The following is a statement by the National Committee of Bring the Ruckus on the current wave of occupations. A previous version of this article erroneously stated that there had been a publicly-acknowledged racist attack at Occupy Boston, and has since been removed.
a statement by the National Committee of Bring the Ruckus
We welcome the Occupy movement as we welcomed the Arab Spring.
In the space of a month it has leapt past the original call for Occupy Wall Street, to become a national and international manifestation. The seizure of public space - both physical and on-line - gives a space for open discussion of the crises facing the planet.
At the same time, the differences between the Occupies across the nation illustrates the problems and potentials before us. Occupy San Francisco appears more like left-over Burning Man moved to a narrow strip in front of the Federal Reserve Bank in the barren Financial District. A short BART ride away, Occupy Oakland has taken and will hold Oscar Grant Plaza right in front of City Hall - it is at the center of public space in Oakland, both physically and politically.
One exists after negotiations with the police chief; the other exists in a space where thousands refused to negotiate with the police, and have banned public officials from speaking to the General Assembly there.
We don't expect all the Occupies to be identical. The Occupy in Maquoketa, Iowa is different from the ones in Cedar Falls, Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City, the Quad Cities, and other Iowa towns. None of these or the thousand more in the U.S. existed a month ago; most political organizations wouldn't even have worked out what their name will be in a similar time span.
Perhaps one out of a hundred of the people who have thrown their bodies and minds into Occupy can state the original political demand, or the original group, that called for it (Adbusters magazine’s original call for Occupy Wall Street in mid-summer, 2011, sought to have Obama "ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington").
The upsurge has gone far beyond the original group and the original demand. It has not yet - in any of the Occupies - figured out what it will do, what it wants and what it will become. By refusing to narrow itself to a simple list of demands, programs and leaders, it confounds modern political society. That is a strength and a weakness. A weakness, in that those who already know what they want - the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO (which is already printing bumper stickers with an Occupy slogan), simple opportunists - are already coming at the movement with a vengeance.
The internal weaknesses of Occupy are already evident across the nation. When speakers from Occupy LA come to Oakland and point out "difficult conversations about white privilege", they're merely echoing the struggles that are occurring openly or beneath the surface in every Occupy. The white blinders range from allowing outright racist attacks in some locales (Philly, New York) and not exiling the perpetrators, to the continued and more subtle racist approach of negotiating and/or cooperation with police (Occupy Portland, L.A., Philly, ATL), to demanding that all who attend submit to the tedious and ridiculous jargon of consensus decision-making (every Occupy) and the continual problem of too many white dudes at the mic.
This new movement, like all progressive, radical and revolutionary movements in the U.S., will confront white supremacy squarely or it will fail. We welcome the organizing of People of Color caucuses and the leadership that they will bring to all Occupies, and we condemn all efforts to paint these caucuses as divisive or unproductive.
There are other problems and debates to be engaged. We are not trying to be exhaustive here, since the pace of organizing will throw up many more. Whether the Occupies can transform themselves into spaces of necessity and resistance, like the Hoovervilles of The Grapes of Wrath or the autonomous communities that have existed in many Black neighborhoods, we don't know.
No one demand, whether it is for a "Jubilee" of debt cancellation or others that we hope are raised, will necessarily unify and move us forward. We believe those demands that will confront capitalism, the state, and the police, and the strategies that arise from the struggles of those who have been struggling longest, will soon come forth.