s an example of the kind of material available:
    dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/MP43-373-3-2000E.pdf

    10-7) After some vague discussions about procedures, and introductions, reports were presented on various activities that the Labor Outreach Group is involved with. These included:
    (A) the November 17 mass action (http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=2286595&postcount=3);
    (B) support action for the locked out Teamsters at Sotheby’s (https://pastee.org/ffbt3);
    (C) a city-wide boycott of Domino’s Pizza;
    (D) solidarity with TWU Local 100 in its contract negotiations with the MTA (www.labornet.org/news/0000/twukick.pdf).

    10-8) After the reports, the Group broke down into smaller groups by unions. I was in the Teachers group. There was no real discussion in this subgroup, except the general impression conveyed by the three people in the group besides myself (public school and City Univeristy teachers) that there is broad, general support for OWS.

    10-9) After the groups reassembled, there were brief reports, mostly pertaining to the actions mentioned above. One significant moment came when there was a report from union workers at WNBC, who have been working without a contract for several months. They are planning a protest at The Today Show, and asked that the OWS support this. Almost immediately, one of the representatives of the Sotheby’s Teamsters said that their action is right around the corner from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where The Today Show is filmed and offered support for the WNBC workers’ action.

    10-11) Present at the Labor Outreach Group meeting was one member of Socialist Action and, I believe, one member of the ISO and possibly one member of LRRP. I could be wrong about the latter two.

    10-10) I am slowly beginning to come to a conception of the direction in which the OWS, and especially the Labor Outreach Group should go. I believe that the OWS has already become a focus for mass discontent with capitalism. While I am aware that there are diverse forces with the OWS, including such bizarre groups as the libertarians, the main thrust is anticapitalist, radical and to the Left. (I’m choosing these words carefully.) So what we are seeing is the largest anticapitalist movement in the US in at least forty years and one which has, up to now, garnered a huge amount of positive notice. And, for Leftists, the most important element here is that there is undoubted support from organized labor in the form of individual workers, union officials and material support from the unions.

    10-11) It is crucial to notice that, unlike the previous movements in Wisconsin and Ohio, union officials and the Democratic Party have no traction in OWS with regard to their agenda for pulling all movements in line with support for the Democrats.

    10-12) The most important element, beyond the fact of labor support itself, is that the unions are “using” OWS. By this I mean that they are participating in OWS activities to further their own agendas, which are not in conflict with those of the main thrust of OWS. This support includes, that I am aware of:
    (A) Direct labor participation in OWS actions, such as marches.
    (B) Direct, though not organized, labor participation, such as the rescuing of OWS from Mayor Bloomberg’s rather heavy-handed attempt to shut OWS down.
    (C) Indirect support for OWS through material contributions, such as the UFT provided toilets for the occuption site.
    (D) Participation of unionized workers, shop stewards and lower-level leadership in an OWS group and bringing this group (the Labor Outreach Group) into union activity, including contract negotiations.

    10-13) In sum, I believe that it will be possible, in the near future for the OWS, in the person of the Labor Outreach Group to engage more and more in labor actions, including negotiations, strikes, and, hopefully, organizing drives. It is this potential where there exists, I believe, a really fruitful opportunity for labor, the Left and OWS to grow into something much larger and powerful and far beyond the limits of the existing occupations.
    RED DAVE

    9
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 9TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 5:30 PM TO 7:00 PM

    9-1) This visit was to attend the sympathy march for the Oakland General Strike, which was happening that day. Prior to that, though, I spent some time walking around the OWS space. Much has changed. Since the victory over Mayor Bloomberg and his oinks several weeks ago, on, I believe, October 14, the use of tents has proliferated.

    9-2) This proliferation of tents has resulted in much less space within Zuccotti Park for debate and discussion. In fact, I noticed that most of the debate and discussion is now taking place in the much-reduced space around the staircase at the southeast corner of the park and in an around the library space at the northeast corner. Also, the space around the media center, the kitchen, the labor table and all other functions is sharply reduced by the tents.

