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  This is a piece I wrote that appeared in Naked Capitalism yesterday. It's a longer version of a story I reposted to DKos in a different form but it might be of some interest to DKos readers, especially for its added analysis, and a few comments on conversations on the blog itself at the end.

By David Graeber, who is currently a Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Prior to that he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ which is available from Amazon.

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Just a few months ago, I wrote a piece for Adbusters that started with a conversation I’d had with an Egyptian activist friend named Dina:

All these years,” she said, “we’ve been organizing marches, rallies… And if only 45 people show up, you’re depressed, if you get 300, you’re happy. Then one day, 200,000 people show up. And you’re incredulous: on some level, even though you didn’t realize it, you’d given up thinking that you could actually win.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads across America, and even the world, I am suddenly beginning to understand a little of how she felt.

On August 2, I showed up at a 7 PM meeting at Bowling Green, that a Greek anarchist friend, who I’d met at a recent activist get together at 16 Beaver Street, had told me was meant to plan some kind of action on Wall Street in mid-September. At the time I was only vaguely aware of the background: that a month before, the Canadian magazine Adbusters had put out the call to “Occupy Wall Street”, but had really just floated the idea on the internet, along with some very compelling graphics, to see if it would take hold; that a local anti-budget cut coalition top-heavy with NGOs, unions, and socialist groups had tried to take possession of the process and called for a “General Assembly” at Bowling Green. The title proved extremely misleading. When I arrived, I found the event had been effectively taken over by a veteran protest group called the Worker’s World Party, most famous for having patched together ANSWER one of the two great anti-war coalitions, back in 2003. They had already set up their banners, megaphones, and were making speeches—after which, someone explained, they were planning on leading the 80-odd assembled people in a march past the Stock Exchange itself.

The usual reaction to this sort of thing is a kind of cynical, bitter resignation. “I wish they at least wouldn’t advertise a ‘General Assembly’ if they’re not actually going to hold one.” Actually, I think I actually said that, or something slightly less polite, to one of the organizers, a disturbingly large man, who immediately remarked, “well, fine. Why don’t you leave?”

But as I paced about the Green, I noticed something. To adopt activist parlance: this wasn’t really a crowds of verticals—that is, the sort of people whose idea of political action is to march around with signs under the control of one or another top-down protest movement. They were mostly pretty obviously horizontals: people more sympathetic with anarchist principles of organization, non-hierarchical forms of direct democracy, and direct action. I quickly spotted at least one Wobbly, a young Korean activist I remembered from some Food Not Bomb event, some college students wearing Zapatista paraphernalia, a Spanish couple who’d been involved with the indignados in Madrid… There were also a smattering of old friends, not only my Greek friend, but also, an American I knew from street battles in Quebec during the Summit of the Americas in 2001, now turned labor organizer in Manhattan, and a Japanese activist intellectual I’d known for years… My Greek friend looked at me and I looked at her and we both instantly realized the other was thinking the same thing: “Why are we so complacent? Why is it that every time we see something like this happening, we just mutter things and go home?” – though I think the way we put it was more like, “You know something? Fuck this shit. They advertised a general assembly. Let’s hold one.”

So we gathered up a few obvious horizontals and formed a circle, and tried to get everyone else to join us. Almost immediately people appeared from the main rally to disrupt it, calling us back with promises that a real democratic forum would soon break out on the podium. We complied. It didn’t happen. My Greek friend made an impassioned speech and was effectively shooed off the stage. There were insults and vituperations. After about an hour of drama, we formed the circle again, and this time, almost everyone abandoned the rally and come over to our side. We created a decision-making process (we would operate by modified consensus) broke out into working groups (outreach, action, facilitation) and then reassembled to allow each group to report its collective decisions, and set up times for new meetings of both the smaller and larger groups. It was difficult to figure out what to do since we only had six weeks, not nearly enough time to plan a major action, let alone bus in the thousands of people that would be required to actually shut down Wall Street—and anyway we couldn’t shut down Wall Street on the appointed day, since September 17, the day Adbusters had been advertising, was a Saturday. We also had no money of any kind.

Two days later, at the Outreach meeting we were brainstorming what to put on our first flyer. Adbusters’ idea had been that we focus on “one key demand.” This was a brilliant idea from a marketing perspective, but from an organizing perspective, it made no sense at all. We put that one aside almost immediately. There were much more fundamental questions to be hashed out. Like: who were we? Who did want to appeal to? Who did we represent? Someone—this time I remember quite clearly it was me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a half dozen others had equally strong memories of being the first to come up with it—suggested, “well, why not call ourselves ‘the 99%’? If 1% of the population have ended up with all the benefits of the last 10 years of economic growth, control the wealth, own the politicians… why not just say we’re everybody else?” The Spanish couple quickly began to lay out a “We Are the 99%” pamphlet, and we started brainstorming ways to print and distribute it for free.

Over the next few weeks a plan began to take shape. The core of the emerging group, which began to meet regularly in Tompkins Square park, were very young people who had cut their activist teeth on the Bloombergville encampment outside City Hall earlier in the summer; aside from that there was a smattering of activists who had been connected to the Global Justice movement with skills to share (one or two of whom I had to drag out of effective retirement), and, as mentioned a number of New Yorkers originally from Greece, Spain, even Tunisia, with knowledge and connections with those who were, or had been, involved in occupations there. We quickly decided that what we really wanted to do was something like had already been accomplished in Athens, Barcelona, or Madrid: occupy a public space to create a New York General Assembly, a body that could act as a model of genuine, direct democracy to contrapose to the corrupt charade presented to us as “democracy” by the US government. The Wall Street action would be a stepping-stone. Still, it was almost impossible to predict what would really happen on the 17th. There were supposed to be 90,000 people following us on the internet. Adbusters had called for 20,000 to fill the streets. That obviously wasn’t going to happen. But how many would really show up? Especially since we didn't have money or time to organize buses. What’s more, we were keenly aware that the NYPD numbered close to 40,000; Wall Street was, in fact, probably the single most heavily policed public space on the face of Planet Earth. To be perfectly honest, as one of the old-timers scrambling to organize medical and legal trainings, lessons on how to organize affinity groups and do non-violent civil disobedience, seminars on how to facilitate meetings and the like, for most of us, the greatest concern during those hectic weeks was how to ensure the initial event wouldn’t turn out a total fiasco, with all the enthusiastic young people immediately beaten, arrested, and psychologically traumatized as the media, as usual, simply looked the other way.

We’d certainly seen it happen before.

This time it didn’t. True, there were all the predictable conflicts. Most of New York’s grumpier hard-core anarchists refused to join in, and mocked us from the sidelines as reformist; meanwhile, the more open, “small-a” anarchists, who had been largely responsible for organizing the facilitation and trainings, battled the verticals in the group to ensure that we did not institute anything that could become a formal leadership structure, such as police liaisons or marshals. There were also bitter battles over the web page, as well as minor crises over the participation of various fringe groups, ranging from followers of Lyndon LaRouche to one woman from a mysterious group that called itself US Day of Rage, and who many sometimes suspected might not have any other members, who systematically blocked any attempt to reach out to unions because she felt we should be able to attract dissident Tea Partiers. On September 17th itself, I was troubled at first by the fact that only a few hundred people seemed to have shown up. What’s more the spot we’d chosen for our General Assembly, a plaza outside Citibank, had been shut down by the city and surrounded by high fences. The tactical committee however had scouted out other possible locations, and distributed maps: around 3 PM, word went around we were moving to location #5—Zuccotti Park—and by the time we got there, I realized we were surrounded by at least two thousand people.

The real credit for what happened after that—within a matter of weeks, a movement that had spread to 800 different cities, with outpourings of support from radical opposition groups as far away as China—belongs mainly to the students and other young people who simply dug themselves and refused to leave, despite the endless (and in many cases, obviously illegal) acts of police repression designed to intimidate, and to make life so miserable in the park (refusing to allow activists to cover their computers with tarps during rainstorms, that sort of thing) that its inhabitants would simply become demoralized and abandon the project. And, as the weeks went on, against calculated acts of terrorism involving batons and pepper-spray. Still, dogged activists have held out heroically under such conditions before, and the world simply ignored them. Why didn’t it happen this time? After so many years of vain attempts to revive the fervor of the Global Justice Movement, and constantly falling flat, I found myself, like Dina, asking “what did we actually do right?”

My first take on the question came when The Guardian asked me to write an oped on Occupy Wall Street a few days later. At the time I was inspired mainly by what Marisa Holmes, another brilliant organizer of the original occupation, had discovered in her work as a video documentarian, doing one-on-one interviews of fellow campers during the first two nights at Zuccotti Plaza. Over and over she heard the same story: “I did everything I was supposed to! I worked hard, studied hard, got into college. Now I’m unemployed, with no prospects, and $50 to $80,000.00 in debt.” These were kids who played by the rules, and were rewarded by a future of constant harassment, of being told they were worthless deadbeats by agents of those very financial institutions who—after having spectacularly failed to play by the rules, and crashing the world economy as a result, were saved and coddled by the government in all the ways that ordinary Americans such as themselves, equally spectacularly, were not.

“We are watching,” I wrote, “the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt.” Three weeks later, after watching more and more elements of mainstream America clamber on board, I think this is still true. In a way, the demographic base of OWS is about as far as one can get from that of the Tea Party—with which it is so often, and so confusingly, compared. The popular base of the Tea Party was always middle aged suburban white Republicans, most of middling economic means, anti-intellectual, terrified of social change—above all, for fear that what they saw as their one remaining buffer of privilege (basically, their whiteness) might finally be stripped away. OWS, by contrast, is at core forwards-looking youth movement, just a group of forward-looking people who have been stopped dead in their tracks; of mixed class backgrounds but with a significant element of working class origins; their one strongest common feature being a remarkably high level of education. It’s no coincidence that the epicenter of the Wall Street Occupation, and so many others, is an impromptu library: a library being not only a model of an alternative economy, where lending is from a communal pool, at 0% interest, and the currency being leant is knowledge, and the means to understanding.

In a way, this is nothing new. Revolutionary coalitions have always tended to consist of a kind of alliance between children of the professional classes who reject their parents’ values, and talented children of the popular classes who managed to win themselves a bourgeois education, only to discover that acquiring a bourgeois education does not actually mean one gets to become a member of the bourgeoisie. You see the pattern repeated over and over, in country after country: Chou Enlai meets Mao Tse Tung, or Che Guevara meets Fidel Castro. Even US counter-insurgency experts have long known the surest harbingers of revolutionary ferment in any country is the growth of a population of unemployed and impoverished college graduates: that is, young people bursting with energy, with plenty of time on their hands, every reason to be angry, and access to the entire history of radical thought. In the US, the depredations of the student loan system simply ensures such budding revolutionaries cannot fail to identify banks as their primary enemy, or to understand the role of the Federal Government—which maintains the student loan program, and ensures that their loans will be held over their heads forever, even in the event of bankruptcy—in maintaining the banking system’s ultimate control over every aspect of their future lives.

