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Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:51 pm
by Adam Blake
Cheers, Garth. That's nice. Thank you.

I think you might underestimate what's going on, maybe not here so much but in countries with more history of revolution. But you may well be right too. I think what's important about this is that the idea of Greed Is Good has been thoroughly discredited. More and more people have realised that free market capitalism does not have their best interests at heart, not at all, and they are prepared to stand up and say that they are not happy about it. From where we were up until really quite recently, that's progress.

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:21 pm
by Chris P
disclaimer: I came upon this Youtube clip when looking at a channel of Turkish music, I have for years been alternately annoyed & amused by people I've met who take this nutter seriously.

So, here he is
http://youtu.be/gV9A2IGShuk

Can I appeal to you all to critique this presentation, or is what he's saying essentially true?
I've got as far as 13 mins in now & it's starting to get a bit strange, but up until then his argument proceeds in a logical way - or does it?

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:31 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Chris:

Can I appeal to you all to critique this presentation


Well I've neither time nor the stomach to sit through another 13 minutes of Icke at the moment, but you are right I think to make the connection between the Occupy movement and the sort of conspiracy theory stuff he peddles. To my mind a lot of wheat/chaff sorting is necessary when you look at this, and some of Icke's ideas are plainly loony. One of his more treasured beliefs seems to be one about a vast underground network of organised child abuse, which if it was going on I think we would have heard about by now. The one about the likes of world leaders being alien invaders is another, (it was usually applied to Blair & Bush and I don't know who else now qualifies for this club), and it's the most egregious example, though it does have a sort of weird credibility about it. Mixed in with that nonsense are some slightly more reasonable claims about the banking system and sinister forces aiming at world government by mind control.

Also I met up with an old friend a couple of years ago who'd been totally taken in by all this stuff, and I tried to use a bit of rationality on her, but to no avail, she'd gotten involved with the very cultish and suspicious Landmark Forum, which as far as I could tell, is one step up (or down maybe) from Scientology. Much as I liked her, I didn't feel particularly disposed to fully renew the relationship.

Another friend, an old lefty from way back, surprised me by posting this musically valueless but lyrically interesting tune on fbook the other day. A lot of this does chime with my old hippy/punk values, but as with Icke part of me wants to give it a wide berth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPR3GlpQQJA&sns=fb

These are people who have never read George Orwell, or anything particularly challenging I think. Sceptical, analytic reasoning is lost on them.

What a pity Dr Foxlee isn't around to comment on this, didn't he edit The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories? Perhaps he can be persuaded to come back for a brief visit.

Interesting times, indeed. I may come back to Icke later, but interesting to see what anyone else makes of him.

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:36 pm
by will vine
Adam Blake wrote: More and more people have realised that free market capitalism does not have their best interests at heart, not at all, and they are prepared to stand up and say that they are not happy about it. From where we were up until really quite recently, that's progress.


Yeah, the anti- Iraq war protest, anti- globalisation march, Stop the Cuts, Occupy, the summer riots, even the seemingly selfish "protect our pensions" strike on Nov. 30 - seem to me to be all expressions of the same sense of betrayal. The same sense of - It doesn't bloody work!

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:21 pm
by Chris P
Hugh Weldon wrote:slightly more reasonable claims about the banking system


yes, these are what I'd like to hear opinions on (the first 13 mins of the clip)

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:53 am
by Jonathan E.
I am coming around to the opinion that the Occupy movement is necessary because the apparent alternative is essentially unacceptable as a long-term way of organizing society. That's not to say that the Occupy movement has all the answers — or is even asking the right questions — but over the past thirty years it's become obvious the neo-liberal point of view has none of the answers beyond the short-term enrichment of a few individuals at the expense of the many. And, it would now seem, that the neo-liberal program is really provoking a slow slide into fascism by those of the elite who esteem their personal and corporate wealth above that of the commons. Not to mention what's happening to the environment we all have to live in.

One of the best pieces about its origins and US manifestation in New York that I've read is in the New York Review of Books. You'll find it at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/nov/10/zuccotti-park/?page=1. Worth reading all three pages, IMO. Partially from reading this article, I'm seeing that the movement's inchoate qualities are part of its strength and that the frequent calls by mainstream media for a leader or an agenda or something they can understand is beginning to approach something of a psy-ops strategy.

A good framework for considering Occupy's potential is to imagine the meetings, arguments, and discussion as the Declaration of Independence was being planned or as the US Constitution was being negotiated. I'll bet either of those historical processes looked messy at the time! There seems to be a very conscious attempt underway with the General Assemblies, social media, and direct broadcasting of events via the net to develop new forms of decision making and communicating that may yet prove to be as far reaching and as important as the birth of the US. One thing is for sure, and that is without the effort being made we'll never know.

