Message to Occupy Movements from a White Male Writing on No One’s Behalf

Resistance is something the pacifist left hates.I have a piece of self-criticism about the subject of my writing on Occupy and my inexperience in organizing which can be found here. As I wrote in that piece, in relation to speaking about Occupy movements:

…since I have white male privilege on my side, chances are that more people will listen [to me] than if I were a woman, trans- or cis-gender, if I were a person of color, and many other things in our society that disempower others and thus [result] in empowering me. This is a huge part of what we are fighting.

So, as a reminder to myself as much as to anyone, I am a single person, with white male privilege, writing from a location of and perspective of relative isolation. In other words, these views and words are not intended to represent anyone except myself.
A couple days ago I wrote a piece of alarmist propaganda raising the issue of infiltration by Ron Paul and Ayn Rand types into the Occupy movement.

While I stand by saying that these free-market capitalists should be given no quarter within the Occupy movements, it has come to my attention that the true enemy of the Occupy movements is an age-old enemy of uprising and revolution: liberal reformists, authoritarian self-appointed organizers, their “Peacekeeper” bullies/snitches, and anyone else trying to stifle opposition to the police and the use of civil disobedience in the movements. (It is absolutely amazing to me that most civil disobedience tactics are being disallowed in the Occupations of many cities because the particular tactics, such as taking the street, marching unpermitted, linking arms in the street and so on, are illegal.)

Due to my ignorance on the past roles of official Left/anti-war organizers/student leaders and similar groups in squashing uprising and revolution, I was unaware of what was in store for Occupy.

Many radicals have invested a lot into Occupy because we were told by its creators, propagators and initial organizers from the beginning that it would be an egalitarian anti-capitalist movement which seeks to occupy the financial and political centers of the world, strike fear into the heart of those people and systems which oppress us, and rise up in physical as well as organizational form against the enemy—Capitalism/capitalists, and the State/Statists. So I have been bouncing back and forth between disappointment and anger at the changes that are occurring within the movements because of the influence of leftists who wish to turn the movement into a mushy, pro-capitalist, police-loving, legalistic, anti-civil disobedience, pacifist dogma snitch-fest. There are certain cities that seem to be avoiding this co-opting by the official left/student leaders and professional “activist” types (notably Boston, from what I’ve read, but I don’t have contacts there. I suspect New Orleans organizers will work to avoid this liberalization, but I’d speak with my contact there about how that’s going before I can really comment. More on Occupy N.O. later when I have that information.) But I have been very disappointed to see Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Portland, Occupy Chicago and the Occupy milieu being turned into something terrible. Let us count the ways:

  • Occupy began as a radical, leaderless, non-hierarchical movement that stressed that all individuals and groups who are disempowered by capitalism and the State had a seat at the table. Now many cities are seeing organizers who disempower people, silence dissent and squash ideas which are too radical, in order to enforce their personal idea of what Occupy should be.
  • Occupy began as just that. An occupation. Now self-appointed official organizers insist upon all activity being permitted by the State. The “occupy” portion of Occupy ceases to have any meaning. We all know that the 20th century Civil Rights Movement’s use of civil disobedience was largely illegal and meant to create tension between demonstrators and the police, society, the systems of oppression they were fighting, etc. Liberals have long re-written history to make it appear as though civil disobedience was and should be toothless, lawfully minded, peaceful in the sense that it lacks actual resistance, and basically timid and submissive.
  • “Peacekeepers”: This idea which has been around for a while, and which was purely cynical and counterproductive from the start, enables individuals (appointed or promoted as an idea by self-appointed liberal leaders, spokespeople or otherwise) to embrace an authoritarian role. The job of a “peacekeeper” is quelling any resistance to the police, capitalism and the State. The end result is “peacekeepers” perpetrating their own form of violence and repression by physically squashing dissent, and regulating who is and who is not allowed to act and how. They act as the police themselves, whether using violent, brute force to enforce their will (as has been going on in Chicago, Portland and elsewhere) or by actually snitching to the class traitors known as cops. In the end they marginalize and silence any of us who are not conducive to their agenda and who wish to speak out against and smash the State/police/capitalism.