Ordinarily, though, the plight of the indebted college graduate would not be the sort of issue that would speak directly to the hearts of, say, members of New York City’s Transit Worker’s Union—which, at time of writing, is not only supporting the occupation, but suing the New York Police Department for commandeering their buses to conduct a mass arrest of OWS activists blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. Why would a protest by educated youth strike such a chord across America—in a way that it probably wouldn’t have in 1967, or even 1990? Clearly, it has much to do with the financialization of capital. It may well be the case by now that most of Wall Street’s profits are no longer to be being extracted indirectly, through the wage system, at all, but taken directly from the pockets of ordinary Americans. I say “may” because we don’t really have the numbers. In a way this is telling in itself. For all the endless statistical data available on every aspect of our economic system, I have been unable to find any economist who can tell me how much of an average American’s annual income, let alone life income, ends up being appropriated by the financial industries in the form of interest payments, fees, penalties, and service charges. Still, given the fact that interest payments alone takes up between 15-17% of household income,[1] a figure that does not include student loans, and that penalty fees on bank and credit card accounts can often double the amount one would otherwise pay, it would not be at all surprising if at least one dollar out of every five an American earns over the course of her lifetime is now likely to end up in Wall Street’s coffers in one way or another. The percentage may well be approaching the amount the average American will pay in taxes. In fact, for the least affluent Americans, it has probably long since overtaken it.

This has very real implications for how we even think about what sort of economic system we are in. Back when I was in college, I learned that the difference between capitalism and feudalism—or what was sometimes called the “tributary mode of production”—is that a feudal aristocracy appropriates its wealth through “direct juro-political extraction.” They simply take other people’s things through legal means. Capitalism was supposed to be a bit more subtle.[2] Yet as soon as it achieved total world dominance, capitalism seems to have almost immediately begun shifting back into something that could well be described as feudalism.[3] In doing so, too, it made the alliance of money and government impossible to ignore. In the years since 2008, we’ve seen examples ranging from the comical—as when loan collection agencies in Massachusetts sent their employees out en masse to canvas on behalf of a senate candidate (Scott Brown) who they assumed would be in favor of harsher laws against debtors, to the downright outrageous—as when “too big to fail” institutions like Bank of America, bailed out by the taxpayers, secure in the knowledge they would not be allowed to collapse no matter what their behavior, paying no taxes, but delivering vast sums of culled from their even vaster profits to legislators who then allow their lobbyists to actually write the legislation that is supposed to “regulate” them. At this point, it’s not entirely clear why an institution like Bank of America should not, at this point, be considered part of the federal government, other than that it gets to keep its profits for itself.

Still, this might explain the outrage at government’s alliance with the financial sector—the fact that bribery has, effectively, been made legal in America, a country that nonetheless presumes to go around the world pretending it is some sort of beacon of democracy. It does not explain the comprehensive rejection of existing political institutions of any sort.

This is where I must admit my own position is particularly confusing. On the one hand, this is exactly the kind of attitude I have been arguing for for years. I like to describe myself precisely as a “small-a anarchist.” That is, I believe in anarchist principles—mutual aid, direct action, the idea building the new, free society in the shell of the old—but I’ve never felt a need to declare allegiance to any particular anarchist school (Syndicalists, Platformists, etc). Above all, I am happy to work with anyone, whatever they call themselves, willing to work on anarchist principles—which in America today, has largely come to mean, a refusal to work with or through the government or other institutions which ultimately rely on the threat of force, and a dedication to horizontal democracy, to treating each other as we believe free men and women in a genuinely free society would treat each other. Even the commitment to direct action, so often confused with breaking windows or the like, really refers to the refusal of any politics of protest, that merely appeals to the authorities to behave differently, and the determination instead to act for oneself, and to do what one thinks is right, regardless of law and authority. Gandhi’s salt march, for example, is a classic example of direct action. So was squatting Zuccotti Park. It’s a public space; we were the public; the public shouldn’t have to ask permission to engage in peaceful political assembly in its own park; so we didn’t. By doing so we not only acted in the way we felt was right, we aimed to set an example to others: to begin to reclaim communal resources that have been appropriated for purposes of private profit to once again serve for communal use—as in a truly free society, they would be—and to set an example of what genuine communal use might actually be like. For those who desire to create a society based on the principle of human freedom, direct action is simply the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.

Small-a anarchists such as myself were at the core of the anti-nuclear movement in the ‘70s and the global justice movement between 1998-2001 (which I myself became involved in in early 2000), and over the years, we have put much of our creative energy into developing forms of egalitarian political process that actually work. I should emphasize that this is not just an anarchist project. Actually, the development of consensus process, which is probably the movement’s greatest accomplishment, emerges just as much from the tradition of radical feminism, and draws on spiritual traditions from Native American to Quakerism. This is where the whole exotic language of the movement comes from: facilitation, “the people’s microphone,” spokescouncils, blocks; though in the case of Occupy Wall Street, augmented and transformed by the experience of General Assembly movements across the Mediterranean.

Obviously, what happened is exactly what we hoped would happen. The politics of direct action is based, to a certain degree, on a faith that freedom is contagious. It is almost impossible to convince the average American that a truly democratic society would be possible. One can only show them. But the experience of actually watching a group of a thousand, or two thousand, people making collective decisions without a leadership structure, let alone that of thousands of people in the streets linking arms to holding their ground against a phalanx of armored riot cops, motivated only by principle and solidarity, can change one’s most fundamental assumptions about what politics, or for that matter, human life, could actually be like. Back in the days of the Global Justice movement we thought we might expose enough people, around the world, to these new forms of direct democracy, these traditions of direct action, that a new, global, democratic culture would begin to emerge. Of course it didn’t quite happen that way. Certainly, the movement did inspire thousands, and played a major role in transforming how activist groups in Europe and North America conducted meetings and thought about politics; but the contagion was largely contained within pre-existing activist ghettos; most Americans never even knew that direct democracy was so much of what we were about. The anti-war movements after 2003 mobilized hundreds of thousands, but they fell back on the old fashioned vertical politics of top-down coalitions, charismatic leaders, and marching around with signs. Many of us diehard kept the faith. We kept looking for the moment of revival. After all, we had dedicated our lives to the principle that something like this would eventually happen. But, like my Egyptian friend, we had also, in a certain way, failed to notice that we’d stop really believing that we could actually win.

And then it happened. The last time I went back to Zuccotti Square, and watched middle aged construction workers and Latino hip hop artists using all our old hand signals in mass meetings, one of my old anarchist comrades—a one-time tree-sitter and inveterate eco-activist who used to go by the name Warcry, and was now established in the park as video documentarians—admitted to me, “every few hours I do have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t all a dream.”

So the social scientist in me has to ask: Why? Why now? Why did it actually work?

Again, I think the answer is generational. In politics, too, as in education, we are looking at a generation of young people who played by the rules, and have seen their efforts prove absolutely fruitless. We must remember that in 2008, the youth vote went overwhelmingly to Barrack Obama and the Democrats. We also have to remember that Obama was running, then, as a candidate of “Change”, using a campaign language that drew liberally from that of radical social movements (“yes we can!”, “be the change!”), and that as a former community organizer, he was one of the few candidates in recent memory who could be said to have emerged from a social movement background rather than from smoke-filled rooms. This, combined with the fact that Obama was Black, gave young people a sense that they were experiencing a genuinely transformative moment in American politics.

All this happened in a country where there was such a straightjacket on acceptable political discourse in the US—what a politician or media pundit can say, without being immediately written off as lunatic fringe—that the views of very large segments of the American public simply are never voiced at all. To give a sense of how radical is the disconnect between acceptable opinion, and the actual feelings of American voters, consider a pair of polls conducted by Rasmussen, the first in December 2008, right after Obama was elected, the second in April 2011. A broad sampling of Americans were asked which economic system they preferred: capitalism, or socialism? In 2008, 15% felt the USA would be better off adopting a socialist system; now, three years later, the number has gone up, to one in five. Even more striking was the breakdown by age: the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to reject a capitalist system. Among Americans between 15 and 25, a thin plurality still preferred capitalism: 37%, as opposed to 33% in favor of socialism (the rest were unsure). But think about what this means here. It means that almost two thirds of America’s youth think it might be a good idea to jettison the capitalist system entirely! This in a country where most have never seen a single politician, TV pundit, or mainstream “expert” use the term “socialism” as anything but a term of condescension and abuse. Granted, for that very reason, it’s hard to know exactly what young people who say they prefer “socialism” actually think they’re embracing. Presumably not an economic system modeled on that of North Korea. What then? Sweden? Canada? It’s impossible to say. But in a way it’s also beside the point. Most Americans might not be sure what socialism is supposed to be, but they do know a great deal about capitalism, and if “socialism” means anything to them, it means “something, pretty much anything, other than that!”

In 2008, young Americans preferred Obama to McCain by a rate 68% to 30 [4]—again, an approximately 2/3 margin.

How, then, do you expect a young American voter to feel, after casting a vote for a fundamental change to our political and economic system, on discovering that in fact, they have elected a man who twenty years ago would have been considered a moderate conservative?

I mean that word, “conservative,” in its literal sense by the way. This literal sense is now rarely used. Nowadays, in the US, “conservative” has come to mean “right-wing radical,” but it used to mean someone whose main political imperative is to conserve existing institutions, more or less exactly as they are—and this is precisely what Obama has turned out to be. Almost all his greatest political efforts have been aimed in one way or another at preserving some institutional structure under threat of radical transformation: the banking system, the auto industry, even the health insurance industry, since Obama’s main argument in pushing for health care reform was that the US health care system, based on for-profit, private insurers, was not economically viable over the long term, and indeed, what he ended up doing was preserving exactly that for-profit system in a way that it might endure for at least another generation. Considering the state of the US economy in 2008, it required genuinely heroic efforts not to change anything. Yet Obama did expend those heroic efforts, and the result was no structural change in existing institutions of any kind at all.

I am a frequenter of the liberal blog Daily Kos. Reading it regularly is probably the best way to get a sense of what the “progressive community” in the US—left-leaning voters and activists who still believe in acting through the Democratic Party—are currently thinking. Over the last two years, the level of hatred directed against Obama is extraordinary. He is regularly accused of being a fraud, a liar, a secret Republican who has intentionally flubbed every opportunity for progressive change presented to him in the name of “bipartisan compromise” with a rabid and uncompromising Right. Others suggest he is a well-meaning progressive whose hands are tied; or, alternately, blame progressives for not having mobilized to provide sufficient pressure to his Left. The latter seem to forget the way the grassroots activist groups created during the campaign, which were expected to endure afterwards for just this purpose, were rapidly dismantled once Obama was in power and handing the economic reigns of the US over to the very people (Geithner, Bernanke, Summers) responsible for the crisis, or how liberal groups that actually try to mount campaigns against such policies are regularly threatened with defunding by White-House friendly NGOs. But in a way, this feeling of personal betrayal is pretty much inevitable. It is the only way of preserving the faith that it’s possible for progressive policies to be enacted in the US through electoral means. Because if Obama was not planning all along to betray his Progressive base, then one would be forced to conclude any such project is impossible. After all, how could there have been a more perfect alignment of the stars than happened in 2008? That year saw a wave election that left Democrats in control of both houses of congress,[5] a Democratic president elected on a platform of “Change” coming to power at a moment of economic crisis so profound that radical measures of some sort were unavoidable, and at a time when popular rage against the nation’s financial elites was so intense that most Americans would have supported almost anything. If it was not possible to enact any real progressive policies or legislation at such a moment, clearly, it would never be. Yet none were enacted.[6] Instead Wall Street gained even greater control over the political process, and, since Republicans proved the only party willing to propose radical positions of any kind, the political center swung even further to the Right. Clearly, if progressive change was not possible through electoral means in 2008, it simply isn’t going to possible at all. And that is exactly what very large numbers of Americans appear to have concluded.

Say what you will about Americans, and one can say many things, this is a country of deeply democratic sensibilities. The idea that we are, or are supposed to be, a democratic society is at the very core of what makes us proud to be Americans. If Occupy Wall Street has spread to every city in America, it’s because our financial overlords have brought us to such a pass that anarchists, pagan priestesses, and tree-sitters are about the only Americans left still holding out for the idea that a genuinely democratic society might be possible.
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[1] http://www.federalreserve.gov/....

