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An Occupation Occupied. What’s Next?

Written By: - Date published: 3:31 pm, October 22nd, 2011 - 70 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, democratic participation, political education, Politics - Tags: , , , ,

I’m not sure where the call for solidarity action on O15 came from. But from scanning through the OWS pages, it didn’t emanate from there. (How could it when no-one speaks for OWS?)

From what I can gather, the pre-planning for the occupations in New Zealand involved a not inconsiderable input by the authoritarian left, ie organisations that have hierarchical internal structures; that operate from a rather particular interpretation of history that informs and guides their agendas; and whose members adhere to prescriptive ‘solutions’ and interpretations of contemporary political events (the ‘Party Line’).

In Dunedin, the pre-planning for the occupation of the Octagon involved the input of the International Socialist Organisation. In other centres, it appears that Socialist Aotearoa were heavily involved.

The result of that particular genesis is predictable (see here) and contrary to the spirit of Occupations elsewhere.

Whereas other Occupations from across the globe espouse ideals of democracy, inclusiveness and horizontal organising, in New Zealand the occupations are heavy with the influence of hierarchy and project a degree of exclusivity.

In contrast to Occupations here, OWS is not exactly awash with the banners of organisations who would proclaim to ‘hold the key’ to the solution for the occupiers’ problems or concerns. The reason for that should is patently obvious to any critical observer. The people in Wall Street are seeking (by various means and through experimentation and revision) to formulate and develop their own democratic structures. Some hope this will empower them and enable them to forge their own future to some greater or lesser degree.  In other words, the people in Wall Street are attempting to develop a movement that is predicated on ideas of substantive democracy; a democracy that allows and encourages the involvement and empowerment of individual citizens. This stands in stark contrast to the disempowering hierarchical, representative democratic structures we have become used to and that demarcate the democratic potential of liberal or traditional organisations.

It is this, and not the plethora of issues peoples’ discontents revolve around that is at the core of the Occupations. And it is this that frustrates and stymies attempts by traditionally structured organisations to either understand what is going on or to insert themselves into proceedings. The media and the authorities want a list of demands they can focus on. The organisations of the authoritarian, prescriptive left want likewise. Neither of these anti-establishment or pro-establishment camps can deal with nebulousness. They cannot understand it. They cannot engage with it and so cannot co-opt and control it. They are politically impotent in the face of ordinary people developing and exercising democratic processes that they themselves control.

Sadly, that’s all half a world and a million miles away from what has happened in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the occupations were contrived. And the structures and habits of the organisations that pre-planned the Occupations have flowed through to and infected them.

In Dunedin’s Octagon, there is no concerted effort to develop and establish resilient and inclusive democratic structures. Token gestures are made and lip service is served to democracy. There is a theatre of democracy on display. But there is no underpinning substance. It is claimed that decisions are subject to consensus, but the observed reality is that consensus is only applied where no opposition to the position held by the dominant faction within the occupation is put forward. Otherwise, questions are decided on, or sidelined via, manipulation of the inadequate decision making processes in use. Important questions or issues are not routinely explored at length and in depth in any organised fashion before a decision is called for through the ‘open mic’.

Meanwhile, practical suggestions that would promote and encourage the development of democratic procedures and practices are being deferred and/or opposed.

There are people involved in the occupation who desire the development of democratic structures and forms. Some are not very experienced and are, anyway, in a bind. Too many things have been done in a less than democratic manner and are now established fixtures of the landscape. Getting them undone is no easy task. In fact, it’s probably well nigh impossible given the situation that has now developed.

To give just one illustrative and literal example of this, (and there are many others besides) the Octagon has various banners on prominent display that, ironically, represent examples of the very organisational structures that the people of OWS and elsewhere have rejected and are forging alternatives to. (Organisational banners for the PSA, Unite, Mana, the ISO and …Save Alan Hubbard.)  Some of the people occupying the space understand that these create a psychological hurdle to would be participants in their occupation and create a less than inclusive environment. The inference these banners make is that to be a part of the Occupation, you are offering de-facto tacit support or endorsement to the various positions, causes or programmes on display.

And they want them removed.

But how do people who want to act via democratic means undo something like that when (maybe half?) of those present overtly associate with, and/or endorse what the banners represent; can’t see the occupation as anything beyond an opportunity to paddle their own canoe and, quite frankly, have no interest in any developments that would, by necessity, silence their organisational voice in order that individual citizens gained theirs?

In an odd way, the position of some of the people occupying the Octagon reflects the very position that the people of OWS and elsewhere were in before they began their occupations. Before they began their Occupations, they had no real voice and, if they wanted to participate in decisions affecting their lives in any way at all, they were compelled to pick and choose between, or offer some level of support to, competing representative options that were presented to them.

People of OWS and elsewhere have walked away from that particular paradigm of agency and are forging alternatives. Occupiers of the Octagon on the other hand (and I suspect the same is true for other Occupations in New Zealand) are mired in it.

The Occupation has been occupied.

Can it be ‘un-occupied’? And if it can be, would those left – those who were genuinely concerned with matters of democracy and individual agency – would those people be willing to spend the next however long in Occupied Spaces (maybe a couple of years or more), waiting for world crises to bite hard enough on New Zealand’s middle class and deliver a potential ground swell of support?

If not, then leave it to the conspiracy theorists and the authoritarians. And know that next time around you will have a heads up on what to expect and also some ideas (which can be worked on in the interim via regular discussion, networking, workshop initiatives etc) on how to protect and nurture an environment conducive to genuine expressions of democracy and empowerment.

