[Marxism] Occupy Oakland activists take up the question of decision-making

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 13 08:44:30 MST 2012


We are a group of radical Oakland activists who have been involved 
with Occupy Oakland from the very first days. We were previously 
unknown to each other and met as a result of our frequent 
participation in OO events and GAs.  Two of us (a married couple) 
moved in to the encampment on the second day at Oscar Grant Plaza 
(OGP) and have attended all daily camp facilitation meetings and 
most OO events since then. Another has been active in the POC 
Committee and Children’s Village/Children Parents, and Allies 
Committee. Another was involved within the labor community and in 
the early days of the Move-In Committee.

In our individualistic culture, it is rare when radical activists 
are able to pitch a big tent and draw in masses of people to the 
cause.  The early days of the Occupy movement provided one of 
those rare opportunities. Occupy was the spark for the emergence 
of a broad wave of anti-corporate, anti-repression sentiment in 
our society. We are concerned that the inclusivity that began this 
movement and contributed to its rapid growth is dying in OO as a 
result of the dominant insurrectionist tendencies and the 
“vanguardist” maneuvering and manipulations of some of its 
proponents. Dramatically shrinking numbers reveal that this 
ideology and organizing style either misreads the real political 
situation in Oakland, or else underestimates the importance of 
consolidating and advancing a broad, united and popular front. We 
all collectively must take responsibility for this “hardening” and 
shrinking of the OO ranks, and we must recognize that in trying to 
re-make OO in an ideologically purist vision, we are destroying 
our ability to garner the wide base of support and goodwill that 
will be necessary to successfully resist corporate and state 

Occupiers who have begun to question the decision-making processes 
involved in recent actions like J28 are being asked, in the name 
of unity, to maintain silence.  We have been told that our 
concerns will be dealt with, that there’s nothing to worry about, 
and that we shouldn’t speak publicly about them. Yet we feel that 
without transparency and open dialogue, the problems will only get 
worse. We are speaking to everyone who still believes in Occupy 
Oakland, but especially to those most active in the GA and various 
committees who have the ability to help us make the kinds of 
changes that would reassure the larger Bay Area community that 
Occupy Oakland is still a wise place to invest its energy.

The four of us decided to speak out because we have each been 
pushed to the margins of OO by ugly, ideological purification 
behavior that often now takes place at the GAs and in groups like 
the Move-In Committee, where dissenting voices are booed and 
jeered and “group speak” and in-group relationships now dominate. 
Please do not mistake our concerns as yet another attack on 
anarchism or Black Bloc; it’s not about that at all. It’s about 
the exclusionary strategies and tactics that alienate those of us 
who are interested in a slower, more solid, more inclusive 
approach of mass movement building.

What we are attacking is the acceptance and even rewarding of 
undemocratic practices, and the lack of a system to repudiate both 
these practices and the people who engage in them.  It has been 
clear for some time that a small group of people with similar 
insurrectionist leanings have been actively manipulating the 
process and promoting their own agenda. They have previous ties to 
each other and many have careers in academia which provide them 
the time and resources to devote their lives to the Occupy 
movement in Oakland. These academic insurrectionist leaders thrive 
in a climate of secrecy, and use vanguardist rhetoric and 
practices to seize control of actions and messages with which OO 
engages the public. Many of the most divisive and undemocratic 
actions undertaken in the name of OO can be traced back to this 
group, including: two non-sanctioned press conferences, including 
the one for J28 in which outrageous threats and juvenile rants 
were made in the name of Occupy Oakland; the secretive and 
exclusionary planning of the strategy for J28 in which community 
voices were systematically excluded from the inner workings; the 
hijacking of the General Assembly during the second Port Shut 
Down; and many smaller examples of non-democratic behavior.  The 
propaganda produced by these insurrectionist leaders reveals a 
very narrow scope and embarrassingly juvenile self-aggrandizement. 
  They even brag of trashing City Hall in this piece.  We strongly 
believe that the struggle in Oakland should not be used to produce 
what amounts to riot porn.  This only serves to subvert the will 
of the people here who are spending our time and energy to make OO 
something that serves the community.  It is safe to say that many 
of us local activists and community members feel a sense of anger 
and betrayal regarding the continued dominance of the collective 
agenda by these forces.

Many in leadership positions don’t seem to want the discussion 
about the future of OO or the Occupy movement to be about Black 
Bloc tactics. We don’t want the discussion to be about some false 
choice between Gandhian non-violence and “anything goes.” How 
about if we all agree to change the subject?

Let’s talk about our visions of what OO should be. We have one: OO 
could and should return to its origins as a broad mass of 
anti-corporate, anti-repression forces. Our vision for the future 
of Occupy Oakland is one of true radical inclusivity. We should 
think of creative ways to include, democratically represent, 
direct the energies of, and, yes, increasingly radicalize this 
amazingly diverse group. OO could evolve into a coordinating 
council for autonomous affinity groups, vetting, approving and 
organizing coordinated actions in OO’s name. This would allow 
political tendencies to form ideologically pure affinity groups if 
they wish, and to have a seat at the table. But we should all 
agree not to try to control the table.

We are asking for help from those of you who have been at the 
center of OO from the beginning and love the potential this 
movement has to create lasting, real change.  We understand that 
you all played a big role in pitching the Occupy tent, one that is 
unfortunately smaller now than it should be.  Help bring us all 
back inside. This is not a matter of individual personalities or 
power trips.  This is a profound historical moment in our 
community. This is a real political and ideological struggle with 
real consequences. The time has come for us to make choices, make 
the correct ones and make them now or the moment will pass. We are 
ready to help bring people back into the OO tent with you. We are 
excited about this moment, and our future.

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