Monday, October 31, 2011


Yesterday, I attended another Occupy Kansas City (OKC) rally and also dropped by the camp site.  As always, I came away with mixed feelings.  


  • The simple fact that a rather inexperience group of "activists" have managed to pull off three rallies/marches and a day of education in such a short period of time in KANSAS CITY is actually pretty impressive.  I haven't seen anything like it here since the 1980s anyway.
  • The camp site still stands and the tents are colorful.  Although some OKC people have expressed "concern" that so many homeless are the actual occupiers, I think that actually says something important in and of itself.
  • OKC now has a Direct Action Group (DAWG) that seems to have its stuff pretty well together and is providing some real direction and strategy to OKC whether it knows it, acknowledges it, or not.
  • During yesterday's march, for the first time, the group actually got in the streets instead of remaining happily on the sidewalks.  It isn't so important, I guess, if you are a few feet to your right, except for the fact that the police told them they were subject to arrest and they did it anyway.  This is the first time OKC has ever not cooperated fully with the law and shown any sign of defiance.
  • OKC's DAWG has now scheduled a march Saturday to the Bank of America.  This is a step up the ladder and shows that DAWG knows what it is doing.
  • OKC's 99% remain 99% white.  Much of OKC does not think this is a problem.  I do, and more importantly, so does DAWG.  Do they get why?  A few do, most don't.
  • Like the entire Occupy Movement, OKC remains overwhelmingly middle class, petit bourgeois and has virtually no real class analysis.  Even worse, for the most part, it has no interest in a class analysis and, I am not even sure, understands what a class analysis might be. OKC is NOT an anti-capitalist movement and makes that perfectly clear, some wear it as a badge of honor.  Consequently the question remains, whose class interests are being represented and the answer remains the interests of the petit bourgeois, not of workers, not of the poor.
  • OKC, like some other Occupy sites, remains a broad based populist movement with right wing elements welcome.  I just don't get this.  There was a group at yesterday's rally, for example, with Ron Paul sings, American flags, etc.  They looked more like the Tea Party then Occupy. 
  • Speaking of flags, how many American flags is too many and is it really necessary to prove how patriotic you are by making sure you stop everything and fold the flag properly at the proper time.  It is a flag, people.  It's a flag which to a whole lot of people around the world represents something not so good.  
  • While more impressed with the site than I have been, it does seem silly to me that it remains tucked away in a location where no one is...out of sight from anyone OKC might want to have join up.  While being out of sight has kept the site from being attacked by cops and shut down, when that happens, and it will, no one will be there to see it.  If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it happen?
  • OKC continues to thank anyone who doesn't beat or arrest them.  During an interview on TV yesterday, a spokesperson, once again emphasized how cooperative the police have been.  
  • For some unknown reason, I have this feeling that the those "cooperative" cops are about to become less "nice" whether OKC likes them or not.  It's just a feeling somewhat based on several rumors this past week of impending removal, of some comments made by some individual cops, and on the little "warning" the marchers were given yesterday.  Hopefully, I am wrong, but despite what OKC thinks, the Kansas City police are not known for being just a bunch of swell folks.  It may be that Kansas City's African American mayor has played a role in holding them back up to now.  However, the mayor's office does not control the police.  Even though I have been saying that the fact that OKC hasn't really caused any problem, has played by all the rules, has made nice with the police and various city departments, and is camped in the middle of nowhere has led to them being left alone, I just have this gut feeling that is all about to end.  Hopefully, that is all it is. I am not known for gut feelings.
In the end, and despite it all, I still critically support OKC and the whole Occupy movement (actually I don't think a couple of months qualifies it as a movement yet, but whatever).  I think it faces one of three fates:
  1. For lack of direction and because of the all too obvious contradictions within it, the whole thing will eventually fade away.  
  2. The right wing will become predominant without anyone even noticing and a new reactionary populist movement will be born.
  3. While the Occupy movement is not even really an anti-capitalist movement (let alone anything more), it might create the space for one to come into existance.   If along with this...
  4. An independent, conscious, militant, Black Liberation Movement  springs up diagonally to this and moves the whole playing field. If that happens and if the Occupy movement understands its relationship to, listens to, and takes leadership from such a movement something truly important could be born.  Since, I believe, no significant change ever comes in this country without a strong movement of African Americans and other People of Color, without a real struggle against white supremacy and racism, this is what I hope for the most.

 In my first post on this whole phenomenon, I advised the left (and I mean here the Marxist left, socialists, communists, anarcho communists,anti-racists, and the like) to leave this basically  populist movement alone and let it develop on its own.  I think now, however, it is time for it to step forward and try to provide some analysis, some direction, some leadership, and a truly anti-white supremacist orientation (something by the way, my comrades, also need to apply to themselves and their own ideologies) in as non sectarian way as is possible for those on the far left.