At the end of the day, hype can be beguiling and consuming. And it’s hard to walk away from something you have invested time, energy and emotion in. But I think people have to walk away from these so-called Occupations in New Zealand. The Occupations here are not emulating the Occupations of elsewhere and worse, are offering up a sad parody of the very political environment that others are Occupying in opposition to.

[edit: In light of many comments made and so, for the sake of clarity, this post was intended to compare and contrast only the dynamics present at the Occupation in Dunedin at the time of writing with the practices and themes of the general Occupation Movement and ought to be read in that light. It was not intended as a critique of the all the Occupations under way in New Zealand. That said, I acknowledge that an assumption on the political make up of other Occupations was stated and made.] 

 

[Update: it appears the issue of organisational banners being hung in the Octagon, as well as other matters relating to better expressing the democratic will of the Occupiers has, or are being, addressed]

70 comments on “An Occupation Occupied. What’s Next?”

  1. Shocked and Awed 1

    I agree the banners should be taken down and the movement become more anonymous. I was at occupy Auckland and the extent of the presence you mention is simply not there.

    But to say walk away? Really? Cut off your nose to spite your face?

    If “walk away” is the best option then perhaps we should all just “walk away” and not vote at all because after all its all just too hard?

    Or perhaps just “walk away” and become RWNJ tories also and vote national next election??

    I say that you need to get a clue.

    • prism 1.1

      S&A Give us one or more clues then – it is hard to offer something viable, easy to diss from the sidelines as an observer.

      • Shocked and Awed 1.1.1

        Its funny because your statement is possibly very hypocritical.

        I have been there donating stuff, making suggestions and helping. And like I said I have not seen this at Auckland. (possibly it does not exist at the others apart from the banners also but I cannot say either way)

        So WHO is dissing from the sidelines as an observer???

        How about get involved and use the democratic process to change the movement? Or are you saying they are non-democratic also? (edit: I see he is, but since my experience is not at the same place – who knows?)

        FFS people. This is your one and only shot at being relevent. (being worldwide) You fuck this up by being a whining cynical no-hopers and there is not going to be another for some time, possibly not in your lifetime.

        It was NEVER going to be perfect and it was NEVER going to be the way you wanted it to be. That is life, suck it up or shut it up.

        So I say again: get a clue.

        • Bill 1.1.1.1

          And if there is no meaningful democratic process, what then? (Yes, I hear you say that’s not the case in Auckland.)

          I think we agree that democracy should be a central theme, yes? And we agree that democracy is not about a perfect reflection of an individual’s wants and desires, yes? But what about when individuals are denied a voice or their concerns ignored becasue a particular power structure has been established that exists to serve a particular section of Occupiers? What (seriously) do you suggest people do when hierarchical structures and those employing them have moved front, center stage?

          • Carol 1.1.1.1.1

            Bill, your posts seem to me to be overly focused on a fairly loose notion of hierarchical structure. This seems to be related to the neccessary constituent factor of an authoritarian/dictatorial dominance by the few over the many. I’m not totally convinced that all hierarchies are bad, and all groups based on direct democracy are good.

            Why are all hierarchies bad?

            I ask this because, in past times I was also very committed to anarcho-syndicalist ideals and notions of democratic leaderless groups. This was very much seem to me the way the women’s movement in London was when I participated in it. This did indeed make it difficult for opponents to undermine. However, this movement was eventually undermined & decimated by Thatcherism and neoliberalism. From this I learned there needs to be a clearer understanding of how the wealthy & powerful elites operate in order to find a way to struggle against them. It’s all very well to be idealistic about leaderless groups, when they are actually shown to be unable to challenge the real centres of power.

            As neoliberalism began to bite, there were articles in publications like The Guardan, criticising the British women’s movement for not having produced some identifiable, well-known feminist leaders that the general public could recognise, as had happened in the US. This was seen as a weakness of the British women’s movement in the long term. I don’t really agree with this, but I do think there is a case for having some public spokespeople that can express some important views related to mass movements to the general public, so they can get a better understanding of what they are about – otherwise all people see of them are the distortions published in the MSM.

            Another thing I learned from my time in the London’s women’s movement was that, even when groups aim to be leaderless and non-hierarchical, some people become more dominant than others. This can be because they express themselves well, are well liked, put more time and effort into the group than others, and for various other reasons. Without an identifiable structure, that may in some ways be hierarchical, it’s hard to stop some people dominating, and in a way that can sometimes be more destructive than in some more hierarchiaclly organised groups. And in fact, the dominance of some individuals or small groups is what happens in the blogosphere and other forums, albeit within the relatively non-hierarchical wider structure of the internet.

            I do think there’s a difference between having large organisations organised as rigid, authoritarian hierarchies, and small groups within a networked movement, some of which may be more hierarchical than others. It’s when one group starts to dominate all the others that there is a major problem. But would this ever happen with a loosely connected network of groups distributed around each country and around the globe? e.g. Dunedin occupiers may be more hierarchically organised than other occupy groups, but is that really going to undermined the largely networked and democratic nature of the whole occupy movement?

            • Bill 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I completely take your point about ‘informal’ hierarchies forming regardless of ‘structural aids’

              I can only relate to my own experiences that occurred within the context of a workers/housing collective. Knowledge/skill sharing certainly lessened, or had a levelling effect on some hierarchies. Very well facilitated meetings lessened or flattened out others. No income disparity between people and no people competing for income also had a positive effect. A culture whereby you took a part in decisions only to the extent they affected, or were likely to affect you, also mitigated the rise of hierarchies.

