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Translating Anarchy

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 12, 2013, 9:36 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: organizer, Anarchism, Mark Bray

Interview with Mark Bray, OWS organizer and author of the new book Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street

What role did you play in OWS?

During the first year of the movement I was most active in the Press Working Group, which facilitated communication between the media and the movement. Therefore I focus on the role of the media and its influence on Occupy a great deal in the book because, ultimately, I think the rise and fall of the first wave of Occupy had a great deal to do with how it was portrayed in the media and how everyday people interpreted it through the corporate media lens.

I also regularly attended meetings of the Direct Action Working Group and helped plan some actions in the winter of 2011-2012. Regarding the book, this range of participation gave me an even greater insight into the inner workings of OWS in NYC.

What inspired you to write the book?

As a historian, I was interested in documenting a historic moment as it was unfolding around me. I realized that I had an opportunity to capture an element of what was going on that would be lost in time if it wasn’t documented and for me the most interesting part of the movement was the political composition of its organizers. As I got more and more involved I started to realize that more and more of the core organizers of the movement had really radical politics.

There was definitely a huge gap between the political outlook of the average person who marched in an OWS event and wanted to ‘get money out of politics’ and the average organizer who was working toward an anti-capitalist revolution. To me that was especially fascinating given how the media ignored the distinction between organizers and participants and included everyone under homogenizing rubric of ‘the protester.’ In the eyes of the media all we ever did was show up to the park and hold signs so the political cleavages that influenced the direction of the movement were obscured.

Also not only the media but most liberal supporters of the movement had this ingrained antagonism toward seeing OWS in terms of ideology or distinct political orientations. Instead most liked to see us all as this uniform sea of ‘democracy’ that had transcended ‘sectarian’ political labels but in fact this muddled outlook ran the risk of entrenching the default liberal orientation.

So as I came to realize that anarchist politics played a powerful role in the movement I decided to try to gauge that influence by interviewing as many organizers (as opposed to participants) as I could to see how they identified politically, what they thought about capitalism and democracy, who they did or did not vote for and other questions.

Over the course of a little over a year I interviewed 192 organizers and found that 39% self-identified as anarchists and 78% were anti-capitalist. I also found that about 33% of organizers had what I call ‘anarchistic’ politics, meaning that they were anti-capitalist anti-authoritarians with direct-action oriented politics who didn’t actively identify as anarchists. To me the label is not what’s important, it’s the content behind it so I was very excited to be able to document the fact that about 72% of the OWS organizers of NYC had anarchist politics whether explicitly or implicitly.

In a context where many would have us believe that anarchists ‘ruined’ occupy by resisting hierarchical leadership and infusing a sense of militancy, I think it’s really important to be able to definitively demonstrate that not only was OWS started primarily by anarchists, but that even throughout the first year most of those keeping it afloat were anarchists. I think mainstream liberals have tended to try to isolate those aspects of OWS that they liked and try to denigrate the rest without realizing that the dynamism of the movement stemmed from it’s anti-authoritarian nature.

What’s the significance of the title Translating Anarchy?

The book’s called Translating Anarchy because in my opinion OWS became so popular because it managed to present essentially anarchist politics (autonomy, self-management, direct democracy, even anti-capitalism) in an accessible format without generally using the word ‘anarchist.’ For example, I found that 65% of self-identified anarchists wouldn’t use the ‘a-word’ if they were speaking about their politics to a person they had just met who was unfamiliar with radical politics. Instead they would convey their perspectives through more familiar language.

Also many of the organizers of the Press Working Group were anarchists but didn’t present themselves as such with MSNBC or The Wall Street Journal. So my point is that in many ways Occupy Wall Street was fundamentally about ‘translating anarchy’ (promoting horizontalism, anti-capitalism, mutual aid) in an intelligible idiom.

I’m not arguing against using the term ‘anarchist’ explicitly. After all I did write a book called Translating Anarchy. Rather I’m pointing out that the language we use should be calibrated to the context and that in some contexts the ideas of anarchism do better without the misunderstood label.

What influence do you think OWS has had on the development of anarchism in the United States?