    9-3) As earlier, I saw three or four people smoking dope. Bizarrely, I have also seen a proliferation of people smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

    9-4) To put it straightforwardly, the general level of spontaneously joyful behavior and open discussion has been sharply reduced. This has been replaced by a somewhat grimmer, tighter and, paradoxically, more chaotic attitude. This is, of course, my subjectinve impression.

    9-5) After some confusion, the march began at about 6:30. There were some preliminary speakers who, in my opinion, did little or nothing to either inform the audience or motivate them. The “mic check” system was used for a relatively small crowd. One speaker, a woman whose name I didn’t catch, gave a speech on the connection between the events in Oakland and those in New York. The other speaker, an African-American man, talked about racism and what could be done t help the people in the ghettos.

    9-6) The only left group in evidence was the ISO, which had a lit table in a very good position at the northeast corner of the park, at one end of what I call “the living poster wall,” where people stand with various posters facing the heavy traffic on Broadway, the most traveled street in Lower Manhattan. However, the table had no handouts, pamphlets, leaflets, etc., directly addressing the OWS or the events at Oakland that day. When I pointed this out to one of the comrades at the table, he seemed not to understand what I was talking about. He pointed to copies for sale of Socialist Worker, whose lead article was, indeed, about OWS.

    9-7) The march began with a circling of the park twice. There were so many people jammed into the park at that point, and on the sidewalks around the park, that the march was virtually invisible. Just as the second circuit was completed and the march was about to step off towards City Hall and 1 Police Plaza (New York City Police Headquarters), a large, spirited march of students that had come down from Washington Square Park, joined up at the rear and provided a lot of new energy.

    9-8) The line of march was north along Broadway to the north end of City Hall Park, where it turned east, marched through the Muncipal Building, to the plaza beyond it which is also connected to 1 Police Plaza. The march covered three city blaocks. I estimate the crowd at about 2-3 thousand. The cops had blocked off all the side streets, so the march could proceed directly to 1 Police Plaza with not stopping for lights. The entire march lasted about twenty minutes. We were flanked by cops on motorscooters and on foot the whole way.

    10-9) The only organized political group evident during the march was the Workers World Party, which had a large banner and numerous placards. Once the march reached the end, a rally began. At the point, I ducked out.
    RED DAVE

    8
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 8TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 5:30 PM TO 7:00 PM.

    8-1) This visit also had the purpose of attending a Labor Support/Outreach Group meeting, which I was finally able to do. But before that, let me make some observations on OWS as a whole. The overall situation seems slightly grimmer. (Remember, these are subjective observations of mine.) It is, of course, getting darker and colder. (Snow is forecast for the weekend.) However, with all the talking going on, “mic checks,” etc., there does not seem to be any growth or development at the site.

    8-2) The only Left group that I saw present tonight was the Workers World, which had, in addition to the usual boring lit table, a leaflet dated October 19, which manages, on the one hand, to mention the working class, and on the other hand to make it marginal to other struggles going on.

    8-3) At the meeting, which was in the basement of District Council 37 (the umbrella group for AFSCME unions in New York), it was cool to actually be in a union headquarters and see the OWS Labor Outreach Group meeting on the bulletin board (to say nothing of the fact that DC is lending its space). As the meeting opened, most of the people there were alter cockers like me. (For you boychiks and girlchiks who don’t know what an “alter cocker” is, it’s a Yiddish phrase meaning “An old and complaining person, an old fart.” http://www.sbjf.org/sbjco/schmaltz/yiddish_phrases.htm). But, gradually, as he room filled up, there were more and more young(er) people. I would guess that at the height of the meeting, there were about 80 people.

    8-4) The first order of business involved a sister from Occupy Chicago, a journalist, who earnestly asked permission to attend. There was all kinds of quibbling and nonsense until it was approved. I am always amazed at how important some people think everything they think or have to say is important. (I am an alter cocker, indeed.) It is easy to grow impatient with the hair-splitting over small details. And some micro-discussing (to coin a phrase), leads to bureaucratic mainpulation to keep things moving.

