different takes on the Wall Street protest

Seven hundred arrested in Wall Street protest. I went to the Occupy Wall Street site with hope but quickly became disillusioned. Leadership is hard but for a movement to promote itself as “leaderless” is sad and to hear people in the video clips argue the case for no leadership is torture.

On the other hand, the We are the 99 percent blog format is great. Each blog post is from a person describing their situation, how they are being screwed by the system. Read some of these stories. The format is simple, effective, hard hitting. The capitalist system is broken for a growing number.

This page from the Occupy Wall Street site outlines various “demands”, from Day 5, brainstormed like confetti without any analysis or overall direction. At the end we were told: “Our use of the one demand is a rhetorical device. This is NOT an official list of demands“. In the paragraph immediately preceding this obsfuscation we were further enlightened: “We speak as one”. I read this a few days ago. On revisiting the page now I notice that some of the contradiction has been removed.

This Spiked article, Is this Monty Python’s Occupy Wall Street?, lampoons the whole thing as ridiculous (subtitle: “The surreal protests in New York’s financial district will certainly leave the system shaking. With laughter”). And certainly some aspects of the protest are ridiculous. For example, the reluctance to use megaphones or microphones apparently because they represent hierarchy. People speak and those that hear them repeat their words so that those further away can hear. There is always a new creative twist to dysfunctional ultra democracy.

Following the 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge there was more publicity and some trade unions, such as the Transport Workers Union, joined in the protest. Can “Occupy Wall Street” become a movement? Hippies at one extreme, disciplined trade unions at the other. But of course similar alliances were formed in the anti-Vietnam war protests. The protest is spreading.

The lack of correlation between The Tea Party / Republicans and Occupy Wall Street / Democrats is an interesting one. Given the underlying reality that The Democrats are in bed with Wall Street then they can’t really incorporate this protest into their agenda so it is an embarrassment to them. In one sense the protest represents an end to the dream that formerly iconic progressive Obama can fix America. (Why Occupy Wall Street and Democrats aren’t natural allies)

It is becoming obvious that the system is broken, that the crisis is only beginning. Hence, despite the non leadership this remains a protest that has attracted widespread support, including sympathy from the media. One Guardian reporter concluded:

This city is chocka-block with Job’s comforters who purport to share the protesters’ disgust with high finance and unjust wealth distribution – and then bash them for their lack of focus. But the protesters understand something they do not: there is no Mubarak to be toppled, a single source of injustice that can be stamped out if only we all band together. There is only a diffuse political and economic system in which they – and, if you believe the slogan, 99% of us – are net losers; and before it can be redressed, it must first be exposed
Occupy Wall Street: more than the sum of its demands

This is a beginning. The transition from no leadership as a virtue to the real need to figure out how the system is broken and whether it is even possible to fix it is underway.

28 Responses to “different takes on the Wall Street protest”

  1. 1 Arthur

    Its taken me a couple of hours just to skim quickly through the main page of occupywallst.org, skipping most of the videos.

    I’m REALLY impressed and intend to spend many more hours following links etc. Some of the videos are quite inspiring.

    They are VERY well organized. “Leaderless” is a natural approach for the initial phase of an inchoate movement that needs to protect itself from the existing sects. I see clear signs of competent “anarcho” leadership. They are doing a great job, as shown by 1) structuring things in a way that will open up for competing ideas without excluding anyone unecessarily 2) enabling as clear a class focus as could be possible at this stage with the “we are the 99%” 3) internationalism including the inspiration from Arab spring and the internet based organizing 4) hints at revolution while correctly stressing a non-violence to prevent “black block” style takeovers.

    There is bound to be debate unfolding across the internet. We should join in actively through the net with posts at those sites and links here.

    Also participate in any local version – especially because its bound to be premature given different situation in Australia and therefore will need as much help as possible avoiding takeover by the sects.

    I will also take this thread as suitable for “wealth tax” issues and suggest it is capable of helping to unite both reformists (at moderate rates to solve budget problems without hitting health, pensions etc) and revolutionaries at confiscatory rates as concrete mechanism for expropriating the 1%.

  2. 2 tomb

    Joe Biden in the LA times 6/10 said “both grew out of a profound sense that the political system was badly out of whack “we were bailing out the big guys” in the financial community, he said while failing to fix the problems of hard pressed ordinary Americans”

    There has been numerous references to the tea party and the occupies as the left and right response to the crisis and the unions and democrats have been claiming the occupies as theirs. Those on the ground at least in the OccupyLA are opposed to unions and the democrats but as they are very small at the minute (maybe 100 occupying and not sure of overall numbers suppoting but 500 on the demo)there is the chance that they do get overrun by either or both of those.