So in my ignorance, the first people I worried about were the right-wing capitalists who have no analyses of, criticisms of or intention to confront racism, homophobia, white privilege, Islamaphobia, sexism and bigotry. But it seems that the most vocal and ardent individuals who wish to transform the Occupy movement into a pacifistic, pro-capitalist reform movement that serves the needs of the State—and goes so far as to do the work of the police for the State—are certain leftists.

This transformation into a reform movement is something that should be fought against tooth-and-nail by anyone involved who wishes to see Occupy movements resemble anything like Tahrir Square or the other global movements that have been at all successful in attacking any form of despotism. After all, we have to remember that the Egyptians weren’t only chanting at the cops, they were fighting them and making physical confrontation with them.

If we follow the rules of the State and capitalism, we will be disempowered and Occupy will accomplish nearly nothing. The anti-war activists and official Left’s strategies and tactics failed to stop any wars in the first decade of this century. Why should we subscribe to those same strategies, tactics and dogmas of non-resistance now?

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7 thoughts on “Message to Occupy Movements from a White Male Writing on No One’s Behalf

  1. Ross Wolfe says:

    One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”


    • Ben Fenton says:

      First of all, it is angering to see yet another person assuming that they know what everyone at OWS thinks based on their impressions from what a few people say, or even many. It’s just so pompous and arrogant.

      Second of all, taking aim at Wall Street and NYSE is perfectly coherent because those are symbolic as centers of capitalism. Symbolism is pretty useful in these matters.

      Initially I misinterpreted your comment as being another drive-by attack by Ron Paul supporters, who keep firing off videos and Ron Paul propaganda without actual arguments, or insulting anyone who disagrees with the free market religion they subscribe to.

      I understand the need for an educated perspective on capitalism, however I do not think that having a technical analysis is necessary to oppose capitalism. To say so is to make the claim that people who live in economically destitute areas, who have no access to quality education, are ignorant as to the reasons why capitalism is destructive.

      I also hope that OWS is an opportunity for radicalizing people, but from what I’ve been hearing, all dissent is being squashed by organizers; go to this post: to see how liberals are physically quelling all civil disobedience, dissent and opposition to the State. They are actually trying to hide the existence of anarchists at the events. Indeed, radicals are persona non grata at many Occupy events. (This is not to imply that the only sort of radical is an anarchist.)

    • Ben Fenton says:

      And by the way, I went to your linked article. Within the first couple paragraphs it took the typical cheap shot at anarchists, dismissing us because some of us wear black and bandanas, thus silencing our voices simply because we are anarchists.

      • Ross Wolfe says:

        As I wrote in response on my own blog, most thinking anarchists (and there are quite a few) tend to be sympathetic to such criticisms of the more superficial, fashionable elements of their movement. God knows I am mercilessly critical of most of the “alphabet-soup” of Marxoid sects (RCP, FRSO, ISO, etc.) that exist out there.

        Clearly it is impossible to expect ideological clarity or an adequate theoretical understanding of capitalism from the most oppressed members of society. Still, there need to be enough people in leadership roles who do have a deeper understanding to help direct action effectively.

        • Ben Fenton says:

          I see. Yes, language can be complex. As an anarchist I am so used to seeing us be insulted, written off and boxed in.

          Personally, I think OWS needs to avoid those “leadership roles” that you’re talking about, but hey, I’m against hierarchy, that’s how it goes.

          To be clear, yes I agree to some extent that theory is important, but what people on the street and in the neighborhoods experience every day is clear enough. I know that when a police officer murders someone in a black neighborhood, that regardless of theory those individuals and groups who are victimized know who their oppressors are and why they are fighting back, if they can afford to fight back at all.

        • Ben Fenton says:

          P.S. I’ll give that article another shot, but I have a guest coming soon and gotta save it for later. Also, I understand the aversion to hipsters but sometimes appearances (and our assumptions about them) can be distracting and misleading. Thanks, Ross, and I hope to continue this discussion.

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