[2] Similarly, Max Weber argued that the “irrational political capitalism” of “military adventurers … tax farmers, speculators, money dealers, and others” of, say, the Roman world, was an historical dead end, since it was ultimately parasitical off the state, and had nothing in common with the rational investment of production of modern industrial capitalism. By Weber’s logic, contemporary global capitalism, which is dominated by speculators, currency traders, and government contractors, has long since reverted to the dead-end irrational variety.

[3] See http://attempter.wordpress.com/... for a nice essay on Occupy Wall Street and “neo-feudalism.”

[4] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...

[5] The conventional response to this was to insist that the Democrats didn’t really control both houses because the Senate rules had changed, irresponsible use of the Filibuster meant that a 60-vote majority was required. This only makes sense if one assumes that any minority party, at any previous period of American history, could have gotten rid of majority rule and moved to a 60% system had they really wanted to, but somehow chose not to do so—which is obviously absurd. If the Republicans got away with it in 2008 it’s because the Democrats decided not to make a major issue an unprecedented opposition policy of systematically violating all previous tacit Senate rules.

[6] Obama’s health care legislation, I will repeat, does not count since it is not comprehensive and effectively reproduces Bob Dole’s Republican health plan of 2006.

Originally posted to david graeber on Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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    apotropaic, sewer2001, BachFan, Horace Boothroyd III, Roger Fox, gulfgal98, marigold, buddabelly, Pilkington, Pluto, beltane, xylonjay, Neon Mama, ej25, joanneleon, Oh Mary Oh, ybruti, Dude1701, Funkygal, ladypockt, CharlesInCharge, Jlukes, WisePiper, jimreyn, lurker123, OrganizedCrime, elwior, raines, mozartssister, wrights, riverlover, Kingsmeg, NYCee, Emerson, eeff, MKSinSA, OHdog, WineRev, merrily1000, OLinda, Therapy, WarrenS, DRo, triplepoint, goinsouth, political junquie, Wes Lee, FrY10cK, dksbook, interguru, lostinamerica, scronk, Bill W, sawgrass727, opendna, opinionated, Babsnc, redheron, Lady Libertine, Nina Katarina, Steven D, lotlizard, Richard Cranium, samanthab, RF, kmbaya, artisan, think blue, greenbastard, ruthhmiller, Tusconian, david mizner, haremoor, Jane Lew, martini, triv33, MKinTN, ratzo, theKgirls, caul, wader, livjack, noemie maxwell, Randtntx, Gustogirl, nyceve, No one gets out alive, LeislerNYC, avadoria, mjfgates, gooderservice, LSmith, wxorknot, BabeInTotalControlofHerself, Crashing Vor, HoosierDeb, One bite at a time, ask, claude, SMWalt, Snud, recentdemocrat, Captain Chaos, PBen, Mike08, Mrs M, Angie in WA State, zerelda, Publius2008, gatorcog, semiot, kck, Catte Nappe, An Affirming Flame, catilinus, dsb, SoCalJayhawk, Agathena, Josiah Bartlett, allie123, glitterscale, Gowrie Gal, Getreal1246, Tonedevil, flowerfarmer, JHestand, shaharazade, PhilK, Involuntary Exile, Panglozz, FindingMyVoice, oldmanriver, Bule Betawi, buckstop, Its a New Day, blueoasis, killtherich, JFeathersmith, 313to212, SallyCat, Empower Ink, petral, EthrDemon, shari, ohmyheck, Audri, Matt Z, real world chick, millwood, kyril, sanglug, poco, The Dead Man, Wife of Bath, Paul Ferguson, Meteor Blades, PeterHug, legendmn, jarbyus, petulans, CT Hank, markdd, lineatus, bluicebank, myadestes, reddbierd, msblucow, waltmon, StrayCat, stonekeeper, priceman, gustynpip, Mr Horrible, neecie100, stormicats, poligirl, annan, dakinishir, frodolives, fumie, NBBooks, Emocrat, benvautier, Arahahex, snowshoeblue, mahakali overdrive, TarheelDem, Spaghetti Western, mikeconwell, wordfiddler, phaedras, owlbear1, boadicea, Zack from the SFV, wasatch, dkmich, non acquiescer, howgroovy, UnaSpenser, Kurt Sperry, One Pissed Off Liberal, middleagedhousewife, Erik the Red, Dvalkure, Sapere aude, linkage, asterkitty, SteelerGrrl, Creosote, pcl07, historys mysteries, wu ming, CTDemoFarmer, Arrow, howd, monkeybrainpolitics, orangecurtainlib, gloriana, xynz, rmonroe, hlsmlane, tardis10, mrkvica, Bindle, bula, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, revsue, scarvegas, ItsSimpleSimon, Tam in CA, a2nite, sasher, chimpy, Latum, Sylv, NearlyNormal, princesspat, carolyn urban, Cassiodorus, sostos, Chi, bnasley, Sanctimonious, alnep, vigilant meerkat, Eddie in ME, Tennessee Dave, Ultranaut, econlibVA, cslewis, rhp, Sychotic1, ArchTeryx, strangedemocracy, SteveS Austin, Michael James, davekro, Ignacio Magaloni, tofumagoo, yoduuuh do or do not, brentbent, joejoe, melo, bvljac, basquebob, Tommymac, Sharon Wraight, the greasybear, Shakludanto, histOries Marko, BlueDragon, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, luaptifer, viscerality, pot, J Orygun, worldlotus, Joel Spinhirne
  •  100% awesomness (25+ / 0-)

    I remember seeing the facebook page calling to Occupy Wall Street, I think it was like June. I clicked on "Maybe" I would attend, thinking this isnt going to last.

    I am very happily wrong.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 07:18:36 PM PDT

  •  Amazing piece (23+ / 0-)

    I've seen this process a few times before: the small group meetings, for years, 20 and 30 people at an event, then all of the sudden thousands. It's fascinating to watch. I think you put you've identified some of the keys though -- democratic process has to rule over the "verticals", as you call them. Once regular people see that regular people like them are empowered in a movement, and can fully participate not just as a foot soldier, but as a key element of the process, then things can take off. Rejecting the whole culture around permits is also key. As soon as you get a permit, it pretty much eliminates any real possibilities for a threat to the status quo.

    I also agree that what we might be seeing is actually a sort of debt revolt. People at age 18-25 don't really have any idea or even choice in the matter, then all of the sudden they realize that they are debt slaves. They will spend the better part of their lives struggling to pay their loans. This is not only an issue given high levels of unemployment, but more fundamentally it infringes upon their freedom. They can't decide whether to work or not, or what kind of work best suits them, or struggle in their own business for years, or any number of other options. No, they have to select from the options that generate the income to cover their loans, and that basically means corporate America -- assuming they are even lucky enough to have that option.

    My only caveat though is that Wall Street is not really to blame for their student loan debt. You can blame government for failing to adequately fund education, and you can blame academia for tuition rising far faster than the rate of inflation, but I'm not sure how you can blame the banks that gave you the loan.

      •  You are aware that the Department of (32+ / 0-)

        Education has taken over servicing student loans, "saving" the interest to pay for the expansion of health care, right?
        There's great turmoil in the higher education community because local banks have suddenly been deprived of their ability to funnel students and dollars to the "training" programs that sprang up like mushrooms to take advantage of the guaranteed loan program.
        All of the nattering about the federal government "taking over" health care was actually motivated by the federal government taking over the "allocation of credit" for higher education.  They couldn't talk about the real threat banks were facing because that would have exposed an issue the public would have been irate about. So the proponents were reduced to nattering about something that wasn't happening and they lost the issue.  Then Dodd/Frank came along and they still were reluctant to talk about the money (the last taboo) and went along reluctantly in hoped that the 111th Congress would repeal it all. It didn't happen.
        While it is true that private health insurers are continuing to administer the payments to providers, the looming cap on their profits is not only curbing their enthusiasm at the trough, it is significantly reducing the stream of investment dollars insurers traditionally funneled to the banks.
        In Georgia, the insurance industry is trying to make up for it by insisting that home owners purchase insurance for replacement costs that were highly inflated by the boom and, in addition, that they include, what used to be an option, the insurance of their cars in the package. So, if you don't have a car (because you lease?), you can't insure the homestead. In addition, the state of Georgia's insurance commissioner is petitioning to have health insurers exempt from the 15% cap on profits from premiums because, when new policies are written, the salesmen expect to collect 20% of the premium for the first year up front.  That's their rule of thumb. The argument being forth for the waiver is that if they don't get it new insurance companies won't spring up. The thumb rules.

        People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

        by hannah on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 03:22:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The vicious circle: (19+ / 0-)

      Government budget cuts hit universities which raise fees.  (The Koch Brothers are happy to see universities pinched because they then are able to lavish conditional donations that demand their ideology be taught.)

      Privatization of student loans means profit has to be tacked onto the cost.

      Privatization of higher education with higher tuition and fee costs is heavily subsidized by the student loan program, which although privatized, is still paid with taxpayer funds.

      Because private higher education institutions don't properly prepare students for their chosen occupation, a high percentage of their students end up defaulting on their loans because they cannot get work in their field to pay the loans.

      All of which raises the cost of a higher education and the loan programs.

      Voila!  Backs broken by debt.  Add to this the injury that with the privatization of student loans came a law that removes all hope of relief from such debt, ever.

      So yes, I do blame Wall Street for crushing student debt.  It's just one more thread in the Disaster Capitalism fabric.

      Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

      by Gustogirl on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 07:48:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your second paragraph is key. (30+ / 0-)

      I'm in my late 20's and still $50,000 in student loan debt and I will tell you: I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed those loan papers at age 20.

      One day while home during winter break, my mom sat me down at the computer and said we had to do something important.  I was halfway through college at a moderately expensive private school and my middle-income, working class parents had been paying my way so far, both directly and through loans they had taken out in their names.  I was vaguely aware of this, but was focused on my school work and college life.  I had savings from working during high school and then worked part time through most of college to cover living expenses ( though parents helped out on rent), but tuition was just not part of my perspective.  It was just paid.

      So I was pretty confused about what was going on when my mom said it was getting too much for them and she hated to do this but I'd need to take out some big loans in my name to finish school.  I understood in a basic sense what that meant, but I had no idea about the kind of debt I was being saddled with.  My mom said it was necessary.  I loved my school and only had about 2 years to go.  I was just doing what was necessary.

      It only started to become clear about six months after I graduated and the bills started coming due.  I saw the huge principle.  The thousands in interest that had accumulated while I was still in school.  The $400-500 I'd have to pay off at minimum every month for at least the next 15-20 years.

      It was like seeing my future being enveloped in a huge, menacing black cloud.  Up to that point I was temping and looking for a permanent job at a progressive non-profit.  That dream instantly went out the window.  I wouldn't make enough at a non-profit to cover all my living expenses, plus those fucking student loan payments.

      Every year that I do my taxes and see that I've paid about 10-15% of my take-home income to Sallie Mae just in interest makes me want to quit my job and go pick up a molotov cocktail.

      So I can't work in non-profits.  I have to be very careful if I ever move to another part of the country where incomes are lower than this city, as I might not be able to make enough to cover my payments (and forget about owning a car...I'll have to bike to work for miles down country lanes, hah).  I was never able to be a carefree college graduate who quits their job and road-trips across the country or spends a summer in India like some of my friends were able to do.  I will most likely still be tens of thousands in debt when I have children of my own.  Fucking FSM help me if I ever lose my job.

      All of this because I was just doing what I was "supposed" to be doing.

