where the writers are
Occupy LA, 11/27/11

I was at Occupy LA (OLA) yesterday for seven and a half hours. I stayed until about 9:30 pm and had to leave, but up to that time I would estimate there were well over 2,000 people on site, with roughly 80% or more of the people being in their twenties. The police helicopters (“pigs can fly”) circled regularly overhead, shining their very bright search beams down on us, trying, no doubt, to gauge the number of people and the overall mood. The fact that so many came out to defend the occupation undoubtedly led to the Major and LAPD deciding that they would let the deadline of Sunday midnight pass. A victory for the movement! As one speaker put it during the General Assembly, Mayor Villaraigosa welcomed us on October 1 with open arms and the City Council joined with us in support a few weeks later, but now, on November 27, we're "criminals."

Some observations: what people who have not come to the occupations and/or who have not been closely watching what’s going on don’t fully appreciate is how far this movement has come in several weeks and what exactly is going on. There is a gulf between the people who have been actively involved in the movement and those who are still on the outside of it. I spoke to a mediator who has been attending and assisting at OLA for several weeks, and she independently observed that the changes that people have been going through in OLA (and we can safely say this is true of the Occupy Movement as a whole) are not really understood by most by-standers. She described the atmosphere at the camp as being “palpably electric.” She told me that she’d heard there was an Occupy in Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone!” she exclaimed. 

As I sat on the hill on the grass facing the center of the General Assembly in the dark evening and listened to the speakers and participated in the occasional “mic checks,” I thought to myself, “This is going to be one of the things that people do that they will look back on years from now and say, ‘This is one of the best things I ever did in my life, and it is one of the best times I ever had in my life.’” 

One of my thoughts about this was that we should be patient with this movement and give it the time and space to develop and we should also be impatient with the movement and help to push it to rising to its highest potential. By itself it is a tremendous, life affirming, incredible movement, but it also needs to find its way forward and answer some very knotty questions. What is the real source of the problem – is it crony capitalism and too much money in politics and can we “get back to our democracy,” or is it something more fundamental than corporations being too powerful and the problem capitalism itself, with “democracy” never being what people think that it was? How do we deal with the question of leadership?

I had some really interesting conversations with folks, which hopefully I’ll have time to write about, but I have to leave it at this short post for now. If you haven’t attended an occupation or occupy action, you should go. You cannot appreciate what is going on unless you do. Young people and not so young people have created liberated zones – holding onto a public presence is a very important thing for the movement – and the kind of schooling that is going on in their ranks and how they are schooling the rest of the society is outstanding. This movement is countering the vicious dog-eat-dog mentality and value system of the neoliberal nightmare as people seek an alternative to this madness.

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Obama Abandons Working Class Whites

I suppose it was inevitable that the Jackass party would abandon the last leg of its traditional base in favor of the New Left, but it distresses me to the core of my being. The identity politics crowd has done nothing to stop the conservative drift of the party on economic issues. The last bastion of opposition to neo-liberal Corporatism, other than the occupiers, is organized labor, now that is under the bus. Perhaps this explains why the Homeland Security Department was coordinating with the police to break up the Occupy encampments. Organized labor has always provided the foot soldiers the Democrats needed to win. Without the backing of labor's rank and file, the party has always lost the White House, and the one New Leftist, George McGovern, was the biggest loser of them all.

What message, I wonder, does this send to the Occupiers? 

In my novel, Banana Republican Blues, "we don't need you anymore" is one of the refrains. Isn't that the message both parties are giving us today? The novel is a protest against the marginalization of the hard working middle class for the benefit of bankers and speculators. The time has come to form some new political coalitions and parties that do not include the ubermenschen.


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The Democrats

Hi Tim:

If we think about it, doesn't it make perfect sense that in the greatest empire in history (the sole imperialist superpower and the biggest military and economic power ever) that the other major political party, the other ruling party in this country, should be nothing less than the party of the ruling class? How can an imperialist power that has something like 1000 military bases abroad have a ruling party in it that is any kind of genuine representative of the working class?

As you know from my book (and I look forward to reading your novel), the reason I argue that both major political parties are increasingly indifferent to the public (I like your "we don't need you anymore") is because neoliberalism is the doctrine of the security state. The only way to challenge that is to challenge the whole logic of the neoliberal state, which would mean engaging in something much more fundamental than electoral contests. That is one of the reasons I so appreciate the Occupy movement because in its cutting edge, it is a declaration that electoral politics is not the right arena. Any really good things that have happened in this country's political history have been because of social movements that took as their main task a radical change in the political atmosphere and the alignment of political power. The real sources of political power revolve around not the institutions and processes of politics such as Congress, the White House, and hearings, and votes in chambers, for these are but the outer, public circle of politics. The real source of political power is persuasion and coercion. Public opinion refers to the first and force, of course, is the second. What people think and why they think things are the way that they are is ultimately the most important battlefront. Governments can use force in almost unlimited degrees but it can only retain its legitimacy in its use of force so long as enough of the people see their actions as legitimate. That is why the authorities are so freaked out about the encampments and why Obama's DOJ and Homeland Security co-ordinated the actions with local governments and police to evict the occupy camps - because Occupy stands as very visible indictments of business as usual. Authorities hope to qwell the movement in force and manipulation. They are not likely to succeed because the reasons for this movement continue to exist and will continue to impel people into action against those neoliberal policies unless and until a radical change takes place.