Well to a large extent the answer to that question will only be known in the future, but I think it’s safe to say that an entire generation of radical youth came of political age in a broad-based, horizontal, anti-capitalist context and that this early exposure to direct democracy and direct action will carry over into the politics of the social movements to come.

Given how the financial system has been going and the tendency of capitalism to produce crisis we have to be ready for the next opportunity and so hopefully the anarchist seeds that were planted with OWS will blossom in the not so distant future.

5 Comments

#owswalk: Sunday September 15th | Occupy Anniversary Participatory Walking Tour

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 12, 2013, 7:53 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: history, walking tour, ows

Occupy Anniversary Participatory Walking Tour and Cartography Party

The official history of the United States is a history of purposely, systematically erasing social justice movements from our collective memory, or editing them beyond recognition. Forgotten are the labor struggles that won us Social Security and the weekend; the breadth of the civil rights movement — from bus windows smashed on Freedom Rides to Black Panthers murdered by police in their sleep — is reduced to a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., in a corner of the nation’s capital. The intended consequence is that ordinary people won’t remember that, by organizing, they can build power for themselves and change the world. This erasure often works.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” said Milan Kundera.

On September 17 last year, the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, New York Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin claimed of the movement, “It will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.” Could this be true of a phenomenon that turned so many young people into activists for the first time, and that so many elders described as the thing they’d been waiting for their whole lives? The real question is: Will we allow it to be?

As the second anniversary approaches, a group of people who have been organizing and documenting the movement for the past two years are experimenting with ways of making sure our history keeps being told, and keeps spurring our struggles on in the future.

To that end, there will be a Participatory Walking Tour and Cartography Party in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, September 15. We’ll be retracing our steps through Liberty Square and Wall Street. There is no pre-arranged script; those who attend will tell their own stories and share each other’s memories. Afterward, we’ll celebrate our past and prepare for our future. RSVP here.

At 4 p.m. on September 15, we’ll meet between Bowling Green and the Charging Bull, the site of the movement’s first planning meeting and the initial congregating point of its first day. From there, we’ll go on a participatory walking tour to sites like Trinity Church, Liberty Square, Chase Manhattan Plaza and Wall Street itself. Follow the walking tour on the hashtag #owswalk.

Then, at 7 p.m., we’ll gather at the meeting space on the fourth floor of 16 Beaver St., where some of the most important Occupy organizing meetings took place. There will be an interactive cartography exercise, a display of artifacts collected by the Archives Working Group, projected video footage from the Media Working Group, copies of some of the new books about the movement and more. Oral histories will be collected. There will be food and drinks on hand, though we invite you to bring some to share.

Occupy is not the first movement to rise up against injustice and greed. It won’t be the last. But the better we remember this and other movements, the better prepared we’ll be to fight and win in those to come.

https://www.facebook.com/events/121821474655171/

2 Comments

#S17: NO to Politicians as Speakers at OWS Events

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 9, 2013, 12:44 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: OWS, politicans, #S17

The very nature of a politician's job grants them a public forum. That is what they do--speak to and for the public (ie their constituents). They have access to it at their fingertips at any given moment.

The people (in this instance meaning non-elected officials) have to make their own platform. Thus the occupation. Thus the many brilliant and the many unrecognized struggles across NYC and beyond looking to deliver a message about the health and well being of their communities.

Of course, there are some important distinctions between the "you only rep yourself and not any group of folks" approach that the NYCGA took and the larger NGO and non-profit structures and culture of representation. And it can be/has been argued that various orgs and unions also have a platform given their access/members/funds/influence. Not ignoring that...but for the moment let's acknowledge the everyday platform that politicians have, as well as the generally ineffective way that many of them have put that access into play around OWS and bigger police brutality issues (barring recent work around Stop and Frisk--which would not have moved without strategic and consistent organizing).

We don't need to share space with politicians. They need to be pushed. Hard.

Politicians have a lot of people to placate/appeal to--if they can take small steps that don't cost them much that is GUARANTEED what they will do.

Being able to say "I stood with so and so and said some things about that important issue" will be enough for them to justify "movement" on an issue.