              And as I’m sitting here thinking about it, I guess there is a difference between (say) arguing the political or philosophical direction of a group…especially when that group and its members exist within and in opposition to an environment dominated by the dynamics of various ‘other’ hierarchies…and living a daily life that is away from, or beyond the influence of that whole environment.

              I’m aware…or believe…that people inhabiting the upper echelons of a given hierachy have a lot more power at their disposal and that it tends, eventually, to be used negatively. eg A benign dictator creates the wherewithall for a malign one.

              back to your comment.

              Having spokespeople is fine in my view, as long as those spokepeople make it abundantly clear that they are voicing their own opinions/reflections ( and that is regardless of whether those opinions/reflections have been ‘created’ for media purposes or not) and not a hard and fast line that is applicable to every one. ie, that they are voices, genuine voices, but not representative voices.

              And I’ve expressed something, somewhere in the post badly. I haven’t suggested…or didn’t mean to suggest… that Dunedin can undermine any other part of what is happening. My point of concern is that Dunedin has been undermined…or that its democratic integrity has.

              • Carol

                Thank-you. These are very useful and thoughtful points in your response, Bill.

                I’m hopeful that we are seeing a strong oppositional movement and related narrative with the occupy movement – more hopeful than I’ve been in decades. I don’t see it as being entirely new, but a further development from the globalisation and anti-capitalist movements that have risen and ebbed over the last decade or so.

                This morning watching the reports of teachers protesting in Spain, it seems to me that oppositional narratives are gradually growing in legitimacy globally, and undermining the dominance of TINA.

                I can’t really comment on Dunedin as I know nothing about it’s polical groups or occupy Dunedin. I hope things canmove in a more positive direction there.

  2. Hilary 2

    What a strange post. One of the most interesting things about the whole Occupy movement is the number of people wanting to tell the Occupiers how to do it better or differently, not the way it has organically evolved. A certain Standard poster/United Future candidate is a classic example, and the latest Listener’s editorial and Black page offer other variants of the theme. This is a new paradigm without individual leaders and without a hierarchical structure, and that is very hard for many people to understand, including supporters who have found that their individualism or traditional leadership style is not welcomed, however well intentioned.

    I was one of the hundreds of NZers who have been following the Occupy Wall St movement since before 17 September, mainly via Twitter and Facebook as it took a long time for the mainstream media to pay any attention. So when I noticed a message on Facebook about a Wellington planning meeting I went along. It was obvious very soon that this was not about individuals or organisations running anything, but an inclusive collective movement with people contributing as and how they felt. Some mentioned their union or party identities which were not a problem, but anyone who did try to do the individual leadership thing was quickly brought back to the collective as the decision making body. People have been very careful to not be spokespeople for anyone apart from themselves, and it seems that Occupy Wellington has adopted the twice daily inclusive group meeting or assembly for resolution of any issues, that was an early factor of OWS. Not that I have physically participated in the Wellington Occupy, apart from briefly, as there are other ways to contribute.

    So the poster here should go down to his local Occupy and participate in the assembly and put his case for doing it his way, and if the consensus is not to support his individual way of doing things then deal with the bruised ego and move on, rather than running the whole movement down.

    • seeker 2.1

      Well said Shocked and Awed and Hilary. My mental balance is now restored thanks to you after reading Bill’s weird post.

      I think you are witnessing participatory democracy Bill rather thant “substantive”. It is, I believe, a truly wondrous and special human happening. Open your eyes.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Baker
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_democracy
      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/participatory+democracy
      http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35/2090-moving-beyond-representation-participatory-democracy-and-communal-councils-in-venezuela

      • Bill 2.1.1

        Seeker. The post is quite explicit (or I thought it was). OWS, ie the people on Wall Street, appear to be developing ways to practice effective participatory democracy. And I absolutely celebrate that!

        But that is not what is happening in Dunedin. Not by a long shot. Now I could, as I’m thinking some people are doing, close my eyes to the reality in front of me and just keep on repeating “This is democracy. This is democracy”.

        Except I can’t do that. For me, empirical evidence triumphs over any wishful thinking every time.

        Which then leads me to ask (and I’m not the only one asking this down in these parts) what the hell, if anything, can be done within the current local context as it really exists right now that could reverse the paucity of democratic decision making etc.

        • seeker 2.1.1.1

          Thanks for replying Bill. Give Dunedin time, at least there is participation even if there is a “paucity of democratic decision making at the moment”. There is no timetable, evolution will occur one way or another.

    • Bill 2.2

      Hilary. There is nothing ‘organic’ about an organisation holding meetings and deciding it will occupy space (a) on such and such a date and that it will do it in such and such a way. I’m not saying there is necessarily something wrong with that, hell….a bit of pre-planning to occupy and take over the runnning of a workplace would go a hell of a long way and be an absolute necessity.

      My point is that if organisations involved in the pre-planning are built around and use the concept of hierarchy, then the result of their organising efforts will, by necessity, be hierarchical. And the authoritarian, prescriptive left are very hierarchical.

      You suggest I “go down to his local Occupy and participate in the assembly and put his case for doing it his way…” well, I have been down to the local Occupy. But there is no question of me putting a case for things to be done ‘my way’. That would be a nonsense. There is, in my opinion, only two ways to do things. They are either done democratically or they aren’t. At my local Occupy, things are not being done democratically. But don’t take my word for it. Go down to the local occupy in these parts and talk to people.