    8-5) The chairperson of the meeting was a facilitator from some larger grouping within the OWS and a union member (CUNY staff congress, I think). (It’s amazing how fast a structure has evolved on the one and, in the absence of real organizational democracy, a leadership with a genuinely bureaucratic style has also evolved.) He attempted to run the meeting GA stylebut the meeting was obvious bored by his presentation of the minutia of finger wiggling.

    8-6) A retired brother from the longshore union next gave a report on the upcoming general strike in Oakland. I forget his name, but he was obviously an experienced left-winger. He gave a history of the previous general strike in 1946, the last general strike in the US. What was not clear to me was the relationship between Occupy and Oakland.

    8-7) Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment, I was only able to stay at the meeting for an hour, and at that point I had to leave.
    RED DAVE

    7
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 7TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 6:00 PM TO 7:45 PM.

    7-1) This visit had a purpose: to attend a Labor Support/Outreach Group and to attend a meeting of the General Assembly. The Labor Support/Outreach Group meeting was postponed to 6:30 PM, Friday, October 28, at DC 37 Headquarter, 125 Barclay Street.

    7-2) Practically the first thing we saw when my wife and I arrived was a group from a Brooklyn SEIU local, but they left before I could find out why they were there

    7-3) My general impression of the OWS site continues to be one of stagnation. While there was, as before, a large amount of purposeful activity going on, it all related to the maintenance of the site and none of it related to activities to bring the Occupation out from the site.

    7-4) Outreach activities are going on in the form of almost-daily marches, but, again, there is no development or escalation. And the marches seem to have heft only when they have labor participations.

    7-5) Then General Assembly started promptly as 7:00. I was fortunate to be able to get a spot right next to the facilitators. Unfortunately, I had to leave after half an hour, but I got a pretty good idea of how the GA functions. (This is not to say that I have a bead on the issues it’s dealing with.)

    7-6) The GA is perhaps the best example I’ve ever seen of the manipulation of a rank-and-file by a leadership. The fact that this leadership is unelected and supports the illusion that it is in fact not a leadership makes this even more reprehensible. To add to this the cumbersome, rapidly evolving structure, and we get a very gamy situation.

    7-7) I have a half hour video which I shot showing the GA addressing the issue of the schedule that the Drum Circle was to adhere to. Much of what went on was familiar: a speakers list, a secretary (a woman) taking minutes, etc. What was different was the weird handsignals and the very blatant manipulation that was obviously occurring. When any kind of problem arose during the discussion, concerning, especially, information about what was going on in other groups, the facilitators quickly consulted among themselves to see who had the information and what the answer would be. The “hidden leadership” of this GA was about 5 people. The attendance was about 60-70.
    RED DAVE

    6
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 6TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2:45 PM TO 4:30 PM.

    6-1) This being a Saturday, there were less people taking a break from work or coming to work or going home. However, the number of people at the site was huge: the biggest I’ve seen yet. Spirits remain high. The overall impression, for me, was one of constant, largely purposeful activity but still unfocused. There is no sense of stagnation or decadence. The only sign I saw of the latter is that the site, in addition to the occupiers, has become a camping ground for some obvious drug users.

    6-2) Surveying the geography of the site, it goes something like this: the total rectangular area is, I’ve read, about ½ acre (about .2 hectares). It is bounded on the north by Liberty Street (hence the common name “Liberty Park”), on the south by Cedar Street, on the west by Trinity Place (which changes its name a few block north to Church Street), and, importantly, one the east by Broadway, the major artery in Lower Manhattan. It is one block east of Ground Zero. It shows up on Google Maps as Zuccotti Park. (John Zuccotti is the current chairperson of the Brookfield Corporation, which actually owns the site.)

