November 6, 2011

How Do You Get An Occupation Event Going?

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms, Freedom — Tags: , , — Russ @ 9:56 am


Wherever you are, of whatever sort?
The possibilities vary greatly, from urban to suburban to rural areas; the economic state of the region; the predominant politics and political conflicts; whether there’s an immediate proximate struggle which is part of broader structural issues; what forces could possibly be mustered for the action; whether those forces exist ready for action at the moment or if educational and organizational work is needed, and if so, what.
Someone I know wants to get an event going here in suburbia, but so far there’s been a disappointing response to feelers sent out to e-mail lists, and we’re mostly at the stage of casting about for a specific rationale. (Then there’ll be the nuts-and-bolts logistics of it, “permits” and such, but first we need to know we wouldn’t be “giving a demonstration and nobody came”.) There are several specific corporate assaults in this town, like a federally imposed pipeline (taxpayer money, federal thug enforcement including overriding of state law, “private” profiteering). It seems like people are mostly glum about things but not particularly ready to do anything about it. (I personally experience it as a foreign invasion.) There’s some other general swinishness going on. Verizon recently informed the town it would no longer pay taxes on its properties because it just dipped below a 50% market share, and some law allegedly exempts it from taxes if it doesn’t hold this majority share. The law actually means the opposite (though it does sound like a very stupid law to have written in the first place), but this is an example of something we’ve discussed previously, how corporations are increasingly simply refusing to pay bills and taxes and forcing creditors and governments to sue them. There’s also a flap over the municipal water authority, with privatization looming in the background. We know the record is 100% across the board – no matter what the public water utility was like, privatization always brings far more expensive water with worse services. That’s what’s happened everywhere privatization has won out.
So there’s a few examples of possible hooks upon which to hang a participation event. There’s also the broader question of the future of the town. For the moment it’s “legally” safe from further development, but that of course can change. The subdivision onslaught is just about economically spent anyway, but the barbarians of suburbia can still do lots of damage yet, even in a fairly short period of time. If we’re going to resist and overcome the vandals, we need a coherent plan of our own for the post-oil agricultural future of the area. Maybe an Occupation event could become a participatory assembly to discuss this future. Well, that’s a pretty far-out idea, but it could at least impress upon people the need for such a plan. So far as I know the only plans that exist still assume infinite growth. These are impossible, of course, but can still accomplish great destruction.
In the meantime, it sounds like lots of preparatory work needs to be done even before we can get a good turnout for an acute event. People need to be reminded of everything that’s happening, and have it all be presented as one big picture, with each specific feature placed in the big context. We also need an ongoing media project to keep people aware of all these things. We already have the building materials for that – websites, cadres, a base to build upon (although even this base seems lethargic at the moment). We just need to put it all together to function the right way, to generate its own energy.
So if the issue here is chronic, and people “aren’t ready” to come out for an acute Occupy event, that’ll have to be changed systematically. Of course, OWS itself seemed to be falling short on its first day, and even I thought it was fizzling out. So if we could get something started, who knows what kind of enthusiasm it might spontaneously call into being? 
So there I was talking about how to use existing forces to get an Occupy event going. And perhaps for the longer run we could use an Occupy event as a consciousness raiser and recruitment tool for the vaster arc of the general democratic movement. At our farmers’ market we have a dedicated space where a non-profit organization can set up a booth and engage in those two activities. So an Occupy event itself could serve the same purpose for any number of food, energy, transportation, health, education, political, and anti-corporate struggles. Just as these proximate struggles can be the rallying point for a broader occupation, so the Occupation can teach and recruit for the struggle.


  1. Russ,

    It’s fundraising week over at NC. Would you be so kind as to send her some cash? Manhattan rent is a real bitch….

    Comment by antiks72 — November 6, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

    • LOL, I had to go look at that.

      I especially like the way that tip jar has sat there, so forlorn all these months.

      I guess Yves figured more insistent methods are needed.

      Comment by Russ — November 6, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    • Yves has a day job, doesn’t she?

      The real reason she wants more money is so that she can give us more pat answers like those provided by Philip Pilkington, Satyajit Das, and Roosevelt Institute propagandists. Russ can donate whatever he wants, but she won’t get a nickel from me. She’s pushing a solution that does not solve the problem, a drug that masks the symptoms while advancing the disease.

