A Chill Descends On Occupy Wall Street; "The Leaders of the allegedly Leaderless Movement"
by Fritz Tucker
On Sunday, October 23, a meeting was held at 60 Wall Street. Six leaders discussed what to do with the half-million dollars that had been donated to their organization, since, in their estimation, the organization was incapable of making sound financial decisions.
Six unelected people who have imposed their will upon others to the extent that they can look for monies owed have pointed out that there has been no small committee like them in charge during the entire movement.
The proposed solution was not to spend the money educating their co-workers or stimulating more active participation by improving the organization’s structures and tactics. Instead, those present discussed how they could commandeer the $500,000 for their new, more exclusive organization.
Shocked! I'm shocked to find gambling in this establishment!
No, this was not the meeting of any traditional influence on Wall Street. These were six of the leaders of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
But we were told OWS had no leaders. What's changed?
Occupy Wall Street’s Structure Working Group (WG) has created a new organization called the Spokes Council. “Teach-ins” were held to workshop and promote the Spokes Council throughout the week of October 22-28. I attended the teach-in on Sunday the 23rd.
They aren't going to come up with theater or exercising or anything productive, all they have are empty gatherings.
According to Marisa Holmes, one of the most outspoken and influential leaders of OWS,
According to whom is Marisa Holmes one of the most outspoken and influential leaders of OWS?
the NYC-GA started receiving donations from around the world when OWS began on September 17. Because the NYC-GA was not an official organization, and therefore could not legally receive thousands of dollars in donations,
On what planet is it illegal for someone to give you money if they want to?
the nonprofit Alliance for Global Justice helped OWS create Friends of Liberty Plaza, which receives tax-free donations for OWS. Since then, Friends of Liberty Plaza has received over $500,000.
How much of a cut do they take for themselves? What role do they play in sustaining OWS? How many of them are Occupiers themselves? What role did people like them play in making it illegal to give money to people just because you want to?
Until October 28, anybody who wanted to receive more than $100 from Friends of Liberty Plaza had to go through the often arduous modified consensus process
Why is this even a fact? Patti Smith sang it long ago, "Free money!"
Marxism's flaw, you simply cannot determine what the people will do or think. The quantity will overpower everything else and the only ones to thrive will be those who depend on mob rule, as we see in Oakland.
of the NYC-GA—
Even in very small communities, direct democracy quickly becomes an impossibility.
which, despite its well-documented
Really? Who has been keeping those documents? This is the first we're hearing of the money, remember?
It's tough to make things work the way they should, isn't it?
granted $25,740 to the Media WG for live-stream equipment on October 12,
Such cheap high-quality communications. Ain't capitalism grand?
and $1,400 to the Food and Medical WGs for herbal tonics on October 18.
I gather these herbal tonics weren't grown in the greenhouse out back.
At the teach-in, Ms. Holmes maintained that while the NYC-GA is the “de facto” mechanism for distributing funds, it has no right to do so,
A "right" is sort of like a "demand", which is the OWS leaders were refusing to articulate a few weeks ago for some bullshit reason. OWS has no mission statement. At this point, "Destroy Israel" would probably get quite a few votes.
even though she acknowledged that most donors were likely under the impression that the NYC-GA was the only organization with access to these funds.
That's another thing that goes along with organization and responsibility, people are more inclined to provide money.
Two other leaders of the teach-in, Daniel and Adash, concurred with Holmes.
I know they're guys, but is anybody else getting a Cirinist vibe?
Ms. Holmes also stated at the teach-in that five people in the Finance WG have access to the $500,000 raised by Friends of Liberty Plaza. When Suresh Fernando, the man taking notes,
asked who these people are, the leaders of the Structure WG nervously laughed and said that it was hard to keep track of the “constantly fluctuating” heads of the Finance WG.
Last I heard, there were about 69 different organized clusters of people with their own little causes. A women-only tent has just been erected [HAH! Get it?] so changes should happen more quickly now. Alliances of personality and influence and ideology have been formed on this camping trip. There's also the challenge that few of them want to quit in front of the others and they'll entertain themselves attempting to dominate or intruigue.
Shifting departments and department heads would be hard for any of them to keep track of.
Mr. Fernando made at least four increasingly explicit requests for the names. Each request was turned down by the giggling, equivocating leaders.
Heh, this could be childish refusal, or people who weren't successful through intelligence.
