A Room of their Own

Michael Strom of OWS interviews Michael Albert of ZCom

Strom: In "Occupy to Self Manage," your most recent piece on the Occupy movement, you call occupations to engage issues of race, sex, gender, ecology, ability, age, etc. to the same degree as issues of economics and governance. A number of critiques of Occupy Wall Street have presented similar advice. It's clear to me that OWS needs to both understand and message itself as a holistic movement in order to bring about sustainable, worthwhile change. What could this look like? 


I think being an authentically holistic movement means addressing at least four areas of focus – economics, kinship, culture, and polity – and two overarching contexts – ecology and international relations – all in their respective unique features as well as in their interrelations and entwinements. 


It therefore means not presuming that any one area of concern is more important than the rest. Rather all four spheres of life emanate influences affecting people's options, affecting the defining relations of the other three, and affecting overall historical possibilities.


This implies, as well, paying attention to the hierarchies of privilege that each of the four spheres yields in society, not just one or the other – and thus also to the constituencies each defines and their interrelations. 


This sounds like a lot, and therefore very hard, but actually, it is harder, assuming that we are talking about actually understanding society and unifying powerful movements, to focus on one sphere of life and make progress than it is to focus on all four and make progress. 



Strom: How do you think we can transform OWS into an authentically holistic movement? How does a movement acquire and maintain that kind of holistic focus? 

Honestly, I think it is pretty straight forward. To the extent the movement does internal education, discussion, exploration – it should address all four dimensions of life.


To the extent it reaches out to attract wider support and participation, it should address all four dimensions of life. 


To the extent it protests and resists, it should be about all four spheres of life. 


To the extent it builds alternatives, they should encompass all four spheres of life.


If a particular movement has a particular focus – let's say war and piece, or the state of the economy – that is fine, but then it should address these issues with attention, as well, to implications for the four spheres of life, and in particular, implications for the key constituencies from each sphere. 


Beyond that, it depends on the movement, the people in it, etc., what makes sense. 


For example, one thing that I think is very nearly always important is to welcome various constituencies developing "a room of their own" where they can meet, talk, and develop and share ideas and aspirations, and then bring out of that room, so to speak, proposals for the movement as a whole.



Strom: There seems to be tension between the idea of building autonomous movements (an autonomous feminist movement, for example) and the desire to make holism a fundamental part of OWS itself. 


I think that this contradiction between autonomy and solidarity need not be a problem at all. The alternative to having the contradiction is to sincerely make our aim solidarity and autonomy, not solidarity or autonomy. 


Thus, the idea that women or blacks or latinos or gays or workers ought to have a caucus or other structural means of developing its own views without having to constantly deal with folks with very different, and sometimes contrary circumstances and beliefs is very sensible. It should be part of our agenda.


Likewise, however, the idea that such constituencies should be entwined in a larger structure that brings to bear not just the power of one or the other constituency, or even of one or the other with proclamations of support from the rest, but that advances all together, with t

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