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January 16, 2012


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I just read the excerpt and really like it. I think you are right that OWS is better understood as a loosely associated convergence of people with some common interests and sensibilities. And the divisions among the participants are real - I saw that here in Minneapolis the few times I attended general assemblies. What I find encouraging is that even though it is winter, and in places like Minnesota, the movement is now less "visible," people are still engaged in the process and even regular folks know that it is still out there, that something different has begun and the fight has been joined by the rest of us. I am glad folks like yourself are taking this seriously and trying to contribute theoretically, because the OWS needs every tool available at its disposal. Resist and Occupy - long live the occupation!


There is a fifth category active in OWS, though not of the Left: the category of disoriented right wing populists who thrive on antigovernment conspiracy theory but who are influenced by leftist ideas such as environmentalism and free education. In other words, their populist rightism is held loosely and not well understood even by themselves.
I have been fighting a non-enthusiasm for OWS because of this and its Ghandian-Gene Sharpian focus which I misunderstood from the outset. I got involved with the nuts and bolts, literally, and found myself working side by side with Ron Paulists who are definitely, thankfully, not a cohesive coherent body politic. A liberal/Catholic Worker leadership crafted a stunningly successful media campaign out of OWS around the Iowa caucuses in terms of what we set out to do, manipulate a fickle, at times hostile media, international in scope. I have some great video of us annoying the hell out of, and scaring politicians half to death. Yet it seems a pyhrric victory because poll numbers have dropped significantly since the crackdowns and Oakland. What to think of a movement that lives and dies by media, and wont commit to anicapitalism let alone socialism?
That wants to move the middle class, by showcasing hippies playing games with the cops, in honor of Tahir Square and Ghandi, while most schmucks are chained to their McJobs and "have to follow the rules"? It seems a recipe for non winning, I fear. On the other hand there is much to be optimistic about: we've learned much in the short time we've been at this and have mechanisms in place to do much more,and those disoriented folks will keep learning in struggle or drop out as the anticapitalist nature of OWS comes clearer (unless some bad guys win and this never does come clear). But if the goal is to move the middle class left, we're failing.


reading Rballen422 now, i can confirm a lot of cross support from those for Ron Paul...of the dozen strong OWS supporters among my regular correspondents, three are active supporters of RP, two such that they remail his missives...it's not unusual for me to see OWS & ron paul support expressed in the same email thread...

Ginger Caudill

I found your essay thought-provoking. I am largely ignorant of the workings of economics but I was able to follow your points.

I did wonder what word you left out in the very last sentence. Feel? Believe? Know? I believe in a metaphysical sense that by leaving out that word, you've called attention to the actual point of the essay. It just depends on how strongly the corporate "us" feels/believes/knows about it.

Anyway, thank you for sharing this with the world.

John Wojcik

"memo from a member of the Tech Ops and Outreach groups of OWS"

what is this memo? can you please post a copy here?


Jodi Dean

thanks, folks, for your comments

John: I posted a link with this post: http://jdeanicite.typepad.com/i_cite/2012/01/three-complaints-about-ows-technology-operations-group.html

Bob: yeah, I think of those folks as not on the left; I've been really struggling with what it means for the movement to proceed as if a convergence between communists and libertarians makes sense. Since they are not anti-capitalist, I don't think so. But I wonder if I am missing an opportunity for changing the minds of working class (potential) allies. What do you think?

David Jackmanson

Another group that got heavily involved in Occupy Brisbane (Australia) was the Zeitgeist movement, which overlaps with the antigovernment conspiracists mentioned by Rballen422.

Given the relatively much better economic conditions in Australia than the USA right now, the Occupy groups were smaller and more susceptible to takeover by organised groups - although in Brisbane the consensus-based GA structure was a big help in avoiding co-option at critical times.

Occupy Brisbane was started early by some quite undemocratic right-wing people, who rejected the right of GAs to make crucial decisions and really believed in magical thinking. For instance, one of the main people in that group insisted that discussing possible tactics if an eviction happened was likely, in itself, to make an eviction more likely.

It's difficult to see what all the groups in such a convergence can agree on - quite limited tactical alliances seem to the most an Occupation as a whole could agree on. But I suppose the point of a convergence is not an entirely united front, but rather working out who you want to unite with in serious work.

Jodi Dean

what is the Zeitgeist movement? is it specific to Australia?

Robert Allen

Zeitgeist is yet another vaguely rightist conspiracy theory movement which emphasizes 0/11 truth, international bankers, etc. It has a documentary associated with it, it is vaguely atheistic, "Jesus is a myth" etc.

I think there is an opportunity to change people's minds; the "libertarians" do not have a well thought out political line except for the diehard Paulbots who've got Paul's liberal policies ready to copy and paste in each Facebook thread where the subject comes up. But there is a false equivalency I notice, and a real equivalency at once: Socialist or Marxian theory seems as remote and alien, even though it is based on fact and real material conditions, as the Zietgiest and Ron Paul malarkey seems, that is, the Bilderbergers and Illuminati based anti semitic bunk from the fifties competes and wins against the communist hypothesis but it's not much of a victory: while Paul continues to do fairly well, one cannot imagine, for example, the wider electorate not rolling its eyes at mention of the secret society controlling everything behind the scenes. In other words, it is almost a good thing the conspiracy theory stuff only catches on with a certain layer of would be John Galts. The bad news is how the movement has edged out, or marginalized, Marxism or the socialist groups themselves have abstained from OWS for the reasons you've mentioned, to the point where conspiracy nonsense holds sway in discourse, or at least background chatter, where the questioning of capitalism itself should be being discussed. In some ways, Paul's "liberal" foriegn policy has become just another liberal bullet point like all the others in a movement driven by a loose sense of petty bourgeois discontent-- I wonder sometimes why I support a movement that includes, or I should use prison slang and say I don't want to "get in the car with", Ron Paulites, Gene Sharp and Silicon Valley "entrepreneuers", as with the SOPA/PIPA business, i.e. the spectacle of incredibly two faced libertarians who don't mind stealing unless it is done to them.
A good friend from California warned me, a mid westerner who heretofore knew few liberals, that if I ever found a clique of actual liberals, I might recoil from them after seeing them in action and now I see what he meant, kind of.

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