The leaders of the Structure WG eventually regained control of the teach-in. They said that they too were unhappy with the Finance WG’s monopoly over OWS’s funds, which is why they wanted to create the Spokes Council.
The person who actually knew something about money was the one who took charge of it and became Finance Workgroup for his series of tents. The Structure (someone concerned with the tents themselves rather than the occupants, I'm guessing) WG doesn't like how the money's being handled and wants to form a committee and wrest it away from Finance.
What upset them more, however, was the inefficient and fickle General Assembly.
If Lenin and Trotsky had been recorded during their revolution, this is what they'd have said. In Russian, the language of bad people. Democracy sucks. The people should have no say in what happens to them.
A major point of the discussion was whether the Spokes Council and the NYC-GA should have access to the funds, or just the Spokes Council.
Do we even pretend to give a damn about democracy or just go straight to bunker mode?
Daniel, a tall, red-bearded, white twenty-something—one of the six leaders of the teach-in—said that the NYC-GA needed to be completely defunded because those with “no stake” in the Occupy Wall Street movement shouldn’t have a say in how the money was spent. When I asked him whether everybody in the 99% had a stake in the movement, he said that only those occupying or working in Zuccotti Park did. I pointed out that since the General Assembly took place in Zuccotti Park, everybody who participated was an occupier. He responded with a long rant about how Zuccotti Park is filled with “tourists,” “free-loaders” and “crackheads” and suggested a solution that the even NYPD has not yet attempted: Daniel said that he’d like to take a fire-hose and clear out the entire encampment, adding hopefully that only the “real” activists would come back.
We met Daniel earlier when the reporter arrived, remember? I quite agree, disposing of the human vermin who interfere with your revolution would make sure only real activists return to the Occupation site.
The main obstacle to the creation of the Spokes Council was that the NYC-GA had already voted against it four times.
Fortunately, true revolutionaries never take "no" for an answer. Just like so many others in the Park.
One audience member observed that no organization would vote to relinquish its power. Some of the strongest proponents of the Spokes Council responded that they had taken this into account, and were planning on creating the Spokes Council regardless of whether the NYC-GA accepted the proposal. They claimed that, in the interests of non-hierarchy, neither the Spokes Council nor the General Assembly should have power over the other.
Having declared their independence from the GA, they immediately set to undermining it because the Park wasn't big enough for the two leadership organizations. Who's in charge of the Security WG?In the minutes of the teach-in on Saturday the 22nd, the leaders recognize that usurping power from the NYC-GA might make people uncomfortable. The Structure WG’s eventual proposal was to keep the General Assembly alive and functioning while the Spokes Council “gets on its feet.”
The leech cannot overpower its host immediately.
Working Groups could still technically get funding through the NYC-GA, but the “GA may stop making those kinds of decisions because people [will] stop going… To officially take power away isn’t necessary,” especially because the NYC-GA works on the consensus model. A small group of people aiming to delegitimize the NYC-GA could easily attend each session merely to block every proposal. According to a member of the Demands WG, this is already occurring in several Working Groups.
The drummers and the drummers-at-heart.To placate the rest of OWS, the Structure WG amended their original proposal and gave the NYC-GA power to dissolve the Spokes Council. This amendment is irrelevant, however, given the 90% majority requirement in the NYC-GA, and the ability of members of the Spokes Council to vote in the NYC-GA.
I like that they're trying to apply civilized democratic principles. Before Daniel purges everybody anyway.
The newly formed Spokes Council claims to adhere to the “statement of principles” adopted by the New York City General Assembly, including “direct-democracy, non-hierarchy, participation, and inclusion.” The Spokes Council differs from the NYC-GA, however, in three main respects: the Spokes Council has the power to exclude new groups that don’t receive a 90% majority vote for admission; in the NYC-GA, everybody technically has the right to speak, whereas in the Spokes Council each Working Group has a spokesperson, who can be recalled only by a 90% majority; and the NYC-GA allows one vote per person, whereas the Spokes Council operates more indirectly, granting each Working Group one vote
By George, it's almost like a bicameral congress!When I pointed out the contradictions these differences present to the Council’s stated principles, the leaders of Sunday’s teach-in insisted that the Spokes Council was the most participatory, democratic organization possible—the same slogan they repeated last month about the General Assembly. I felt like I was watching a local production of Animal Farm.
