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October 04, 2011


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Geoff Johnson

I like how you lay out what, for some, will be controversial points, doing so rather directly.

I would agree strongly with your argument about the Ron Paulites--they and me (and we on the left in general) obviously ain't dancing at the same revolution, even if we can kinda boogie together on ending the imperialist wars abroad and the one "On Drugs" here at home (and abroad, too).

I don't have much of a problem with being inclusive in a pretty capacious manner at this early stage, but OWS should be a movement of the Left, and that's not where the Ron Paul folks are at, obviously. Eventually these sort of distinctions will need to be drawn, and to me that of course includes not supporting/throwing in with the Democratic Party, as you say above.

To me much of the rest of your piece is basically alluding to the oldest and deepest split on the Left. For example, when you say "vanguard!" I say "ahh! no!" ("vanguard!", "ahh! no!", to make it all chanty and shit). You think there's too much of an emphasis on process as opposed to ends. That's fine, and those of us on the left know these debates all too well so I won't bother rehearsing them. I like your point about "not sticking to the doctrinaire party lines," which I think applies just as much to more anarcho types like me as it does to those who look toward Lenin or Trotsky.

I think I understand where you are coming from with your concluding thoughts, but personally I don't see the value in differentiating between "struggle" and "conversation" at this point.

Robert Allen

My first reaction was disbelief when I read a fawning libertarian diatribe in support of OWS. On further reflection, I think this is way more problematic for the rightist Paulites than it is for us. Or rather, the Ron Paul nuts, if they hang around long, will create problems for their corporate masters simply because their understanding of the world is so ridiculously flawed, tuned by talk radio zealots who have convinced a huge layer of people that wall street's collusion with the government equals socialism somehow. This can only backfire for them as this process unfolds.

Jodi Dean

Thanks for the comments.

Geoff: I don't use the word vanguard (I don't think; it didn't show up when I searched). If I did, I would have to be the folks who have been doing the work of keeping the occupation alive over the last 19 days. They are the only vanguard I see at this point. Maybe there isn't any value in distinguishing between struggle and conversation. I think, though, that there are views of conversation that see it as generating consensus, rather than see it as a terrain where some positions win and some positions lose. When the goal is consensus, then folks are likely to come up with big, broad, inclusive compromises (everybody wins), or they are likely to lead to last man standing situations (who can last the longest in a big discussion), or they are likely to amorphous, process-like statements (goals of openness and questioning), or they are likely to lead to acclamation for folks with charisma and speaking skills rather than to agreement based on ideas. If one thinks in terms of struggle, then one recognizes that part of the benefit to the big conversations is strengthening everyone (everyone learns and teaches the reasons, values, positions, tactics), one recognizes that not all goals are mutually compatible, one recognizes that it can make good sense to prioritize, one recognizes the affinities between certain kinds of ideas, and one recognizes that it's important to win the arguments.

I bet it's really unlikely that my reflections here would make much difference on the ground at the general assembly. It could be that different folks already have different ideas as to what they are doing and so this kind of schema is pretty irrelevant. It might make a difference to folks who comment on, interpret, mediate, and remediate the movement. That then affects, a bit, some of the perceptions of what is happening.


i am glad these folks are out there but i am cautious. i fear that after we have *our* demonstration of rage at OWS that some compromise will be made with the gov't in a jobs bill or something ... or maybe people will just get tired and go home. things will carry on as usual and capitalism, if it finds a way to accommodate the rage and make a place for it, it will fortify itself.


The 'occupy' movement is sprouting up all around the globe. There's even one forming here in Perth, Australia.

Speaking of Lenin, he wrote "What is to be done?" in 1902. In 1905, workers' councils started to emerge, the first one being in Ivanovo amongst women weavers. I don't think there was a cause and effect connection between the two events. 1905 was also a big year for labour in the USA. The IWW had its first convention in July of that year.

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