      When I see DownSouth back commenting at NC, or Russ posting as a contributor again instead of as a commentor, maybe I’ll donate. Yves has deliberately shaped a “progressive” consensus and does not seek meaningful change, and NC is much the worse for it.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — November 6, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

      • Haha, I guess I’ve “donated” all I’m going to there.

        Do you still comment there, Tao? Is Hugh still there?

        Comment by Russ — November 6, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

      • Hear, hear!

        I couldn’t agree with you more. And to top it off, now Pilkington himself just posted the following: “So, I ask you – nay, I implore you – to support Yves and support Naked Capitalism by donating whatever you can afford and think appropriate.”

        What I can afford will be going to support Counterpunch or OWS instead, what I think is appropriate for Naked Capitalism at this time is zero. Get rid of Pilkington and bring back DownSouth and Russ as commenters, then I might reconsider.

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 6, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

      • I don’t comment there any more, Russ. Hugh is still there, though.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — November 6, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

      • Most of what she does is what every other blog does: link whoring, plus the occasional “insider” high-finance perspective. Being a liberal arts guy I find such talk dreadfully boring, and I think all of her bluster about her impact on the current events is exaggerated.

        I really despise sycophants and all of their stupid posts thanking Yves for all the wonderful work that she does. I should drop in and tell everyone to save their money for OWS instead. I’m sure a ban would be put in place milliseconds after that post was put up. I should also note that anyone who describes themselves as “humble” isn’t really humble, because their calling attention to their supposed humbleness. One does not make millions on Wall St. by being humble. Fuck humility, we need real action.

        Comment by antiks72 — November 6, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

      • I think the NC server is down today (the 7th.) When Yves was “firing me as a customer” I emailed her and offered to send her money but never heard back so I am not going to do it. I need to re-up my subscription to CounterPunch. I have gotten the paper copies for three years now and really enjoy having the paper in my hands.

        I have been in a smallish city in Colorado and have had some conversations with a local homeland security type who is very earnest, well meaning and smart. He has never heard of transition towns or relocalization. I am not going to say that I was able to convince him but I think that he might be willing to talk to some of the localization types. There is such a cultural gap between these people who should be on the same team. I really do think that it is some version of what JMG describes as ‘magic.’ I just don’t know how to undo the spell. OWS is really a minority even though it is catching the imaginations of a lot of people. The people who control our media will try to cast an evil spell over them soon. Sounds silly, I know. I can’t answer your question. These demonstrations seem to be urban events. They would not go over well in my town for sure.

        How to organize all people of good will?

        Comment by Ellen Anderson — November 7, 2011 @ 11:34 am

      • She’s got a day job, does TV talking-head shows (in Canada, anyway, I dunno if shes on American networks), she sells a book and advertises on the site. And now she’s got donations so she can take a vacation- what a life, eh??

        Comment by paper mac — November 8, 2011 @ 12:50 am

      • I started reading those JMG pieces. I guess I’ll need to put him back on the itinerary, because it’s an important topic. Even though he phrases things in terms of magic, because that’s part of his way of affecting superiority over standard issues of movement psychology and the psychological implications of ideology, it’s really the same topic.

        So it’s bad magic we’re up against, and we need better, stronger magic.

        Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 3:40 am

      • Yeah, I understand why the magic frame is useful to him personally, but he seems to have expanded the definition beyond “rituals performed by self-identified practicioners of magic to achieve specific psychological ends” (which is more or less what he started out with) to “anything which affects a human’s non-rational mind”. I guess if that’s the frame that lets him break out of rationalist psychological models, it has some use, but pretty clearly the range of experiences and behaviours he’s describing includes movement consciousness, religious experience, political economy, etc. Maybe there isn’t a better word for the realm he’s describing, I don’t know. He seems to have some interesting insights from his own ritual practice, in any case.

        Comment by paper mac — November 8, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

      • I’d love to hear about the demons or gremlins or whatever he claims he saw. 🙂 Cellini claims to have seen demons when he and a sorcerer performed some ritual in the Colosseum late one night.

        I do find this interesting, since nothing’s ever happened through mass reason. I’m still tending the compost in my brain, still working on that paradox I first asked about last summer – how to achieve a large-scale movement consciousness for a democratic relocalization movement? It sounds oxymoronic, i.e. irrational.

        But then, anything anyone proposes to do will, in the end, have to appeal to the non-rational, since that’s really what humanity is. Graeber’s argument is rational and evidence-based, so it’ll need to be part of an extra-rational package.

        Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

      • Russ/All,

        If you’re reading John Michael Greer’s Archdruid Report, then you might also appreciate the poetry of Ted Hughes, especially his Moortown Diary, a diary (in poetry) that deals with day to day life and problems of a working farm. After Sylvia Plath’s suicide, Hughes married a farmer’s daughter and for a while, helped to run a farm in Devon (England) along with his father in law.

        Here’s a typical quote to give some idea of Hughes’ thought, in case you’re unfamiliar with his work:

        “The fundamental guiding ideas of our western civilization are against Conservation. They derive from Reformed Christianity and from Old Testament Puritanism… they are based on the assumption that the earth is a heap of raw materials given to man by God for his exclusive profit and use. The creepy crawlies which infest it are devils of dirt and without a soul, also put there for his exclusive profit and use. By the skin of her teeth, woman escaped the same role.

        The subtly apotheosized misogyny of Reformed Christianity is proportionate to the fanatical rejection of Nature, and the result has been to exile man from Mother Nature – from both inner and outer nature. The story of the mind exiled from nature is the story of western man. It is the story of his progressively more desperate search for mechanical and rational symbolic securities, which will substitute for the spirit-confidence of the Nature he has lost. The basic myth for the ideal Westerner’s life is the Quest. The quest for the marriage in the soul or a physical re-conquest. The lost life must be recaptured somehow.”

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 8, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

      • Thanks Frank. That’s a good point about modern ideology mostly being an attempt to fill the void left as we’ve sundered ourselves/forcibly been sundered from our landbases.

        Comment by Russ — November 9, 2011 @ 3:21 am

  2. their/they’re

    Comment by antiks72 — November 6, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  3. Ref – “Maybe an Occupation event could become a participatory assembly to discuss this future. Well, that’s a pretty far-out idea, but it could at least impress upon people the need for such a plan. So far as I know the only plans that exist still assume infinite growth. These are impossible, of course, but can still accomplish great destruction.”

    I’m just home from a few hours at Occupy LSX. – http://occupylsx.org/ I was drawn to the bookstall, and information tent and tent university. Maybe those aspects of the occupy movement are the best ones to use and build on as you start in a small local way.

    While I was at Occupy LSX somebody was interviewing people – asking who they were and why they were there. It prompted me to consider what my answer would have been… probably something about being interested in change, and collaboration and emerging systems for 21st century life and living.

    Gradually I decided my reason to be there was about wisdom, and the search for it. It was about personal and group wisdom. It was about my desire to reflect on what I know and feel (about the changes that are happening and the future I would like to see emerging) and to learn what others know and feel. I want to clarify what the questions are that we are trying to find answers to… what kind of answers we want them to be. I don’t know what the atmosphere is like at other occupy sites, but in London, just outside St Paul’s cathedral, the atmosphere is co-operative, and collaborative.The people who are occupying LSX are part of this questioning process and the camp there is part of experimenting with new ways of trying to do things.

    In the information tent I saw a sign – “occupy everywhere”. Suddenly it occurred to me that the word “occupy” has many meanings. We don’t just occupy places. We also “occupy our minds” (we think about things) we “have occupations” (usually taken to mean “have paid jobs”) we “occupy our time” – we fill our time – we live our lives. It struck me that this “occupy” movement is not just about “spaces” and who has power in the material world it is also about “time” and other aspects of life.

    Somehow, the “occupy movement” touches deeply on how we live our lives – how we “occupy ourselves”, what we do with ourselves, how we use our time, how we steward it and share it with others. Are we full-time wage slaves or do we have time that is our own? If we have time of our own – how do we use this “ownership right” over “our own time”? Do we spend it on ourselves / by ourselves / with others / for others. Do we use our time to compete or to collaborate? What kind of future are we trying to build and occupy? What does it mean if we don’t just think about “occupy everywhere” but also about other aspects of occupation?

    Maybe on a small local level you don’t emphasis the “occupy everywhere” approach and the protest side. Maybe you start in a completely local way, as and when you can. Perhaps you, and a few others, can spend some of your time in a public space, “occupying your time together” doing whatever seems right for that group, in an open way, creating shared wisdom – and positive role models – about our shared future – and letting people know this is part of the “occupy” movement . As a small group you may do better to challenge attitudes rather than authority, and to do so by providing alternatives to “how things are now”, even if you can only do things briefly. Maybe you can occupy “hearts and minds” more effectively through a smaller, more personal approach than would be possible if you try to copy the big-city approach.

