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What would an anarchist-led "Occupy" action look like?

+6 votes
I've been doing some thinking, and I'm curious about perspectives on this.

So far, it seems as though a lot of the Occupy* actions have been dominated by liberal pacifists, newbie activists, and disaffected Democrats - which translates to a bunch of people shouting down anybody who suggests illegal direct action, and then blathering about how anyone who advocates or participates in such a thing is clearly a police spy.

Also a couple informally authoritarian moves - like some people from Occupy Chicago creating an "official" website of the occupation, ostensibly for the sake of relating relevant news, but then using it to post opinion pieces by some anonymous, unaccountable editors.

But beyond that stupidity, it seems like they've set up a kind of ad hoc infrastructure for the occupation pretty fucking quickly.

So, if anarchists were the organizers at the forefront of a long-term mass occupation, how would things be structured? How would organization and communication occur in a way that doesn't allow for some asshole self-appointed leaders to take control of everything? (Or is the best hope we have that the asshole self-appointed leaders will be anarchists?)

And hey, while we're on the subject, what actions would you like to see take place, beyond standing around in parks/sidewalks and chanting?
asked Oct 6, 2011 by anonymous

4 Answers

+3 votes
I doubt this will satisfy you as an answer, or even be considered to be an answer to the question but…

I don't really see how anarchists could expect to have a place in this political scene. I mean, 99%? Really? No, not at all. Maybe more like .025%. These people are not 99% of anything and they cannot claim to represent 99% of anything. How could anarchists include themselves in a political scene that makes the claim of representing 99% of people in any context? This is an important question to ask for an anarchist.

At what point does protestation or an organization pass the actual threshold of majority or popularity in the context of *social* problems—in a *social* context? Is it justified to overlook the problems within or of the majority because it's the majority? Is this what the line you want to make in the sand looks like: 99% against 1%? Is the distinction that simple minded and easily manipulated? Are the problems that easily solved?

This is all very bourgeois, in the most non-coded-insult meaning of the word. It is truly a bourgeois revolt against capital. There will be no discussion or explanation of the violence of alienation, of the injuries done to each and every individual participating in the protest by the alien force they so desperately want to be on good terms with. These people are angry because the mass alien force—the economy; the true 99% in our social relations—that governs their existence no longer appears to be on good terms with them, and they've identified and caricaturized a third party that has come in between them and the commodity market. They want everything to go back to the way it was.

If anarchists are actually convinced that they need to participate in this then they need to explain that everything isn't go to be alright once everyone has voiced their objections and done their part. That even if growth recovers this will happen again. That even if every Wall Street trader and bankster was hung by their guts, nothing would be resolved or changed. That growth itself is the problem. *Growth itself is the problem* and that it does not respond to protest. Right?

Our role is to acknowledge, contemplate, and discuss the impossible problem of this way of life. Occupy X can't provide a place for us. You cannot have a conversation with a crowd. You certainly can't have a conversation with a crowd on anarchist terms. (It's difficult enough for anarchists to find the right angle just to have a conversation with an individual on anarchist terms.)

Go ahead and fulfill your moral obligation to object to the things that hurt you. Your anger will have no character to it in the presence of Occupy X, though, except of "popular anger" or "popular protest". And that is no character at all.
answered Oct 7, 2011 by madlib (3,770 points)
+3 votes
The Occupy movement as it now stands, and considering its' goals, is a dead end for anarchists, just as Madlib wrote. I do see some value in maintaining some level of critical solidarity with the protesters in my town - while the vast majority are reform-minded, there are seemingly many who sense the poverty of the current state of affairs, and who have latched on to this as the movement of the moment, similar to the anti-globalization movement 10 - 12 years ago. I should be clear that my interest is not in converting these people, but in creating places where perspectives they had previously not encountered are present.

As to the original question being asked, an anarchist occupation might look like a lot of different things depending on the anarchists in question, but a few thoughts on how it might contrast with the current reformist occupations:

1. No accommodation to the police & state - Currently occupiers are going out of their way to play by the rules of and cooperate with law enforcement through either discouragement of and distancing from any acts of vandalism or direct confrontation, or through actual collaboration. Here in Seattle the organizers have maintained communications with the mayor's office, though I believe they might have moved to stop directly liaising with the police, they are operating within the confines of what the police are allowing them to do. When arrests happened, they were in a very formulaic nvcd format - everyone was on a list before hand (and everyone had the opportunity to get away), most people went limp, the crowd bore witness, blah blah blah.