      And just to note, I don't blame my parents.  They were doing the best they could, too.  I was one of the first in my extended family on both sides to go to college.  They wanted a good future for me and always saw a good education as the means to ensure that.  They tried to keep those loans off of me, but eventually they just couldn't do it.

      No, I blame the predatory student loan companies and the fucking banks that profit off their scams.  I blame the schools for feeding into this frenzy by constantly raising tuition.  I blame the capitalist-serving government for allowing all this misery to happen in the name of profit.  I won't be happy until this whole fucking global capitalist system goes down in flames and we the people of the world dance on its ashes and make a new, better world for ourselves.

      The politics of direct action is based, to a certain degree, on a faith that freedom is contagious. - David Graeber

      by An Affirming Flame on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 09:26:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  True, that. (17+ / 0-)
    It is almost impossible to convince the average American that a truly democratic society would be possible.

    And even knowing that they do not share in their nation's commonwealth (as citizens of the other developed nations do) -- it's also impossible for them to accept that they are still little more than Colonists.

  •  Very nice, interesting post. I vaguely remember (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, DRo, kyril, mrkvica

    reading somewhere that Adbusters people anticipated a major crisis (Euro maybe?) around September and that was one of the motivations for putting out a call to OWS? Do you know?

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 11:56:54 PM PDT

  •  I want to mention Chris Hedges' book "The (36+ / 0-)

    Death of the Liberal Class". He describes how various liberal institutions (unions etc), supposed to question capitalism, instead bought into the reformist mentality. And started loosing authenticity through compromises, and working within the Democratic party framework which itself has been moving right. My own experience with Moveon.org resonates with what Hedges says. Take for example, the recent passing of the 3 free trade deals - South Korea, Panama and Columbia. Bush could never get these through but Obama did and there was just passing mention even here in DailyKos. IOKIYAD - It's OK If You are A Democrat apparently.  And the way Obama is attacking teachers unions - unbelievable. If Bush had done that, liberal class will be livid. But lately teachers have been seeing through his right wing agenda.

    Part of the problem is also relying too much on political strategy. Madison protests were great but eventually general strike was ruled out and it came to political battles. And the liberal institutions rely upon Dems as the "lesser evil". The folly of this approach is corporations outspend unions and other groups by 12:1.  

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 12:06:35 AM PDT

    •  And the WI tchrs union agreed to a shitty deal... (30+ / 0-)

      that got them praise and cooing sounds from even their former foes like Joe Scarborough. The line I heard endlessly by such TV folks who had previously gone after teachers and unions and the middle class like they were the scourge of our nation was "Oh, let them keep their collective bargaining, I mean, look at all theyre willing to give up! They are good eggs!" This was from Dems and GOP.

      This is not to take anything away from the fabulous actions taken by protesters. True, the protesters did a great job of raising awareness of Walker's draconian reforms and trying to oust him and his cadre in the state house, but what got lost in it all was how much the victims of our D and R throttled unions were willing to concede, ie, let them keep their toothless collective bargaining. The meme was being floated that collective bargaining, like our democracy itself, could become another dead husk, an empty shell, a thing of relevance in name only, while pretending they were preserving something of value (wink/wink)

      Obama, too, has hurt teachers unions and education itself. His drive for merit pay is anti collective and collegial workplace. His fill in the right answer test push - get your students to bubble in the right answer or lose your job, teacher - destroys in the classroom the very thing the horizontal movement promotes - questioning and democracy. You dont question, you just provide the RIGHT answer, which drilling has provided to you. He has promoted privatization of education, billionaire meddling and power in the system, charters replacing public/unionized workplaces. Finally, HEDGE FUND OPERATIVES joined arms with new dem brethren on Wall Street and heavily funded and promoted NY's changing of education laws to suit the RttT judges, to win the grant. We won! (They won. We LOST) Ask yourself since when did Hedge Fund Operatives 'care' so much about educating our nations' kids? (I fill in this answer: LOL)

      The Dems have gone along for the ride, with Arne Duncan as class A business manager (the Chicago system he quasi privatized, along with Mayor Daley, even calls its chancellor the CEO. No joke). That is why, as you mentioned in another example, RttT managed to change education laws that Bush couldnt. (Although I dont know about your example of free trade agreements. It seems the Dems manage to pass those, along with the GOP, just fine) The GOP was just waiting to vote for Obama's GOPpy reforms, in 34 states, in ways that hurt long fought for union benefits (work conditions, tenure, evaluation process), collective bargaining, and collective strength. Bush didnt have the Dems. Obama did, and the Dems had the unions.

      It really is past time for a change.

      That is why I am so glad for this movement, #ows. To see the unions join with it gives me hope, as with so much else done by it/us... May it remain highly active and grow!

      Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

      by NYCee on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 04:40:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      david graeber, elwior

      Just wanted to note that there were several diaries on the trade deals. Laura Clawson posted several on the front page, before passing, and this one after it passed.

      The tag for Colombia alone shows 329 diaries since Oct. 1. Not all are on the trade deals of course, but many are.

      America is so not like her hype.

      by OLinda on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 05:21:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tremendous journalism (in the traditional (27+ / 0-)

    sense of the term) that helped to fill in a few gaps in my understanding of the OWS movement's origins and ideological underpinnings.

    Thank you for posting (or re-posting) this piece.

  •  In this case this should be rec'd up regardless (13+ / 0-)

    Maybe people don't notice what's it's about, because of the title.

  •  What I've long argued is that putting (13+ / 0-)

    capitalism and socialism into the same category is a mistake.  Capitalism is about preserving resources and assets for future use (thereby avoiding waste), while socialism is about who owns the assets and puts them to use.

    Who does and what does he do are obviously different.  Of course, if were dealing with people who do nothing but give out prompts, that distinction becomes meaningless in conversation, if not in practice.

    Much error, I think, has followed inadvertently from the accountants' double-entry book-keeping which seeks to look at all of reality in terms of two sides balancing each other out. The result is a static model that's supposed to represent what is a dynamic process.  So, it's never accurate.  The economists' solution has been to try to develop policies that will make the process fit the model.  And that accounts for much of the muddle.
    Also, the accountant's fascination with numbers has led to the measuring stick, so to speak, being taken for the thing measured.  We are supposed to believe that numbers of dollars present a comprehensive picture of what's going on.  They don't.  And Greece, ironically, proves it.  Economists thought that as economies get hooked on money, the regular/regulated/tax paying economy will become universal and what is generally referred to as the shadow/irregular/underground economy will wither to nothing. It is now estimated that 40% of Greece's GDP is now in the shadows.  For Italy the estimate is 25% or more. "Underdeveloped" economies may be at 85% or more.  It turns out that economic development merely means more people use more money to mediate transactions and the people who manage the money have a better opportunity to tap a revenue stream for themselves.

    Using money in direct transaction is actually very time-consuming.  Being able to trust your neighbors is much more efficient.  Money only increases efficiency when long times and large distances are to be transcended in a single bound. :)

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 03:39:47 AM PDT

    •  I'm not sure it has to be (10+ / 0-)

      an either/or equation--or better, the either/or fallacy.  

      Some things should probably be privately owned, but many things should be publicly owned and under public stewardship.  We've gotten so far away from that, as our last public institutions have been plundered for private gain.

      "If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." — Albert Schweitzer

      by mozartssister on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 04:01:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  For many years (11+ / 0-)

      in the business sector I worried that American businesses were being hobbled by their lawyers. They couldn't innovate, reform, adapt or change because their lawyers wouldn't let them.
      (Apocryphal but damn close: A March snow storm dumps several inches. Lawyer advises business not to open.
      "Yes, we shoveled and salted, but that floor is going to be wet. If someone slips and falls we could be exposed to a liability here!"
      Answer (finally, after years of this nonsense): "If we don't open we can't have a legal department or pay legal fees.")

      I no longer worry about the lawyers.

      I AM pretty well convinced American business will fail because of the ACCOUNTANTS! First, meditate on the people you knew back in high school who you saw at the last reunion who became accountants. Remember them?
      Next, the accursed invention and spread of the Excel Spreadsheet. The accountants ALWAYS have numbers, reams of numbers, to back up anything and everything they say, which gives them and their fearless leaders, the CFOs, unnaturally large power.

      Put these together and you have CEOs, VPs and division chiefs terrified of the damn accounting department.
      (Apocryphal but damn close: A March snow storm dumps several inches. Accountant/CFO/Excel geek tells company president: "You know, its March. If we don't shovel and plow, the sun angle is high enough this will all melt off in a few days. We can save ourselves the cost of a plow and shovel and make this month's expenses come in below budget.")

      In my dreams I am in charge and the spreadsheet geek comes with a recommendation that, "Business is down 10%. We need to cut labor by 10%." My answer would be: "Good idea. Since computers are based entirely on numbers and activated by a few keystrokes, we don't need a financial or accounting department. Lay off everyone there except the one data entry clerk. I'll come down after coffee to help you pack."

      FWIW. End of rant.

      Shalom.

      "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

      by WineRev on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 05:44:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of my very best friends who died (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, elwior, mightymouse, Creosote, melo

        about six weeks ago at age 80 was an accounting professor.  He spent his retirement worrying about the people he's taught and who were making all the messes that caused the collapse.  My friend was a pessimist (pessimists are never disappointed with their predictions) and I assured him he certainly wasn't alone.  It wasn't the educators' fault that their students went for form over function and the numbers they collected were increasingly irrelevant.  What I'd like to know is who invented "good will." That's the line into which they plug whatever numbers keep the two sides of the ledger from coming out even.

        People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

        by hannah on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 09:18:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of the educators are steeped in (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hannah, kyril, elwior, mightymouse, Creosote, melo

          microeconomics and do not believe the macro picture.

          It's been the way of the USA even ever since the 1950s and 1960s. We've believed that fiscal policy will create and naturally right our economy.

          We've paid scant attention to macroeconomic factors caused chiefly by Globalism.

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 09:35:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The development of computers (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WineRev, goinsouth, melo, elwior

        has paralleled this bizarre, nearly unassailable trust in numbers created by the concretizing sensibilities of accountants, as well as the enormous expansion of the markets since the early 1980s. Being able to mechanize the manipulation of numbers to the point of the near-instantaneous has to be something with social implications similar to those following the invention of the assembly line.

        My sense is that the impact of computer technology on the unquantifiable human aspects of financial and political affairs - and beyond - has not been deeply investigated, and that much of our present financial disaster is the dark side of our electronic freedom.

  •  OWS's success = The realization Obama was failing. (8+ / 0-)

    That , IMO, is the biggest reason for it's success. IMO, OWS is no different that Obama's presidential campaign. People had high hopes for change under Obama especially with regard to Wall Street, the wars and health care. It really didn't happen and now the economy, which IMO, is unfixable is helping to fuel OWS. OWS now has to deliver or it'll go the way of the Obama Presidency.

    If Kasich says State Troopers are assholes, What does that make me?

    by buckshot face on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 04:18:05 AM PDT

    •  OWS as it is a horizontal organization (20+ / 0-)

      is not in the business of "delivering". It seems to be more a way that the actual grievances of the majority of the nation can express their basic wants and needs and demonstrate that they understand that the economic failures are a direct result of the political machinery being run to the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of the many. As long as the many who still had jobs, houses, that could be stripped or debt that could be enforced could be threatened by their employers, (directly or not), with firing the numbers of people who were able and willing to join in a show of force was relatively small. But as the massive decay allowed to prevail after 2008 grows and when one political party clearly is willing to allow the nation to implode in order to regain power there are more of us with less to lose. By eco-analogy the predators have eaten the bottom of the food chain and the middle now has nothing to eat unless they consume each other: which is what the conservatives want pitting one out group against the other; or if they look up and realize the top predators are small and the rest are the many still within the analogy of course: Eat the rich.

