May 12 and the Radical Philosophy within Occupy

Call to “rise up again” May 12

Although Occupy’s May Day “celebrations” were muted in numbers and over whelmed by the violence at various spots such as Seattle and San Francisco, Occupy is calling on people to do it again on May 12.

Rise up on May 12th- we are the 99%!

On the 15th of October 2011 we took to the streets in over 1000 cities in 82 countries. We got organized and took the first steps on the road to dignity and global change. That was more than six months ago yet we continue to have to raise our voices to make politicians and bankers understand that they in no way represent us. We are united in our demands: the welfare of the 99% must be respected.

Governments only represent us if they follow the will of the vast majority, not just the privileged few.We are united, we are everywhere, we are where you least expect us.

We demand, firmly but without violence: social justice, wealth distribution and an ethic of commons. (emphasis added). We condemn poverty, inequality, environmental devastation and corruption as tools of subjugation by the powerful on society.

We will not stop until we achieve our objectives: the 99% will take to the streets again and again until we have a say in the world in which we live. We want global change. Let’s turn the streets into the world’s biggest loudspeaker on the 12th of May.

Because we are the 99%, we are not owned by politicians and bankers. Take to the streets on May 12th!

The claim of over 1000 cities in 82 countries is pure propaganda; even the main Occupy sites were claiming on May 1 no more than 180 cities. Yet even so, attendance was not what had been hoped for, for example, in cities like New York. Several thousands were present in New York, but more for the immigrant coalition May 1 Coalition rather than for Occupy. This attendance was after months of work and effort on the part of Occupy. So calling for an event so soon after with very little publicity announcing it seems to doom it to failure before hand.

The Radical Philosophy within Occupy

We see within the nature of the call another window into the philopsophy of OWS- a demand for “wealth distribution and an ethic of commons”.

While there are certainly many people and philosophies floating through Occupy, there are the two one might refer to as the “reformers” and the “revolutionists”.  The reformers are the ones that think they can work within the system. They have been outweighed by the revolutionists from the start, and many have left. The revolutionists are the ones that planned it before it started, have been there since the beginning. They are the professional activists, those who have been involved in Spain and in Greece. They are the reason Occupy livestream is called “global revolution” -that is not hyperbole, but an envisioned goal for which they have worked for and to which they have committed their lives.

They are the people, who like Jed Brandt, wish the downfall of the United States in its present form because it is loathsome to them. Capitalism is loathsome to them, and to them, the US is the leader of capitalism and all that is evil and unhealthy. Jed Brandt works on the Occupied Wall Street Journal, “Tidal” -the few page tract handed out by Occupiers at encampments in NYC (sounds like Tides, doesn’t it?) as well as other Occupy media.

Listen to the following tape of Jed, taken in 2009, to understand.

In addition to the old left and professional activists we have added into the mix the new left of Anonymous. Anonymous as a bigger entity encompasses many thoughts and philosophies. But, of those that have become political and enamored of Assange, Wikileaks and Occupy, there is a commonality of a disgust with the system, and a desire not to be infringed upon by any government rules such as those pertaining to copyright, piracy or speech. Amongst those, many would call themselves, or be classified as, anarchists.

The young involved in general are perhaps summed up with a line that many took to upon hearing it – “this shit is fucked up and bullshit”. They see no prospects for their future, they don’t know where they are going or what they are to do. They have the sense that the government should be giving it to them or taking care of them, so they feel aggrieved that this is not resolved. They feel a community among others who have a similar angst, and in that they find their emotional strength which in other areas of their lives may be missing.

So at protests you see the old communists, the new anarchists and an odd amalgam of both-the anarcho-communist.  Aren’t anarchists and communists in natural philosophical conflict, one might ask? It would seem so, logically, yet they haven’t gotten the message.

Black and red anarcho communist flags fly as black bloc gets ready to march in Seattle. Credit Foolish Reporter

Anarcho-communism advocates getting rid of the state, markets, money, capitalism and private property, while still retaining personal property.  It is in favor of the common ownership of the means of production, direct democracy and “horizontal networking of associations and workers councils”. Like communism, it espouses from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Goods are distributed according to needs not according to labor or how much anyone worked.

The idea is that things will be shared in common, through the concept of “mutual aid”.  On their May Day organizational site, May Day 2012, Occupy gives a rousing endorsement to the the anarcho communism espoused by Peter Kropotkin.

Peter Kropotkin, one of the foremost figures of Russian anarcho-communism, wrote about its importance in the book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. His work argues that cooperation is far more important to the evolution and survival of a species than competition. He provides evidence throughout history in a variety of societies as well as among nonhuman animals. Some examples include the Bushmen (southern Africa), the Dayak (Borneo), the Papuan people (New Guinea), the Aleut people (Alaska), the Tupi people (Brazil), the Wendat (Ontario), villages throughout Europe in the tenth and eleventh century, medieval cities, and examples in his time. It would, in fact, be difficult to find a time and place where mutual aid did not exist in some form!

Jed even talks about “mutual aid” at ~3:20 of the above video.  Of course, they leave out some other interesting words from Kropotkin. He said,  “houses, fields, and factories will no longer be private property, and that they will belong to the commune or the nation and money, wages, and trade would be abolished”. He believed in the “expropriation” of private property, although not personal property.

A question that is commonly asked is how they can be upset about police disruption of their property, in Zuccotti Park, for example, but not at all concerned about seizing buildings belonging to other people, such as the seizure of the Catholic Church’s building in San Francisco. The reason is the difference between private and personal property. Personal property=your car, your backpack. Thus, some were shocked at destruction of cars in San Francisco by some of the more militant anarchists. But private property-real property and homes, businesses- those should be held in common, so you don’t have a right to deny them what they need  just by claiming that they don’t own a property.  If they need it, they should have it- “to each according to his needs”. Everything will be held in common and parcelled out according to needs.  There will be the ultimate evolution of man, and selfishness, racism and war-all just outgrowths of capitalism-will just disappear.

Foolish Reporter picked up some reading material at May Day in Seattle. Again, while every location has something of its own character, the reading picks up on common themes. Communism will help make everything equal, it is the “saving grace” rather than God, that the workers, soldiers and students must be brought into the movement.   It notes how Communism is the true salvation of man:

Why not fight for the interests of the international working class, why not fight for communism?

Another question came up. “Where are the guns?” A comrade answered, “the guns are in the military along with our soldiers, our class brothers and sisters. Red Flag is being used to inform the soldiers of what is really happening and what is really being done by the capitalists so that ultimately guns can be turned around”.

“Wealth distribution and a ethic of commons” – in the words of Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

One response

  1. ocat

    What you overlook is that at its core, most variants of anarchism — syndicalism and insurrectionary anarchism alike, for example — could be considered small-c communist. Thus anarcho-communism isn’t a juxtaposition of polar opposites. The reason most anarchists who might also identify as communists call themselves anarchists first, however, has a lot to do (at least for some) with questions of means to ends, authority, and personal autonomy.

    Also, that “Red Flag” periodical you quote looks pretty Trotskyist. That’s more like a conflictual opposite to everything else you bring up in this post. I would ask that Trotskyism (as well as Marxist-Leninism and Maoism) not get lumped in with anarchism.

    May 8, 2012 at 7:13 pm

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