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Occupy +


There is a new initiative called People for a Shared Program (P4SP). As its starting point this new initiative uses a document co-authored and / or signed by 87 people, many of whom are well known and generally respected on the left. A simple website has also been created to display this document in public and to facilitate participation by others in a number of ways.

One way in which people can participate is by filling in the “Sign Now” form on the home page. Completing this form is an easy way of showing your support for the initiative and we currently have 339 people who have done so. A second way of participating in this initiative is by submitting suggested changes to the actual document. This can be done either by writing a blog or by commenting in the forum. The blog option is probably better suited for longer comments about the initiative as a whole whilst the forum – which, as you will see, has channels for each part of the document – is better suited for more specific change suggestion. Clearly this second option takes more time and effort but it is also a much more meaningful way of getting involved.

So far, however, only a small percentage of the 339 people who have filled in the “Sign Now” form have actually taken the time to write a blog or make a suggestion for improvement to the document on the forum. If this does not change then it is almost certain that this initiative will just fade away into obscurity and then oblivion. What, then, can we do to avoid this dismal outcome?

Well, the more obvious answers to this question are:

 

  1. If you are one of the people who signed but did not take advantage of the other means of participating then perhaps you will now return to the site and post some suggested changes to the document in the appropriate forum channels. Or perhaps you will write a blog about the initiative for the site and / or another progressive site.
  2. If you like the initiative and have already signed you could let all of your contacts know about it and encourage them to “Sign Now” and engage in whatever way they can.

 

Taking these kinds of actions really could make a difference to the life or death prospects of this initiative. For some, however, this may all seem a bit too much like a talking shop and whilst they support the idea of developing shared program they may not feel particularly motivated to participate in this way. What these people want is some real action – like that of Occupy.

This is fair enough, except for the fact that the main reason Occupy did not last was precisely because its participants failed to come up with a coherent shared program. Nevertheless, Occupy did do something that was very impressive, namely mobilise many many people in many many places. Are you now thinking what I am thinking?

Is it possible that supporters of the P4SP initiative could adopt the tactics of Occupy and insodoing address the major weakness that was present within Occupy whilst also breathing life into the P4SP initiative by taking it to the streets?  A kind of Occupy +, if you like. After all, as stated on the P4SP home page, “Our hope is that our collective efforts will ultimately inform actual organising in the real world.”

It could be argued that such a proposal is premature, that we first need to build community through the process of developing shared program via the various facilities available on the site. That, in fact, is my own position. That said, I am open to other possibilities, other ways of moving forward with this initiative, and the more I think about this as a way forward the more I like it. However, there are a number of important points that need to be clarified in order for this “Occupy +” option to be even remotely serious.

The first is that any actual occupation should not be seen as a substitute for the collective development of shared program. The second, following from the first, is that any occupation should be understood, at least in part, as an opportunity for people to get together to discuss and develop the P4SP document – a kind of popular education teach-in focused on the document. The third, following on from the first and second, is that any occupation should also be understood as an opportunity for participants to engage with the general public and mass media. Finally, the occupations – which could be organised systematically in order to grow, over a set amount of time, to a kind of crescendo – could culminate in the presentation of a set of demands informed by the latest version of the P4SP document to our representatives in power.

Currently, of course, all of this is nothing but an idea, a suggestion regarding what could be, how things could unfold. It is also an idea predicated on the assumption that there are people out there who are willing and able to undertake such activities. I believe that to be the case and if there is sufficient interest in exploring this “Occupy +” route we can start to look into the first steps necessary to make it real. We could begin to explore possible dates and locates for the first occupation. We could start to put together a list of volunteers who could steward the event as well as look into possible speakers, etc.

20 Comments

  1. avatar
    David Jones June 30, 2016 4:17 am 

    Actually, our local Occupation imploded. Not due to repression or sabotage but because setting up an autonomous “society” within the enclosure which is capitalism is excruciatingly difficult. I believe this was also the case for many other Occupations. To be inclusive meant being a refuge for “sub-altern” layers, the addicted, mentally ill, chronically homeless, as well as every conceivable manner of ideologue, coherent or not. I’m all for a discussion, but no more camping with crazies, thanks.

    I agree with Mark that the 1 vs 99 is problematic on a number of levels, one problem being it says nothing about privilege.

    • avatar
      James June 30, 2016 8:05 am 

      And in a nutshell, there we have it. The nitty gritty getting in the way of direct participatory democracy! All that shit and no real structure, embedded inside an oppressively repressive system, and they called that doing democracy?