I appreciate the spirit of the comments which have been critical of what I wrote.  I get your concerns.  It is your "movement" and you are very protective of it and very much are working to make it succeed.  I get that, too.  

It is true, I have chosen NOT to play a big role in Occupy KC.  I have felt that would be a mistake considering my history and obvious strong ideological agenda.  

I have not participated in the day to day work of building Occupy Kansas City.

That said, I have attended every public event of Occupy Kansas City and I have hung out at the site on numerous occasions. Also, I am in close contact with several persons who are very much involved in Occupy Kansas City, including DAWG.  

I know that there are individual People of Color involved.

The participation of individuals from communities of color is important, but that is not my point.  I stand by the obvious fact that the vast, vast majority of those participating in rallies, marches, and the like have been white.    I believe, many do not, that it is important for groups like yours to listen to and take some leadership from organizations and individuals associated with the Black Liberation Struggle and also recognized activists in the local African American and other communities of Color.  I am sorry but I have not seen that.  I have asked for examples time and again and have received very meager responses.  Again, we may define this differently, so I look forward to more direct examples.  

I take exception to any notion that Occupy Kansas City has in any way pushed forward issues of particular importance to people of color. When you push an agenda that says we all are just part of the 99%, that just doesn't cut it.  How often have you spoken about police brutality, about the treatment of Black kids on the Plaza last summer, about the disparity in hiring, about lousy grocery stores, about the huge numbers of young black men inhabiting our prison and justice system, about stop and frisk, or racial profiling, about immigration, about Indian land issues, about political prisoners, about life on the reservation, about who the land you are occupying is really owned by.  I don't mean just mentioning them, I mean emphasizing such. You may disagree.  It may be what you think these are and what I think they are simply are not the same.  However, I am aware of the fight waged by several persons at Occupy Kansas City, at GAs and the like to raise the issues and being told racism is simply not a problem.  I know that DAWG in particular is fighting and I think making headway finally on this matter.  I have never said otherwise.

More importantly, don't march lots of whites into a black neighborhood to inform them of any of this. I understand you are trying to reach out to the African American community when you do this.  However, it comes across as typical white arrogance. Black people don't need white folks telling them about racism and white supremacy.  African Americans don't need to be handed a leaflet by a bunch of well meaning whites explaining how they have been exploited in America.  No one has to tell People of Color about discrimination.  Go confront white people. Go march with an anti racist agenda, with information about white skin privilege and white supremacy in white neighborhoods...working class, middle class, affluent. Go to their workplaces, go to their shopping centers, go to their parks, go to their clubs.  Go challenge other white people.  Go give them leaflets about the disparities in unemployment, healthcare, prison populations, police brutality.  Go tell them about the "crack downs" on Latinos, on so called "illegals."  Go tell them about last hired, first fired.  Go confront them on their own racism and what they have gained simply by being white in this country.  Go tell them about the real affirmative action that has been practiced in this country since 1776, the affirmative action of slavery, of Jim Crow, of white unions, of voter identification, of the justice system, and of all the rest.  That is where it gets hard.  African Americans, Latinos, American Indians, and other People of Color don't need a bunch of well meaning white activists to come and lecture to them.  They need you to listen to them, to seek guidance from them.  They need you to go out to where the racism is and to take it on directly.  This is what Malcolm told whites who wanted to support him and his movement in the early 60s.  This is what John Brown, the greatest white man ever born and executed in America did.  John Brown didn't go tell slaves about slavery.  He broke bread with black folks, he asked them for advice and guidance, and he listened to what they had to say.  He confronted abolitionists who thought slavery was wrong but racial discrimination, racism and all the rest was okay.  He went to Kansas and took on the white slavers flooding in from Missouri.  He went south of the Mason Dixon Line to Harpers Ferry and brought his fiery message to the white south and to the white supremacist U.S. government.  He rejected his whiteness and became a human being.  No, you don't have to fight the battle the way old John Brown did here in Kansas City.  No one is calling on Occupy Kansas City to carry out a violent attack on anything or anyone.  Just go with your voices and your ideas and challenge racism in its home.  

When, and if, things get better for these white folks who are getting a taste of what People of Color have been living with forever, don't declare the struggle over and go home.  

Moving on.

I suppose I did skip the tents as a form of civil disobedience, but the fact is that the cops don't mind them because they are in an out of the way place.  There has been no attempt by anyone to enforce any ordinance, if one exists, pertaining to camping in a park.  But you are right, I did not consider that.  I stand corrected.  Stepping into the street was the second act of defiance.  On the other hand, the group keeps saying it has permits for the parks, permits for the marches, is working in cooperation with the police, is thankful to the Parks Department.  What is that all about?