      There is hierarchy. There are leaders. Their influence (that of the leaders) is expressed by the homogenous output of their (hierarchical) organisations members….the ‘party line’. Note. This wouldn’t matter so much where large numbers of people were present and where their influence would be naturally diluted. But we are not talking of huge numbers. We are talking of numbers well within the range whereby ‘numbers games’ can be used effectively.

      It also wouldn’t matter quite so much where genuine democratic procedures or systems were being used or developed because it is much, much harder to manipulate good democratic processes to your (or your organisations) own ends.

  3. Bill the rightwing libertarian troll is becoming a regular here.

    “Individual agency” in capitalist society is that of the alienated bourgeois subject (ABS), a cypher resulting from the expropriation of our our labour value by capital, and its attribution to the commodity as an external value, so that the ABS tries to actualise him or herself as consumer of fetishised labour value. Thus is born the bourgeois fiction of market equality of ABSs. The ABSs then gather in the town squares and say no taxation without representation and they are reborn as bourgeois citizens.

    When after several centuries they are intolerably overtaxed and under-represented they yearn nostalgically for their creation myth of origins. They try to reconstitute the religion of the pure citizens gathered in the town square worshipping pure democracy. Such is the libertarians dream.

    Meanwhile capitalism has long departed its mythical origins and now denies even the most basic human rights to its citizens. The time is ripe to explode the ideology of market fetishism and to expropriate back the centuries of appropriated labour value concentrated as the wealth of the 1%. As is happening everywhere this means abolishing the ABS and creating the liberated collective agency of the proletariat the 99% metaphorically.

    OWS is the least conscious expression of this desire because it is at the heart of the capitalist beast and its protagonists are struggling to climb out of the mire of US pragmatism the philosophy of what works for the US is best for us. Much more conscious are the workers of Greece who show the way to #occupy in the form of a national strike that unites all the 99% in the face of the collapse of Greek capitalism. It is only a matter of days and weeks before this Govt falls posing the question of what a real revolutionary occupation would be. What is needed is not a retreat into the worship of the fetish of the ABS but the material reality of the proletarian commune.

    • Bill 3.1

      Dave. In the ‘material reality of the proletarian commune’ or the ‘liberated collective agency of the proletariat’, an individual would be free, right? And that individual would have agency, right? Not to do exactly as they wanted, but subject to the social context they existed within and which they themselves had positively and in an ongoing basis contributed towards, yes?

      And freedom minus a social context is meaningless drivel, yes? Kind of rightwing libertarian drivel. Not anything like leftwing libertarianism at all. Because leftwing libertarianism recognises that a social context is a necessary precursor to any meaningful freedom for us as human beings, no?

      • dave brown 3.1.1

        Well we are living in an historically specific capitalist society. And as individuals we are members of social classes. Our agency is as individuals organised as a conscious class. The 1% are ruling class which are extremely well organised. The 99% are mainly working class who need to get united and organised. The occupations are a step to the left. But all revolutionary change proceeds via contradictions. I think that the occupations in NZ will develop along the lines of the Greek struggles as NZ is heading for a serious crisis like that in Greece. Another NACT government should bring it on quickly. A Labour government would also do pretty much what PASOK is doing in Greece. So how to organise a general strike to bring down the government would be my question. As a collection of individuals without banners or with banners that do not call for collective action? Hardly. I hear that OWS has agreed to a Robin Hood tax. But that won’t get rid of the the Sheriff of Nottingham let alone the King. But its early days and the ranks of the unions are joining up. The Million Worker March which opposes both main US parties for example. Would you object to me bringing a banner calling for a general strike to overthrow capitalism as authoritarian?

        • Bill 3.1.1.1

          No.

          But do you see the difference there is between people highlighting their own particular concern (or group concern) on placards/banners that carry nothing besides the particular message or concern they are most focussed on and banners that carry, not just an immediate message, but an ‘organisational rider’ that comes with all types of other baggage attached?

          If, (and it’s fairly common) a person agrees or is attracted to a particular message, but is put off by the messenger, then there is a potential for an unnecessary loss to occur.

          Imagine if you like, the same demands that are presently being made, being made by members of the Catholic Church. That’s not diffiicult to imagine. But then imagine that every demand was presented as though it cames from the Catholic Church rather than from Catholics. eg every demand was accompanied by, or visually associated with some religious iconography?

          Which scenario would be more likely to be inclusive, which more exclusive, or do you think there would be no difference?

          • dave brown 3.1.1.1.1

            Bill I think you attach far too much importance to symbols or icons. Capitalism is full of them. We are surrounded right now by RWC flags particularly the All Black ‘national’ flag which carries a lot of ‘baggage’. I nearly took a communist flag on the 15th but ran out of time to alter the hammer and sickle so that it would not be taken for either a Stalinist or Maoist stain on the the original hammer and sickle. So I was mindful of the iconography.; My point is we should be upfront and state our position. I don’t expect people run in terror from a communist flag. A movement that cannot honestly confront all the baggage carried by itself, including all the personal history of alienation under capitalism we all carry, will not stand up to the ruling class.
            I am happy to give an account of my baggage. How about you?

            • Bored 3.1.1.1.1.1

              I nearly took a communist flag on the 15th but ran out of time to alter the hammer and sickle so that it would not be taken for either a Stalinist or Maoist stain on the the original hammer and sickle.

              I would have wiped my nose with it in memory of those Kronstadt “mutineers” so viciously repressed by Lenin and Trotsky, or perhaps those 60,000 Russians already in the proto Gulag at the time of Lenins death. I find your historic revisionism an insult to the victims of those murderous ideologues.

