Nov 14th, 2011 by ravi
OWS: reporting and reality

Yesterday I wrote about the strange analysis of OWS from the Left by Jodi Dean. In my comment I expressed some doubt on the sincerity of her argument. The post by Dean that I was referring to is an old one. Shortly after that one, Dean repeated a bit of unsubstantiated news that was floating around claiming that OWS was coming to an end due to the inability to resolve the simple matter of keeping drumming to a minimum. On Oct 24th, Dean quoted alleged OWS insiders, without comment:

OWS is over after Tuesday:

Friends, mediation with the drummers has been called off. It has gone on for more than 2 weeks and it has reached a dead end. The drummers formed a working group called Pulse and agreed to 2 hrs/day at times during the mediation, and more recently that changed to 4 hrs/day. It’s my feeling that we may have a fighting chance with the community board if we could indeed limit drumming and loud instrumentation to 12-2pm and 4-6pm, however that isn’t what’s happening.

This would have been pretty big, if true. Except it wasn’t. Michael Pollak — the most fair, level-headed and rational person I know on the Left — has been visiting Zuccotti frequently and attending some of the General Assembly sessions. He had this say:

Okay, I just got back from the park and 60 Wall (which is the hive of the working groups) and this was clearly a non-issue.  Nobody mentioned it and everyone is still working with timelines extending into the indefinite future.  I was a little embarassed to ask, to be honest, it was so obviously an exaggerated rumor.  But when asked, the general answer was the same: the GA/drum circle conflict has been there since the beginning, and conflict and negotiation with the neighbors and city officials has been there since the beginning.  Nothing’s changed or come to crisis.  On the contrary, things have recently gotten substantially better on both fronts precisely because the drummers are drumming substantially less now. So the conflict will continue, and hopefully continue to improve.  No one was worried.  People getting mad or feeling agreements were reneged is just considered SOP when there’s a conflict.  It always leads to another meeting.

And speaking of conflicts — or lack thereof — the Demand working group met today with the Facilitation working group, the one that sets the agenda for the nightly general assembly.  They couldn’t have been nicer or more efficient.  We asked if we could propose it and they said sure.

So rumors that this would somehow get strangled in its cradle behind the scenes seem entirely ungrounded. To judge by this meeting, I don’t see how it would such smothering would be even possible, this committee seems so transparent and rational and non-judgmental.  It looks at this point as if the whole idea was either a misunderstanding or a bluff or both.

What a difference data makes!

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One Response

  • shag says:

    I have watched these assorted jabs “supporters” take at OWS. I say jabs because it reminds me of the way an unskilled boxer just flails around with no, uhhhn.,.., strategy to win. lol it’s like they want to find failure. In the case of some of them, it’s obvious that the reason they want failure is that everything about OWS defies their previous analyses of what’s wrong with the left.

    Doug’s animosity is pretty simple. He doesn’t like the business about prefiguring the society you’d like to live in now. And the reason he doesn’t like it is that it might require what I referred to in a post – “conscious social reproduction.” Instead of simply reproduce, for instance, gendered social relations, you make an attempt to challenge them by turning to new social norms.

    The way they run a progressive stack at GA is an example. Instead, of just taking names and stacking people to speak as they indicate a desire to speak, they progressively stack it by making sure that voices that have been historically underrepresented are heard. When Angela Davis spoke, for instance, they progressively stacked so that women of color were the first ones to ask questions. When someone asked to speak, the woman running stack said (paraphrase from memory), “So and so always has something to say, has had ample opportunities to speak, is there anyone else who would like to ask a question?”

    Basically, in this case, it wasn’t about race or gender at this point, it was simply about a person who feels really confidant about speaking, always has a question, yadda being asked to step aside so others who are more shy and less confident can feel comfortable speaking.

    As someone who is ‘that guy’ and can yak up a storm, I’m acutely aware that lots of people aren’t so comfortable but have genius things to say. I’m a one percenter who should be taxed more in that regard! :)

    I think that is the thing that offends some people the most. If this approach to social movement making gets off the ground and becomes a dominant way of doing things, some folks are deeply threatened by that.

    But more than that, what OWS is is an example of people fully capable of having an analysis that Doug has argued against on the grounds that such an analysis of anti-racism anti-sexism and the like simply isn’t radical. It produces a politics that is no politics at all. It produces people who are unwittingly supporting neo-liberalism. etc. etc. And yet people with that sort of politics, people who would call themselves anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc. are actually putting a class analysis (as mild as it is) at the center of the politics.

    They’d predicted that the mere support for anti-racist politics couldn’t produce even the glimmer of a radical analysis.

    But it did.

    guess i’ll have to post that at the blog. ha ha

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