      But me thinks Mark has a point. A little more coherence in terms of program and strategy coupled with a reasonable vision that says direct democracy is possible, politically and economically would make for an Occupy+.

      One doesn’t need to make demands necessarily to outline a better way of doing shit, coherently and clearly, and then connecting it to the necessary changes required to achieve it. Sounds like strategy!

      Otherwise one is usually left with even active left radicals, like your goodself Dave, making understandable statements that mirror those made by righties, conservatives and dickheads, like it’s all just camping with crazies!

      We’re a sad lot.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yqM_7X7PRH4

      • avatar
        David Jones June 30, 2016 6:59 pm 

        Sad but beautiful. Sometimes even dickheads are correct, right?, might as well give them their due. The point about a more structured Occupy is well taken- but I can picture the push back from the hyper-tolerant, include-all-voices crowd. OF COURSE I”M COHERENT, you dweeb!

        That’s why I supported IOPS, it started with anti-capitalism and said if you can’t get there, don’t bother knocking.

        • avatar
          James June 30, 2016 11:04 pm 

          Understand Dave. I’m on this thing with the word “coherent” at the moment. Kind of like it. Ah, the nitty gritty. I even see it down below, here, or maybe it’s above (don’t know where this comment may end up). Dave, you’ve really got to know the “process”! To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it is either. Wrote a comment about it at P4SP and got no response. Building community? That’s a lark. A Left Lark! IOPS was about that I recall and look what happened there and some of the sighnerupperers are the same signerupperers that sighed up to the initial P4SP doc. Even, Paul “I’m smarter than most commenters at Z” Street, offered something about the bureaucratic nature or tone of the doc but hasn’t contributed to try and amend that. Oh well, he’s probably too smart to be hanging around with intellectual minnows like myself.

          Hope Montana is keeping your teeth clean and the fishing’s good.

          • avatar
            James June 30, 2016 11:06 pm 

            You know, I meant “signed” up, but “sighed” up is probably better.

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 30, 2016 5:15 pm 

      Hi David,
      I think the issues you raise in your comment only highlight what serious organising actually requires and the necessity for building community as a prerequisite for this. My question to you is, why are you (and others) not writing blogs or posting comments on these important issues on the P4SP site? Why are we not trying to address these issues together within a serious context for organising?

      This is what people did in the run up to the Russian Revolution – and without the aid of the internet! – before it got high jacket by the Bolsheviks (see chapter 6 of Robin Hahnel’s Economic Justice and Democracy for details) and this is what we are trying to facilitate, or at least begin to facilitate, with the P4SP initiative.

      This, in my opinion, is what a serious left would focus on – building community around shared program in order to generate solidarity and then put that solidarity into action whilst also have plans in place to deal with the kinds of issues that David highlights.

      Why are we not doing this? How can we think of ourselves as radicals or revolutionaries or even organisers or activists if we are not doing this in any meaningful way?

      • avatar
        David Jones June 30, 2016 6:53 pm 

        Mark, Actually, I posted a whole blog on P4SP about focusing on climate (I’m Dave Jones), I was all in with IOPS, I give ZNet money even though half the articles are mush. I write and post somewhere everyday and goldarnit, I’m a good person (ask James!) I even published an essay about my Occupy experience through Cambridge Scholars Press! I throw down.

        Functionally, I would say access to the site through ZNet sucks. Super hard to locate. Then there is the problem of debate, everybody’s feelings get hurt too easily. Thicken up, people! Look at this whole debate going on over Hillary (Michael’s latest post) instead of something that could matter. Weird.

        • avatar
          David Jones June 30, 2016 7:13 pm 

          But more to your point about constructing community- building trust, sharing responsibility, breaking bread together,etc..this is what activist culture calls “affinity groups” and it is great at that level.
          But building the new society- one that is plural, diverse and just while not relying on Universal Truth or Jesus to bond- means imagining something on a different scale. And as you know, consensus is one thing and politics quite another.
          Maybe I’ll write another blog on the challenges of unity and inclusion and folks can take time off from arguing about Hillary to read it.

          • avatar
            Mark Evans June 30, 2016 8:09 pm 

            Sorry David, I didn’t mean to suggest that people are not writing about these thing but rather that they are not doing so within a context that is set up for actual organising – particularly on the P4SP site where these issues could actually be explored in a way that could go beyond just theory.