Contrast this with what *might* be the actions of an anarchist occupation: no conversation with the mayor's office about permits, we are here, we are taking this park and it is ours. No accommodating the police - they are not welcome within the occupation and will be ejected if at all possible. A willingness to defend the occupation - Anarchists might identify strategic points to blockade and inhibit police access to to the occupation. Anarchists also might be less inclined to peacefully let themselves be taken by the state when it serves no real strategic purpose, or might act to prevent their comrades from being arrested.

2. No demands - The Occupy Seattle website has a list of demands which visitors can vote on so as to determine what is truly a priority (hey neat! democracy in action! see it here: http://occupyseattle.org/demands). These demands are all based on the presumed maintenance of the state and range from calls, on the more radical side to "end" or "abolish" various aspects of the state-machine: "the prison-industrial complex" (56 votes)  "the federal reserve" (41 votes), and "the drug enforcement agency" (60 votes) to the more milquetoast: "Corporate Accountability" (520 votes), a "fair and equitable tax system" (438 votes), and to "end privatization of the commons (natural resources, education, healthcare, etc.)" (145 votes). I could pick apart each of these things, but I will trust in the critical thinking skills of others in the context of this discussion - suffice to say, the demands being made that call for actual elimination of state apparatus are on the lower end of the priorities, while ones that rely on and further state control are proving far more popular.

Anarchists would not be making demands of those in power - except perhaps to walk away from that power (which is only done for rhetorical purposes anyway, of course they won't do that!) - instead we would be acting to bring about what we wanted, and to eliminate the things we oppose ourselves. Clearly, not everyone in the occupation would be interested in or support every initiative that was undertaken by other occupiers - but perhaps the occupation could serve as a point where individuals might meet and as a staging point for actions beyond the occupation.

3. General Assemblies and Direct Democracy - As far as decision making, communication, and so forth, anarchists here have used an assembly model which proved somewhat effective - it is not a decision making body or a place for "direct democracy" but a place to discuss initiatives and projects already being undertaken or conceived. Certainly in a long-term occupation of physical space there are some needs that might need addressing in other manners, and I mostly trust that this happens, though it is also important not to let some of the infrastructure work become too invisible, as this can create informal hierarchies and marginalize or sideline some people from taking part in things they might otherwise choose to do. I don't have a good solution for how to prevent this, and I don't think one model would fit all, though perhaps the affinity group/spokes-council model could or would be employed in some cases (I have mixed feelings about this model, but it is one possible choice).

Regarding the communication aspect - anarchists have found some pretty diverse ways to communicate their goals and objectives, and I expect these would be employed - from banners and leaflets to web presence (anarchists other than myself seem to be good at teh webz).

One point that I think must be brought up - all of this is being suggested in the context of a mental exercise - there are always more problems on the ground, not the least of which is that a semi-permanent uncompromisingly anarchist occupation will be met with fierce repression, and in all likelihood that repression will be viewed sympathetically by "the 99%" (which, after all includes the police, according to the current occupiers). I am unconvinced that attempting to emulate the current occupations but using "anarchist" methods is a currently desirable or feasible choice tactically speaking, in the United States.
answered Oct 8, 2011 by ingrate (23,670 points)
Occupy Oakland (scheduled for Monday Oct 10) has already decided not to cooperate with the cops. I don't know about a decision regarding tactics (at the meeting this past Thursday there was at least one vocal liberal yammering about non-violence); that may come at today's meeting. Demands? Don't know about that either. Had been fully expecting a diffuse liberal/left crowd with politicians from ANSWER and ISO and Freedom Road (and that expectation was fulfilled) but there's a mood of combativeness that I have not observed among such a diverse crowd for some time. How that will translate into the mood of folks who decide to try to occupy Oscar Grant (Frank Ogawa) Plaza, who knows? I also saw consensus process being used well - another surprise.
–2 votes
I think it should be like the squatted neighborhood in copenhagen called christania or like the squat of brizilian latifundios by the MST (landless workers movement)
answered Oct 8, 2011 by iconoclast (4,600 points)
0 votes
Anarchist occupy action?
Simple - we don't demand anything, we get what's ours.
BUT : Anarchist occupy action means that it must be done by anarchists. We don't need masses to tell them what to do. We need people, who know what to do.
answered Nov 14, 2011 by SydViking (320 points)