I think it significant that the Occupy movement is at least semi-global with events over much of the world and drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring earlier this year and now support being voiced in Egypt for the US encampments. I'm also somewhat inappropriately amused that the Arab Spring might lead to the American Fall! One might also think that the whole thing is an employment program for pundits and other loudmouths.

What has made me take it more seriously — and I admit to somewhat pooh-poohing it at first — is a variety of factors. Firstly, that the old way has, in fact, failed so badly at providing for the general population. Secondly, that the movement has steadily grown without becoming grandiose or too sixties-centric (and I think it significant that much of the mainstream does try to paint it that way). Thirdly, that those in power are obviously becoming rattled. Fourthly, it is actually being effective in the culture jamming sense as conceived by Adbusters in the original call for an action. People are asking the questions and are reconsidering the stories we've been told about how things have to be — and many of those who have been excluded from the conversation are now able to take part in it. Fifthly, there does seem to be an awful lot of stuff going on and trends converging, much of which is so far out of the mainstream and apparently quite loony that one hesitates to draw too much attention — and yet . . .

Where it will go I, as both a betting man and semi-confirmed cynic, would not care to say with any degree of precision. As a human, I sure hope the Occupy movement shakes things up sufficiently to make an effective change, a change that I believe has to be more than purely political or concerned with economics.

For those interested in trawling the net for updates and generally keeping abreast of events (which is impossible given all that is going on but at least you'll get an impression), here are some sites, tools and techniques that I dip into as I have time and that generally reward me with something other than predigested dreck. I know some of this will be obvious and old news to the digerati among you, but for the more casual internet users I hope there's a useful nugget or two.

Twitter and its hashtags has finally begun to make sense to me. Search on things like #ows, #OccupyWallStreet, #occupy, #zuccotti. Lots of dross, of course, but to get an idea of the scale of the movement and to be presented with more links to follow than you possibly can, it's quite amazing.

I've become very fond of Lucy Kafanov of Russia Today and her excellent photos and comments; her Twitter feed can be found by searching for LucyKafanov. Her photos are at http://twitpic.com/photos/LucyKafanov and http://twitter.com/#!/LucyKafanov/media/grid and her own photo site is at http://flavors.me/lucylucy#6db/flickr. Sorry, I don't understand how all these various photo sites interact with each other; they seem to have much the same content with different layouts and abilities to manipulate them. Find the one you like, I guess. Of course, I think it's funny to be following a Russian journalist covering the possible decline and eclipse of the US.

You can also follow such luminaries as Michael Moore that you might expect to be there and have worthwhile things to say by searching on their names or Twitter handles. His is MMFlint, and you'll find pictures of him (for example — if you're interested) on the street at the occupation by searching on http://twitpic.com for @MMFlint, although you might also just go to http://twitpic.com/photos/MMFlint where you'll get a somewhat cleaner presentation along with his tweets and not all the commentators slagging him off and carping about whatever.

The Livestream site has fascinating (sometimes) and very raw, as-it-happens (sometimes and sometimes canned) video footage of meetings, street demonstrations, etc. Two relevant streams are http://www.livestream.com/occupynyc and http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution. There's a chit-chat window besides the video that readily lets you see how much work is yet to be done when it comes to making intelligent remarks.

The We Are The 99 Percent site of photos of people who are struggling with keeping their lives together at the most minimal level is at http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/. Reading what they have to say, it's pretty obvious that the American Dream has run hard aground for these people who for the most part followed the rules and believed. Just had some bad luck and there's no safety net for bad luck. I think it shows the depth of discontent with the inequalities of the US system fairly dramatically.

Adbusters is at http://www.adbusters.org/. Go straight to the Occupy page at http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/occupywallstreet. There's a Twitter live stream on both pages with a different hashtag on each: #occupywallstreet and @occupywallstnyc respectively — yup, there's a LOT going on.

A lot of people seem to like Matt Taibbi's commentary in Rolling Stone. Here he is on "Wall Street Isn't Winning It's Cheating": http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/owss-beef-wall-street-isnt-winning-its-cheating-20111025?utm_source=dailynewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter.

Lastly, if you use Google News, you can search on a term such as Occupy or OWS and then add a section based on that term to your Google News home page for ready reference.

Have fun!

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:31 pm
by Jonathan E.
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City from October 7, 2011, voted on and approved by the general assembly of protesters at Liberty Square

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

Re: Why is the 'Occupy' Movement necessary?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:03 pm
by Jonathan E.
Tariq Ali on Occupy and the Spirit of the Age from Counterpunch at http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/10/31/the-spirit-of-the-age/. Quite succinct, I thought.