    Obviously I don’t know your situation, but I was impressed by what I learned today at St Paul’s and how encouraged I felt regarding the first steps we might be taking there towards a positive future. This is my somewhat clumsy attempt to share that experience with you and to encourage you in your local “occupation” and participatory assembly regarding our shared future.

    Comment by Pamela_McLean (@Pamela_McLean) — November 6, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

    • Thanks Pamela. That’s a great series of observations, and goes especially to the longer arc.

      Comment by Russ — November 6, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    • I can’t remember where I saw this but one group of OWS (in the US) was chanting to some hecklers: “Get a life and occupy it!” Sounds a bit like what you are thinking about.

      Comment by Ellen Anderson — November 8, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

      • That’s a good reply. I’d like to think up a more all-purpose version of the same idea, “Occupy your life”, which would convey the same political message – “by driving the criminals out of it.”

        Comment by Russ — November 9, 2011 @ 3:24 am

  4. I’m not sure if this helps, Russ, but I thought this was an extremely good article on the Occupy movement, especially Occupy New Haven, whose focus from the start has been reaching out to the city’s homeless. The author has visited six occupy sites in New England and points out that “the best of them are rooted in the struggles that have preceded them in their locality”.


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 6, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

    • Yes, I think wherever there’s not an iconic enemy like Wall Street itself, the Occupation needs to grow itself out of local/regional conditions. In fact, that’s in line with the whole idea that OWS itself is an acute public manifestation of the broad democratic movement. While the Manhattan Occupation isn’t really “local”, almost any other is bound to more or less be so. And so it has to be, if the Occupation movement is to meaningfully advance the real relocalization movement.

      Comment by Russ — November 7, 2011 @ 2:09 am

  5. Russ,

    I apologize as this is completely off topic but I’ve been trying to read Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” and today came across this fantastic quote that I thought you might appreciate. It’s almost like Nietzsche was anticipating his own descent into madness, which according to the story began in 1889 when he witnessed the beating of a horse on the streets of Turin, threw his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing, and then lost consciousness. He then had a mental breakdown from which he never recovered, and it’s said that he never wrote anything again. Or at least that’s the story.

    Anyway, here’s the quote:

    “A Few millenia further down the road of the last century – and everything men do will exhibit the highest intelligence; but that way intelligence will have lost all its dignity. By then it will doubtless be necessary to be intelligent, but it will also be so common and vulgar that a nobler taste will experience this necessity as *vulgarity*. And just as a tyranny of truth and science could make lying more highly esteemed, a tyranny of intelligence would be capable of producing a new species of nobility. To be noble might then come to mean: to have madness in one’s head.”

    (Note: I don’t know German but apparently “klugheit” is the term being rendered as “intelligence” here, a term that Walter Kaufman translates as “prudence”.)

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 6, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    • I don’t recall the quote offhand, so it would help if you gave the section number.

      But N is basically anticipating a civilization of corporate cogs, all highly “intelligent” compared to people of previous times, but only by the measure of corporatized instrumental reason.

      (N didn’t really foresee corporate tyranny, but understood well enough that some form of statist command economy tyranny was imminent.)

      By that measure, to remain truly, humanistically intelligent, for example to fight this tyranny, to fight for revitalized localism in food and communities, to want to preserve ourselves as full human beings and not submit to the terminal triumph of Homo economicus, or in N’s terms “the Last Man”, would be madness. (With N, terms like good/evil, intelligent/stupid, sane/mad etc. have no stable definitions but are always perspectival. Often, like in this case, he’ll deliberately call the thing he admires or at least favors by the normally derogatory term. That was a common stylistic move of his, part of what can make his writing difficult to understand at times.)

      In everything I said just there I was applying N’s general idea to our specific movement. So for example in today’s world the “intelligent” person drinks sterilized, sterile, harmful, corporate pasteurized milk, while the “mad” person drinks naturally healthful raw milk and eats nutrient-dense real dairy foods. The intelligent person sends her children to the corporate schools while the mad one home schools them.

      Comment by Russ — November 7, 2011 @ 2:10 am

      • Russ,

        The quote above was from “The Gay Science”, Book I, Section 20.

        And your interpretation of this passage is certainly one way of looking at it.

        With the appearance of corporate tyranny and a civilization of corporate cogs, it has not taken thousands of years for Nietzsche’s prophecy to come true.