    Hard to tell as Bill says where this goes and very reminiscent of the embryonic stages of the Viet Nam movement. Pseudo groups and lots of people who have never been involved in politics before trying to work out the common ground and not yet talking about solutions demands etc.

    There is also other responses to the crisis. A women in LA has been arrested for refusing to move out of her home after the bank foreclosed. There is a large support group of lawyers and other locals supporting her. The sheriff openly stated he didn’t want to evict or arrest her but couldn’t do anything else. The media as in the occupyLa case has been quite sympathetic, however she was arrested. This case has lead to this group expanding and assisting others. There are also other examples of resistence, none co ordinated organised or with any idea of how to win.

  3. 3 Steve Owens

    Bill I thought that the tactic to use peoples voices was an inventive way to overcome the NYPD’s ban on protesters using megaphones.

  4. 4 tomb

    A single spark……………..

  5. 5 Bill Kerr

    Occupy Wall Street has certainly attracted comment from the political class. The New York Times has published a quiz. Which political leaders said each of the following:

    1. “I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.”

    2. “I think it expresses the frustration the American people feel.”

    3. “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”

    4. “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

    5. “We are the 1 percent.”

    6. “God bless them for their spontaneity. It’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.”

    7. “This is like the Tea Party — only it’s real. By the time this is over, it will make the Tea Party look like … a tea party.”

    8. “I think it’s dangerous, this class warfare.”

    9. “What they’re trying to do is take away the jobs of people working in the city, take away the tax base that we have.”

    10. “I’m very, very understanding of where they’re coming from.”

  6. 6 Bill Kerr

    I will start a separate thread on the more general wealth tax idea later today, keeping this one free for analysis of the Occupy Wall Street developments and specifics.

  7. 7 Dalec

    One of the four demands by the Wall Street protesters as well as supporters in other states, is for an end to the war in Afghanistan, this seems to be part of general demand for an end to the costly imperial adventures that have been instrumental in creating the very conditions that the protesters are protesting about.
    It is apparent that Arthur, at least, is impressed by the protests.
    my question is are these people to be given only conditional support because of their “pseudo-left” opposition to wars of Imperial aggression?
    IMV We are seeing the opening manifestation of the awakening and radicalisation of the youth of the US. The sooner the better.

  8. 8 Arthur

    Its inevitable that the people who have proved completely unable to mobilize anything around Iraq or Afghanistan etc will try to hijack OccupyWallStreet but I doubt they will get more than token agreement, despite the “natural” links with “alternate globalization” crowd. After all, they have had a decade in which to conclusively PROVE their politics goes nowhere.

    More danger from the unions and Democrats but I’m impressed with the focus on 99% (and occupying wall street) being well designed by the “leaderless” to make a takeover difficult.

    Tomb’s reference to early days of Vietnam sounds right to me.

    PS I also saw a note that the use of “Chinese whispers” instead of megaphones was in response to police confiscating megaphones.

  9. 9 tomb

    Seven hundred arrested in Wall Street protest. I went to the Occupy Wall Street site with hope but quickly became disillusioned. Leadership is hard but for a movement to promote itself as “leaderless” is sad and to hear people in the video clips argue the case for no leadership is torture.

    I actually am encouraged by the same response in most cities particularly LA. I know that leadership is crucial otherwise you end up with anarchy and chaos. (have a bit of leaning towards both)Leadership does not necessarily require leaders. If this movement is to advance on the Viet Nam movement then one thing is for certain it cannot be filled with followers. There already is a religious component to this movement (which Dalec has already identified with)which will make sure it is irrelevant if it dominates (leads).

    People need to take responsibility and make their own decisions and not follow the leader. I like the fact that a lot of these people are wary of leaders, I am too. The are aware of the need for organising and functionaries and already have some otherwise the website the camps etc wouldn’t be there. They seem to be doing ok to me at the minute without “leaders” and assume if this remains the case this could be the blueprint we are looking for.

    Again I see transparency as the key. These people feel left out mainly because they are. They know there is corruption all around them. This is also another reason why they don’t trust leaders. They know they are powerless. They don’t know they can run things etc because most of it is a mystery. I think transparency can give them a chance to be involved. It certainly deals with the corruption. People are much more able to take the responsibility today than in the ’60’s

  10. 10 Arthur

    Re transparency, Bloomberg editors are calling for public corporate tax records:


    They may have a special interest in the data mining opportunities but it certainly suggests a winnable demand.