      Republicans aren't so bad as long as they don't move next door, try to marry my child, or run for public office.

      by OHdog on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 05:11:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. The funding has come from (4+ / 0-)

      those who agree that we must a) get the money out of government so it can b) represent the 99%. You do this and all the other progressive causes become possible, if not probable.

      IMHO, the actual numbers of occupiers has not been overwhelming. And my guess, from two weeks of occupring myself, is, in part, because of General Assembly process. Leaderless-ness and tedious, debatable consensus-building, I would argue, are not, in fact, terribly popular outside the twenty-somethings and a small number Unitarian-Universalist/Quaker types. It is conceptually endearing, but the opposite of empowering. What remains to be seen is whether the occupations will grow significantly in numbers and whether the funding levels will continue in the face of the day-to-day impact of these organizing methods and the growing awareness that the Resistance has been hi-jacked and is being gambled by them.

      Here's been the outcome thus far: the consensus-building simply cannot digest, much less tolerate. the input and involvement of those who have different ideas about effective organizing. And that's consensus?

      In the meantime, people are suffering.

      Viva la Resistance. Here's hoping leaderless-ness and "consensus"-building can get us there sooner rather than later.

      "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." final words of R Holbrooke

      by UTvoter on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 07:00:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for your insight (17+ / 0-)

    The concentration of income, wealth and power has accelerated since 1980, particularly since 2000.  Although most Americans are unaware that Neoliberalism is the actual cause of this redistribution from the bottom 80% to the top 1%, particularly the top 1/100th of 1%, it does appear that the people at OWS and other Occupy protest around the world understand what the root problem is.  I find this very encouraging.

    I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few years educating myself about the ills of Neoliberalism, and researching and writing a book (still unfinished) comparing the social and economc data of the periods between 1950 and 1980, and 1980 and 2010.  

    As I discussed my findings with family and friends I found my critique of Neoliberalism mostly fell on deaf ears.  But since the outbreak of OWS, I have been pleased to discover their ears have become a little less clogged.

    I am so glad to have found your voice and passion.  Please take care of yourself, we need you!

    Sincerely,

    Richard

     

  •  Definitely worth reading in full (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martini, RanDomino, Matt Z, elwior, mightymouse

    nt

    We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. ~Richard Dawkins

    by Therapy on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 05:02:36 AM PDT

  •  Important early history of OWS (21+ / 0-)

    I only knew a little bit of what is reported here. I heard the word "adbusters" but had no idea about what it was.

    I looked them up on Wikipedia and looked at their web page. They have had articles by the author of this diary and Chris Hedges and other leading thinkers and advocates of change.

    What I find interesting is how older movements tried to continue their ways of doing things and this new movement was able to go in a new direction.

    Also this piece points out the importance of the young people. I was involved in the 60's anti war movement in Berkeley California and have been increasingly upset in the direction that the country is going. The young, educated people without a job or a future are a source of energy for this movement. My kids are going to have a much, much harder time than I did.

    The world wide movement with spin offs like the demonstration outside Murdoch's media corporation annual meeting will continue to fuel the pent up frustration with the oligarchs.

    I hope you saw the interview of Chris Hedges in NYC at the OWS site this week. He has written about these issues for years, but he didn't know HOW to do it. He has for some time said that civil disobedience is required. He also sees this as the real deal. It will continue.

    This diary describes the earliest stages of getting started.

    Also, OWS is connecting several strains of concerns and resistance that look like they will amplify each other rather than being left behind with the next white girl who has disappeared and dominates the news cycle for a week or so.

  •  Grassroots spread under ground (12+ / 0-)

    and the grass pops up in the most unexpected places.

    Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

    by triplepoint on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 05:28:05 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this here. (19+ / 0-)

    And loudly second this:

    That is, I believe in anarchist principles—mutual aid, direct action, the idea building the new, free society in the shell of the old

    One cogent response to OWS that I've seen here on DK is along the lines of:

    Will this make change come faster because I'm not sure I can hold out much longer as a simple matter of survival.

    I look forward to a movement complementary to OWS that emphasizes meeting the needs of people where they live, using the same small-a principles.  Neighborhoods organizing themselves to take vacant plots and turn them into community gardens, occupying and rehabbing vacant houses to provide housing for those who need it, using public spaces for regular neighborhood meetings to deal with local problems.

    OWS seems to be engaged in the great and necessary project of teaching people how to be real citizens, making decisions for themselves in concert with their fellows.  But the situation of so many is so critical, that we also need something most radical movements have had: a focus on mutual aid generated and delivered through the same processes that model that small-a anarchism you write about.  OWS is already modeling that mutual aid in many ways at the Occupy sites, but that's at temporary occupations dedicated to political action.  One thing that we can all do is make efforts to develop mutual aid efforts right where we live.

  •  thanks david, i read this in nc... (5+ / 0-)

    imo it's worth repeating here

  •  Tipped, recommended, and hotlisted (13+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this vital first person history narrative of the current movement.  And I do truly appreciate you posting it here, as I probably wouldn't have found it otherwise.

    I hope this rides the rec list all weekend.

    We're resigned to our collective fate because we've been conditioned and brainwashed to believe that this is as good as it gets. It's not.

    by Richard Cranium on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 06:11:59 AM PDT

  •  Read before bed last nite; helped me schleep- (4+ / 0-)

    Thank you-

    Evidence that contradicts the ruling belief system is held to extraordinary standards, while evidence that entrenches it is uncritically accepted. -Carl Sagan

    by RF on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 06:20:47 AM PDT

  •  Libyans had a relatively high level of education (13+ / 0-)

    … but hardly any jobs to look forward to after finishing their studies. So ironically, one of the few good things Gaddafi's system provided (university education) produced a class of young people who saw clearly that the system as a whole stunk big time and was not only devoid of respect for human rights and civil liberties but denying them any real future.

    Valuable and perceptive diary, one of the best I've read recently. Young, college-educated but underemployed intellectuals have played, do play, and will play a common revolutionary role over a wide range of different historical situations.

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 06:22:22 AM PDT

  •  Two Points on Obama and the Democrats (18+ / 0-)

    Excellent piece. Thank you david graeber. Very clear and informative and level-headed, and therefore very helpful.

    I see things a little differently on two points:

    1) Obama works within the system. The economy was about to collapse, which would have had its most devastating impact on the poor. He worked to keep the system functioning. You may disagree that he should have done that, but there are good reasons to do it. The situation is complicated. Personally I am grateful the economy did not collapse and I can still provide for my family.

    2) Having the Democrats control Congress does not ensure anything like the mirror image of the Republicans controlling Congress. The damn Blue Dogs, for one thing. Having the Republicans in majority means control is way over on the right. Having the Democrats in majority means control is spread somewhere across the great middle--which means no real control at all. And confirms that our government will continue to fundamentally fail the majority of the population. So #OWS is completely correct in going outside of the system.

    Again, thank you david. And thank you #OWS.

    •  The economy was collapsing because the banking.... (5+ / 0-)

      ...system was freezing. The banking system was freezing, because its unsustainable business model was built on what was essentially a ponzi scheme of rolling over ever increasing large amounts of debt.

      The debt was securitized by a bubble in assets.

      The bubble in the assets was inflated by the ever increasing amounts of debt.
      ------------------------------------------

      There were two ways to address this problem:

      #1 The Swedish approach of nationalizing insolvent banks. This permitted the economy to continue to function, while the irresponsible parties were removed from their positions of control. The Swedish economy did not collapse.

      #2 The Obama-Summers-Geithner-Bernanke approach of bailing out the banks and maintaining the status quo. The collapse appears to have been postponed.

      ---------------------------------------------------

      Your comment about the difference between Democrat and Republican control reveals that you are in denial:

      Having the Democrats in majority means control is spread somewhere across the great middle

      No, it means that control has shifted from the far-right, to the center-RIGHT. As the diarist has pointed out, Obama has governed from the center-right. The Republicans and the Blue Dogs did not force Obama to choose Summers-Geithner-Bernanke.

      For three decades, the American people have been given a choice between far-right (Reagan/Bush1/Bush2) and center-right (Clinton/Obama) economic policies. The results have been catastrophic.

      I'm sure that you sincerely believe that this is the way the system is supposed to work. Voters like yourself are ensnared in the same corrupt political dynamic as working class Republicans.

      Working class Republicans have bought into a "Cultural War" narrative, which is designed to guide them into supporting a political leadership that has a proven track record of betraying their voters' economic interests.

      Sincere* Obama apologists have  bought into a "Pragmatism" narrative, which is designed to guide them into supporting a political leadership that has a proven track record of betraying their voters'  economic interests.

      *(This is to differentiate the vast majority of Obama apologists, who sincerely believe in what they write, from the army of paid sockpuppets that are now of the corrupt "democratic" process in the United States.)

      While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

      by xynz on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 03:18:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  About those two ways... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, elwior, viscerality
        There were two ways to address this problem:

        #1 The Swedish approach of nationalizing insolvent banks. This permitted the economy to continue to function, while the irresponsible parties were removed from their positions of control. The Swedish economy did not collapse.

        #2 The Obama-Summers-Geithner-Bernanke approach of bailing out the banks and maintaining the status quo. The collapse appears to have been postponed.

        There was at least one other course of action:

        #3 Do nothing and let the banks fail.

        And maybe there were more. I don't know. I don't have the time or the resources to adequately consider the issue.

        But do you really believe that response #1, nationalizing the banks, stood any chance of ever happening in this country? Given how our current power structure works?

        I don't. I think it had absolutely zero chance of happening. And #3 sure as hell would have been miserable. Our economy would have ground to a halt. People would have died as a result. Some feel that was the correct course of action. Damn the consequences.

        Bailing out the banks sucked. But things could have sucked at lot worse. And the people who have paid the biggest price would be the people on the margins, the poorest members of our society, if we entered another depression.

        •  You've just revealed yourself..... (0+ / 0-)

          .....with this statement.

          But do you really believe that response #1, nationalizing the banks, stood any chance of ever happening in this country? Given how our current power structure works?

          This is the kind of "Pragmatism" that enables today's Democrats in maintaining the status quo.

          While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

          by xynz on Sat Oct 22, 2011 at 06:13:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So you reject the question (0+ / 0-)

            And in doing so refuse to answer it. I take that as a tacit concession that you can not answer the question without admitting that my point is correct: nationalizing the banks stood no chance of happening.

      •  Now about the political spectrum... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, melo, elwior
        Your comment about the difference between Democrat and Republican control reveals that you are in denial:

            Having the Democrats in majority means control is spread somewhere across the great middle

        No, it means that control has shifted from the far-right, to the center-RIGHT. As the diarist has pointed out, Obama has governed from the center-right. The Republicans and the Blue Dogs did not force Obama to choose Summers-Geithner-Bernanke.

        For three decades, the American people have been given a choice between far-right (Reagan/Bush1/Bush2) and center-right (Clinton/Obama) economic policies. The results have been catastrophic.

        Maybe this is an issue of definition. I define the political spectrum as I see it around me in the general population. Maybe you define it from a more theoretical or abstract frame. And in my lifetime, people in this country have grown more conservative. So what used to be right-of-center is now the center.

        Fortunately that appears to be changing. The pendulum swings back again.

        But my main point was that Democrats in Congress range from center-left to center-right and everything in between. While the Republicans are very much focused to the right. That focus gives them a certain effectiveness that the Democrats lack.

        So how am I in denial exactly?