The Bolsheviks profess fealty to the previously-established socialist order, until it is time to overthrow it. You don't need a fable about pigs to see that every time it happens.
I’ve attended two mock Spokes Councils in the past month. At the Spokes Council in Washington Square Park on October 15, the unelected facilitators set the agenda:
You don't have leaders or organized missions. Who the f*ck do you think will set the agenda?
Occupy Washington Square Park. Then they set the terms of debate, breaking the group into three circles: those who wanted to occupy and possibly get arrested, those who wanted there to be an occupation and would assist those being arrested,
The Luca Brasis and the Sonny Corleones?
and those who wanted to build the movement in other ways. I went with the third group.
How large were the first two groups, the ones who wanted to be arrested? How many people did they represent?
The facilitators told each group to elect a facilitator, a note-taker, and a spokesperson who would read the notes from each group’s meeting. Almost immediately, one of the members of the OWS inner-circle asked my group if anybody had a problem if she facilitated. Nobody objected, so she was “elected.”
People are sheep. Treat them as sheep and you will go far.
Although she was in the one group that opposed occupying Washington Square Park, she lectured us about the need to occupy public parks.
Perhaps a Trotskyite 'internationalist' but that's entirely speculation on my part.
I was vocal in my group, arguing that the fundamental problem in our hierarchical, bureaucratic society is the lack of a truly democratic, dialogic way of relating to one another—not that public parks close at midnight. I repeated the arguments I had raised in previous General Assemblies,
Heh, I'm reading about atrocities in Nigeria being performed by Muslims against Christians and others and wondering where that *other* General Assembly is these days?
concluding that OWS’ main goal should be to develop dialogic, democratic methods
That's the second time the reporter used those words in consecutive order.
in the occupied areas, and to extend this way of life into every home, workplace and school, and in local, regional, national and international bodies.
No. Keep your revolution off of my body.
My advocacy for radical democracy wasn’t particularly popular.
Then what's the point of 90% majority votes in the GA?
Ironically, the predominantly middle-class, white men leading the movement claim that their hostility to democracy is in the interest of “protecting minorities,” referring to oppressed genders, races, classes, ages, and nations. Far from being “minorities,” these people make up the majority of the world’s population; the worldwide outcry for democracy vitiates the paternalistic notion that the oppressed need “protection.”
But this is the natural result of leftist outcomes. If the majority of the world's population was capable of fairly distributing its wealth, they would be capitalist and wouldn't need well-fed well-dressed white people Occupying on their behalf.
The discussion turned to which locations the movement should occupy, ignoring the question of whether occupation for the sake of occupation was a good idea. I suggested teaming with evicted tenants and former homeowners to occupy foreclosed homes, abandoned apartments and unsold condos—an act that would strike at the heart of the economic crisis, and endear the movement to the oppressed. This idea generated a lot of support, but was not repeated by my “spokesperson” when the groups reconvened.
There won't be anything in the way of movement to another Occupation site, not for a while. The Stalinist 'one nation first' approach will dominate. The rest of this is Trotskyist delusion.
At the teach-in on Sunday the 23rd, one of the leaders’ main gripes—rightfully so—was that the NYC-GA was inefficient
It's like we can't just do whatever we want whenever we want without consequences. WTF?
and dominated by society’s vocal minorities,
Frankly, people who are silent are very much the minority, unfortunately.
particularly middle-class white men.
Because this "99%" bullshit was only a front anyway.
The underlying cause is not eliminated by the Spokes Council, but is in fact exacerbated by it. The major flaw of the General Assembly is the need for a 90% majority to pass proposals. This “modified consensus” ensures the continuation of the dominant culture through the passage of only the most conservative measures. In the Spokes Council, proposals can be blocked by 11% of the members of 11% of the Working Groups, meaning that a minority of 1.2% can stymie the will of 98.8% majority.
Percentages such as that are the least of your worries in the future.
Instead of cutting to the structural and psychological core of oppression, the proponents of the Spokes Council merely apply a topical cream by demanding that no WG have the same spokesperson more than once a week.
There's always these attempts to mandate people change places, just for the sake of ordering them to do so. It fails and the cadre have to strike harder to stop the movement altogether when they clamp down.