  4. prism 4

    A thoughtful post Irish Bill [Bill and Irish Bill are different people. r0b]. And I think a realistic point that there are few people bringing different agendas and ideas to the argument for how to get a better society. The organisations that still take an interest and act as proxies for many of us have been unsuccessful in denting the titanium surface of complacent and class- ridden attitudes so steeped in old thinking that even evidence of malfunction does not prompt them to question and protest for sharp change in direction, not left or right – which only leaves a leap upwards.

  5. PIB 5

    I respectfully and strongly disagree with your entire post Bill. It is the first post of yours that I have not agreed with! But some good points raised. I would go on to explain why I disagree with you but I have to go – I’m procrastinating hard >_<

  6. KJT 6

    What is your point.

    Left wing organisations support a movement for citizen power and against the takeover of our institutions for the benefit of a wealthy and criminal few?

    Surprise! Surprise!

    The occupations are organised?

    Well they would have to be. Nothing involving more than one person happens without organisation.

    Even anarchists have meetings!

    The decision making processes are not perfect and are still evolving?

    Of course. OWS is a new movement.

    • Bill 6.1

      What’s my point?

      My point is that left wing organisations that employ hierarchical organisational models can not and will not empower citizens. Quite the opposite. Such organisations have, rightfully in my opinion, been marginalised…their influence nullified… by OWS. If they had been allowed to assert or impose their organisational models, then OWS would not be in the throes of developing genuinely democratic structures, procedures etc.

      I’m not in any way against organising. That would be stupid. But I do recognise that there are different organising models. And the methods or structures employed will determine the nature of any outcomes. Bluntly, hierarchical models cannot deliver democratic outcomes. And if hierarchical models of organising were utilised in the pre-planning of occupations, then we would expect to see a democratic deficit show up in the actual occupations. Which, from what I have experienced down this way, is exactly what is being seen here.

      Meanwhile, I didn’t offer an opinion on OWS decision making processes beyond observing that they are, or seem to be, democratic. And they are developing and evolving. Which is all good. It is the resistance to focussing on democratic processes or of seeking to develop them at all, that I’m critical of. And that critisism is not (obviously) aimed at OWS.

      • Pete George 6.1.1

        I was told at Occupy Dunedin today that “we should get rid of democracy and start again”. On Wednesday it was suggested we should have no central government.

        They didn’t say if we get to vote on that.

        They are adamant they shouldn’t move from the Octagon to another site offered by the council, and are unconcerned what other people think about this.

  7. Tiger Mountain 7

    What a wimpish post from Bill. The Greeks are indeed cutting to the chase in a manner more to my liking, but in reality each country will develop a response to global capital according to the understanding and organisation of the people. All the better if it can be coordinated beyond nation state borders.

    New Zealand ‘Occupiers’ identifying with OWS looks like solidarity rather than usurping to me. If demands, rather than analysis, are made that would shift resources and power from the 1% to the 99% prepare for the clampdown.

    • Bill 7.1

      I’m not saying that Occupations here are usurping the Occupation Wall Street. I’m saying that the Occupy here (at least Dunedin, and sure, I shouldn’t have made assumptions about other Occupy presences, but I did, so hey) is at wild varience, and in some ways diametrically opposite to, Wall Street and their core ethos, and values, their practices and so on.

      In other words, the Occupy here has been usurped.

      • bbfloyd 7.1.1

        in accurate words… the occupation, in your opinion has been usurped….. that is all…. to make sweeping generalisations regarding the rest of the country is less than wise considering the effort being made to convince us what an undesirable presence the international socialist organisation is…. which is, with respect, arguable as well…

        it struck me as well written nitpicking more than a serious attempt to create any better understanding of whatever issues may face this particular attempt to highlight the wholesale theft of our childrens future…

        the overriding impression this post reinforces is the sheer number of commentaters that really don’t want this occupation to succeed in any meaningful way….i can smell an agenda…

  8. Hilary 8

    I have possibly been too hard on Bill. It is really painful when you pour your heart and soul into something and then others don’t see it your way and don’t appreciate all your efforts. Maybe Bill is young and hasn’t much experience of this – but unfortunately it is the way of almost all political movements and probably even any old committee or board. Collective consensus is a major heartening feature of the OWS movement and the general assemblies seem to be the main tool to sort out issues. So I would assume that in Dunedin there has been agreement that party and union banners are OK although they have not been a feature of some other areas. But it is an evolving movement, in for the long term, and who knows where it will go. I would urge you to cool off for a while and then go back and have another go at participating, and if your values are aligned the other issues should become less of a big deal.

    • I have been told in Dunedin that there is to be no politics, only personal opinions. That’s in direct contrast to reality. One version of politics is obviously allowed.

    • Bill 8.2

      Collective consensus is a major heartening feature of the OWS movement..

      Not in Dunedin. But that was made fairly explicit in the post.

      To be honest, I don’t know how ‘democratic’ the decision to allow partisan banners to be displayed was.

      But from my observations of a total lack of consensus or attempts to develop democratic structures; from the lack of opportunity to discuss matters and explore them before a decision is called for and discussion being manipulated via the open mic, I’m reasonably confident in saying that that decision did not result from any informed consensus.

      Now, taking that to be the case, even if just for arguments sake, care to suggest how a decision arrived at by undemocratic means could be reversed by people wishing to employ genuine democratic practices? Bearing in mind that some people there most definately want to ‘fly their flags’?