Which is clearly NOT enough.

This isn't about us vs. them, it's about role distinction. Let's not confuse the role of social change agents with those of social mouth pieces. Just like many of the bigger non-profits, politicians rarely step out and lead from a place of radical compassion. That's why we are here.

We have to teach them. We must must must inspire them to be better than they are.

16 Comments

Hands Off Syria! Anti-War Actions, Sep 7th and 9th

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 5, 2013, 3:29 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: syria, anti-war

Imgur

via UNAC and interoccupy.net:

A collective fierce voice demanding, “Not another war” is resounding across the country and around the world.

Now is the moment to make our voices heard.

Join unified actions this Sat. Sept. 7, in

NEW YORK’s TIMES SQUARE, 42ND STREET AND SEVENTH AVENUE AT 1 PM & in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles

and on

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, IN FRONT OF THE WHITE HOUSE with Syrian American Forum from 10 to 12. Marching to Congress – Upper Senate Park

Click HERE to find an action near you.

Join in to stop the attack on Syria. The coming days provide the last chance to mobilize popular resistance to the military strike. The people fear both the political and economic consequences of another costly war. Millions believe the pretext for the war is another Big Lie like the lies used before the Vietnam, Iraq and Libya wars. We need to join together to loudly oppose this new war.

Poised to launch weapons of mass death on the Syrian people, the administration has called time out to try to win over the population and Congress with a “full-court press” assault of war propaganda. We must meet this with a “full-court press” response.

Along with the dozens of protests held last week in the U.S. and hundreds worldwide, the anti-attack forces have called major actions in the next week and a full week of lobbying and local actions.

Under the slogans of “Hands off Syria! Not another war!” the International Action Center initiated a call for a united regional action of all antiwar forces for September 7 at Times Square at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue, NYC at 1 p.m.

Other actions on Saturday, September 7 include a protest called by the Answer Coalition in front of the White House at noon. There are also regional coalitions organizing demonstrations in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, among other cities.

Many groups are also organizing delegations to congressional offices in the coming week before congressional members head back to DC on Sept 9. The delegations range from polite visits to demonstrations to plans for encampments on the doorstep.

Full listings of endorsing organizations and cities where actions are planned can be found at iacenter.org. Click HERE to view an endorsers list. Click HERE to endorse, support or list a local action. Click HERE to find an action near you.

Broad support is also growing for an initiative by the Syrian American Forum to hold its “Hands Off Syria, Don’t bomb Syria” March on Washington on Sept. 9, when Congress is due to reconvene. The group is organizing buses from the Midwest, South New York and other areas for a Monday rally in front of the White House.

Already 50 organizations have endorsed and are mobilizing for these and other actions, including the United National Antiwar Coalition. Among them is “coordinated day of varied actions directed at Congress” on Friday, Sept. 6, from 4-6 p.m. Click HERE to view a full listing of actions. Click HERE to view an endorsers list.

Click HERE to view more endorsers. Click HERE to endorse, support or list a local action. Click HERE to find an action near you.

58 Comments

Something Truly Brand New

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 4, 2013, 8:31 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, #S17, ows

About #S17.

There are politicians that come from all sides to lend their support, in the hopes that occupy will give a shout out in the future and endorse them. We struggle with how to approach this, usually absurd, situation.

We want something new and they want to work from within.

Fifty years ago, at the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the event's lead organizer, the incomparable Bayard Rustin, insisted passionately (and successfully) that no politicians or political appointees be allowed to speak.

Bayard Rustin was not an anarchist. (In fact, for whatever it's worth, the event was largely funded by the UAW, one of the most hierarchical organizations on the Left, and one of the most wedded-at-the-hips to the Dems to boot.)

Which begs the question: why would Rustin have done such a thing? And what were the consequences of his having done so?

We are now in a world in which the proportion of African American men in the United States, with some sort of criminal record, approaches 80%. We are now in a world in which corporations have lobbied for laws that are tantamount to hunting our children.

We need new solutions and we need them now.

We are finished with politics as usual. It is time for something truly brand new.

5 Comments

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