The leaders of OWS seem to understand that a genuinely revolutionary movement would lead to deepening involvement by oppressed communities. The leaders then try to reverse-engineer a revolution by consistently choosing among the few people of color and women involved in OWS to be its spokespeople and facilitators,
No, they're trying to avoid all the obnoxious accusations of racism and sexism by putting the minorities up front. It doesn't help, naturally, because without such accusations, where would this reporter be?
as if this token involvement will guarantee a genuine revolutionary movement. In fact, tokenism obscures the need for systematic change by misrepresenting the demographics of OWS.
Then produce qualified accurate representation. Otherwise, you're inventing a problem ("tokenism") misidentifying the problem ("need for systematic change"), refusing to recognize the symptoms ("demographics of OWS") and prescribing the wrong treatment ("obscures the need").
Tokenism also gives the leaders of OWS an argument to fall back upon when confronted with the fact that they have thus far been unable to mobilize and involve most of the 99%.
Never mind those facts, you fail at everything.
The Spokes Council, in fact, doesn’t have enough regard for working people,
Thing is about working people, mostly, they don't want to be working people. What the OWS choose not to do, for principled stances or not, everybody else *has* to do.
Whose teachers are giving them credit to be there.
and people with dependents to have one of their three weekly meetings on a weekend afternoon. Instead of ensuring broad participation of traditionally marginalized and oppressed communities, OWS limits participation to individuals from these communities who are privileged enough to be able to spend three workdays a week at Zuccotti Park.
"Privileged enough" to spend three workdays at the park. Yes, you read that right. Not enough that it takes food out of their kids mouth and time away from the job, what if this is the half-week someone flips out and the cops bust everybody?
The participation of oppressed people in oppressive organizations is not a step towards liberation, but is the deepening of their complicity in their own domination.
According to someone who has never accomplished anything in his/her/its life before. People who find something else to do with their own lives, even passively watching favorite tv shows or getting drunk, are more liberated by that freedom than anything these OWS protestors could understand.
The unabated war on women and people of color in America, during Obama’s presidency, with Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, is a testament to the structural and psychological nature of oppression, and the inability for spokespeople to represent the oppressed.
Really puts Darfur in its place, doesn't it?
After the Structure WG’s teach-in ended, I put together a short summary of what I’d heard. I waited for two hours while the General Assembly slowly got to the announcements--the only part of the NYC-GA open for anyone to participate.
So who decided that rule? Who enforces it? I understand there are internal security forces - victims of sexual assault are not encouraged to go to the police - but I don't recall seeing any names attached to that.
Incidentally, there should be something like Speaker's Corner where people can complain endlessly. OWS never considers things like that.
When my turn came to speak, I brought up the plans of “the leaders of the allegedly leaderless movement” to commandeer the half-million dollars sent to the General Assembly for their new, exclusive, undemocratic, representational organization. Before I could finish,
Hey, I just want to say Beyonce should have won that award.
the facilitators and other members of the OWS inner circle started shouting over me. Amidst the confusion, the human mic stopped projecting what I, or anybody was saying. Because silence was what they were after, the leaders won.
They also see their leaders, the "inner circle" ganging up on somebody who dared to breach the inner circle. That's fascinating in and of itself. Besides, the human mic thing doesn't work very well. There's a reason people use electronic mics.
Eventually one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking “opinions, not facts,” which is why I would not be allowed to continue. He also asserted untruthfully that I had gone over my allotted minute. Notably, the facilitators and members of the OWS inner circle regularly ignore time restrictions.
This reaction shouldn’t surprise anyone.
I'm not surprised. I bet very few people there have a working watch any longer.
It is reasonable to expect any undemocratic organization to be co-opted eventually by a vocal minority or charismatic individual. On Friday, October 29, the proposal to create the Spokes Council was put to the NYC-GA for a fifth time, and finally received a 90% majority. The facilitators assisted the process by denying two vocal critics of the Spokes Council their allotted time to speak against it.
There was the initial purge required to attain respectability...
Sometimes it snows before the leaves have fallen. The ineffective and increasingly symbolic NYC-GA will most likely continue to hang around as long as the people who congregate in Zuccotti Park hold out hope for a more participatory, democratic society. The Spokes Council will only be more effective in its exclusiveness.. Let’s hope the inclusive spirit driving the Occupy movement is not frozen out.
Well of course it'll be frozen out. I'm honestly surprised people have made it through the weekend.