        •  but the two parties (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CT Hank, Tommymac, elwior, viscerality

          really don't represent the views of the general population. Even the center between them is far to it's right. For instance: when asked how to balance the budget, the two most overwhelmingly popular solutions are (a) raise taxes on the rich, and (b) cut military spending. Cutting social services let alone things like medicare or social security tends to come in dead last. Yet being a "centrist" in official politics in this country is willing to constantly argue for the least popular and not even consider the most popular options.

          •  I Agree (0+ / 0-)

            And I see this as evidence of two things:

            1) Change is in the air. Raising taxes on the rich was a lot less popular when Americans by-and-large were doing well. Now that becoming rich themselves seems laughably unattainable, they feel differently. The reality of our languishing economy is setting in. Our citizens, especially the young, are seeing that the system is not meeting their needs, and is even contrary to their needs. American up-by-your-bootstraps booster-ism can only flourish when the economy is doing well. When the economy is on life support it becomes clearer how much we depend on each other to merely survive, let alone to get ahead.

            2) There is a fundamental disconnect between voters' values and their political affiliation. That voting-against-their-own-interests thing mentioned by xynz. Many of those people who (now) agree we should raise taxes on the wealthy will turn around and vote for Republicans. Some of them will do it out of habit, some of out stupidity and/or ignorance, some out of fear of change, some because they are social conservatives and won't vote for anyone who doesn't toe that line.

            Our Congress is largely rich and white and old and male. The most conservative demographic in the nation. And among that pool, the Democrats in Congress are spread across the center. The Democrats who get elected do not represent Democratic voters because it is much easier to fund a campaign if you are wealthy, or have wealthy friends, or let yourself be bought.

            Money in the political process is the problem. The Republicans represent the monied interests more nakedly than ever. The Democrats are corrupted by it. So we wind up with our government being substantially more conservative than our electorate. That is our political reality.

            And in light of that political reality, we are damn lucky to have Barrack Obama in the White House. Try a little thought experiment. Consider how things would be if Obama was not our president. Consider Gramps McCain at the helm. Or worse yet, he had a heart attack five minutes after the swearing in and we've been living under the rule of Caribou Barbie.

            Consider how different the current narrative would be if Obama had not been publicly doing his damnedest to get the Republicans to do a single constructive thing. We would be locked in pure partisan infighting, with the public largely confused and tuned out. Instead the public is saying they have more confidence in Obama and the Democrats to handle our nation's problems than they do in the Republicans.

            Obama has acted like an adult who takes his job seriously. Who will listen and consider what any American has to say about the issues that confront us. In sharp contrast to the Republicans. Who have been having public hissy fits and refusing to do anything.

            I believe our president has helped create a narrative environment in which #OWS can catch hold. If Gramps McCain or Caribou Barbie were in office, we might well have seen National Guard troops with fire hoses in lower Manhattan before the movement could gain any momentum.

            Call me an Obama apologist if you will. But I don't think there is anything to apologize for. In some of the worst circumstances any president has ever confronted, taking over from the worst president we've ever had, Obama has kept our economy from completely collapsing, and has begun the long painful process of turning this mess around. He said it would not be easy. And that it would take a long time. And he was right.

            Again, if we were in a second great depression, the poor would take the worst hit. We would have far greater numbers of people dying because they can't meet their basic needs. And people are dying. Let's not forget that. More of them would be dying if the banks collapsed. Obama has to deal with that. That is the nature of the job.

            We need him in that office, doing what he does. He is more than the best we could reasonably hope for, considering how bad things are. He is a miracle. Getting him elected was a huge step in the right direction. A big leap back from the brink.

            Just like we need #OWS where it is, doing what it does. Obama is not your enemy. You picked exactly the right target: the monied interests. I can understand your discomfort with Obama's ties to Wall Street. But many of the same people who see you as a threat also consider Obama a threat.

            Many on Wall Street are furious with him. Just like they are furious with you.

            And that is a good thing.

        •  Again, you've revealed yourself..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          david graeber
          I define the political spectrum as I see it around me in the general population. .....And in my lifetime, people in this country have grown more conservative.

          No, when people are polled about their self identification in the political spectrum, then they have grown more "conservative".  This is directly related to the fact that people like you are willing to "pragmatically embrace" the far-right versus center-right discourse.

          But when people are polled on specific issues, like those concerning taxation. medicare and social security, then they are consistently to the center left.  

          If your political spectrum really corresponded to reality, then the Administration's center-right policies of bailing out the financial sector would have been supported by a majority of the American people.

          Why are you so determined to support of the Administration's pursuit of center-right policies, when those policies are not supported by the majority of the American people?

          While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

          by xynz on Sat Oct 22, 2011 at 06:24:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Where the spectrum sits (0+ / 0-)
            No, when people are polled about their self identification in the political spectrum, then they have grown more "conservative". [...] But when people are polled on specific issues, like those concerning taxation. medicare and social security, then they are consistently to the center left.  

            But voters don't vote on specific issues. They vote for candidates. And in their choice of candidates they reveal something deeper than what they think about taxation. And the candidates they select agree more with their general personal conservatism than with their response to a specific question about a specific issue.

            I don't just look at polls. I have moved around the country, and had jobs that put me in contact with all three of the broad economic classes, and people today are more conservative on a personal level than they were in my youth. We took a hard turn to the right in the 1980s and have been slow getting back to sanity.

            Maybe that return to sanity is finally happening. But meanwhile our president has to govern this country from within the existing power structure. He is part of that structure, and apparently that is enough to condemn him in your eyes.

            If your political spectrum really corresponded to reality, then the Administration's center-right policies of bailing out the financial sector would have been supported by a majority of the American people.

            The majority of the American people do not understand the financial sector. Many people who work in the financial sector do not understand the banking system. The American people rightly felt that they were being made to pay for a huge mess made by a bunch of rich people. And they were right.

            But a depression was a likely consequence of the banking system collapsing. And when that happens, the economy barely functions, and people die. And the poor are hit the hardest. Children starve to death.

            Why are you so determined to support of the Administration's pursuit of center-right policies, when those policies are not supported by the majority of the American people?

            Why do you insist on ideological purity even when it means people could die?

      •  Now that crap is just plain crap (5+ / 0-)
        I'm sure that you sincerely believe that this is the way the system is supposed to work.

        Well you are surely wrong. Because I do not believe anything of the sort. The factual inaccuracy of your assumption I will excuse. Apparently you can't help being a pompous pendant. But that statement is inexcusably patronizing.

        Voters like yourself are ensnared in the same corrupt political dynamic as working class Republicans.

        Oh really? What kind of voter am I exactly? Since you know me so very well.

        Working class Republicans have bought into a "Cultural War" narrative, which is designed to guide them into supporting a political leadership that has a proven track record of betraying their voters' economic interests.

        No! Really? I had no idea!

        Sincere* Obama apologists have  bought into a "Pragmatism" narrative, which is designed to guide them into supporting a political leadership that has a proven track record of betraying their voters'  economic interests.

        Maybe that's how you see it. Here's how I see it:

        WE ARE NOT IN A SECOND GREAT DEPRESSION. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING.

        If you want to dismiss that as trifling pragmatism, so be it. But I have kids to feed. And am very glad to be able to feed them.

        •  Again, you have revealed yourself.... (0+ / 0-)

          You claim that you DON'T....

          .....sincerely believe that this is the way the system is supposed to work.

          You can't have it both ways. You can't say that the we have to be PragmaticTM and accept center-right results, because Obama and the Democrats have to work with a center-right skewed system.....but then turn around and claim that the system you've embraced is not working the way it's supposed to work.

          Your contortions of logic are almost as revealing as your claim that,  the only alternative to the Obama Administration's center-right economic policies was equivalent to a....

          .....SECOND GREAT DEPRESSION.

          The fact you have finally resorted to a false equivalence has revealed that you are not honest and sincere.

          While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

          by xynz on Sat Oct 22, 2011 at 06:54:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Point-by-point you are wrong wrong wrong (0+ / 0-)
            You can't have it both ways. You can't say that the we have to be PragmaticTM and accept center-right results, because Obama and the Democrats have to work with a center-right skewed system.....but then turn around and claim that the system you've embraced is not working the way it's supposed to work.

            Our elected officials have to work within the system. By standing for election and joining our government they become part of that system. So they have to deal with the political realities that come with our broken, corrupted, barely functioning system.

            Does that sound like I am "embracing" our system?

            Our president has to make extremely difficult decisions within that system. Part of the skewing to the right comes from within his own party. First he has to deal with getting enough Democrats on board to do anything constructive. Then he has to face the Republican phalanx. If he makes his decisions, and shapes his actions, on an ideological basis, and therefore gets nothing done, innocent lives will suffer the consequences. He chooses to seek out what results he can actually achieve rather than achieve none.

            Your contortions of logic are almost as revealing as your claim that,  the only alternative to the Obama Administration's center-right economic policies was equivalent to a....

                .....SECOND GREAT DEPRESSION.

            The fact you have finally resorted to a false equivalence has revealed that you are not honest and sincere.

            No, the false equivalency is entirely yours. I never said the only alternative to bailing out the banks was a second great depression. But given that nationalizing the banks was not going to happen (which you have refused to admit but have also not denied), an economic depression was a likely consequence of doing nothing. Let the banks collapse and the credit system shut down and our economy would slow to a standstill. Then people can't afford food. And the businesses who produce food can't make money bringing it to market. And people begin to starve.

            That is what history teaches us. Maybe you don't understand that. Or maybe you refuse to admit that it is true.

            Here, as it see it, is the fundamental difference between your viewpoint and mine:

            I don't put results on a political spectrum to determine if they are acceptable to me. Apparently you do. That makes you an ideologue.

            And ideologues get people killed.

  •  fascinating! and another little-known piece of the (23+ / 0-)

    history, here

    ...a retired Wall Street trader, spends time each day in Zuccotti Park talking to protesters about politics and their thoughts on reforming the banking system.

    But Mr. Halper, a 52-year-old Brooklyn native, never reveals two facts about himself: he is a former vice chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the largest single donor to the nonprofit magazine that ignited the Occupy Wall Street movement.

  •  If I could rec this diary 10,000 times I would. It (8+ / 0-)

    and the comments written in response comprise one of the very best diaries I've read all my years here.  

    Thank you.

    "We can have democracy in this country or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both." Justice Louis Brandeis

    by livjack on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 07:02:48 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (12+ / 0-)

    for your insight, both academic and on-the-ground. This fits with my suspicion that Bush wasn't our "bottom," but Obama will be. Working within the system, electing perhaps the most inspiring Democrat we could ever hope for, we failed. Nothing fundamental has changed. The realization of this has been a key element of OWS.

  •  The success thus far has been primarily (6+ / 0-)

    due to the broad resonance of and extreme frustration over the issues: money-driven government that focuses on the needs of the 1% at the xpense of the 99%.

    That is what has driven the bulk of the funding thus far.

    Most donors did not even know about the "leaderless" and "consensus"-building techniques until after they donated. And while they are appealing conceptually, and would appear to prevent the hi-jacking of the Resistance by one interest group, and prevent de-capitation, the fact is the Resistance has been hi-jacked by those who a) feel these techniques are the best for effective organizing despite, in many cases, limited if no other experience starting, growing and maintaing large organizations, particularly those cvhallenged by volunteer support, and b) feel empowered by these techniques because they have effectively stifled other approaches offered by people with experience and expertise.

    Having just concluded two weeks of on the ground occupation, I can say that I've watched the process churn through large numbers of would-be volunteers who were put off by these organizing methods. This particular held true for non-celebrity leaders who otherwise has significant contributions to make, particularly on specific issues with which they had significant expertise.

