Archive for the ‘occupy’ Category


Anthropologist David Graeber and Charles Eisenstein, author of the Book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition (2011), tackle the age-old question of the nature of money and its implications to society in this discussion that was held at NYU’s Kimmel Center in New York City on August 22, 2012. The sound recording isn’t very good in the video, but do bear with it.


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Author and Occupy activist Yotam Marom tackles in his article the age-old question of reformism versus revolution. The article was originally published in the book We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation (2012). Here’s an excerpt discussing the nature of revolutions:

“In school, history is taught around dates and figures. We learn that revolutions are led by gallant individuals, and fought on certain days. We see images of revolutionary flags billowing on liberated mountaintops, of magnificent leaders applauded by masses of people, of moments of struggle when old orders collapse and new ones take their place.

But we rarely read of the decades of hard organizing that led up to those moments, the fight for small gains all along the way, the many working people of all colors and genders and sexual orientations who fought for survival day in day out making the movement a reality, the countless smaller uprisings that won smaller victories, the many that were crushed along the way. And we learn very little, too, about the struggle that takes place after momentary victories – the incredible work of transforming ourselves and those around us, of building institutions that facilitate a free society, of fighting again and again to keep what we’ve won, of the beautiful struggle of resisting, reclaiming, and reconstructing over and over again.

We have to come to terms with that history, although it might not be as appealing.  We’ve got to outgrow the idea that the revolution is an event to be measured in moments and actions, and that it’s just around the corner – that all we need are oppressive conditions and a match to light the flame. Those notions are based on immature premises, proven wrong time and time again, that the worse things get, the more likely we are to rise up – that reform, because it makes peoples’ lives better, is counter-revolutionary. We have to confront that thinking, because it’s popular, it’s sexy, it comes up over and over throughout history, and because it is cruel, empirically false, and incredibly divisive to the movement.

On a very basic level, that kind of thinking is heartless. A theory that compels us to oppose measures that would materially improve people’s lives in the service of some abstract goal cannot possibly be driven by the compassion, love, and idealism that must be at the center of any worthwhile revolution. The consequences of theories like this are disproportionately felt by those already most oppressed and most marginalized, and often proposed and defended by those with great privilege.

But even more to the point, it’s empirically untrue. The theory itself – that deep crisis on its own leads to revolution if it is met with a spark – is bankrupt. If all it took was conditions being terrible and a vanguard marching in the streets to wake everyone up, we wouldn’t need to be having this conversation. It’s already bad enough – just how awful does it have to get? The truth is it’s harder to fight back under worse conditions, not easier. The many working people all across this country struggling around the clock to support their families, straddled with debt, or facing foreclosure can attest to how hard it is to scrape together the time to be a revolutionary while constantly facing crisis. So can political organizers living in police states like Egypt, or under military occupations like Afghanistan, or close to starvation in places like Haiti where people eat cakes made of mud to survive. Desperation doesn’t mean it is any easier to be a revolutionary; it just means more suffering.

There is no magical tipping point, no low point so low that it automatically compels us to fight, no spark so compelling that is spontaneously wakes us all up. We fight because of our concrete experiences of oppression as well as the little bittersweet tastes of freedom we have pieced together, because of our education and the culture around us or the unexplained ways in which we have learned to reject them, because of hard organizing people have done for decades to prepare us, because a whole host of other factors we don’t even understand. In many cases, actually, we rise up not when we are absolutely desperate, but when we have won a little bit – enough to realize our collective strength.

Revolution is not event, but a process. There is nothing inevitable about it, and our freedom is not historically determined. To win it, we have to build movements able to fight for it, movements that struggle over long periods of time to knock down the institutions of the status quo and replace them with the institutions of a free society. That means growing, practicing, learning, teaching, and winning things that put the movement in an increasingly better position to win more; it means fighting back to protect ourselves while pushing forward to create new possibilities.”

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In this interview with Occupy Brooklyn TV, political scientist Norman Finkelstein discusses the Occupy movement and Mohandas Gandhi’s approach to political organisation, amongst other things. According to Finkelstein, the starting point Gandhi’s politics was the everyday sense of injustice felt by the common people, as opposed to the theoretical approach of the Marxist tradition which emphasises the need for an enlightened vanguard to lead the masses. Finkelstein sees the Occupy movement as essentially Gandhian in this particular sense. The interview was recorded on August 25, 2012.

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Philosopher Simon Critchley discusses in this talk Zygmunt Bauman’s argument that in our current liberal democracy power (“the ability to get things done”) and politics (“the means to get those things done” and the discourse about what things should be done and what shouldn’t) have been separated and, therefore, nobody is in control of the system, least of all ourselves. This is a source of great anguish. Critchley uses the Occupy movement as an example of an attempt to bridge that gap. He also introduces his concept of an infinite demand, that is an ethical disposition of being open to possibilities that exceed the limits of the concrete situation at hand, which he sees as the basis of true politics. The talk was held at The Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry on June 28, 2012

(Critchley begins the talk in German, but fear not: he soon switches to English.)

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Professor of anthropology and leading Marxist theorist David Harvey and anthropologist and activist David Graeber discuss in this video the struggles between labour and capital in contemporary cities, drawing upon Harvey’s new book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (2012). They also talk at length about the Occupy movement, in which Graeber has been heavily involved. The discussion was held on April 25, 2012 at The CUNY Graduate Center in New York.

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Tomorrow, May 12, will be the second global day of action called by the Occupy and indignant movements. The first day of action on October 15 last year was a major success as it managed to spread the movement to dozens of new countries, spawning protest camps all over the world. On that day, there were events at over 1000 different locations in 82 countries. Some have promised that tomorrow will be even bigger, but this seems unlikely. Still, at least several hundred cities have announced their participation this time around.

There doesn’t seem to be any comprehensive list of tomorrow’s events, but see these maps for a sampling of where things are happening:

Tomorrow will be only a part of a series of events that has been dubbed the Global May. The most important of these events are probably going to be the anniversary celebrations of the 15M movement in Spain on and around May 15, the Blockupy protests in Frankfurt on May 16 to 19 and the protests that have been planned in Chicago during the NATO summit on May 20 to 21. It remains to be seen whether the mainstream media will pick up on these activities, or try to bury them like they did with the Occupy May Day protests.

The waning mainstream media interest has given the states a good opportunity to tighten their grip on the movements, whether it’s by means of illegal police violence or totalitarian jurisdiction. Further conflicts are to be expected at least in Frankfurt and Chicago. How these conflicts will be presented to the public could have remarkable effects on the future credibility of the movements. It’s important that we get our own point of view through or it won’t look good.

While street protests are useful for spreading the message and getting in touch with the greater populace, hopefully the movements will be now moving towards building the kinds of alternative institutions we need to sever our ties of dependence to the 1%. Sprouts of these already exist, with the cooperatives, free universities, social centres and other initiatives that have grown out of the movements. Some notable examples that could be duplicated elsewhere include the CASX financial cooperative in Barcelona, the Gill Tract farm occupation in Albany, California and the Global Square project. We need these institutions to serve as a base of operations if we want to turn our losing battle into a real offensive.

See you in the streets!

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This is a panel discussion about the new political movements of the last couple of years, including Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, and how they reflect the current state of the global civil society. I think one of the panelists puts it well when he argues that what we’re witnessing here is the re-emergence of the individual activist from the shadow of established non-governmental organisations. Discussing are professors Helmut K. Anheier and Mary Kaldor, Egyptian activist Ahmed Naguib and British activist and journalist Laurie Penny. The panel was held on May 2, 2012 at the Hong Kong Theatre in London.

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