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The New York Autumn

Has the Arab Spring come to our shores by way of the New York Autumn? Is this a valid comparison? What exactly is the nature of the movement at hand? And a movement it definitely is, spreading like wildfire throughout this land of the thief and the slave. Occupy Boston, Albuquerque, LA, San Francisco, Seattle – these are but the initial points of contact, points of a conflagration that is likely to take America, if not the whole world, as if by storm, a tsunami against which there is no foreseeable defense, no fortification or preparedness, no appropriate response. I certainly hope so, which should tell you where my sentiments lie. Call me biased if you like, but I think we’re long overdue. The time for the global revolution has arrived.

It’s tempting to compare what we’re witnessing at the moment to the good old sixties – the counter-culture revolution by those we’ve come to call hippies, the flower generation, in short, the Haight-Ashbury kind of scene, the sit-ins, and the like. Indeed, some of the elements reminiscent of our past are definitely present in the attitudes and behavior of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. And yet, the kind of dissent we experienced back then, for all its general and across-the-board character and outreach, cannot be dissociated from, indeed was spurred by, two overriding issues of the day: the anti-war protest (exacerbated by the draft) and Civil Rights.

Not that these were unimportant issues. American imperialism and militarism are to be fought tooth and nail, whenever the occasion presents itself. Likewise with civil rights which, according to script, is the legacy of all people, regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. We’re supposed to, indeed, we’ve all been programmed to fight these injustices time and again, whenever we see them.

What’s the beef then? In what ways do the sixties fall short of the present? How does the present motley crew comprised of students, activists, lawyers, media people, folks of different persuasions, even the Teapartiers, so we’re told, stack up against the glorious sixties? In what way does it do it one better?

A comparison with the recent Madison, Wisconsin rally is equally instructive. The object there was pensions and collective bargaining rights, and the crowd was in the thousands, 70,000 in fact, if memory serves – the measly crowd of Wall Street occupiers is a drop in the bucket in comparison, but who is counting? It was the largest rally in the history of Wisconsin, one of the most progressive states of the Union to boot. Kudos to the Democratic senators from the state legislature who absconded to Indiana lest they be forced to vote against all odds for the rights of the ordinary worker and against severe austerity measures made necessary, so the story goes, by our budgetary crisis.

A valiant effort, I daresay, by politicians and the people alike, standing together for once in the common cause. But how did it end? What was accomplished? Nothing, I’m afraid. Soon after, Governor Walker, with the blessings of the Wisconin Senate and the State Supreme Court, saw to it that the action on behalf of human, workers’ rights was for naught.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter, the idea of committing to a cause, any cause, no matter how just it is! My thinking is, however noble the aspirations or the particular cause which gives rise to them, they’re stained by association, contaminated, tarnished, and the reason is – all such responses are fool’s errands because they’re co-optive by nature, suggestive of the feasibility of negotiation when the time for negotiations is long past. Which is why the movement’s absence of specific demands or a clearly-articulated platform – the subject of severe critique on the part of even the most progressive elements of the American Left – rather than being its greatest weakness, is its greatest strength.

How so? You don’t negotiate with the enemy if you perceive them as the enemy. To do so would be to validate their status as something to be reckoned with, the last thing you want to do once you’ve come to a realization that they’re no longer deserving of any such status, not when the very object of the movement is to strip the enemy of all pretensions to legitimacy. Whatever few concessions can be won or chipped away at the negotiating table aren’t worth the price, not when the object is to discredit the enemy as having no standing whatever, whether moral or legal or otherwise, and to reduce them to the level of brute and faceless force which in fact they are, and deprive them thus of any justification to be anything but.

About Roger Nowosielski

  • handyguy

    A time of perceived prosperity. Well, I and others that I know made more money that year than any before or since. I worked in an industry that, like many, thrived in the tech bubble.

    At any rate, there certainly was not the widespread economic anxiety that is so pervasive now. Although there were ominous rumblings. Nasdaq crashed in March 2000 and layoffs started to spread.

  • handyguy

    Cindy’s article link is indeed interesting. And it’s from the CNN web site yet! Maybe they are trying to make OWS their pet the way Fox News adopted the Tea Party.

  • roger nowosielski

    It was a bubble, though, wasn’t it? Started with dot-coms.