    I hope the Occupy movement succeeds because the Resistance must succeed.

    "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." final words of R Holbrooke

    by UTvoter on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 07:14:22 AM PDT

  •  The success of OWS can be seen (13+ / 0-)

    from the fact that its guiding principles are immediately apparent in the first couple of hours you spend in Zuccotti Park.

    For years I stopped "marching around with signs" and I respect the brilliance of the people who've given us an alternative we've been needing.  How many other "normal" people have stayed home, not because they didn't agree with the messages of the marches but because they weren't transformative enough?

    Anyway, now I'm thinking -- the New Deal reclaimed for the public a lot of what we lost in the early 1900's, but the imperative of US corporations to privatize community resources (there must be a word for that) only got transferred oversees, which was why the US couldn't allow for example Iran to socialize its oil.  But in the last couple of decades, those international practices have been brought back to the US with fervor and brazenness.  Corporations and the politicians who collude with them are now treating the US public as the "other" in the same way that they've been treating the people of third-world countries.  The occupation of Zuccotti Park is so powerful in a way that permitted marches aren't because it's a tangible act of protest against that.

  •  The BEST thing about OWS and the reason (12+ / 0-)

    for its success is that it has NOT become a platform for one point of view :)

    the media SCREAMED for a 'leader' and a clear list of demands so they could pin the usual labels and craft the usual lies and present the usual pushback...

    Once the media was able to do that the great dividing of the 'left' would begin and destroy the 'uprising' ....  many people who YOU had expected to show didnt because they waited to see who was behind OWS and if you opened the original CALL TO ACTION  website the usual 'suspects' WERE at the top of the list of participants: ANSWER especially turned people off to initially participating.. I know because I was one of them :)

    So us disgruntled, disappointed 'liberal' Dems sat on the sidelines and watched OCT 17 unfold with great interest and made side bets about when it would dissolve and disappear (sorry but we did)...

    But it didnt dissolve, it didnt disappear... it took a park down in wallstreet and HELD IT and didnt use that platform to push a radical plan that would have lost it  the quiet support of just AVERAGE NYers who were secretly enjoying how annoyed wallstreet was getting...if we couldnt get any justice..at least we were getting a little Schadenfreude...

    and THEN things changed dramatically and not becasue of anything OWS actually did besides being there and calling for the fateful march that brought us to the Moment the 'movement'  needed in order to make OWS spread like wildfire.. it brought us the TONY BALONEY TAPES and what we saw on those tapes was THE LAST STRAW that was needed to make a movement like OWS succeed.

    When I saw Baloney pepperspray corralled KIDS it brought back all the anger, all the pent up frustration, and all the last shreds of energy left in my to try ONCE MORE to make things right in America... and I vowed that the very next call from OWS for a mass of people to join them I WAS GOING....  I am your average american...I am willing to work within a system I KNOW is rigged so that I can never actually win but I am not willing to do it quietly and I WILL NOT TOLERATE pepperspraying kids filled with the same kind of HOPE I had as a kid trying to stop the vietnam war!!

    SO when Bloomberg and Ray Kelly set the stage for violence to break out and the ONLY Violence breaking out was cops beating and arresting peaceful KIDS... me and tens of thousands of NYers said ENOUGH OF THIS CHIT...I am totally tired of screaming at my TV and the rest is unfolding History that hasn't been written yet.

    and if I may.... a little unasked for request to the small a anarchists who met in Tompkins Sq Pk...please stay quiet about anarchists and ad busters and answer because YOU risk driving the wedges you dont want want to see driven between labour and progressives and disgruntled democrats and you guys and splintering a group that is so loosely held together that it will ALWAYS risk breaking apart  at any moment  :)

    "Orwell was an optimist"

    by KnotIookin on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 07:36:12 AM PDT

    •  I will second the last paragraph. It (5+ / 0-)

      requires a thorough reading of articles such as this diary to even begin to comprehend the real goals, ideas, etc. of these groups and Very few people will do that.  Instead, most will have the preconceived and vague ideas of these groups they've gotten from the media and whatever sources they've come from.  Unfortunately, the sense is a negative one, and will create a sense of fear and distrust unless and until they learn more about them - and the likelihood of that happening is slim.  So much better, IMO, to avoid taking credit for this massive uprising until After the fact, when it won't risk affecting the uprising itself.  The facts will come out eventually, and the attitudes of everyone towards these groups and those behind them will then be given the credit they deserve.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 11:08:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There were quite a few of us here on DK (0+ / 0-)
      So us disgruntled, disappointed 'liberal' Dems sat on the sidelines and watched OCT 17 unfold with great interest and made side bets about when it would dissolve and disappear (sorry but we did)

      cheering OWS on from the get-go and a few actually down there from day 1 and even earlier. So please don't lump us in with everyone else.

      "It depends what the meaning of 'is', is"
      Platform of the "New" Neoliberal Democratic Party
      Speaking out of one side of their mouth for the little guy, their nominal constituency, and the other for the plutocracy, their real constituency.

      by Sanctimonious on Sat Oct 22, 2011 at 01:34:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped/recced (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david graeber, kyril, elwior

    Diary is long, but good! Had to skim some parts, will read again later, but I hope this gets more eyes...

    Thanks to diarist for writing and sharing.

  •  Post right below on Spotlight links 2 NC piece! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior

    haha didn't know it was coming right after, either way this is great.

    Tipped, rec'd.

  •  history of ows (9+ / 0-)

    A friend who had gotten that e-mail talked to me about it.  We agreed that it didn't sound like much and wondered why they were planning on feeding people.  Glad we were wrong!  I've been to 2 of the larger actions now and feel hopeful for the first time in a while.  

  •  Storing surplus value is a societal function (6+ / 0-)

    A lone individual can not store and account for surplus value that they have created. Monetary systems and debt are concepts made possible only through a stable society, a person, by themselves, even if somehow able to create millions of dollars worth of value, would have no way of storing and accounting for that value in a stable fashion without society's help.

    All of society creates the system of valuation, and the system for storing value. All of society has (or should have) an equal say in how those systems work. If we feel that a particular system is acting unfairly, we as a group have every right to change it, and no one person has any moral right to gainsay the decision of the group, no matter how much value that person has stored under the current system.

    I've thought some about debt and your book sounds fascinating to me. I'll have to read it!

  •  I want to thank you (11+ / 0-)

    for laying out so clearly both what you mean by "conservative" and how you see Obama as one: working to conserve existing institutions.

    I know this is one of these things that we all know, but to be reminded of it, and so clearly, is a deeply useful gift for assessing the current situation and making decisions about both action and communication around it.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 08:07:22 AM PDT

  •  Increase democratization (8+ / 0-)

    There is a confluence of factors forcing and enabling us to do the right thing and raise the maturity level of our democracy, increase the quality and metrics of democratization.

    The problems are urgent, of high complexity, high cost, and high risk (e.g., integrated debt obligations, monopolies, government corruption, media concentration). The cost of doing nothing is unaffordable. The cost of change, no matter how painful, is perceived as less than the cost of doing nothing.

    The tools and skills of our educated public are up-to-date, up to the task, widely available and underutilized.

    The limited democracy's dependency on hierarchical and representative models has been gamed and the silos have been corrupted (e.g., corporate boards, government, unions).

    So the OWS model to date is very complimentary. Rapid open assemblies. Rapid communication. Painstaking consensus. Nonalignment. So far, unpredictable.

    The GA is the crux.    

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 08:25:44 AM PDT

  •  The 99% label is very good. (6+ / 0-)

    The trick now is to get people to understand that they are most probably of the 99% and not of the 1%. That is at times astonishingly and sometimes absurdly difficult.

  •  Thanks for posting, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, elwior, martini

    very interesting piece.

  •  Great history, I've sent it to my daughter (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, elwior, david graeber, Creosote, martini

    and son! Thank you.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 09:03:39 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting (13+ / 0-)

    to read about the beginning of OWS. The most surprising thing to me was that it moved from young people into the ordinary people. I remember an interview with a young newly graduated law student I saw on Al Jeezera. He said that when they started it was a small group who just kept coming back. Seeing this group daily helped people lose their fear. More and more people who were just watching joined them and so it grew. He also talked about withdrawing consent, how this is a powerful tool.

    I think people ordinary people have been waiting and looking for this to happen as the Bush regime was just intolerable. It was to most people I know, and they are not rads., a coup.  We all lived under fear for 8 years and the fear was internal. We were like the people in Brazil the movie terrified of our own government.  It climaxed with the disaster capitalists, the too big's, final act of  shock doctrine. The collapse of the economy.

    Obama was offered as a peaceful transition of power. He wasn't no power was transferred it was solidified. I quit working for OFA when he voted for FISA. My precinct boss a young woman said to me to remember that Obama was not as important as the movement he engendered. The people I met at Obama's campaign headquarters in my city looked like the same people I marched with at occupy Portland. The actual occupiers may be young but those that turn out and show up and cheer are a good sample of the 99%.

    I think most people are aware regardless of where they stand on the bogus left center right spectrum that elections or the government is not working. It is broken to the degree that people have no alternative but to participate directly. I marched beside a man 52 years old who had never been to a march and was as he put it not radical , but liberal. When I asked why he had come he said 'If I had not come I couldn't have lived with myself'. He owned a small manufacturing co. that made custom backpacks. He had 4 workers who he was having a hard time paying as the bank had taken away his 10 year old credit line. They took it away because of 'low volume'. I heard over and over that nothing else was working so I'm here to learn and support. Maybe this will help.

    I thank the people who had the courage to step up in NYC and all over the world. This has been a long time coming. Thanks for the dairy and the activism. We all need to keep this going globally.        

  •  let give some credit to the woman activist (6+ / 0-)

    and ows organizer who formulated the concept of horizontalism.

    http://www.amazon.com/...

    let's give some credit to argentina's laid off workers who used occupation tactics back in 2001 to seize closed down factories in order to create worker owned cooperatives, sparking the recovered factory movement.

    •  Let's wait to give credit to anyone right now. (5+ / 0-)

      History will look back and give credit where credit is due.  Right now, the only thing to focus on is getting the job done.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 11:11:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  on one hand, i agree. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elwior, martini, ActivistGuy

        on the other hand, it's imperative women leadership be acknowledged. we see such few examples of such. it's important for our youth to know women can lead a movement. and aren't just be relegated to cooking and cleaning up the kitchen (as seen on whale wars) or taking minutes of a meeting.

    •  Marina's book is great (9+ / 0-)

      but I suppose I should point out she didn't formulate the concept of horizontalism, she just translated the Spanish word "horizontalidad" and transcribed and translated texts by a lot of people involved in the Argentine uprising.

      we were already using the terms "horizontals" and "verticals" back in 2001

      still I think Marina is right to point to the importance of Argentina as a model for what we're doing: the directly democratic asambleas, the rejection of the existing political order as a whole.

      as for woman activists involved in OWS, though, the women we need to recognize most of all are Georgia Sagri, the Greek anarchist who'd been involved in the assemblies in Athens, who I mentioned above (I didn't use her name because she asked me not to but now that it's come out in Mother Jones, etc, I can) and Marisa Holmes, a student activist who'd been involved in the revival of SDS around 2005-06 and who absolutely held everything together in the beginning and I think deserves credit for what happened more than anything.

      •  the advertising for ows still blows me away (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        david graeber, elwior, martini

        in that it was so female centric. the one with the bull and the one with a girl next to the slogan "99 percent" and "silent no more."

        it caused women to feel attracted to and identify with the movement.

        i've never seen that kind of focus before for a protest.

        bravo to the design team.

        p.s thank you for the new information to delve into and examine. that was worthy of a diary in of itself.

