Occupy Brisbane is like nothing I’ve ever been involved in.
I’ve only been on the fringe of the Brisbane site (which had about 50 tents last night), as I’ve been mainly helping out with Facebook, Twitter and the website. But I’ve attended two General Assemblies, one very divided, and spent maybe ten hours on site, including two half-hour stints on the OB livestream.
The Left (no matter how broadly or weakly you define it) are in a minority at the Brisbane occupation. Brisbane has three small Trotskyite groups; no more than four or five people from all those groups are in any way seriously engaging with the occupation. On the weekend two of the groups set up tents to try to capitalise on public interest but the ones who weren’t here already usually don’t even stay around for the General Assembly.
The newest thing for me is a group called The Zeitgeist Movement, “an explicitly non-violent, global sustainability advocacy group”; it’s common to hear talk about them and their project of a “Resource-Based Economy” from the Brisbane occupation. I think linked with this is a significant strand of opinion on site that:
- opposes the flouridation of water
- opposes compulsory vaccination
- opposes fiat money and central banking [ADDITION: and fractional reserve banking], and
- has a generally conspiratorial, rather than systemic, view of politics
Magical thinking seems common in people who hold to some of these views. On Sunday I was at a General Assembly where the possibility of the police evicting the camp was discussed. One organiser seriously advanced the priniciples in The Secret as a guide to political action, and an attendee at the Assembly said that discussing a possible violent eviction meant it was more likely to manifest.
Some of this may have been an over-reaction; perhaps those opposed to violence feared that those who aren’t opposed in principle wanted to get it on with the police. But even if so such attitudes present wide political gaps between outlooks.
There is bitter opposition from some people to even acknowledgment of indigenous custodianship/ownership of land, discussion of female, queer or class oppression and so on. One tenet of the Zeitgesit movement I mentioned about is that divisions between nation, gender, class are denied, as described on the Australian chapter’s website:
The Zeitgeist Movement is not a political movement. It does not recognize nations, governments, races, religions, creeds or class. Our understandings conclude that these are false, outdated distinctions which are far from positive factors for true collective human growth and potential.
The most interesting conflict on site is about the idea of whether Occupy Brisbane is in fact political. This may be a mere confusion over terms in some cases where people assume “politics” is “what politicians do”. But there is also a strand of real hostility to any idea of systematic analysis of oppression.
However I’ve been learning a lot about getting information about an ongoing event onto Facebook, Twitter, our website, Livestream etc. I’m looking now for more people who want to make a team to do this sort of thing.
I’m also learning about what is and isn’t possible. I re-read Fascism and the Left the other day after I recommended it to someone else for its descriptions of pathological behaviour, but this paragraph in particular struck me:
“This article is not a plea for everybody to be more tolerant of everybody else. It is a call for sharper defence of our basic principles and less tolerance of attempts to undermine them. One cannot be a Communist if one is not first a democrat. The democratic revolutionaries of England, France and so on in earlier centuries had no hesitation about chopping off the heads of their aristocratic opponents and neither should we.”
This principle is bound to come into conflict with people at the Occupations and at would seem to make, at most, a unified short-term unification around reformist goals the most that could be widely agreed on by an Occupation. Perhaps a wealth tax” or a “People’s Bank” are the sort of things that could happen here.
It seems clear to me at the moment that to form a party contending for government is the last thing likely to arise out of the Occupy movement as a whole. I could see several possible parties arising from the various tendencies, but not one that could possibly encompass people who believe that politics drives human relations, and people who are avowedly non-political.