    6-3A) The internal geography of the site is something like this (I’ll divide this into several entries: if this bores you, skip to entry 4): on the east side, facing Broadway, there is free access, and this is the location of what I call the “living poster wall.” This I call the East Sidewalk. Here, people stand facing Broadway with mainly homemade signs on a huge variety of subjects. On the southeast corner, on the sloping steps, under a huge, orange sculpture called “Joie de Vivre,” is perhaps the main speaking area, where, I believe, the General Assembly is held. There is a sidewalk along the north side of the site (the “North Sidewalk”). There are also numerous posters displayed along this side, plus some other activities, such as street theater (which curiously doesn’t seem to be too common). Right behind the North Sidewalk, below the steps leading onto the site from the street level, is a north-south passage, which I call “East Street.”

    6-3B) Also, along the North Sidewalk, you can get a t-shirt silkscreened. About 30 feet in from the north sidewalk is what I call the “North Lane,” which runs east to west for then entire length of the site, gradually curving north to meet the North Sidewalk at the northwest corner. Walking along the North Lane, first is the Library, with tubs and shelves of free books on many subjects. Then comes the Media Center, which includes a live feed to a website. Just about opposite the Library is the Labor Table, where a bunch of old farts are generally sitting around talking about the Spanish Civil War and playing pinochle (not really). Just at the Labor Table is a passageway connecting the North Lane and the South Lane (see below), which I am call the “East Street.” Continuing down, on the left is the food areas, which is well-organized and the food actually looks good.

    6-3C) Continuing along the North Lane going west, there are sleeping areas on the left and right. Just before the sleeping areas is another passageway connecting the North Lane and the South Lane (the “Center Street”). It was here I saw people who definitely looked like their presence was pre-pre-pre-political. At the northwest corner, of the site is an information table with some basic, very nonpolitical and boring literature.

    6-3D) There is a “West Street,” which runs down the west side of the site, separated from the sidewalk on Trinity Place by steel barriers. (This is only place on the site where these barriers reamin.) At the north end of the West Street is the Community Altar, a place for those inclined to spirituality (mostly non-Western) and meditation and such. The altar is attractive and very well maintained. Going south along the West Street is the main music area. During the day, there is almost constant communal drumming and much dancing. This is very reminiscent to me of hippy days in Tompkins Square Park.

    6-3E) Just north of the music area, the South Lane starts, which runs east-west connecting Broadway and the East Street and the West Street. It is much narrower than the North Lane, and on Saturday is was difficult to walk steadily. Mostly, the South Lane goes through the sleeping areas, but just beyond the Center Street the space opens up to an area where the are frequent circle meetings, etc. The South Lane continues to the base of the Joie de Sivre statue, where it joins the East Street. Finally, there is the South Sidewalk where there are several literature tables facing outwards. the South Sidewalk. About 2/3 of the way down towards Trinity Place, a low wall begins, which is festooned with posters and with people sitting on top of it. And now, after this little walk around the OWS site, you can buy refreshments from commercial trucks and food stands on Cedar Street, facing the South Sidewalk. ☺

    6-4) Finally there is an actual, if miniscule, LEFT PRESENCE!!!!!! I saw tables from:
    • the SWP – One small table, on the East Street, just north of the Joie de Vivre construction, manned by one person; all books, etc., wrapped in plastic. No handouts specific to OWS. No free stuff; finally got a copy of The Militant. The headline did not pertain to OWS. The comrade, a middle-aged woman, told me they, “Try to get down there for a few hours on weekended.” Verdict – BORING! Grade – D
    • IWW – One medium-sized table at about the center of the South Sidewalk. Lots of stuff on the IWW, but no handout specifically aimed at the OWS. Two 40ish male comrades (or older). Verdict – BORING! Grade – C-
    • PL – Two comrades, along the North Sidewalk, giving out copies of Challenge whose headline did not pertain to OWS. When I mistook them for the RCP, I came the closest I have gotten in six visits to being assaulted. (Not really, but they were mad!) The comrades were both women in their 50s or 60s. Verdict – BORING! Grade – D+
    • Socialist Appeal – Medium-sized table about the center of the South Lane on the south side, with three male comrades, 30s-40s, with lots of stuff, virtually none of it free. No handouts specific to the OWS. I was actually able to get into a discussion with a male comrade in, perhaps, his late 30s. Only then was I offered literature. Verdict – BORING! Grade – C-

    6-5) The above speaks for itself. The organized Left, at least with regard to a presence at OWS, does not get it. The very fact that not one group had a handout specific to the OWS. I not even going to mention the groups who didn’t bother to have their funky asses present to have a lit table and distribute literature to maybe 5000 people. You got something better to do?