    Naturally they oppose public individual tax records. But why wouldn’t that be winnable too?

    BTW I vaguely recall that Sweden or somewhere had public tax returns but I couldn’t find a link quickly. Can anyone find a link?

  11. 11 Arthur


    Doesn’t look very promising as likely to be dominated by Green Left etc but worth participating to contact others interested in starting something when its actually more relevant in Australia.

  12. 12 tomb
  13. 13 barry

    I just finished reading Mike Hyde’s book, “All along the watchtower”, his memoir of the ‘revolutionary 1960s’ in Australia. His book reminded me more clearly of the spirit of that brief but significant period and how its left-wing succeeded in uniting people around some all-important ideas as well as actions. It was remarkably successful and here’s hoping the “We are the 99%” will build up into a similarly effective movement – well, even more effective in the sense that it might develop into a movement against capitalism and for the extension of democracy into the economic realm.

    I’m writing this off the top of my head but these are points from Mike’s book that strike me as relevant:

    1. Individuals generally feel powerless in society and in US and Australia, there has been a lot of cynicism about politics for a long time. The ‘1960s’ showed how this can be quickly overturned. Part of the beginning of the process of empowerment back then came from individual testimony: individuals declaring they would not go along with the National Service (Servitude) Act and stuff like wearing big badges saying “I’m against the war, how about dicussing it with me”. The “We are the 99%” group are starting with the same individual testimony. I love the way individuals at the site have written out their own stories, in point form, for the world to see. It’s the beginning of empowerment. Believe me, being unemployed and/or grossly underemployed can make you feel bad about yourself. It’s the start of something grand when individuals reject that feeling and start to understand that it’s not them that’s at fault but the “one percent” who own the economy.

    2. While I share tomb’s wariness of leaders and, yes, people must be responsible for their own decisions and judgements and not just follow the leaders, Mike Hyde’s book reminded me of how very important leadership was, and is. At times, it was decisive – in the sense that had there not been leaders advocating, for instance, a Vietnam solidarity with the NLF line, it is unlikely anyone else would have come up with it, at least at that right time. (And knowing, or ‘sensing’ the right time is a big part of what it’s about). The leaders back then who did this were very well read in the history of Vietnam and also in political/revolutionary theory, compared to the rest of us. They knew their stuff in ways others didn’t, and that’s why they could lead. They were also very good at argument/debate, eloquent and witty orators. In my own case, back then, I was inspired by a couple of people in Melbourne, including Mike Hyde. They knew their stuff so much better than I (who was four or five years younger than them) and they were also remarkably courageous individuals (as Mike’s book also reminds me). They also consistently and effecitvely argued for the democratisation of decision-making within the organised movement and this is probably why the Melbourne Moratorium was so much bigger than the Sydney one, where the CPA and other authoritarians kept a rein on the masses rather than unleashing their creative power.

    3. Uniting the many – and the different kinds of contradictions. Mike’s book reminded me how it’s possible to unite large numbers through struggle against other lines also claiming a left-wing position. He does not talk about this explicitly but describes the situations in which this took place. It brought it all back – the reactionary leaders in the CPA were often the target. The book also recalls situations in which it was vital to differentiate between contradictions between the enemy and the people and on the other hand contradictions among the people. I’m thinking of Mike’s account of how an ocupation of a building was in process at his university, Monash, c1969 and a group of right-wing Engineering students decided to march en masse to evict the radical students inside. With good leadership, the radicals decided to welcome the Engineering students into the building, to see for themselves what was happening, and to discuss the issues with them.

    4. As a memoir, Mike’s is a subjective account and he writes freely about emotional responses. The fun and excitement and, again (that word) empowerment of actually being so close to a revolutionary moment outweighed the negatives; though these were serious and included relationship losses, break-downs and worse. But one thing is for sure: those who were dour and excessively earnest, who wanted to “save the world” rather than change it, like those who sought to impose a controlling leadership rather a mass based democratic one, were not good for things.

  14. 14 Arthur

    Thanks tomb! Link from taxgirl has more detail and links to the actual online database which shows both income and wealth as well as tax paid from past 4 years returns for each individual.


    Apparently the actual tax returns are publicly available (offline?) and have been since 1863 (when Norway was part of Sweden). Likely to be a similar system in Sweden.

    Barry, I also had a good impression of Mike Hyde’s book conveying the “spirit” very well, despite fictionalization of both characters (mixed together) and events.

