Occupy Horizontally

In, Paint Bombs, Kelefa Sanneh talks about Occupy, David Graeber and anarchy:

In the summer of 2011, when David Graeber heard rumors of a mobilization against Wall Street, he was hopeful but wary. Graeber is an anthropologist by trade, and a radical by inclination, which means that he spends a lot of time at political demonstrations, scrutinizing other demonstrators. When he wandered down to Bowling Green, in the financial district, on August 2nd, he noticed a few people who appeared to be the leaders, equipped with signs and megaphones.

I noticed hard-faced people like that at Occupy Baltimore. I assumed they were the anarchists, but:

It seemed that they were affiliated with the Workers World Party, a socialist group known for stringent pronouncements that hark back to the Cold War—a recent article in the W.W.P. newspaper hailed the “steadfast determination” of North Korea and its leaders. As far as Graeber was concerned, W.W.P. organizers and others like them could doom the new movement, turning away potential allies with their discredited ideology and their unimaginative tactics.

… Graeber and his allies had to fend off two different enemies: the people who wanted to stop the occupation and the people who wanted to organize it. Occupy Wall Street succeeded, and survived, in its original location — Zuccotti Park, halfway between Wall Street and the World Trade Center site — for nearly two months, much longer than anyone predicted. It inspired similar occupations around the country, creating a model for radical politics in the Obama era. And it became known, more than anything, for its commitment to horizontalism: no parties, no leaders, no demands.

Occupy has drawn much criticism for being disorganized and unfocused – much of it from those who wanted another easy cause to support from the armchair. But what I saw was that it was ultimately behind-the-scenes machinations that caused the average Occupier to lose patience, not the difficult process of establishing a consensus among wildly different people – homeless drug users, the transgendered, unemployed college grads with huge student loans – and not the police crackdowns.

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One response to “Occupy Horizontally”

  1. trkingmomoe says :

    I agree. But something else happened many went on to work on the next election. It also gave many of us a voice at home. We were able to stand up to the crazy uncle at dinner or the loud mouth bible thumping neighbor that listens to talk radio. There was a realization that the country was moving on away from the plutocracy.

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