I do see the world in an us/them manner.  Actually, so do you, since you have divided the 99% from the 1%.  We use different definitions upon which to divide.  I do believe there are oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited, bosses and workers, workers and bourgeois, etc.  That may be quaint but it is my view.  Now, you will point out that your reference is that you are referring to Occupy not the world.  That would be fine except for the fact that you count as allies within your group some of the very people I consider class enemies.  So, for many of us, there is a we/they.  I, personally, don't know how long I can continue to march along side Ron Paul supporters and others like them.  They are a "they" to me.  Maybe not to you.

I used the term spokesperson, because the person quoted on television has been out front and a public person who comments for quite sometime.  You may not call him a spokesperson, but, well, if it quacks like a duck...I also believe there are leaders although I am sure you believe the whole thing is leaderless, but that is another debate.

As to class analysis, if the general movement of Occupy Kansas City has one, it is pretty much subsumed.  The group emphasizes time and again it is open to everyone who is unhappy with what is happening in this country.  It is open to Ron Paul supporters, capitalists of all stripes, right wing libertarians business men and women, professionals,, etc. etc.  

Are there some people with a class analysis.  I know there are.  There are even a few people who say they are communists roaming around and one of them put out a damn good leaflet which I cited on an earlier post from another march that I attended.  However, again, surly you would not argue that Occupy Kansas City is somehow a working class movement.  Occupy Kansas City has made it clear that it is not an anti-capitalist movement.  Fine, but don't tell me it has a class analysis.  The class most represented and whose interested are most represented is the petit bourgeois which just wants to make capitalism more friendly to itself and occasionally some others.  

What I find sad here, is the total refusal to accept my criticism in the spirit in which they are offered.  I made clear in the beginning of the post, and at several other points that I still support Occupy Kansas city and the whole Occupy Wall Street thing.  I even point out that,  "While (I believe) the Occupy movement is not even really an anti-capitalist movement (let alone anything more), it might create the space for one to come into existence." and then add that if,   "An independent, conscious, militant, Black Liberation Movement  springs up diagonally to this and moves the whole playing field. If that happens and if the Occupy movement understands its relationship to, listens to, and takes leadership from such a movement something truly important could be born." 

Completely ignored is what I began the article with THE GOOD.

Ultimately, I think the big difference between those who have criticized this and other similar pieces, is that I and other critical supporters are, in fact, up front, and out in the open Marxists, or anarchists, or anarcho communists, or communists or whatever.  We do have an ideology.  We do have a class based agenda.  In my case, I add, that in addition to a grounding in Marxism, is my my continued belief in the theory that capitalism is upheld as a result of an ideology of white skin privilege (further I am now influenced by the writings of Antonio Negri, and am also a fierce supporter of and influenced by a militant struggle to SAVE THE EARTH from environmental destruction, maybe best exemplified by a Marxian interpretation of the deep green resistance movement).  Perhaps, I am mistaken, but I think most of those in Occupy Kansas City do not accept those ideologies and do not want a class based movement.  I think you want to build a more broad based populist movement.  That is your business.  However, that is not mine.  So we shall always disagree.  I am equally sure that just as always those of us who do hold onto some strong ideology or whatever will also argue with each other.  In fact, that is why I asked "us" to stay out for so long.  I didn't want this movement to get all caught up in that kind of leftist sectarianism.  Now, as I said yesterday, I think ," it is time for it to step forward and try to provide some analysis, some direction, some leadership, and a truly anti-white supremacist orientation (something by the way, my comrades, also need to apply to themselves and their own ideologies) in as non sectarian way as is possible for those on the far left."

But that is just me.

Sorry for the length of this thing.  I did mean what I said at the beginning.  I do appreciate the concerns and the arguments of those who think I am off (some way off) base. I get it.  But Scission is a blog which I publish and thus it will continue to reflect my opinions and beliefs, just as Occupy Kansas City reflects others opinions and beliefs (although, as Scission readers know, I publish articles from all over the place).  I do reject that I am being malicious.  That is ridiculous.  Perhaps, this is another assumption,but perhaps my long years of participation in the left, the communist left, and the movement as a whole means I have developed a pretty thick skin in regards to criticism and strong debate.  That probably does seem a bit nasty to those in a new, young movement, made up mostly of folks who have never been exposed to this stuff.  For that, I criticize myself.  I have told people to whom I am close that I really do have a problem communicating with those of you in this movement.  That's a problem I am working on and being helped on by one particular person in Occupy Kansas City.  I am learning just by watching and listening to her.  She is much better at expressing herself with y'all than am I.  