    I think the reconciliation of the importance of leadership in that movement and the positive side of “leaderless” today is remembering that there was also a VERY BAD “official leadership” from the “Communist Party” apparatus of the “peace movement” who first had to be undermined and openly opposed before good leadership could have any impact. Similar forces are around today who will naturally dominate unless there is very strong resistance to this.

    The paralysing anarcho proposals for “consensus” will certainly need to be transcended by the style of open debate used at moratorium meetings in melbourne. But as with the Vietnam movement, we need to be actively participating in a movement dominated by other views before we can influence it.

    I doubt that the current attempts to organize in Australia will take off anything like in the USA. Nevertheless they are happening in EVERY city and we should definitely be there to meet people who are very likely to be sick of failed pseudo-left politics and looking around for others who want to do something better.

    Need to start NOW as the public rallies in Australia have been set for this Saturday October 15 (with follow up fora on economy etc on following days and organizing meetings leading up).

  15. 15 tomb

    occupy wall st has until 7 am to move out. of course they won’t move interesting to see how many turn up to support and where authorities take it from there

  16. 16 Bill Kerr

    steve, arthur,
    It’s a side issue but the “people’s microphone” concept is the officially preferred method of communicating messages in Occupy Melbourne. Scroll down to this subhead: What is a “people’s microphone”? on this page http://occupymelbourne.org/general-assemblies/ (and it’s a fair assumption that this idea originated elsewhere)

  17. 17 steve owens

    Bill I first heard about this when Joe Stiglitz addressed the crowd

  18. 18 steve owens

    It also worked very well at the sermon on the mount

  19. 19 Arthur

    I found today’s Occupy Melbourne quite uplifting. Strong anarcho vibe including much absurdity but significantly more positive than “the usual”.

    BTW a proposal to prefer use of “people’s microphone” was solidly rejected.

    There will be a working group discussion on Economics, Money etc including proposal for a wealth tax at 6:30pm this Monday at statue outside State Library.

  20. 20 Bill Kerr

    Occupy Melbourne General Assembly minutes, October 15th

  21. 21 tomb

    OccupyLA general assembly appears to be run by peacenicks who are wary of any more radical elements. they have taken to chanting over those they feel may be a threat. Chanting in some quarters has become a tool of control even in open meetings. Assume there is a gradual increase in those wanting to take a more positive and pro active position.

  22. 22 tomb

    I have discovered in ventura county a suburb of LA the rates are over 2 percent of property value. That is someone in a normal house in box hill for example would be paying in excess of 15000 in rates and as we know the services just aren’t there. most of these cities are bankrupt!!!! Not just the banks screwing people over haven’t been able to establish where the black hole is

  23. 23 Arthur

    Just got back near midnight from Occupy Melbourne since aout 3:30pm.

    Am greatly enjoying political arguments with lots of young people with all kinds of weird ideas.

    Looks like it will continue for a while. Strongly urge others to join in – especially at the daily General Assemblies which in Melbourne are weekdays 6pm, weekends 4pm(?). There are also various forums and other activities as well as informal discussions throughout the day.

  24. 24 Bill Kerr

    Here are a couple of articles that help explain the political thinking of many of the Occupy Wall Street (and other cities) activists:
    David Graeber: On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet
    Alliance Politics by Andy Blunden (2003)
    The “we have no leaders” and general assemblies with consensus voting requirement thinking has deep roots and is part of the new ethos of “left” street politics. I’m linking to these articles not because they have a solution to this “problem” but because they explain in detail how this “problem” came about and what it’s parameters are. You can’t change the world if you don’t understand the world.

  25. 25 Bill Kerr

    Some of the points made by David Graeber (link) about the core social base and principles and ideological heritage of those who began the OWS movement.

    David Graeber is the guy who originated the “We are the 99 percent” slogan

    In the final paragraphs he outlines his small a-anarchist principles – horizontals not verticals,
    – direct action (do what one thinks is right, regardless of law and authority) ,
    – not committing to any particular group,
    – acting as if one is already free,
    – consensus decision making,
    – the peoples microphone,
    – General assemblies

    and then goes onto discuss why OWS caught on to a broader audience citing disillusion with Obama as central

    ideological heritage: small a-anarchism, the tradition of radical feminism, and draws on spiritual traditions from Native American to Quakerism

    also earlier on he describes the core social base:

    “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.”

  26. 26 tomb

    seems things are slowly evolving. Some signs of moving past just bank bashing

    The following Objective was passed by the Objectives and Demands Committee and read to the General Assembly on Friday, November 25, 2011. It will be presented for consensus on Saturday, November 26th.