        When intelligence becomes hegemonic, when it becomes a mode of technical, collective, automatic adaptation, or when it becomes a necessity and a requirement in order to “submit to the terminal triumph of Homo economicus”, then (according to this definition) any other hypothesis than intelligence becomes preferable.

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 7, 2011 @ 6:14 am

      • Like you mention above, the Kaufmann translation has “prudence”, and therefore he’d dispute that “intelligence” is the correct rendition. He also has “folly” rather than “madness”. In general, Kaufmann claims that prior translators were prone to be overly grave and serious about many terms N meant more to be taken more lightly, and that seems to cover the discrepancies here.

        I don’t think that really changes the substance, but rather the tone.

        We could also argue that the prudence N means here is that of the cowed inhabitant of a tyranny, in which case we’d also be referring to the same instrumental “intelligence”.

        As usual, N’s own critique isn’t so much political as spiritual and aesthetic.

        BTW, the instrumentality of this so-called intelligence should be emphasized. What we’re talking about here aren’t in fact truly intelligent/prudent people, in fact they’re generally pretty dull and at the same time reckless (in the way they submit to murderous “authority”). Their intelligence only applies to being functional as a cog. A computer is a good example. The whole AI notion in general.

        Comment by Russ — November 7, 2011 @ 6:32 am

    • N’s quote reminds me of my own observation about “heirloom humanity”:

      Think of heirloom varieties of fruit, vegetables and livestock as compared to those bred for commercializtion. Then think of modern society, which has been bred to be a consumer.

      There’s an analogy there somewhere.

      People are being trained NOT to think critically, to accept the conventional wisdom as truth. The attempt to legitimize economics as a science is part and parcel of this shift from democracy to technocracy, and I think N was probably speaking more generally about technocracy than corporatocracy.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — November 7, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

      • I remember that quote. I think I said I was going to be using it, but unfortunately I forgot. Thanks for reminding me. It’s a great way of looking at it, and perhaps not even as just a metaphor.

        Technocracy and scientism was part of what N clearly saw coming. Also consumerism. To the best of my recollection he didn’t see the eventual liquidation of all these “consumers”. His Last Man dystopia was basically the same thing that Fukuyama’s fraud would later call utopia. Fukuyama basically said “N was right, except it’s not a bad thing but a good thing.”

        Of course N was mistaken and F was lying about the permanency of this middle class consumerist stasis.

        Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 3:47 am

  6. Yes, Artificial Intelligence is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Disembodied thought that’s capable of numerical sequencing or certain forms of technical analysis but completely devoid of any spiritual, aesthetic or moral sense. Kind of like neoliberal economists. Perhaps Nietzsche’s prophecy was really warning us about the danger of listening to neoliberal economists. 🙂

    As Stephen Jay Gould once said: “the measurement of intelligence is itself the mark of unintelligence”.

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 7, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  7. My feeling from hanging out at the occupation here is that the movement has a long way to go before it even commits to something like agricultural relocalisation. I don’t see them as likely to reach that stage of articulated strategy for a while, and it’s not clear to me that many would support an abrogation of private freehold land tenancy if it was necessary. In any case, one kind of “occupation” you could do is to start gardening a patch of public land- if you got people to help you, you could turn it into kind of a community garden. Don’t apply for permits or anything, just start growing! Or inoculate a log with some shiitake mushroom spores. Spores need to Occupy (logs), so shitakes can Occupy (my stomach)

    Comment by paper mac — November 8, 2011 @ 12:39 am

    • Public, high-profile guerrilla gardening? In which case I guess the term guerrilla would no longer apply. Sounds good in principle. That would be a step toward what we previously discussed (briefly), how to adapt Latin America’s Landless Workers’ Movement, including its profound occupation strategy and tactics, to North America.

      I use the term profound to refer to how MST’s occupations (a term they’ve long been using) are well-planned toward a clear goal, and whose intent is always permanent occupation for a productive purpose.

      Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 3:53 am

      • Yeah, I guess it is a form of guerrilla gardening. I wonder how people would feel about it. I sometimes feel like challenging people’s ideas about property rights will be one of the most difficult arenas to make progress in. I think it might be a delicate thing. I think having a specific goal is a good idea, in any case- saying, well, we’re going to grow some things on this berm for the community is probably a lot more acceptable to most people than a generic occupation, and is probably just as radical in its long term implications.

