Occupy Oakland activists take up the question of decision-making
Source Louis Proyect
Date 12/02/17/14:14

WE ARE A group of radical Oakland activists who have been involved
with Occupy Oakland from the very first days. We were previously
unknown to each other and met as a result of our frequent
participation in OO events and GAs. Two of us (a married couple)
moved in to the encampment on the second day at Oscar Grant Plaza
(OGP) and have attended all daily camp facilitation meetings and
most OO events since then. Another has been active in the POC
Committee and Children’s Village/Children Parents, and Allies
Committee. Another was involved within the labor community and in
the early days of the Move-In Committee.

In our individualistic culture, it is rare when radical activists
are able to pitch a big tent and draw in masses of people to the
cause. The early days of the Occupy movement provided one of
those rare opportunities. Occupy was the spark for the emergence
of a broad wave of anti-corporate, anti-repression sentiment in
our society. We are concerned that the inclusivity that began this
movement and contributed to its rapid growth is dying in OO as a
result of the dominant insurrectionist tendencies and the
“vanguardist” maneuvering and manipulations of some of its
proponents. Dramatically shrinking numbers reveal that this
ideology and organizing style either misreads the real political
situation in Oakland, or else underestimates the importance of
consolidating and advancing a broad, united and popular front. We
all collectively must take responsibility for this “hardening” and
shrinking of the OO ranks, and we must recognize that in trying to
re-make OO in an ideologically purist vision, we are destroying
our ability to garner the wide base of support and goodwill that
will be necessary to successfully resist corporate and state

Occupiers who have begun to question the decision-making processes
involved in recent actions like J28 are being asked, in the name
of unity, to maintain silence. We have been told that our
concerns will be dealt with, that there’s nothing to worry about,
and that we shouldn’t speak publicly about them. Yet we feel that
without transparency and open dialogue, the problems will only get
worse. We are speaking to everyone who still believes in Occupy
Oakland, but especially to those most active in the GA and various
committees who have the ability to help us make the kinds of
changes that would reassure the larger Bay Area community that
Occupy Oakland is still a wise place to invest its energy.

The four of us decided to speak out because we have each been
pushed to the margins of OO by ugly, ideological purification
behavior that often now takes place at the GAs and in groups like
the Move-In Committee, where dissenting voices are booed and
jeered and “group speak” and in-group relationships now dominate.
Please do not mistake our concerns as yet another attack on
anarchism or Black Bloc; it’s not about that at all. It’s about
the exclusionary strategies and tactics that alienate those of us
who are interested in a slower, more solid, more inclusive
approach of mass movement building.

What we are attacking is the acceptance and even rewarding of
undemocratic practices, and the lack of a system to repudiate both
these practices and the people who engage in them. It has been
clear for some time that a small group of people with similar
insurrectionist leanings have been actively manipulating the
process and promoting their own agenda. They have previous ties to
each other and many have careers in academia which provide them
the time and resources to devote their lives to the Occupy
movement in Oakland. These academic insurrectionist leaders thrive
in a climate of secrecy, and use vanguardist rhetoric and
practices to seize control of actions and messages with which OO
engages the public. Many of the most divisive and undemocratic
actions undertaken in the name of OO can be traced back to this
group, including: two non-sanctioned press conferences, including
the one for J28 in which outrageous threats and juvenile rants
were made in the name of Occupy Oakland; the secretive and
exclusionary planning of the strategy for J28 in which community
voices were systematically excluded from the inner workings; the
hijacking of the General Assembly during the second Port Shut
Down; and many smaller examples of non-democratic behavior. The
propaganda produced by these insurrectionist leaders reveals a
very narrow scope and embarrassingly juvenile self-aggrandizement.
They even brag of trashing City Hall in this piece. We strongly
believe that the struggle in Oakland should not be used to produce
what amounts to riot porn. This only serves to subvert the will
of the people here who are spending our time and energy to make OO
something that serves the community. It is safe to say that many
of us local activists and community members feel a sense of anger
and betrayal regarding the continued dominance of the collective
agenda by these forces.

Many in leadership positions don’t seem to want the discussion
about the future of OO or the Occupy movement to be about Black
Bloc tactics. We don’t want the discussion to be about some false
choice between Gandhian non-violence and “anything goes.” How
about if we all agree to change the subject?

Let’s talk about our visions of what OO should be. We have one: OO
could and should return to its origins as a broad mass of
anti-corporate, anti-repression forces. Our vision for the future
of Occupy Oakland is one of true radical inclusivity. We should
think of creative ways to include, democratically represent,
direct the energies of, and, yes, increasingly radicalize this
amazingly diverse group. OO could evolve into a coordinating
council for autonomous affinity groups, vetting, approving and
organizing coordinated actions in OO’s name. This would allow
political tendencies to form ideologically pure affinity groups if
they wish, and to have a seat at the table. But we should all
agree not to try to control the table.

We are asking for help from those of you who have been at the
center of OO from the beginning and love the potential this
movement has to create lasting, real change. We understand that
you all played a big role in pitching the Occupy tent, one that is
unfortunately smaller now than it should be. Help bring us all
back inside. This is not a matter of individual personalities or
power trips. This is a profound historical moment in our
community. This is a real political and ideological struggle with
real consequences. The time has come for us to make choices, make
the correct ones and make them now or the moment will pass. We are
ready to help bring people back into the OO tent with you. We are
excited about this moment, and our future.

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