Not everything is included. It's politically imperative not to let Occupy Wall Street become an omnibus container for any and all political sentiments. Not every position should be welcomed, encouraged, or tolerated. How this plays out in the General Assemblies is an effect of the local cultures, the activists involved, the patterns of interaction. In NY, the power dynamics are already reflected upon in discussions and working groups. I expect this is also the case already in the other sites. In the same way that racism, sexism, and homophobia have no place in the movement, it should also be the case that libertarian, capitalist, and financialist attempts to interpret and guide the movement are rejected (how this occurs will vary with respect to specific site or context; for example, here on this blog, I am criticizing the view which is not the same as refusing to consider it; I consider it and I consider it wrong).
For a while I've been harping on the theme of the struggle over the meaning of occupy wall street, that is, over the exciting political space that people have opened up through their political intervention and its form as an occupation. Here are some of the dominant interpretations:
1. The medium is the message, that is, the occupation of the square is the message. It is an opening to new practices, new modes of being together that are not scripted by any dominant narratives, structures, or systems.
2. Protest is message. This tends to be coupled with the idea that the message is obvious and doesn't need to be stated. It can be found in interpretations that emphasize anger and morality. Protesters are angry at a political system that bailed out Wall Street while Main Street was left to face as roughly 20 percent decline it our income over the last three years. These views tend to think that any political achievement of the movement will be minimal but that it expresses a moral register that may well have important political and social effects.
3. The message has (or should have or will have) a content and this content is primarily:
--an economic message about the utter failure of capitalism
--a political message about the utter failure of representational politics
--a combination of both of these
Views 1 and 2 are very attractive, particularly to those of us who have been emersed in communicative capitalism with its individualist and democratic ethos for so long. The new form of life is a breath of fresh air, an escape from screens and commercialism; it just feels right. Similarly, we are used to emphasizing feelings, affects, impressions. So number 2 meshes well with the ethical sensibility that has passed for politics at a time when actual political decisions and organizations have been so difficult. Yet 3 is crucial if OWS is to break with what we have, that is, if it is to be a new form of constituent power, a power that is a "direct initiative of the people from below." Views 1 and 2 reject that kind of constituent power, seeing instead a being beyond power or an ethics that may influence power but eschews taking or exercising it.
With that said, here is an example of the kind of interpretation of OWS that should be completely rejected. It comes from Dave Winer. He writes (my comments will be in italics):
Occupy Wall Street is not part of any party. It's not left or right, although many of the people that are part of it look left. But if you look at the groups that are forming around the country, you'll see that it looks more like America than it does any single political discipline. If it works, it should be equally comfortable for a Republican who yearns for real representative government in the United States as it is for a labor union member, student or retiree.
If Republicans can be happy with Occupy Wall Street, then the movement is failing to make the gap between what is and what should be appear. If the goal of Occupy Wall Street is representative government, then it is failing to distinguish itself politically from business as usual. With these moves, Winer is trying to make the movement indistinguishable from the social as it is, with no economic or political division.
It should be the thing that we all agree on. The principle that Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address. A government of the people, by the people and for the people. Whether it perishes from the earth is the question. Imho.
The point should not be the agreement of everybody but the forcing of the division that already exists. Winer is doing his best to erase antagonism, to replace it with a false unity. If everyone already agrees, there is no politics.
The 99 percent message is brilliant, but it's problematic. What if I were a member of the 1 percent (I might be). Would my participation be welcome?
The slogan advances the opposition of the people to the elite that has exploited us and expropriated our labor and our future. No, exploiters are not welcome. But exploiters who want to participate in overthrowing capitalism, in ending the conditions that have given them an obscene percentage of the social surplus should be encouraged to do so. But only under the condition that they realize that the end of the game is eliminating the conditions that put them in the top one percent.
This kind of pedantry lets us know that we are dealing with someone who is concerned primarily with protecting his claim position. No wonder he is afraid and is trying to convince folks that we all agree. We don't.
Here's a test. Would Warren Buffett be welcome if he wanted to march? I don't think there's any doubt the Buffett is already part of the movement. But he's also part of the one percent.
The march is not to protect Warren Buffett. What kind of obscenity puts the burden on the 99% of welcoming the obscenely rich? Where is the shame?
Is this movement against success? If so, we have a problem. Because the self-reliance of Emerson is a core American value. And the ideal of opportunity for all. But the playing field must be level, and we must extend help to each generation as it was extended to previous generations. If you study the history of this country you'll see those are also core values.
The unstated assumption is the success is financial success in the market and that markets should persist. Winer admits, then, that there is a problem here. The real name for that problem: class conflict. And all the rhetoric around self-reliance in the world won't cover that up.
I've heard some borderline ageist things. Not surprising. When I was young and we were marching in the streets, some people said Don't trust anyone over 30. I wasn't one of them, and I didn't believe it. But it was said. Ageism is the one "ism" that seems to be tolerated. I personally am not tolerant of it, and I call it out when I see it. On Twitter today, after I changed my icon to a tribute to the young Steve Jobs, a correspondent excused himself as being old (I'm guessing he thought I was younger than I am). I asked how old. He said he was born in 1958. I said he was the same age as my kid brother. I especially don't like ageism when it's accepted by people who are victimized by it. It reeks of segregation. It's unacceptable. It breeds fear. It's anti-inclusive.
This is a prime example of the way that the rhetoric of inclusion is de-radicalizing, designed to prevent politicization. It's a rhetoric that preys on a reflect not to insult or exclude. Well, we have got to get over that. The issue isn't age--it is class. Winer is hiding behind age so as to move the point away from his anxiety about losing his position in the top 1%.