    A major Objective of Occupy LA is to END CORPORATISM on the National, State and Local levels. We define CORPORATISM as the merger between Corporations and the State. Some examples of this nexus are:

    · the pervasive influence of lobbyists throughout government

    · the revolving door between the private and public sectors as corporate executives and lobbyists become governmental regulators and legislators and then move back into the private sector again.

    · The awarding of public contracts to private political cronys

    · The dependency and predominance of the public Electoral process on private Corporate funding

    · Commonplace Legislative action blatantly prejudicial to the public interest and grossly beneficial to favored Corporate interests

    · The elevation of Corporations to the legal status of persons enjoying the rights and privileges of citizens.

    · Wars waged in the interest of Corporate profits.

    The marriage between Corporations and Governmental Power has overthrown the basic principles of Rule of Law, Equality Under the Law, Due Process and the protection afforded to the Citizens of the United States by the Constitution. As long as the above described condition is allowed to persist, the interests of the People will be prejudiced in favor of the Corporate interests of the 1%. We will seek out all peaceful means, including citizen legislative, legal and protest action to END CORPORATISM.

    Given the obvious issues of time we are currently faced with, the Committee will be starting its work early today at 2 PM. We found a nice, quiet spot with tables and chairs adjacent to the Starbucks at 1st and Los Angeles. We may be at the outdoor seating area outside of Starbucks but if not there go down the alley to the left of Starbucks and look for us in one of the Food Court seating areas there. You can also try calling me at 323-804-7206.

    Yesterday the Committee decided to laser in its work on drafting Objectives and Principles which we feel reasonably describe the already pre-existing underlying consensus that already exists at OLA. I would suggest that we continue along that track over the next two days. In my opinion if we can be successful at synthesizing the real consensus that does exist then we will be providing a great service to the movement here (and everywhere) by helping us all to realize that fundamentally we do have a core set of Objectives and Principles that we can continue to work together around going forward in spite of what may happen to the physical Occupy.

    Yesterday we passed the Objective of “END CORPORATISM” and it was read to the GA. It will be presented tonight for consensus to the GA.

    Today we will be working on Chris D.’s proposal to END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD, which was sent to this list separately. We will also be considering a list of other potential Objectives and Principles for submission to the GA.

    I a separate email I am going to propose “END THE POLICE STATE”. It seems to me that this is an obvious elephant in the room that everyone agrees upon. It’s so obvious that we barely bother to discuss it. But I think it needs to be recognized and included as an Objective.

    Thank you! See you this afternoon.


    Here’s a quick draft which can provide the basis for work today:

    A major Objective of Occupy LA is to END THE POLICE STATE. The 1% Corporatocracy has instituted an Police State to enforce its political control and suppress the 99%. This Police State has effectively overthrown the basic and essential principles of Rule of Law, Due Process, Equality Under the Law and the other fundamental Rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States. Some elements and examples of this Police State are:

    HOMELAND SECURITY, which concentrates immense Police State powers in a monolithic, centralized bureaucracy
    The PATRIOT ACT, which negates and erodes many of our fundamental Constitutional rights and enables aggressive Police State powers
    TRANSPORTATION SAFETY ADMINISTRATION, which subjects all air travelers to unconstitutional and prisoner-like searches of their persons and effects
    THREAT FUSION CENTERS, which meld Federal, State and Local law enforcement into a permanent state surveillance apparatus
    FREE SPEECH ZONES, which restricts access to sites of protest and effectively denies Freedom of Speech, Assembly and the Right to Redress of Grievances

    We reject the idea that we must surrender Freedom to gain Security. We reject the notion that we must live in fear under the overarching protection of a Big Brother state. We stand for a restoration of all Constitutional rights and we will work to END THE POLICE STATE.

  27. 27 tomb

    not sure where to post this. this is a support group for ron paul nominee for republican president.

  28. 28 Bill Kerr

    from November 28th, 2011:

    Econ4: Economists Statement in Support of Occupy Wall Street

    We are economists who oppose ideological cleansing in the economics profession. Equally we oppose political cleansing in the vital debate over the causes and consequences of our current economic crisis.

    We support the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country and across the globe to liberate the economy from the short-term greed of the rich and powerful “one percent”.

    We oppose cynical and perverse attempts to misuse our police officers and public servants to expel advocates of the public good from our public spaces.

    We extend our support to the vision of building an economy that works for the people, for the planet, and for the future, and we declare our solidarity with the Occupiers who are exercising our democratic right to demand economic and social justice.

    – hundreds of signatures

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