Finally, feel free to keep critiquing my critiques.  I have no problem with a little criticsm-self criticism.  

PS: I wrote this off the cuff, so I apologize for its somewhat confused manner of presentation...



Anonymous said...

To view these people as misguided marxists looking for a handout is short sighted. There are many people who sympathize with the movement but are to busy with work family whatever to participate. There are many republican leaners (non tea party) who understand the need for some sort of change. I really think their attitude is "we gave you Reagan, and Bush, and Bush2, and you gt bailouts, it is time to give back. But public worker unions are not going to profit off this. We have all struggled in the past few years and while you unions complain and threaten strikes because your increase was only 3% per year, private sector employees have seen no wage increase in 5-7 years. Anyone who has had to deal with the government on even a modest level feels that these unionized fed-state employees are overpaid.
Don't blame the people waiting in line at the DMV for being upset that you are so slow, that you don't care. Don't blame the people frustrated and hurting, waiting for an answer from the SSA that it seems like you don't care.
The point of contact for most people with the govt. is the lowest point on the Gvt. totem pole yet customer service in these areas is atrocious. They could take a clue from Sprint, Apple, T-Mobile and make daily interaction easier and less frustrating but they don't care. And the reason they don't care is because of the grip the unions have on them.

AB said...


I just wanted to make a few clarifications here. As is the case with any occupation, there is very little discernible "they." There is a we -- which is what this blogger was obviously a part of if he or she was there on Sunday -- and there are a lot of individuals and subgroups cycling in and out, their work often occurring invisibly, their conversations and plans spontaneous, sometimes invisible, occurring in provisional structures. If one wants a big picture one can work from an understanding of resolutions which have reached consensus, but even these in some ways are not fully or accurately indicative of who makes any "us" at any moment or what is the nature of any communal desire. I don't speak for an "us" here, but I also refuse in the circumstance the construct of the "they." To see a they, and a they who "should," is rather missing the point of the class struggle. I can, however, hope that whoever wrote this might be moved to engage in a more precise description and analysis -- and the first step of this might be the very basic understanding that in a group of this nature, there is much which can't be known by "dropping in" (and further, even if there is a more significant involvement, to remember that any description is only of a point in time of dynamic, fluid process). My experience is that at the occupations, it is only through the work that the thing can be known. In particular, these small occupations are very much things which refuse to become "spectacular" -- perhaps this is the first thing in my life that I've ever seen effectively resist this kind of flattening. It's a great opportunity to shift into a new mode of analysis.

It is important to note this because it seems like much of the information here is just wrong: for example, taking the street was not the first act of defiance: the first group act of civil disobedience was the erection of tents despite threats of arrest, and from what I understand talking to those who did this, they understood (and were willing to face arrest) what they were doing as a political act. Further, a more insidious inaccuracy here is the way that this post seems to erase or ignore the work of the people of color at Occupy KC, many of whom have devoted days, hours, and weeks of effort to working groups, ga's, maintaining the physical needs of the occupation. There are also conversations, actions, and plans about anti-racism in a number of working groups (education group, most notably, which is not only very made of diverse members, but sees anti-racism and anti-sexism, as an explicit reason for its existence ). There are a number of other inaccuracies here (that there are "spokespeople" or that there is no class analysis). I'd be happy to help out with what information I have from being there, doing some work, and talking to the people. -- Anne

AB said...

Out of a sense of justice I have to add one particular detail: When the tents went up in defiance of city ordinances and threats of arrest, one of the people willing to be a defender, and stand in the front line against the police, was a black man who was willing to risk arrest for the occupation despite years in the prison system and absolutely no personal resources to help him get out of jail if arrested. This was no story of a young white activist with a savings account to tap for bail -- his is very much, instead, a story of courage, and commitment after a life damaged by racial and economic injustice. His story is exactly the reason why it seems particularly malicious to both ignore the contributions of people of color at the occupations and ignore the facts around the issue of disobedience. While the risk of arrest might be minor for some occupiers because of race, wealth, or legal status, for others, there are much greater risks (and greater courage). I fear you are, by failing to see people of color and their commitment to the movement, simply reinforcing the racism you state you wish to condem. My recommendation is, again, to do the work if you wish to know the thing. Talk to the people, hear their stories, work alongside them, and realize, too, that a moment in a fluid group is mostly just a moment (though some moments, like the ones of defiance, stand out among the rest).

Oread Daily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oread Daily said...

I have tried to respond to these critiques in a comradely manner with a note attached to the original post.