      More broadly, how does democracy get inserted or reinserted into proceedings when the horse, so to speak, has bolted and when only a proportion of the people there desire it and when only a proportion of the people there want to explore and develop democratic ideas and practices?

      • The Baron 8.2.1

        This whole banner thing seems to be your major beef here.

        Surely the right of individuals to fly whatever flag they want is exactly what you’re looking for as party of your democratic model of free participation.

        Or are you looking for democracy to legitimating how YOU want the Dunedin protest to be run?

  9. kbrown 9

    Those who can, have left.

  10. Solidarity works in many ways and the international nature of the occupys reinforces the message IMO. I love the fact that many can’t get their heads around the movement – that really gives me hope. My issues have not been about the various groups that would use the opportunity to push their agendas, but rather the general ignorance about the various indigenous struggles that underpin any ‘occupation’ but those issues are being addressed I think. Some of the reports I have read have made me quite sad – that a person of colour has to go through ‘white’ privilege 101 is unfortunate but how else is the mesage going to get through, if not one at a time because the privilege is personal as well as collective.

    a couple of good links

    http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/03/so-real-it-hurts-notes-on-occupy-wall-street/#more-18224

    http://turangawaewae.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/to-occupy-or-not-to-occupy-the-power-of-words-and-images/

  11. Uturn 11

    In open mic today there is a post by William Joyce that lists some of the slogans people of OWS have created. Read them and see how diverse are the concerns and how varied the attitudes and how many different perspectives are coming together.

    and here the original post confirms this: the OWS movement illustrates the tensions within the modern man, fighting to be an individual and also a member of a group in equal parts; he has his own ideas, but realises he cannot work alone and he knows that the old holds no answers while the idea of utopia through politics is doomed to fail. Everything he does is a catch-22, a contradiction, but he still searches for an answer.

    The defining feature, for me, of the movement is that these things have finally been expressed by so many at once. The simmering tensions are now out in the open and the struggle has been openly defined. People are now communicating to each other that they are searching, together. How important this is cannot be overemphasised.

    The Standard has allowed the OP opinion to stand in a place where it is alternative to a large proportion of the views normally posted. It is another example of a coming together of divergent views in an effort to find something new.

    That the OWS is not immediately returning a measurable, recognisable, definable result is not to say it has failed. It has suceeded because it has happened at all.

    • seeker 11.1

      A very good comment Uturn especially “It has suceeded because it has happened at all.”

      • LynW 11.1.1

        I agree seeker, an excellent posting from Uturn. I also found William Joyce’s list of slogans wonderful with its diversity and thoroughly support the closing comment re its success.

    • just saying 11.2

      In the long run I don’t think we can underestimate the ongoing struggle we are going to have finding ways to work together as the diverse 99 percent. The interests of different groups and individuals are gonna clash. Huge amounts of goodwill towards different opinions and world views is essential and there will be lashings of bickering, offence, hurt feelings, hostility, competitiveness, clannish factionalism, nastiness, and every other problem that stems from our humanity. Each individual will be dealing with their own unique set of isms.

      We can do it because of all the good things that also arise from being human (although we may not). One of the hardest things, imo is going to be finding ways of supporting each other in being outside of our comfort zones together.

      But then, for reasons outside our personal control, all our comfort zones are beginning to crumble away already, and people are aware of it

      What pisses me off is the comfortably-off commentators with not many years of ‘what the fuck are we going to do’ yawning ahead of them saying NZ isn’t ready for this movement – we’re still too comfortable – we aren’t suffering enough. Apart from arrogantly writing off as insignificant, and underestimating the extent of the large numbers are who are suffering suficiently actually, and have been for some, they also seem to be oblivious to the very real plight of being young at this time in history. And it’s not about it being a long wait for middle-class kids, till they can inherit their parents wealth, (as some say) and its nothing like the protest movement and living with the possibility of global nuclear annihilation that their parents might have experienced. Things are very different now.

  12. From what I have seen of the Wellington occupy movement it is completely non-hierarchical. When they came over to back benches for example they had no planned speaker it was simply who was closest and had an idea and they very much took the stance that they have no stance yet and it could take years to have one as they were going to decided by consensus.

    I haven’t been taking part myself because I am working as part of what exists currently rather than seeking a new way forward but I respect their aims and will gladly help them so long as my “helping” doesn’t end up being obstructing.

    If you don’t like the banners at your local occupy group. Go down there, call a meeting and say you aren’t happy with them being there because they make you feel alienated. Maybe people will listen, maybe they won’t but it makes an awful lot more sense to try that then telling people to give up on the movement nationwide because you don’t like your nearest one.

  13. I wonder what you think of this bill – btw I enjoy your posts alot.

    “As Occupy Los Angeles rounds out its third week, other groups that have set up camp on City Hall grounds have added to the movement’s various voices.

    On the south side of City Hall, flags representing Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, among others, plot off an area where members of the Indigenous Peoples’ Committee have pitched their tents.”

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/occupy-la-protest.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29

    So if for instance a Māori group set up a flag, a camp, a visible presence then would that be different to a political party, or union. (As an aside i would be surprised if this hadn’t happened already but no TV and a long way from the cities means I am not up to speed on every occupy in this country.)

    • Bill 13.1

      The camp in the article is, from what I can gather, separate from other camps, yes? Like, there are various camps dotted around the show. And in that instance, people could visit or not visit various camps etc depending on their own politics/prejudices etc.

      But am I right in assuming you are asking more about an instance whereby a Maori group set up a flag within the parameters of an occupied space? (And in a NZ context, probably quite a small one?)

      In the latter scenario, I’d be of the opinion that, just like union or political org flags/banners (and whether or not I agree with them), they give a prominence and volume…an elevation…to a particular facet or message of an occupation at the expense of other facets. And unless the entire assemblage agreed to its being flown, it should be lowered.

      Any written/printed information etc that the group has…or any group has… should be displayed and made available on the same basis as all other info (whether ‘whoever’ agrees with that info or not, and even if it flat stick contradicts other available info).

      Other ways of getting a message across, ie through talking or running workshops etc, would be their affair.

      Now, where’s the hook? Occupation is going to come into this, innit?

      • marty mars 13.1.1

        Thanks bill

        I suppose looking from another angle that if it was an occupation dedicated to say tino rangatiratanga and if other groups wanted to support that, then their banners etc would be in reinforcement to the overall cause being highlighted – everything being displayed aligns with the reason for being there.

        anyway, good post and discussion – thanks again

        • Bill 13.1.1.1

          Actually marty mars, on reflection….the flag is essentially a demand expressed in pictogram (if that’s the correct term) form.

          It is a demand for sovereignty. And it doesn’t belong to or represent any organisation.

          So….it should be allowed to be flown.

    • This is sort of the case in Christchurch. We have several flags flying – a New Zealand flag, though a couple of people aren’t too comfortable about it due to the prominence of the Union Jack and the colonial symbolism, a rugby one, the Canterbury flag and the rangatiratanga. We also use quite a fair bit of Te Reo when speaking – speckling sentences like talking about wharepaku, greeting people with “ata marie!” or “morena!” or occasionally a couple of people with more fluency will speak entirely in Te Reo for a brief conversation. When I mentioned (Un)occupy Albuquerque changing their name out of respect to indigenous people in New Mexico I got a very positive response, though we haven’t discussed doing it ourselves and most likely won’t. We also reached out to Ngai Tahu and local marae to open lines of communication with them. The activist community in NZ is fairly closely tied to Maori in my understanding, and particularly since October 15 was the four year anniversary of the dawn raids!

      OTOH we would absolutely not allow a Mana party banner – political parties are banned by full consensus. We haven’t had unions wanting to put up banners so not sure on that. One of our more well-known people is with Unite union and he is very, very careful to explicitly state that he is *not* there as a unionist and he is *not* an organiser or leader of Occupy. But we do have support from several unions including the nurses’ one especially since we’re camped just across the road from the hospital.

  14. Afewknowthetruth 14

    The ‘Occupation’ in New Plymouth is devoted to raising awareness of basic truths about the money system, the economic system, the political system, the hierarchy of power, corporate cotrol of society etc., and how they are impacting on the lives of people and the environment.

    At this point of time it is very much a grassroots movement which has no connection with any particular organisations. Long may it remain that way.

  15. just saying 15

    I think you need to give the movement a chance Bill.

    I appreciate that you fear that an authoritarian takeover will ruin it, as this problem has ruined other movements you have been involved in, and that the banners are a kind of ‘thin end of the wedge’.
    Maybe part of the answer could be more banners : schools, workplaces, clubs, religions, streets, particular hobby-horses*….. And maybe they could be located, together, in just one banner park at the venue to emphasise that the people are occupying as individuals representing themselves.

    Also it would be a shame if you, and people like you, didn’t lend your knowlege and skills. Have you raised the issue of the problem of a takeover and discussed it with the occupiers? I’m sure there is always room for compromise, and nothing has ever been or will ever be perfect. Maybe you could be part of a kind of anti-authoritarian watchdog for the group.

    The ‘usual suspects’ will always swoop into movements like this. The trick is always going to be managing them. Your knowledge could be very valuable here. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    *At the moment I’d be keen to join a a ‘Fuck off Pete Squirrel’ faction, and would volunteeer to make the banner myself…………………………………however that would not be in keeping wtih what the movement is about – not exactly inclusive.

    • Bill 15.1

      Just saying.. that’s a bloody brilliant suggestion…a cacophony of not necessarily meaningful banners just might be a way to go. Thanks :-)

      btw who or what is Pete Squirrel?

      • just saying 15.1.1

        Just another party trying to use the occupy movement for personal power and other gain.

        In my chrystal ball I see a bid for mayor once he has built up his profile sufficiently….

        • Pete George 15.1.1.1

          Wrong – my whole approach to politics has been to initiate a better democratic process – semi direct deomocracy – in Dunedin. I am trying to do that within the current political system. Ie I am using the deomocracy we have to try and make it more democratic.

          The concerns Bill has over Occupy Dunedin (I don’t know enough about other occupations) are similar to my concerns, on two levels.

          I’m concerned about the level of Mana, Green and Union involvement in OD. That seems contrary to basic principles of the Occupy movement. Isn’t it?

          I’m concerned about the faux democracy – on an occcupation organisation level, but more importantly on a national level.

          Dave Brown said:

          So how to organise a general strike to bring down the government would be my question.

          Several people I have spoken to at OD have talked about scrapping our current democratic system and replacing it with something new.

          Derwin Smith, presumably the person behind the Socialist Aotearoa and Mana presence at OD, has said:

          As revolutionaries we must be very clear. Our enemies are the employing class… and their lackeys in parliament.

          Our task is clear – we need to build a fighting workers movement. This is a task of decades not months.

          As part of this fighting movement we need to lay the foundations for a mass workers party so when the time comes – there will be the political clarity and militant leadership needed for the working class to overthrow capitalism and institute a truly free society – one democratically controlled by the workers.

          Troy Janson has been involved in OD since the organisation stages:

          Political Views Vote No Confidence! the system has failed and we need a new system that actually works for the people and with more say from the people

          Troy said OD will issue a statement soon outlining their aims. I hope it explains what democratic process they intend to use to initiate the huge political change they want.

          They have made it clear they intend staying in the Octagon until they achieve their aims.

          I remain sympathetic so some of the aims and principles of the Occupy movement.

          I am opposed to one small group taking over a significant Dunedin amenity “indefinitely”.
          I am opposed to the apparent aim of a small group to dump our current democracy.

          This is far bigger than my political (improving democracy using existing democratic processes) ambitions. And I find it ironic that my use of democracy is criticised.

  16. Martin 16

    Another question is: If the police came and tried to do a clear out, as they have done in many other cities including Melbourne, where would you stand? With the Occupiers or with the police?

    Incidentally, I hear 92 year old Pete Seager joined the OWS march today, and they sang some 60s protest songs. Have we a NZ equivalent? (Tim Shadbolt?)

  17. Martin 17

    In New York police arrested writer Noami Wolf. Bad idea. Here is her story.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/oct/19/naomi-wolf-arrest-occupy-wall-street?

    • Afewknowthetruth 17.1

      Martin.

      Thanks for that. It’s just further confirmation that the US is a fascist state.

      NZ is not far behind, of course.

      Presumably, once the election is over, the fasicts in both major political parties will push ahead with the agenda of further corpatisation of NZ society, together with acts of desperation to maintian the fossil-fuel-based ecoonomy.

      By the way, Harry Donothing (ex-Minister for looting the planet) is now mayor of New Plymouth> And guess what? He’s doing nothing to help the awareness group occupying Huatoki Plaza.

  18. You all talk too much and navel gaze whilst our country slides into foreign ownership and increased debt

    • Carol 18.1

      I don’t see it as an either/or situation. Political action and policy development needs to go hand-in-hand with reflection and the development of a narrative/s that will give any action direction and momentum, and that will serve to engage widespread support.

      • prism 18.1.1

        Carol That’s a good summary clearly stating the reality and what I think but couldn’t put so concisely and well.

    • Afewknowthetruth 18.2

      Mary.

      Please don’t include me amongst the navel-gazers. I’ve supported the NP group every day for the past week, and not just with words.

      Hopefully others will start doing the same.

  19. See for yourself and make your own mind up – Occupy Dunedin

  20. happynz 20

    It appears that TV1 has decided to have their news readers refer to the Occupy ______ (fill in the location) movement as the ‘Anti-Capitalist’ movement.

    Quelle horreur! Across the land the blue-haired tea and biscuit crowd will soon be clinking their cups against saucers with an almighty sigh, ‘Oh dear…tsk tsk tsk. Communists. That’s not nice. Not nice at all.’

    TV1…sheesh…

  21. Kerry 21

    The Occupy Otautahi group appears from the outside to made up prodiminantly from people not involved established radical left grouplings. This has seemed to have caused certain ruptions with some rather untrue slagging offs coming out of the local radical left and a rather unsuccessful taking over from one certain member of the ‘old left’.

    It’s not too surprising that the ISO is running things in Dunedin, who else is left down there?

    • lol, I would agree with that assessment of Ōtautahi! We have a couple of people who are pretty experienced in activism but a lot of new faces with no particular allegiance too. And heck, last night I was on security with four people each from different countries some of whom are just passing through, as I understand it.

  22. ‘Occupy Auckland’s communal kitchen under gazebo cover – received an “A” grade rating from Auckland Council within 24 hours of being established.

    Quite an impressive display of ‘people power’ – in my considered opinion.

    As a participant in ‘Occupy Auckland’ from ‘Day One’, and having experienced ‘democracy’ at the Auckland Town Hall and Auckland ‘Civic Building’ – I have to say I much prefer democratic decision-making of our daily ‘Occupy Auckland General Assemblies’.

    NZ is currently being led by John Key, an ex-Wall Street banker, who was a foreign exchange advisor to the privately-owned New York Federal Reserve, and was in charge of ‘derivatives’ when he worked for Merrill Lynch.

    If ‘derivatives’ have played a crucial role in bringing down the global economy – how much responsibility is/has John Key taken for his previous role as head of global foreign exchange, European bond and derivative trading when he worked for Merrill Lynch?

    We thus have a direct link with those who started the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in New York.

    Our current NZ Prime Minister John Key was one of those Wall Street ‘bank$ters’, at the highest level.

    Isn’t it time for John Key to stop trying to pretend that he’s part of the NZ ‘99%’ – when he clearly is part of the 1%?

    In my considered opinion, John Key’s corporate packaging is starting to fall off, and as New Zealanders learn more about his Wall Street ‘bank$ter’ background – support for him as Prime Minister and the National Party – will continue to plummet……………

    Penny Bright

  23. Martin 23

    Interesting comments about Occupy from Matt McCarten. Even conservative old Chris Laidlaw on Radio NZ this morning is featuring it including commentators from Wellington Occupy and those in Tunisia and Spain

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10761021

  24. John W 25

    Right on about our PM gangster. A lot more could be added . He is complying with the orders to run us into debt while demolishing our public infrastructure shifting it into private hands. The banker has no conscience having committed robbery selling junk as AAA rated.

    Bill your post is less than helpful. Also get rid of the BMW luxury car add from your sponsors.

    [Bill: I don’t own or profit from ‘the standard’, John W and I don’t have sponsors.]

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