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

The spirit of that 19th century socialist is alive among the idealistic young people who have come out in protest against the turbo-charged global capitalism that has dominated the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters who have taken up residence at the heart of New York’s financial distract, are demonstrating against a system of despotic finance-capital: a greed-infected vampire that must suck the blood of the non-rich in order to survive. The protesters are showing their contempt for bankers, for financial speculators and for their media hirelings who continue to insist that there is no alternative. Since the Wall Street system dominates Europe, local versions of that model exist here too. (Interestingly it was the Wall Street occupiers rather than the indignados of Spain or the striking workers of Greece who had an impact in Britain, revealing once again that the real affinities of this country are Atlanticist rather than European.) The young people being pepper-sprayed by the NYPD may not have worked out what they want, but they sure as hell know what they’re against and that’s an important start.

How did we get here? Following the collapse of communism in 1991, Edmund Burke’s notion that “in all societies, consisting of different classes, certain classes must necessarily be uppermost” and that “the apostles of equality only change and pervert the natural order of things”, became the common-sense wisdom of the age. Money corrupted politics, big money corrupted absolutely. Throughout the heartlands of capital we witnessed the emergence of: Republicans and Democrats in the United States; New Labour and Tories in the vassal state of Britain; Socialists and Conservatives in France; the German coalitions, the Scandinavian centre-right and centre-left, and so on. In virtually each case the two-party system morphed into an effective national government. A new market extremism came into play. The entry of capital in the most hallowed domains of social provision was regarded as a necessary “reform”. Private finance initiatives that punished the public sector became the norm and countries (such as France and Germany) that were seen as not proceeding fast enough in the direction of the neo-liberal paradise were regularly denounced in the Economist and the Financial Times.

To question this turn, to defend the public sector, to argue in favour of state ownership of utilities, to challenge the fire-sale of public housing, was to be regarded as a “conservative” dinosaur. Everyone was now a customer, rather than a citizen: young, upwardly mobile, New Labour academics would coyly refer to those forced to read their books as “customers”, as if to say we are all capitalists now. The social and economic power elites reflected the new realities. The market became the new God, preferable to the state.

But those who swallowed this line never asked: how come this happened? In fact the state was necessary to make the transition. State intervention to shore up the market and help the rich was fine. And given that no party offered any alternatives, the citizens of North America and Europe trusted their politicians and went sleepwalking to disaster.

The politicians of the centre, intoxicated by the triumphs of capitalism, were unprepared for the Wall Street crisis of 2008. So were most citizens, hoodwinked by huge advertising campaigns offering easy loans and a tame, uncritical media, into believing that all was well. Their leaders might not be charismatic but they knew how to handle the system. Leave it all to the politicians. The price for this institutionalised apathy is now being paid. (To be fair, the Irish and the French people scented disaster in the arguments over the EU constitution that enshrined neo-liberalism at its heart, and voted against it. They were ignored.)

Yet it was obvious to many economists that Wall Street deliberately planned the housing bubble, spending billions on advertising campaigns to encourage people to take out second mortgages and increase personal debt to spend blindly on consumption. The bubble had to burst and when it did the system tottered till the state rescued the banks from total collapse. Socialism for the rich. As the crisis spread to Europe, the single market and competition rules were flushed down the toilet as the EU mounted a rescue operation. The disciplines of the market were now conveniently forgotten. The extreme right is small. The extreme left barely exists. It is the extreme centre that dominates political and social life.

As some countries collapsed (Iceland, Ireland, Greece) and others (Portugal, Spain, Italy) stared into the abyss, the EU (in reality the BU, a Bankers Union) stepped in to impose austerity and to save the German, French and British banking systems. The tensions between the market and democratic accountability could no longer be masked. The Greek elite was blackmailed into total submission and the austerity measures being thrust down the throats of the citizenry have brought the country to the brink of revolution. Greece is the weakest link in the chain of European capitalism, its democracy long submerged beneath the waves of capitalism in crisis. General strikes and creative protests have made the task of the centre extremists very difficult. Watching recent images from Athens, where the police have used force to prevent 10s of thousands of citizens entering parliament, one feels that the rulers of the country might not be able to rule in the same old way for too long.

Earlier this year in Thessaloniki, where I was addressing a literary festival, the main concerns of the audience were political and economic rather than literary. Was there an alternative? What should be done? Default immediately, I replied. Quit the euro zone, re-introduce the drachma, institute social and economic planning on local, regional and national levels, involve the people in discussions on how to stabilise the country but not at the expense of the poor. The rich should be made to disgorge the money (by special taxation) accumulated by dodgy means over the last decade. But the visionless politicians at the heart of the system are far removed from any such ideas. Many are on the payroll of the small number of people who own and control the economic resources of a country.