            As for your blog, I do recall reading it and do not remember disliking it but I did think that it had little to do with the P4SP initiative. Rather, it seemed to be proposing something quite different and was not in keeping with the process. That is from memory, so…

            Also, suggestion for improving the P4SP site are always welcome!

            • avatar
              James July 1, 2016 12:19 am 

              Hey Mark, sorry to but in, or is that butt in!, but I was wondering what the actual process is? I mean, if Dave wrote a blog at P4SP and you felt it wasn’t in line with “the process”, wouldn’t a comment or something to discuss the issue be in order? Facilitate some sort of dialogue and in so doing create a sense of “community” (even if that only be online)?

              I don’t find the site all that great. And there is some strange difference between the blog section and commenting there, with the forum section. I commented on Dave’s blog but it came up as my wife (fucking weird) even though it appeared I was logged into the site?

              The IOPS site is streaks ahead in terms of functionality for dialogue even if it does become like a hugely long scroll. But P4SP is separate from IOPS, and IOPS is separate from Z, as is P4SP and they are all separate from The Next System Project (and that’s just four organisations, one of which is defunked and disfunktional) and where are all those other groups/orgs and remaining Occupiers. Arevtheyball talking to one another regularly? And what happened to Nuit Debout? It had african drumming and everything?

              What of all those things the original 87 signerupperers are doing or working on or involved in? Are they working together to build shared program and writing about their efforts? If so, they’re not doing it at the P4SP site.

              There is this book mainly concerned with non-violent uprisings or actions by Mark and Paul Engler, funnily enough called This Is an Uprising:How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty First Century, which looks at the different approaches to bringing about change. They suggest there is a gulf between organisations with structure, focused on leveraging change over time, with connections to mainstream politics and such, with more transformative movements that appear to rise spontaneously from the depths and darkness, full of upstarts and unruly civil disobedience, that coalesce quickly leaving elites scrambling. The former is the Saul Alinsky approach while they latter they say is exemplified by Frances Fox Piven and both approaches often don’t get along. Unity is tentative or non existent. Even within transformative uprisings the notion of “community” is often hollow. Ah, the nitty gritty. Whatever you do, don’t leave the lid off the toothpaste. Oh and don’t mention Parecon around degrowthers or simpler way folk! In fact, don’t mention Parecon at all.

              Nevertheless, a gulf has appeared, or perhaps has always been around (it seems to me) between the two approaches. Like the way an independent union actually representing workers and mainstream unions get along. Often acrimonious, sometimes worse. And it seems that the larger and stronger a movement gets, the more single issue focused it is and hierarchically structured. It is rare to find one espousing some shared program that is somehow connected to some vision for a future society. In fact I don’t think there has been one. Maybe the Spanish rev but it disappeared after the war and Modragon was born. (I’m leaving the Russian, Chinese, Cuban and the like revolutions aside).

              Both things, developing shared program and particularly shared vision, can be divisive and cause all kinds of arguments and shit, not to mention the processes set up to achieve them. That doesn’t mean we don’t try. And Dave tries. As do I in my pathetic way. But the overall “process” of the P4SP, at least to me, is vague.

              Maybe a blog on “the process”, entitled, The Process, would make things clearer for everyone enabling them to participate in keeping with it.

              The Process! Does sound like a Kafka novel. And I do like a good Kafka yarn, The Burrow being a fav!

              • avatar
                Mark Evans July 1, 2016 8:19 am 

                Hi James,

                I have to say, I am a little bit baffled by your confusion over the process. I assume you have read the info on the top page of the site. That is where the process is presented and it is pretty straightforward. Can you have another look and let me know which bits you do not understand or find unclear?

                Here is a link: http://www.sharedprogram.org/

                • avatar
                  James July 1, 2016 8:54 am 

                  Why would you be baffled? Of course I’ve read that and have a general sense of “the process” but it isn’t all that clear what’s really happening. What gets in in the new version of the doc? Who decides that? All signerupperers or just you guys? Anyway, Dave wrote this,

                  “So what is to be done? In a perfect world, a fair process could be established through which “the left” might honestly assess its capacity and “settle on priorities” accordingly. Again ideally, this could be reached through deliberation, consensus building and election, or some combination thereof. But given the fact there is no forum around which the left (as such) is organized, I turn to the theory of hegemony and suggest that through political articulation (organized advocacy) one issue can assume the role of “nodal point”, or master-signifier which can assume a “universal” structuring function. And I would argue that the issue which can assume this role is climate justice.”