  •  Don't forget to buy David's book on debt! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, martini

    For those interested in the history of debt, do yourself a favor and purchase David's book - Debt the 1st 5,000 years.  I started it a few days ago and it is an eye opener.  Needless to say, the actual history of debt is a little different than what we were taught in school.

    Richard

  •  Can you be more specific about "Socialist groups" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, elwior, martini

    I support OWS very strongly. I also have strong reservations about some authoritarian-leaning Socialist (or more so Communist) groups. Thus said, I'm also a Socialist, having been involved with traditional Anarchist groups at one point and being put off by some limitations. But every post I've read from you takes this vague swipe at Socialist groups? I really like your posts but wonder if you're talking about the same groups which I also find heavy handed and silly, or if your issue is just with the concept of Socialism itself?

    Thanks for your clarification.

    "This movement is not about the destruction of law, it is about the construction of law." - Julian Assange

    by mahakali overdrive on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 10:50:18 AM PDT

    •  I think Graeber's explanation speaks for itself. (7+ / 0-)
      a local anti-budget cut coalition top-heavy with NGOs, unions, and socialist groups had tried to take possession of the process and called for a “General Assembly” at Bowling Green. The title proved extremely misleading. When I arrived, I found the event had been effectively taken over by a veteran protest group called the Worker’s World Party, most famous for having patched together ANSWER one of the two great anti-war coalitions, back in 2003. They had already set up their banners, megaphones, and were making speeches—after which, someone explained, they were planning on leading the 80-odd assembled people in a march past the Stock Exchange itself.

      The crowd were to be passive spectators and march cannon fodder, not participants in a general assembly who were integral parts of the decision-making process.  The WWP folks had already made the decisions behind closed doors.  Pretty much like the way the DCCC and DNC work.  

      Vanguard oriented groups with a pre-set agenda that they try to "sell" to "consumer" crowds are not the stuff compatible with small-a anarchism.

    •  Workers World Party could be called "stalinist" (3+ / 0-)

      they are that kind of socialist.

      Here I am! I'm up here! Where are you? - the Red-eyed Vireo

      by mightymouse on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 11:24:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  no, specific organizations (10+ / 0-)

      the WWP tried to dominate at first, and then dropped into the background when they couldn't. The ISO stuck it out, and kept pushing for more hierarchical organization, like police liaisons and marshals. They didn't get their way and even complained about it to the press - there was a Village Voice interview right before September 17 which entirely consisted of an ISO guy complaining about the anarchists not letting them have marshalls and so on. Then I was told that after the first week of the actual occupation, orders went out from ISO central command to cease their participation. Some of them were so outraged by this that they refused orders and stayed. I don't know if those guys are still in the party or what the official ISO line is now.

      Fortunately we only had to deal with the Stalinists and one branch of Trotskyists - we never had to deal with the Sparts or any guys like that. But I'm only talking about the organizations. For me, what you want to call your preferred vision of a free society - socialism, anarchy, libertarian communism, whatever - is entirely your own business.

      •  Thanks for taking the time to answer this (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Creosote, Larsstephens, elwior, martini

        I like your diaries, david, and have been following them. I've definitely had my issues with authoritarian groups that wanted this kind of hierarchy, and I am glad to hear you didn't take on the issue of police liaisons (wow, ridiculous).

        "This movement is not about the destruction of law, it is about the construction of law." - Julian Assange

        by mahakali overdrive on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 01:06:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  ISO's online rag is featuring it (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, elwior, martini

        socialistworker.org (I refuse to hyperlink it) has about a dozen stories front and center of its main page talking about how great it is.

        Frustratingly they also have some of the best analysis, as usual- but of course for their own tyrannical ends.  For example in one of the articles-

        THE ENEMIES of the Occupy movement--and even some of its self-proclaimed friends--sneer at activists for their supposed lack of demands.

        That misses the point. As in Wisconsin, the very act of occupying a public space and asserting the freedom to speak out was a powerful magnet

        Which is completely right and hardly anyone else says it.

        The ISO is a confusing one; their organization is a cult but their paper is excellent.  Nonetheless I try to stay away because it's probably a trick.

    •  Can you recommend some anarchist literature? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, elwior, martini, pot

      I'm fascinated by all of this and would like to learn more.

      The man who moves a mountain begins by moving away small stones. -Confucius

      by Malachite on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 10:04:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The impt thing most people don't get (11+ / 0-)

    was when you and your friend said to yourselves:

    Why are we so complacent? Why is it that every time we see something like this happening, we just mutter things and go home?” “You know something? Fuck this shit. They advertised a general assembly. Let’s hold one.”

    How is easy nothing could have come of this.  Instead persistence and determination won out.

    And so we should proceed.

    Ordinary political process is dead. The Supreme Court killed it. In Chambers. With a gavel.

    by Publius2008 on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 10:51:29 AM PDT

  •  thanks, to you and the other early organizers (9+ / 0-)

    for NOT drawing up a specific list of demands, and for organizing based on a non-hierarchical system.

    Partly because it amuses me to no end to see some in the media flail around helplessly without a predetermined soundbite, but mostly because I think this has been crucial to the movement's ability to grow, and keep growing.

    As long as things are left open, the conversation can continue and broaden, and people can come to a fuller understanding of things. Even if the disorganization has made some people dismissive, or caused others to end to their direct involvement, I think the movement still needs to get bigger and develop more endurance, and I worry that specific, practical demands will halt growth and momentum.

    I was skeptical that the protest scheduled for Oct. 17 would last more than a day or end with anything other than a bunch of macing and arrests, but I hoped it would be something more/different than what we've seen before, and I am so, so happy to see how it has grown and spread since then.

    I don't think I've seen anything since November 2000 that has given me real hope for lasting improvement in the US - and potentially worldwide - than OWS. We saw other impressive protests earlier this year (Wisconsin, tarsands, etc.), and it's wonderful to see something so weird and different coming along with the ability to unite everyone who has grievances with the corporate-owned political system.

  •  anarchists, pagan priestesses, and tree-sitters (7+ / 0-)

    Should be featured on the first Postage Stamps Issued by the New Democracy of The United States...

  •  Thank you for sharing this with us.... (8+ / 0-)

    So we a petri dish to measure the temperature of stuck and disaffected Democrats, eh.   I don't mind.   Glad somebody wants to know something.

    I am a grandmother.  I have three grandsons and in or entering college.   There is no way in hell I can let them go into debt to pay for an education.  No way.   So instead of retiring and finally be able to start blowing my savings on me, I am still working and saving my savings so I can pay their college bills.   I am pissed!

    You bet your life that Obama's campaign phised our kids.   I said it at the time.   I don't blame them for being pissed.   While I never believed him, I am still twice as pissed at him and Clinton that I ever was at Reagan or W.  I expect Republicans to be assholes, and they never disappoint me.   Democrats are not suppose to be assholes, they are suppose to represent the working/middle class.   They sold us out for Wall Street cash.    BRAZEN corruption, bribery, extortion are on full display for the citizenry.   Not even the barest attempt to disguise what a bunch of crooks and creeps they all are.

    I am an atheist, and I pray with all my ocean and star power that we can save our kids.   We just have to save our kids.  

    Yes we can, but he won't.

    by dkmich on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 12:29:51 PM PDT

  •  Beautifully written. Thank you. -nt (6+ / 0-)

    Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

    by UnaSpenser on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 12:41:20 PM PDT

  •  "Revolution" is a metaphor, right? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jiml, elwior, martini
  •  Beautifully done. Thank you. nt (5+ / 0-)

    Very few is able to beat thro all Impedements and Arive to any Grat Degre of superiority in Understanding. - Jane Mecom 7/4/1786

    by Fed up Fed on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 02:29:15 PM PDT

  •  outstanding writing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david graeber, elwior, martini

    Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans. Will Rogers

    by rmonroe on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 02:50:56 PM PDT

  •  Many many thanks. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david graeber, elwior, martini
  •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david graeber, elwior, martini

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 04:21:33 PM PDT

  •  How lucky to happen upon this post, which led me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david graeber, elwior, martini

    to "Lost people: magic and the legacy of slavery in Madagascar," which I read a bit of online and now I just must have to read in its entirety!

  •  This is arguably the best diary (6+ / 0-)

    I've read here in the last couple of years or longer. Thanks for posting it and taking the time to flesh out what is going on. We are at a critical  juncture in our society and system. What happens over the next few months will determine the kind of society my grandchildren will have and may well determine whether members of my family opt to stay in the U.S.

    While it's not too late to bring about real change, we damned well better hurry up AND get it right the first time.

  •  Thank you (6+ / 0-)

    for this diary and for instigating this movement. I'm one of the people's librarians and I can't tell you how much hope this has given me.  Building the future together, being an example of anarchistic organizing as a protest is a stroke of genius. I'm reading Direct Action now and I see the antecedent, intellectually speaking, to this movement pretty clearly.

    We have so much work to do, so much learning to live together and building loving relationships to do that it times it seemS overwhelming, so thank you for sticking this out and movement building.  Occupy is the best chance we have at a real future and preventing ecological collapse.

  •  Thanks, David..back in the Global Justice days... (4+ / 0-)

    ...I really appreciated the insightful articles you were writing for In These Times. (I was writing about the movement then for the New haven Advocate.)

    Along with everything else, I welcome the humanity and compassion you bring to this subject--finding a way to talk about the confluence of theory and lived experience that does justice to the poetry of this movement and this moment.

  •  Oh I love these kids (4+ / 0-)


    I think we should demand
    debt foregiveness for these
    student loans.
    Stop the cuts to Education,
    Education is the BEST JOBS PROGRAM.

    FORGIVE STUDENT DEBT NOW

    where the heck are we suppose to go if we don't have any money? OCCUPY EVERYWHERE

    by hobo on Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 11:40:15 PM PDT

  •  Horizontals v. Verticals (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martini

    There appears to be a rather large anarchist presence at OWS who seem to believe in a need to fundamentally change our social structures - eliminate hierarchies, and engage in "horizontal" decision-making.  That is, OWS is a small-scale version of their vision for society.  To them, the process is the protest.

    Many of us realize that the system is broken, but reject the notion that we need a radical overhaul.  The solution, to many of us, is actually quite simple.  Restore representative government to the 99% by eliminating the corrupting influence of money on politics (e.g. public financing of elections, money isn't speech).  There is no need to attack the very concept of representative, or "vertical", decision-making, and many of us believe that "horizontal" decision-making has many problems that make it undesirable for anything larger than small groups.

    I feel this will be a fundamental tension going forward.  I hope we can resolve it, but I am not sure we will be able to.  At some point, there may be a critical mass of us "verticals" who outvote the "horizontals", at which point they will probably scream at us for "co-opting" the movement.  Or the horizontals will focus so strongly on revolutionary change to our society that they will scare off the verticals who have just come out to fix our Congress and economy and have no interest in large-scale experiments in direct democracy.  We will see, but I am having trouble seeing how we will all agree on anything.

  •  Thank you so much for publishing this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martini

    I've said for quite a while that the current generation of Americans gives me great hope. Sometimes I use the word "greatest".

    I'm 40+ now with kids of my own, and my kids are so much more "with it" than I was, it's not even funny.

    IT GIVES ME HOPE.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  •  Building community (0+ / 0-)

    Perhaps the inherent conflict between the horizontal and vertical systems can be avoided by building strong horizontal communities at the local level.

    We need to recognize that all political systems are strained by the very size of humanity, 7 billion.

    Thanks.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "Forgive them; for they know not what they do."

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Oct 23, 2011 at 08:38:55 AM PDT

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