Battle for the Soul of Occupy

Round #5 - Will MoveOn knock us out?

As we prepare for the May uprising, two power centers of our movement have announced plans for a spectacular bi-coastal May 1st bridge blockade. On the West Coast, Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco are planning rush hour disruptions on the Golden Gate Bridge while in New York City, occupiers say they will block one or more Manhattan-bound bridges. These acts of nonviolent direct action will set the tactical tone for the next phase of Occupy: they signal the turn towards Strike actions aimed at disrupting the flow of money. And, on a deeper level, these blockades come at a pivotal moment for Occupy as the movement grapples with a battle for its soul.

The question many occupiers are debating is whether the spirit and voice of Occupy will stay with the new left horizontals who launched the uprising or whether it will move towards MoveOn’s 99% Spring, and their old left buddies at The Nation magazine, Ben & Jerry’s, et al.

For the first most spectacular days of Occupy – such as on September 24 when eighty Zuccottis were arrested and shocking footage of women getting maced was replayed on national television – MoveOn ignored our movement. They decided to jump on board much later when 700 nonviolent occupiers were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. They saw this mass arrest as an opportunity to fold Occupy into their electoral Rebuild the Dream campaign to bolster Obama. At a time when Occupy was inspiring hundreds of thousands of people across the nation to take the squares, set up leaderless encampments and reinvent democracy in people’s assemblies, MoveOn held an October 5 online “Virtual March on Wall Street” with their friends at Rebuild the Dream.

At the peak of Occupy, when the people’s movement had catalyzed a global day of action on October 15 that saw millions of us in 82 countries rally in financial districts and capital cities for real democracy, MoveOn tried to cash in on Occupy’s momentum with a donation pitch. “We have to capitalize on this momentum now,” wrote MoveOn in an email to its members. “Can you chip in $5?”

And now, MoveOn wants to hijack our movement with their 99% Spring.

MoveOn is an existential threat to our movement because they don’t have a revolutionary bone in their body … if we give these clicktivists any more room then they will pull off a managed cooling of our revolutionary fervor … they will neuter the kind of bold, militant nonviolent direct actions that are the key to the next phase of our movement. Don’t let them do it!

Jump, jump, jump over the dead body of the old left!

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142 comments on the article “Battle for the Soul of Occupy”

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Liberation Now!

It interests me that Adbuster's lacks such faith in the Occupy it heralds as the saviors that it is spending all this time fostering such a fear based response to Move On's involvement in what is essentially a training on Non-Violent Direct Action (see for yourself by looking at the materials:

It also interests me that Adbusters (who I subscribe too, and who's content I generally enjoy) finds this so threatening to the "spirit" of Occupy that it seeks to divide a movement that, let's face it, isn't as broad and inclusive as we like to think we are. Occupy may have a lot of sympathizers, but most of the people at the camps and the actions were young, white, and middle class, like myself.

Alternately, I was at a Tax Day protest in Dewey Square in Boston this Tuesday and there was a coalition of groups representing organized labor, community groups, and immigrant groups, and not surprisingly it was the most diverse turn out of people I've seen yet. I'd guess over 500 people, with speakers who spoke Spanish and Mandarin, in addition to English.

I guess, what I'm saying is that if we really want to get out of our "pure" white, middle class bubble, we need to reach out to organizations and people who have been most marginalized and affected by the system. And to do that effectively we must have some humility and not act like we have all the answers and the only proper analysis and tactics. The overall tone and attitude of Adbusters right now is haughty, arrogant and misinformed.

For starters, why does Adbusters insist on omitting the fact that in addition to Move On, over 60 organizations were involved in designing and developing the curriculum for 99% Spring. Many of whom have solid decades of experience fighting for the rights of low-income people and workers. Yes, maybe they have not been perfect, but they've been in the trenches fighting.

While Occupy is a refreshing breath of air, it must move beyond spontaneous insurrection if it is truly to accomplish it's goals. Any student of history and revolutionary movements knows this to be true. Let's not foster naive notions Adbusters. And by the way, it's a bit too convenient that Adbuster's offers no true transparency or accountability for it's "tactical briefings". The anonymous voice of Adbusters heralding it's calls for insurrections. Frankly it's a little creepy. Why should we trust you? Who that fuck are you? Why don't you show yourselves? Just saying, it's a little cowardly.

kodiak bears in...

I'm really with you on these "tactical briefings", in that the language is about "horizontalism" but it feels eerily authoritarian. If Adbusters really thinks its some kind of revered shadow leadership, they're more out of touch than MoveOn, and definitely more worthy of suspicion. If the anonymous writers of this garbage want to change the way things are playing out they need to get off of the soapbox and into a fucking assembly like any one else. Reader supported or not, anti consumerist or not, Adbusters is still using its capital advantages to overpower other peoples voices at this point, and they need to roll it back before they alienate the people they are supposedly supporting.


How can you be amplifying? You aren't even listening!! Just projecting your own voice...are you really a 1%'er?? I'll bet your not even familiar with economic challenges or marginalization. I bet it's all some idealogy you fabricate from your class assignments...not real experiential substence.


Well, from the reports I heard, they turned into more of a networking session than training.

The materials justify that view, as there was little actual "training." Just talk about how movements start, and general ideas about them. But that's not training.

As a contrast, I went to a direct action training session held by OccupyDC. There, they actually trained people on how to march, trained people what to do when the police flank you, and how to react to law enforcement when things get out of hand.

That's actual training, but there seemed to be little of that there; mainly because I don't think MoveOn knows how to do direct action. But again, that's part of MoveOn's problem.

Liberation Now!

Well, as an anarchist who's been doing community organizing for years and who led a 99% Spring training I can tell you that the training did three things a. it helped to build community and network activists from a whole range of backgrounds, b. it gave people a basic understanding of the history of non-violent direct action, from labor, to civil rights, to act-up, to earth first, and c. it discussed the basics of how to organized successful direct actions.

Maybe you should stop trusting everything you read and hear and check shit out for yourself before buying into the gossip.

And I'm not sure, you seem to be some kind of training expert, but march and dealing with police is one thing, actually having a larger strategy, goals and analysis is what Occupy has been lacking. And for that might friend it might be useful to look outside of Occupy to the people who have been doing grassroots organizing for years and not assume we have all the answers.


Well then I don't see the problem, if MoveOn isn't giving the training those who are there for that purpose will simply leave, just showing up and networking isn't going to turn someone into an Obama loving voter for christ's sake.


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