The debt-ridden United States, under Obama (a president who for all practical purposes has continued the policies of his predecessor), has seen the emergence of a new movement of protest spreading to all the large cities. The energy of the young occupiers is admirable. Spring had absconded from the heart of political America for far too long. The frozen winters of the Reagan and Bush years didn’t melt with Clinton or Obama: hollow men who rule over a hollow system where money overpowers all and the much-maligned state is used mainly to preserve the financial status quo and fund the wars of the 21st century.

The fog of confusion has finally lifted and people are searching for alternatives, but without political parties since virtually all of these have been found wanting. The occupations currently being staged in New York, London, Glasgow and elsewhere, are very different from protests in the past. These are actions being mounted in times of growing unemployment and where the future looks grim. A majority of young people – hysterical protestation to the contrary notwithstanding – will not get a higher education unless they conjure up huge amounts of money and will soon, no doubt, be confronted with a two-tier health system. Capitalist democracy today presupposes a fundamental agreement between the main parties represented in Parliament so that their bickering, limited by their moderation, becomes utterly insignificant. In other words, citizens can no longer determine who (and how) controls a country’s wealth – wealth that has largely been created by the citizens themselves.

If crucial questions such as the allocation of resources, the social welfare provisions, the distribution of wealth are no longer the subject of real debates inside representative assemblies, why the surprise at the alienation of the young from mainstream politics or the huge disappointment with Obama and his global mimics? It is this that is forcing people out into the streets of more than 90 cities. The politicians refused to accept that the crisis of 2008 was related to the neo-liberal policies they had been pursuing since the 1980s. They assumed they could get away with carrying on as if nothing had happened, but the movements from below have challenged this assumption. The occupations and street protests against capitalism are in some ways analogous to the peasant Jacqueries (revolts) of preceding centuries. Unacceptable conditions lead to uprisings, which are then usually crushed or subside of their own accord. What is important is that they are often harbingers of what is yet to come if conditions remain the same. No movement can survive unless it creates a permanent democratic structure to maintain political continuity. The greater the popular support for any such movement the greater the need for some form of organisation.

The model South American rebellions against neo-liberalism and its global institutions are telling in this regard. Huge and successful struggles against the IMF in Venezuela, against water privatisation in Bolivia, and against electricity privatisation in Peru, created the basis for a new politics that triumphed at the polls in the former two countries as well as in Ecuador and Paraguay. Once elected, the new governments began to implement the promised social and economic reforms with varying degrees of success. The advice proffered to the Labour Party in Britain in 1958 by Professor HD Dickinson in the New Statesman was rejected by Labour but accepted by the Bolivarian leaders in Venezuela some 40 years later:

“If the welfare state is to survive, the state must find a source of income, of its own, a source to which it has a claim prior to that of … a profits-receiver. The only source that I can see is that of productive property. The state must come in some way or another, to OPEN ITALS own CLOSE ITALS a very large chunk of the land and capital of the country. This may not be a popular policy: but, unless it is pursued, the policy of improved social services, which is a popular one, will become impossible. You cannot for long socialise the means of consumption unless you first socialise the means of production.”

The rulers of the world will see in these words little more than an expression of utopianism, but they would be wrong. For these are the structural reforms that are really needed, not those being pushed by the isolated Pasok leadership in Athens. Down that road lie further deprivation, more unemployment and social disaster. What is needed is a complete turnaround preceded by a public admission that the Wall Street system could not and did not work and has to be abandoned. Its British followers, like all converts, were more ruthless and coldblooded in their acceptance of the market as the only arbiter, backed by a neo-liberal state machine. To continue on this path will require new mechanisms of domination that will leave democracy as little more than an empty shell. The occupiers are instinctively aware of this, which is why they are where they are today. The same cannot be said for the extremist politicians of the centre.

I am full of admiration for all the young people occupying squares and streets in different parts of the globe. They are challenging our rulers with humour, brio and panache. But the hard-faced bankers and politicians who dominate the world will not be easily displaced. A decade of struggle and organisation is needed to win a few victories. Why not unite everyone we can behind a charter of demands – a “grand remonstrance” to the parliament that represents the interests of the rich – and march with a million or more to deliver the remonstrance in person next autumn. The law (imposed after the Restoration of 1666) bans tumultuous demonstrations outside Parliament, but we can interpret “tumultuous” just as well as any lawyer.