    6-6) While there were posters expressing every possible politcal notion and demand, from election reform to revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the OWS remains pre-political. Except for one UAW lollipop poster, and the guys (all men in their 40s-60s) at the Labor Table, there was no organized labor presence on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.
    RED DAVE

    5
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 5TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET –THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 8:00 PM TO 9:30 PM.

    5-1) There was virtually no police presence at OWS. The police were confined to about 10 cops, mostly concentrated along the west side of the Occupation along, I believe, Church Street, the same number to the east, along Broadway, and a few on the north side, where their vehicles are parked.

    5-2) Because it was relatively late (the Occupation observes a quiet time from 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM), there was no drumming at the southwest corner, but there were some folksingers, who could have come right out of the Sixties.

    5-3) The OWS has put out a document: The Occupied Wall Street Spokes Council Proposal.
    http://www.nycga.net/spokes%20-council/
    It contains a detailed plan for the structure of the Occupation. There is a revleft.com discussion of it here:
    http://www.revleft.com/vb/important-ows-structural-t163086/index.html

    5-4) Without getting into the document itself, let me say that it represents a very cumbersome but sincere attempt to deal structurally with the ephemeral nature of those supporting the OWS, those actually occupying, passersby and, weakly, organized groups, especially labor. It should be seriously considered and discussed as this is actually, as for as I know, the first actual “official” document of the OWS.

    5-5) The OWS continues to struggle with the issue of demands (or goals). This is not an accident. The demands or program are close to the heart of any movement. And a movement so new as the OWS and largely run by people with little or no political experience should have difficulty with them. However, this difficulty also conceals the fact that this is a petit-bourgeois movement at this point, which makes it almost impossible for it to focus on a concise set of demands. Until the labor movement, organized and unorganized, and the organized left become involved, giving the OWS a “social weight” it currently lacks, this problem with program will persist.

    5-6) There was still no sign whatsoever of organized left-wing activity. We can no longer call this an accident. What few forces the organized left has should have been thrown into this struggle wholeheartedly. I am not talking about actually sleeping down there (not that a few resident comrades from each left-wing group wouldn’t be enormously useful), but maintaining an active presence. I saw no evidence of left-wingers engaged in debates (although this was after the nightly General Assembly) or of left-wing stickers, leaflets, newspapers, etc. It is obviously to me that the organized left, with few exceptions, is taking an abstentionist attitude. I mean, Comrades, not even one mass distribution? I know that some groups are working within their unions or with unions they are in touch with, but this needs to be publicized, especially at OWS itself.

    5-7) Kudos to the LRP for pushing through a motion at the New York Central Laor Council for a mass labor march on march, I believe, November 5th.

    5-8) The discussions that I heard going on, and I witnessed two or three of them, involved someone who was obviously a “leader type,” explaining to others the function, purpose and necessity of the structure as mentioned in “3” above. A leadership is emerging, as any leftist knows it must. However, it will act informally, without sanction, undemocratically, even clandestinely, so long as a real structure does not evolve, which is probably impossible at this point.

    5-9) The site, in general, is clean but had a generally disorganized look. However my overall impression was a heightening of discussion and more political focus.

    5-10) Reports I have read indicate that the reason Bloomberg backed down on clearing the site was the massive, if somewhat uncoordinated, organized labor presence on the morning that the clearing of the site was to take place. The occupiers were dug in to resist arrest, but the entire site was encircled by union people, with union jackets and hats, ready to resist the cops. The cops were vastly outnumbered by the workers.