                  Is not that sharing ideas we can campaign and organise around? Or at the very least discuss.

                  It’s merely a website at the moment where people, very very few, are proffering ideas, just like Dave. Yet you suggest Dave’s wasn’t exactly in keeping with the “process”. How? You never made a comment as to that issue under the blog. And further, who cares whether it wasn’t in keeping with the process as you see it? Perhaps Dave feels his blog is most definitely in keeping with the process.

                  I never said I was confused and I never felt at any stage that Dave’s blog wasn’t exactly in keeping with the process, so I’m asking you to clarify what you think that is. That way I can be more certain about what I should suggest.

                  Something like that.

                  • avatar
                    Mark Evans July 4, 2016 5:36 pm 

                    I was baffled because the process is simple and clearly explain – but it appears that you do have at least a general sense of the process after all. To find answers to your additional questions please go to our FAQ page under Resources: http://www.sharedprogram.org/#!faq/ryp9j

                    As for the quote from David’s blog, yes that is sharing ideas we can campaign and organise around. However, it does not relate specifically to the P4SP document – making suggestion for changes, improvements, etc. It is in that way that it is not part of the process. Rather, it seems to me to be suggesting a very different starting point for discussion, etc.

                    • avatar
                      James July 4, 2016 11:06 pm 

                      Did not see the faq, thanks for that. My bad. One suggestion is that maybe it could have its own link, not in the resources section or be linked directly on the home page, because it is more an outline of “the process” rather than a real faq. Also, the document does not possess a section on organising/activism yet the forum does. As Dave’s blog relates more to a general strategy pertaining to what to organise around, it still relates to what the site offers and therefore, the process. Not relating to the document directly is a different thing. That isn’t what you said. Further, even the faq does not answer my query as to who decides or how it is determined what suggestions on the site get a guernsey in the document, shape the document or how it is worded. That is considering it is constantly being updated.

  2. Tom Johnson June 29, 2016 5:16 pm 

    “This is fair enough, except for the fact that the main reason Occupy did not last was precisely because its participants failed to come up with a coherent shared program.”

    This is only partly true. Throughout the time of the Occupy movements, they were under relentless attacks from corporate media and even some of the left media. The attacks from the left came because they did not develop a program soon enough, their leaders were often new and unknown, and their politics unclear. Also, barely a single mainstream politician backed Occupy and all wings of the political establishment avoided the camps — or even commenting on them — with great energy.

    Equally important, maybe more important, was that as the camps grew and the Occupiers became more sophisticated, major banks targeted the largest camps because the 1% v. 99% slogan was getting legs. These banks worked with the federal government to create “fusion teams” of federal/state/local police around the country to spy, disrupt and eventually remove the camps from the public places they occupied.

    While the left (once that is clearly defined) certainly needs a joint program that actually makes sense to people, it also needs a realistic power analysis of the beast that we’re up against and strategies and tactics to deal with that beast while we build more power.

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 29, 2016 6:07 pm 

      I completely agree, Tom. The response that Occupy got from the establishment was exactly what is to be expected. Nevertheless, I also feel that the lack of shared program made Occupy more vulnerable to these attacks – a point that can be generalised to the left as a whole, I suspect – and that was the point that I was trying to highlight. The primary source of social power for the left is solidarity and developing shared program is a way, I think a very good way, of generating solidarity. We are not doing that so we are weak and loosing.

      P.S. I am also not that keen on the 1% v 99% as it gives the impression that the coordinator class are in some way not part of the establishment, or worse, that they do not exists at all. This, it seems to me, does not help with what you call a “realistic power analysis of the beast”. Rather, it gives a distorted analysis that fails to learn what appear to me to be key lessons from 20th century socialism. For more on this, see the Prologue of Looking Forward: http://zcomm.org/looking-forward/

    • avatar
      Mark Evans June 29, 2016 5:44 pm 

      Looks interesting Tyler – thanks!

      The question that arises out of your suggestion, for me at least, is – where is the community of activists who could do this? Why are we not building such community in preparation for these kinds of opportunities?

      • Tyler Healey June 29, 2016 8:09 pm 

        You’re welcome, Mark. A group named 99Rise recently organized a large protest on Capitol Hill. I think they would participate. Occupy Wall Street would also likely participate.

        I think community has not been built to prepare for these actions because people have been focused on the election.

        • avatar
          Mark Evans June 29, 2016 8:59 pm 

          Well, elections can be important but they should never distract us away from grass roots organising. Anyway, good luck!

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