        Comment by paper mac — November 8, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

      • Although no one’s agreed with me on property yet, I find that if I proceed this way:

        1. Focus on REO and corporate property, perhaps throwing in some references to the estates of the rich here and there.

        2. Offer my idea that “property” is another notion the system floats as an absolute, but which is really something to be used and abused only for the benefit of the 1%.

        3. Offer my idea that the 99% could not only have the land but live far more securely and stably upon it if we had a dispensation other than property as we know it.

        then people are sometimes open-minded about listening.

        I think the key is not to seem threatening to the middle class ideal of a house and a yard. Instead, just like with money, you say “they want you to believe in this way of doing things, but aren’t they taking it all away from us as we speak?” That house and yard would be more secure without the state/corporate/propertarian tyranny.

        Comment by Russ — November 8, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

      • That sounds like a good approach. I finally managed to reserve a copy of Seeing Like a State from the library, and just started in on it. It seems like there’s some good stuff in there about individual freehold property, cadastral surveys etc. I think presenting the existing dispensation as something which exists primarily to facilitate taxation has the potential to get people thinking about other ways of organising possession that wouldn’t otherwise.

        Comment by paper mac — November 8, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

      • That was the first time I heard of Scott, in a post comparing that book to Graeber. I got the book (plus Art of Not Being Ruled, which I think is one of the ones you read?) but haven’t read it yet. I look forward to hearing your review, so I’ll know whether I need to find time to read it right away or not. You were certainly right about the Graeber.

        “Existing primarily to facilitate taxation” (including always reminding people that corporate exactions are taxes just as much as government ones are) – that’s another good angle. It’s also true of command money as such.

        Comment by Russ — November 9, 2011 @ 3:29 am

      • Check this out: MST at OWS.


        Comment by Russ — November 9, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  8. A major student protest is taking place in London today, as the worldwide Occupy movement continues:


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 9, 2011 @ 10:31 am

    • Cops arresting peaceful protestors in London:

      Comment by Frank Lavarre — November 9, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    • Thanks, Frank.

      Comment by Russ — November 9, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  9. Hi Russ.

    I’ve missed you over at NC. Graeber shows up and captures the place, cites you, but you’re not around. After Yves stubbornly sticking by that asshole Ames today, I’m annoyed with her too.

    I’ve been a busy boy these past months. Finally found a house, actually houses, for sale at a reasonable price: $3,500. We’ve been rehabbing, moving in, camping out, weatherizing, etc. It’s actually across the street from an “urban farm” that’s been operating for two years. The farm consists of about 1.5 acres with some hoop houses for winter. Our place is a city lot with a two-family plus a single family house on it.

    I did take time to try out our local Occupy and joined the Foreclosure/Bank group. Our Occupy is having the same troubles that most are: divisive battles over whether nonviolence is the exclusive tactic; identity politics; money. The group I’ve fallen into is interesting. Mostly under 30, mostly professional “organizers” who’ve been on the payroll of one or more nonprofits or unions, and very much in the camp of wanting to enforce some kind of nonviolence rules. They’re not into electoral politics, which is a plus, and some of their dreams/goals are quite similar to mine.

    At the same time, they have some grand ideas about occupying a house. I’ve spent 18 months learning the details of how this process works, and learned that Fannie is among the biggest villains. No, I’m not talking about the right-wing myth that Fannie, Barnie and brown people destroyed the economy. Instead, Fannie is among the main bailout vehicles for the banks, and, at the same time, the tool of real estate developers looking to turn well-located but “blighted” land (meaning occupied by poor people) into a new bonanza. I’d like to see an occupation too, but one that’s directed at pointing the way to the future rather than just sticking a thumb in the eye of the banks. And these very middle class kids have no concept of what it’s like to live in a vacant house with no water, no power and no heat source in January in a Great Lakes city. Real democracy in practice is messy, but we have to keep learning, listening, trying and forgiving.

    Comment by Goin' South — November 11, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

    • Hi GS, sorry not to see you at NC. My kind wasn’t welcome there anymore, and it was time for a change anyway.

      That’s great about the new digs. I wish you the best of effort with that.

      I think the whole flap over nonviolence is getting ridiculous. Clearly nonviolence can only be a strategy and tactic, not a moral principle. All of history proves that. Anyone who wants to force a moral question into the proceedings is only doing the bidding of the 1%.

      In case people didn’t notice, it’s the corporate media who want to moralize protest tactics. Why would anyone want to play on their playing field? Here’s a rule of thumb:

      If the MSM wants to moralize it (e.g. property damage, individual debtors), that means it’s really a non-moral question.