    5-11) To summarize, the Occupation remains at a pre-political stage. There is more indication of labor presence. Still virtually no indication of a presence of the Left. The illusions of petit-bourgeois radicalism: extreme spontaneism, an absolute rejection of an effect structure geared for action, a lack of demands, persist.
    The beat goes on.
    RED DAVE

    4
    UNCOORDINATED NOTES ON MY 4TH VISIT TO OCCUPY WALL STREET – MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 4:30 PM TO 5:30 PM.

    4-1) Compared to a few days ago, the attitude of the police is noticeably different. They are not standing close to the edge of the site. They are not hurrying passersby along. They are mostly just standing around passively.

    4-2) Barriers remain along the west and north sides of the site. There is a stone wall on the south side. The east side, which faces Broadway (the busiest thoroughfare in Manhattan) is open.

    4-3) There are two focuses of energy: the southeast corner where the general assemblies are held and the southwest corner where there is constant drumming of about 6-8 drummers.

    4-4) Finally, there is a labor table. It was not manned nor was there any organized activity going on. The half a dozen people who were sitting around the table were all self-identified as union members, including one man from the structural ironworkers and one from the painters. This latter is interesting as during the time of the Civil Right Movement and the Vietnam War, the construction workers unions were the most reactionary.

    4-5) There was no sign whatsoever of organized left-wing activity: no stickers, posters, newsletters, tables, individuals leafletting, etc. THIS IS A FUCKING DISASTER, A SHAME AND SERVES TO EXPOSE THE WEAKNESS AND COWARDLINESS OF THE ORGANIZED LEFT.

    4-6) The site was noticeable cleaner and better organized. However, it should be noted that when I visited it last, it was disorganized but not particularly dirty.

    4-7) There is a noticeable absence of tension, probably having to do with the fact that the cops have been faced down and the mayor, may he rot in hell, backed off. I have read that the mayor’s live-in girlfriend is a stockholder in the company that actually owns the site.

    4-8) There is still virtually a complete absence of politics in the sense that the Left defines it. While there are constant little groups of people forming, reforming and talking, the issues are scattered and the discussions are unfocused and have a kind of casual nature. I may be projecting, but I get the distinct feeling that people are waiting for someone, some group, to make a definite statement or, at very least, provide a focus for the discussion.

    4-9) There is no indication of a coming together on a set of demands, goals, whatever. I heard people talking about: bribery of public officials, taxing the rich, use of hydrogen for power (I kid you not), etc. The self-identification of the occupiers as the “99%” is everywhere, but there is little beyond that in terms of a class analysis.

    4-10) The occupiers are mostly young, women and men, and beautifully ethnically mixed. Compared with a week ago, I would say there are less people hanging around the edges, less curiosity seekers and passersby. The novelty has worn off, but there is no “feeling” of jadedness. I do get an underlying feeling of impatience.

    4-11) To summarize, the Occupation is still at a pre-political stage. In my opinion, without the presence of organized workers, as part of their unions or as independent delegations from the unions (NYC is the most unionized city in the USA) and without the presence of the organized left, stagnation and frustration will soon begin to increase.

    4-12) Also, it should be noted, the weather is noticeably colder and it is getting dark markedly earlier than a month ago when the Occupation began.
    RED DAVE

    3
    Uncoordinated notes on my third visit to Occupy Wall Street – Wednesday, October 12 – About 9:00 PM

    3-1) The sensory impression of the Occupation at night is completely different than from the day. People are entirely within the barriers (still a large area of a full city block) and everything feels more concentrated, more intense.

    3-2) The impression is of even less politics at night than during the day. I had hoped to see a General Assembly or some large-scale discussion going on but no such.

    3-3) People are talking, talking, talking to each other. But there are few buttons, leaflets or any common method of conveying points of view. We are still at a very pre-poltical stage.

    3-4) The music and dancing (it shuts down at 10:00 PM) were intense, almost frightening. My wife, a professional singer and song writer said that the music was neither angry nor fearful by a way of avoiding anger and feear: “pure trance,” she called it.

    3-5) Absolutely no indication of the presence of organized labor or the organized Left.