  • roger nowosielski

    Interestingly, they had a big crackdown in Oakland, CA. Last I’ve heard, Dellums was still the mayor, an ex-radical from the sixties. Goes to show once you move into politics, you invariably end up in somebody’s pocket.

  • handyguy

    Perhaps you need an update:

    This morning’s attack from the Oakland PD came as a surprise after Mayor Jean Quan had originally appeared supportive of the protests, noting that, sometimes, “democracy is messy.” The city had originally said that demonstrators could continue their occupation of Frank Ogawa Plaza, despite laws that would normally prohibit the camp. In recent days, however, officials have cited concerns over sanitation and fire hazards as among the reasons for the forced evacuation.

    Mayor Quan, a Chinese-American woman, took office in Jan. 2011. And today’s arrests may or may not reflect her overall opinion of the OWS movement.

  • handyguy

    Another tidbit:

    “At 7:30 Tuesday morning, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s office issued a statement regarding the police raid on the two downtown Occupy Oakland camp sites. The statement, reprinted in its entirety, reads:

    Many Oaklanders support the goals of the national Occupy Wall Street movement. We maintained daily communication with the protest0rs in Oakland.

    However, over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the City could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism. Frank Ogawa Plaza will continue to be open as a free speech area from 6 am to 10 pm.”

    So it’s not a complete eviction, just no overnight stays.

  • roger nowosielski

    There was one interesting “precedent,” if you want to call it that. The governor (forgot now which state) called for “harsher measures” but the mayor refused.

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, there are always those “elements,” some people wanting to capitalize on the situation. Amazingly, the NYC crowd appeared to have been very well-behaved. They should set up their own task force dealing with security, safety, and hygiene issues. Lots of GAs are doing it.

  • roger nowosielski

    This is one of the alternative newspapers in the Bay Area: East Bay Express.

    Check out the first two entries under the “News Blogs” column. It looks as though the Mayor’s action is resulting in a recall initiative.

  • roger nowosielski

    And here’s the news from Berkeley.

    I’ll make it a point when I finally get back to CA to do some serious shit-disturbing.

    It will be great to mix in with the UC crowd.

  • handyguy

    Right. The recall notice was filed Monday, before the crackdown, and concerned other issues, some of them racial. And it’s hard to tell how much support in general the mayor or the recall have from that brief item.

    She is the mayor of all of Oakland, and Occupy Oakland is, um, not yet all of Oakland. Her decisions about safety and sanitation may be right and they may be wrong, but she is probably in a better position to determine that than you or I are.

    75 arrests and a curfew are not so drastic. The NYC protests generated 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge alone, and this didn’t stop OWS or even apparently lead to worse tensions with police in the days since.

  • roger nowosielski
  • handyguy

    Mayor Quan has had run-ins with the Oakland Police Department, and her popularity has sunk partly due to crime in Oakland. So that may have something to do with the curfew enforcement this morning.

  • roger nowosielski

    Sounds right.

  • roger nowosielski

    You just got to visit the Bay Area, my man. Alameda is my perfect spot, New Yorkers say it reminds them of Long Island.

    You might meet your old nemesis, Kurtz, in person. His bark, I assure you, is bigger than his bite. He looks like a jolly good fellow. Bulletin boards are misleading.

  • handyguy

    Not sure if this is addressed to me, but northern California is my favorite part of the country. SF, Berkeley, Marin, Sonoma, and the coast north and south of there.

  • roger nowosielski

    Yes, to you, and you’re right 100 percent.

    Marin is just beautiful.

  • roger nowosielski

    Besides, I miss the food — Italian, Chinese, Korean, you name it.

  • roger nowosielski

    In my best days, used to net close to 150 grand in disposable income, drove Citroen-Maserati and dine in the best SF restaurants.

    I practically opened Jeremiah Tower’s Stars restaurant in the Opera Plaza.

  • roger nowosielski

    Great quote from the article as per Cindy’s link:

    “For as we come to embrace or even consider options such as local production and commerce, credit unions, unfettered access to communications technology and consensus-based democracy, we become occupiers ourselves.”

    The idea of anarchism at its best.

  • roger nowosielski
  • roger nowosielski


    You might also want to take a peek at this one from one of our editors, Ms Diana Hartman, for a privileged view from Germany.

  • Cindy

    Oh UNoccuppy!

    (now I get it!)