      If the MSM wants to depict it as a technical issue or a law of nature (e.g. wealth inequality, job destruction, CEO salaries, state violence), that means it’s really an issue of morality and justice.

      Those who come to the Occupation with a bleeding heart over “Nonviolence” are either anti-political purists or police agents.

      Having said that, I don’t think black bloc tactics are well-suited to what Occupations are trying to achieve. If the police attack, then by all means resist. If the goal is to occupy a bank, and this requires smashing windows, so be it. But just smashing as a “symbolic” act is a distraction if you already want focus on the symbol of the physical occupation itself.

      You’re right about Fannie and the other GSEs. They’re a much bigger and more malign bailout conduit than the TARP was.

      Comment by Russ — November 12, 2011 @ 4:48 am

      • I really like your rule of thumb. Very true.

        There seems to be a wave of “Good Neighbor” rulesets sweeping the Occupys. They have very broad prohibitions against “violence against property.” The group I’m in was at the forefront in pushing this in the broader GA, but at our meeting, they were tentatively planning a B&E of a foreclosed property. Am I the only one who sees the conflict there? Keep those rules narrow and specific if you feel you must have them.

        The Fannie scam is this:

        1) Fannie is scooping up the majority of properties at the foreclosure sales, more than a majority of the low end properties. They are even bidding against third party bidders, clearly increasing their red ink and the taxpayers’ liability.

        2) They put ridiculously high prices on these properties and let them languish. They refuse to negotiate on price even when there’s only one interested party.

        3) They “donate” these properties to a local nonprofit that’s funded by the Feds ostensibly to prevent foreclosures. This nonprofit, unaccountable in any way to the public, then demolishes nearly all of these houses, assembles small parcels into larger ones, and sells those larger parcels that are located in potentially attractive areas, to developers in a sweetheart deal.

        It’s a superb example of “public-private partnership.” LOL.

        Now the banks are doing this directly when Fannie isn’t backing the original loan. It lets them out from under the burden of property taxes, maintenance and demolition while preventing these properties from ever reaching any market. Remember those “Houses for $1” articles a few years ago? There’s been quite a broad effort to prevent that from happening anymore.

        In our city, there’s a huge entity that’s been gobbling up land for decades. It’s surrounded by poor neighborhoods that have resisted it with some success. Now those neighborhoods are being leveled. That’s where we should be occupying houses, because that does more to reveal the real nature of this system than anything. That’s the argument I’m making to my group.

        We’ll see how it goes.

        Comment by Goin' South — November 12, 2011 @ 7:53 am

      • Thanks for that info on the Fannie scam. How anyone can still dispute that the federal government is anything but organized crime by now, or that there’s one corporate-government monolith, is beyond me. Hybrid public-private entities like the GSEs should only render that all the more clear.

        I hope your resistance attempt goes well. Now that’s the kind of physical occupation we should be doing everywhere. (Including, as I’ve written many times, people being foreclosed upon, and mortgage holders in general.)

        Comment by Russ — November 12, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  10. We’ve been working on starting an occupation in St. Paul — interesting how “Occupy MN” from the outset was synonymous with Minneapolis, and how something as dumb as a website name led to outright hostility to the idea of a separate St. Paul occupation. At any rate, I suggest you, and whoever else you know is interested, make the relevant announcements for an informational meeting/discussion toward setting up a local occupation. It’s not necessary to have people camping out. The key thing is to establish RL connections with likeminded people. If there aren’t enough people able to set up a permanent encampment, I think it should still be easy to find ways to show the flag — picket the local branch of a behemoth bank, “Close Your Account”, etc.

    Once thing I’ve noticed is the traditional “activism as a hobby” people love to show up to these things and try to dominate the discussion. I try to find ways to minimize it as much as possible. If what they were doing worked we wouldn’t be in this situation.

    Comment by reslez — November 11, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

    • You’re right, if the manpower isn’t immediately available for an impromptu event, and it’s going to take time to muster people anyway, then calling preliminary meetings is a good idea. That can also help develop and educate about the rationale for the action – “Why an Occupation here?” You have some good suggestions there.

      I’m ruefully smiling at the squabbles you describe. It’s really no joke though. I can imagine what you mean by the “hobby” types who’ve probably screwed up other things they’ve touched, and now want to screw this up.

      Comment by Russ — November 12, 2011 @ 4:47 am

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