    3-6) People are well supplied with food and plastic tarps against the weather. It rained briefly tonight, and the temperature is about 60 F with a wind blowing.
    RED DAVE

    2
    Uncoordinated Notes on My second Visit to Occupy Wall Street – 10/11/11

    2-1) Compared to 8 days ago, the Occupation is slightly larger.

    2-2) The attitude of the cops is slightly more hostile. Parts of the Occupation space are now enclosed by steel barriers.

    2-3) The space retains a distinctly hippy quality; however, the space is neither dirty nor does it have decadent feel to it. People appear positive and engaged.

    2-4) Dope smoking is going on relatively openly on the site.

    2-5) People with a “spiritual message,” i.e. yoga and meditation, are very much in evidence.

    2-6) While many of the slogans on the numerous signs are political, the Occupation does not have a political feel to it. It remains “pre-political.”

    2-7) While I was there, roughly at rush hour (4:30 PM to 6:30 PM), there was no evidence of a presence of organized labor.

    2-8) The only presence of the organized Left was a single, rather forlorn, individual giving out a leaflet for Socialist Appeal.

    2-9) Hostility to the Democrats is obvious.

    2-10) Hostility to the banks is prevalent, to other corporations less so.

    2-11) Generalized hostility to capitalism is evident and open.

    2-12) Use of the “human mic” is common. Whenever anyone speaks, people gather around and the human mic comes into use. It is quite amazing to see.
    RED DAVE

    1
    Okay, here are my impressions, that’s impressions and not any kind of systematic observations, based on a brief visit of less than an hour to Occupy Wall Street in New York. [October 3, 2011]

    1-1) The site is terrific: one block east and north of Ground Zero and a couple of blocks north and west of Wall Street itself. The park is a large open space with some trees with Broadway on the east and very tall building to the north and south.

    1-2) When I was there with my wife, about 4:30 this afternoon, grey skies and kind of cool, there were, I guess, about 4000 people there. There were a large number of tourists and people who work in the neighborhood and a group of about 500 who were engaged in the business of the occupation.

    1-3) The overall impression of the occupation is very positive. It looks and is very large for such an undertaking.

    1-4) The occupation itself, remember I’m viewing it from the outside, reminded me of the May Day Tribe demos in Washington in 1971. There was a purposeful, cheerful disorder. There are no tents allowed but there are make-shift one-person shelters (this is an inadequate term; think plastic sleeves with sleeping bags in them).

    1-5) There was a meeting going on when we were there, being carried out in Amislan (American Sign Language). It was difficult to discern if this was a group of deaf students just temporarily at the site or a permanent group.

    1-6) The most important communication medium for people there is large numbers of homemade signs on the ground on the north side of the site. People are encouraged to put make their own signs.

    1-7) There is a media center with a generator that connects the site to the Internet.

    1-8) There are tables, more like long, low platforms, where vegetarian food is served to all comers.

    1-9) Unfortunately, while we were there, the only group activity besides the Amislan group was a bunch of dancing Hari Krishnas without orange robes. It reminded me of Tompkins Square Park ca. 1968.

    1-10) There were no cops visible at all. None.

    1-11) My overall impression was of an activity more turned in on itself at this point. There was no systematic attempt to engage passersby. Since there is no coherent “official” line and not much organization, this is not surprising.

    1-12) There was no sign of organized leftist activity or organized union presence.

    1-13) I was surprised at how fast the whole thing has taken on a definite hippy look.

    1-14) Through my eyes, this occupation is at what I would call a pre-political stage.

    I’ll try to get back there in a day or two, but I work full-time, and I have a lot of stuff on my plate.
    RED DAVE

    Comment by RED DAVE — November 21, 2011 @ 3:51 am

  44. Here’s a great example of the kind of anarchist group that we, the socialist/Marxist left, should bloc with: http://redandblack.rocus.org/?page_id=35

    Their rules are closer to those of the 1903 RSDLP than anything on the American left today. How is that for irony?

    Comment by Binh — November 21, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  45. heynowheynow/Jon — did you get caught in the raid and are you alright?

    Comment by Binh — November 23, 2011 @ 3:23 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: