J17: Occupy DC & Congress

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J17: Occupy DC & Congress
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Hello comrades, sorry for the long absence away from these message boards. Skype discussions have been my main platform lately--- make sure to add me, my handle is “ pI2pgnda ” (thats an “I” and the no. “2”)

Anyways, I have continued my involvement with the Occupy movement since my last posts, as paradoxical as that might seem to many. On Tuesday, Occupy Greensboro went up to Washington DC. I wasn't really sure what to expect, I wouldn't have been surprised by your typical anti-war, anti-globalization demonstration of 200,000+. Instead what we got was diehard “Occupiers” from all up and down the East coast and a few from the Mid-west. I'd say 10,000 people is a good estimate, probably more towards the conservative side. The media was reporting much less. It had the feeling that it was a sort of Occupy convention, I remember that being my initial impression of the crowd.

Ok so after arriving and picking up a few bites to eat, we headed back to the capitol lawn. A number of those in my group scheduled appointments to talk with our congressmen and senators, and as far as I know an aide was the most anyone got to speak with. More on that in a second.

The cops had lined up along the main walkways, as to keep them open for any officials coming in or out of the Capitol building. This of course became a main source of tension between the Capitol police and the protesters intent on causing confrontation between the two groups. The first arrest happened when some people were crossing lines they were clearly told not to, seemingly with the purpose of simply disobeying the cops. However, there were 3-5 arrests that I witnessed which were unwarranted, mostly happening around the arrival of retired Philly Police Capt. Ray Lewis, whom the police attempted to arrest and ultimately ended up detaining for the better half of an hour.

In the early Afternoon, a core group of anarchists who I detracted were the events organizers (recognized more than a few of them from Zuccotti park) called everyone in for a GA. I have to say it was really energizing when all the banners from the different Occupies turned facing each other. Everyone who was there had to be quite committed to the cause, even if it was a largely misguided one--- future revolutionaries one day perhaps. After some practice with “the peoples mic”, the GA officially kicked off. The core organizers gave some introductions, stating that the intended purpose of the events was for “Occupations” to further coordinate, as well as to take our regions malcontent directly to our representatives in the federal legislative system. After the GA we broke up into “smaller” groups of 50-75 with the topics ranging widely. Most became dominated by people just soap-boxing really, but there was one in particular that I participated in at length that I will mention more on shortly.

I have two main criticisms of the GA. The first being the insistence on using “the peoples mic”/hand signals, and the second being that halfway through the Police began arresting people a couple hundred yards away and they did not break the GA for this, even for the initial confusion to subside. A couple hundred kinda lost their place and sorta drifted around confused until the next collective action kicked off. All the while there is a microphone and PA system right next to us which they had been using for live music all day.

The small discussion group that caught my attention was on the topic “Diversity of tactics” and consisted of each person around the circle stating their name, origin, and one tactic they could thing of which occupy could use. I think that I was literally the only one who mentioned any kind of industrial action. While my small discussion groups was just one of many, you couldn't help but notice the complete absence of that discussion.

After a short rally and some more music/food, we reconvened collectively on the Capitol lawn. The time had come for the appointments with the senators in congressmen, which were in the buildings just blocks away. People were guided to the buildings where their congress peoples offices were, and what resulted is about 3000-5000 people simultaneously trying to enter three buildings with quite strict security. Initially the police were very oppositional to our entry. After it was proven and reiterated that all our appointments were scheduled weeks in advanced (how they did notice hundreds of these meetings beforehand, I don't know I assume it relates to winter recess) they began letting people in one by one with rigorous security checks all the while other government officials were brought to the forward. People were getting pushy, I'm sure there was an arrest or two for any given reason.

An hour or so later, the majority of us got in the actual congress buildings. It was a weird feeling, walking around with these high ceilings, ancient portraits and memorabilia, senators and aides walking around. And then there was us--- a bunch of liberals, radicals, and scraggily looking (mostly) young people roaming around with an adventurous yet slightly mischievous grin on our faces. I'm sure business for the day was interrupted, and I don't think one senator met with us face to face. What result was a lot of protesting in the offices of the senators to their aides, which was quite entertain I have to say. For many it was an opportunity to see how little common folk have to do with this “democracy”, and for others simply an opportunity to say “fuck you” to “the man” right in his own face.

Later in the evening we had a big rally, which briefly occupied the front steps of the Supreme court (which is actually illegal to trespass) and also the tourist areas in front of the White House. When we got to the White House, people kinda of lost it a bit--- climbing the fence/trees, throwing stuff in the lawn. The security reaction was pretty intense, a bunch of secret servicemen with assault rifles came out and began yelling at us from across the fence. At some point a smoke grenade was fired, people scattered, and the media later blamed the smoke on the protesters. Riot police showed up, and people left fearing arrest.

After that we loaded up the bus and went home. Quite a typically DC protest, some of the older heads in our group related it to Bush I era anti-Iraq War protests. I would agree it had that 90's-00's anti-globalization feel, but I think the sense that the tone is starting to change was definitely there. One thing I didn't see--- any of those “official” protest groups funded by the Democrats, they usually come to these sorts of things with a somewhat large presence. Moveon.org, etc were completely absent. So to wrap it up, lots of youthful idealism and commitment, but not much in the way of substantial revolutionary rhetoric. The one positive thing was that many people must have had an epiphany about representative “democracy” in this country, but whether or not x-amount of people overcame the illusions of electoralism I can't say exactly.

Personally, I'm starting to view Occupy as an anarchist attempt at a mass populist organization/party, ironically unknowingly to many of the participants. Its faults are near to intentional ones, sustained by some misguided individuals influenced by Maoism on one hand and Syndicalism on the other. It might be productive to seek out the power players who conceived of this movement up in NYC and opening some theoretical dialogue with them. In other words, it would be necessary to critique the hell out of OWS' main anarchist influences.

Thanks comrade!

Thanks comrade!

red flag
Seems like the occupy

Seems like the occupy movement has come to a natural lull in activity and the original edge to it is becoming or has become jaded leaving the more radical activists to peel away, into what?, and those who remain to become increasingly integrated into the structures and practices of the capitalist state.  Not a surprise really given the base ie petite bourgeoise/left intelligensia. 

Not certain what if anything could be achieved by seeking out the so called power players.  The important lesson I suppose is to see that the anger however confused does exist not only deep in American society but globally and that there will be many more occupy movements before the working class chrystalises itself both ideologically as well as organisationally.  Still an interesting report and quite encourgaing that the largest occupy movements existed in the belly of the beast and may have caused a small amount of discomfort.

Thanks ICC for bringing this

Thanks ICC for bringing this text back again, and to p-p for writing it. What took place was largely a petty bourgeois manifestation as red flag says, but maybe there was something a bit subterranean about it which appeals to me. "An hour or so later, the majority of us got in the actual congress buildings. It was a weird feeling, walking around with these high ceilings, ancient portraits and memorabilia, senators and aides walking around. And then there was us--- a bunch of liberals, radicals, and scraggily looking (mostly) young people roaming around with an adventurous yet slightly mischievous grin on our faces. I'm sure business for the day was interrupted, and I don't think one senator met with us face to face. What result was a lot of protesting in the offices of the senators to their aides, which was quite entertain I have to say. For many it was an opportunity to see how little common folk have to do with this “democracy”, and for others simply an opportunity to say “fuck you” to “the man” right in his own face."

Scraggy looking youngsters roaming the sacred corridors of the bourgeoisie with mischief on their minds and faces, is a good sign for things to come. The senators kept away. Another sign. And p-p found some of the protests to be entertaining: presumably because the high dignity of the usually unruffleable representatives of the bourgeoisie was ruffled, and proof was given, minimally maybe, that common folk have nothing in common with bourgeois democracy. The belly of the beast got prodded. It could have been just a manifestation of anti-authoritarianism. And the cause was misguided. But it may have a positive side which will emerge after participants reflect on what took place. Whatever! But thanks to comrade p-p for troubling to write this.

Relevant and irrelevant comment...

I can't resist making a completely irrelevant comment about the "people's mic" (though as PP says, it seems a bit weird to be using it when you have a speaker system set up and working just next door). A few years ago with a few comrades I went on a tour of the revolutionary sites in Berlin (sites, not sights, since mostly the buildings have been destroyed by bombardment during WWII or the Stalinist East German regime). We ended up in a biergarten (beer garden) right next to a big hall where Rosa Luxemburg amongst others used to speak. Of course back in those days there was no such thing as a PA system, so they used the people's mic - there were official "repeaters" who would stand on a chair in the middle of mass meetings and repeat to people at the back what had been said by people at the front. Odd to see it reappearing today.

PP's description of the event reminds me of going on one of the big anti-war demos when Jerry Grevin was still alive. We got on a bus in NYC (one of many) and one of the organisers on the bus did a quick inquiry on how many people had ever been on a demo in their lives before. For more than 50% this was the first time they had ever demonstrated - I'm not sure what political conclusion one should draw from that, but it was striking to me at the time.

PP says that almost nobody raised the question of industrial action, and that made me wonder whether he saw anybody there from Seattle or LA where there seems, as far as I can tell from some of the web sites I've seen, to have been more of an effort to "go industrial" by linking up with striking dock and shipping workers.

dripping blood and gore

You're visit to the revolutionary sites in Berlin is interesting LoneLondoner. Did you visit the canal where the freikorps dumped Rosa's body after brutally murdering her? That may still be there. But may not count as a "revolutionary" site. By implication I suppose the visit by the scraggy youngsters to the Capitol can also be reduced to sightseeing and little more. But I think p_p and I were looking to it for some green shoots of proletarian response that maybe weren't there. With the doom, gloom and decomposition of bourgeois society it's hard to find green shoots anywhere, and it's difficult to live without illusions.

The bourgeoisie love them though and are able to make a few dollars more, even out of decomposition. Note the flurry of films about their view of it on tv. Films full of zombies; the living dead; the" un-dead", (that's nice) vampires and secret- aliens- among- us destroying "our" (bourgeois that is) way of life. The living dead, dripping blood and gore, are of course the bourgeoisie themselves, as are the vampires, guzzling any blood they can lay teeth on. And in the film 2012 - a bourgeois spectacular- for geological Armageddon read total economic collapse, with only the richest able to buy a seat and be saved on the giant Noah's Arks at the end, and you've got the message.

Call me delusional if you want, but that's a product of decomposition too!

red flag
Seems to me that as the

Seems to me that as the economic crisis deepens with all the attending social dislocation there will be a whole variety of movements, not all progressive, that will appear and then fade away leaving behind some useful lessons for the working class in our struggle for class clarity.  The occupy movement for all it's faults should still be seen as a progressive movement as it does pose to both the working class as well as the participants the futility of such movements in challenging the organised power of the bourgeosie with their state.

On the point of the cultural manifestation of decomposition I agree with Fred that the recent and not so recent plethora of horror/slasher films highlights the underlying sense of powerlessness and even fear that currently exists within most if not all capitalist societies.  I think we will have to wait a while longer before we see a renaisance of oppositional cultural products that accompanied the revolutionary wave of 1917-29ish.

Cool to see this thread make

Cool to see this thread make a comeback! No problem Leo, comrades… did I mention that one of the socialists in our discussion circle here paid for my bus ticket? 60 bucks, revolutionary greetings to her!

Red Flag, I agree with your point about the likelihood of many more movements before the working class "crystalizes itself" (hopefully more of a reference to forming under pressure than bourgeois luxury lol).

I should try to be more clear about the last part of what I wrote though. I guess I was thinking more in the direction that dialogue with whatever group of core OWS organizers would assist us in making a more effective critique of some of the trends we've seen. Is that wrong? Because looking back I guess that could be seen as trying to point the finger or whatever. I dunno, I just feel like it'd be nice to actually know whats going on behind the scenes.

Kinda in relation to that, there is a "collective" that has been traveling the country staying with different occupations and they came by Greensboro. One of the chicks involved was at our discussion on the international influences on OWS. Small world lol.

Anyways, I have to sympathize with Fred when he mentions good signs of things to come, sproutlings, etc. I have to say the occupy congress protest was definitely the most meaningful "direct" action I have participated in, granted it was a struggle based around a partial problem found within capitalism. Is that saying too much?

It does bring up an internal discussion many of us have been participating in around the question of intervening in struggles around partial problems. Should we avoid this or is there opportunity for theoretically deepening, unifying actions and maybe even winning people to class positions?

Also, Fred, whats that quote about the weight of dead generations on brains of the living?? Zombie Marx! Love me some zombies… Cheers to LL for his background stories, always enjoy these. I, too have been to Berlin and seen some of these sites, but there is a large focus on Nazism and the holocaust, as well as the wall. They don't talk about revolutionary things, the tour guides. Plus I was busy enjoying the great skateboarding!

But yeah, there are definitely some questions to ask after my having participated in this occupy congress action. The main one for me is, can we intervene to good effect in situations like these?  

double post

double post

Oh god. Horror horror. I hope

Oh god. Horror horror. I hope p_p doesn't think I was calling Marx a zombie. That's not cool at all. I'll never go skateboarding again!