on the intellectual basis of OWS...
Understanding the Occupy Wall Street movement has been characterized as damn near impossible - how do you meaningfully parse a loosely associated group of frustrated persons unified by themes of gripery? Or so most media and pundit outlets (including a lot of Leftist pundits) have it.
But this is simply wrong.
Whatever one thinks of OWS and the emergent Occupy protests nationwide and worldwide, it has an organizational structure and a protest culture and an ethos that is entirely understandable and has been the subject of analysis. The people behind OWS were, most of them anyway, people with various degrees of involvement in the WTO protests. Naomi Klein has written many popular articles, essays, and a book on that, and many of her descriptions of the culture, ethos, and "theory" in WTO camps easily applies to the OWS movement. But if you really want to understand OWS, you need to read two works by radical anthropologist David Graeber:
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
Direct Action: An Ethnography
Graeber has been a part of the OWS movement from the beginning, planning stages. When you read OWS literature on their organizational structure and process, it is like re-reading Graeber's works above in abbreviated form. The culture and ethos of OWS are also exactly the sort of thing Graeber describes and analyses in his books.
There is no doubt in my mind that most of the disaffected youth showing up to OWS and other Occupy protests don't know this. Most of them are completely unformed by radical political circles and radical political theory (including anarchist practice and theory). But this hasn't stopped the mechanisms in place which are through-and-through the sort of anarchism Graeber has parsed like no one else.
Now, one caveat. What is said above is certainly true at the larger Occupy protests - OWS, Occupy LA, Chicago, Portland, etc. It is less true in some of the smaller outlets, particularly in certain regions. Because of the consensus model used, to retain that WTO-to-OWS particular anarchist ethos seems to require a significant number of persons with those sensibilities present at the beginning stages. But in areas where there are not so many persons with those sensibilities or experience with those sorts of protest cultures, the OWS model can be prodded to veer in other directions, or get caught up in debates which can create a "theory" quagmire for a local protest. Here in Memphis there are a number of Ron Paul disciples involved in Occupy Memphis, and debate has occurred on whether or not ending the Fed should be a basic part of the Occupy Memphis platform. This is no surprise as the Paulites are very active in Memphis and the South is, of course, infested with white people who love Ron Paul (and, for whatever it's worth, the Occupy Memphis working groups and general assemblies have been whiter than a loaf of Wonder Bread, which has created some angst considering the irony of a bunch of white people claiming to represent the 99% in a city that is less than 30% non-Hispanic white). Perhaps the libertarians have more influence only in those areas lacking anarchist troops on the ground. Perhaps this will result in splits within the Occupy movement. For instance, in Dallas, there is both an Occupy Dallas, and an Occupy Dallas Federal Reserve (read more here, and note that the OWDallasFedReserve Facebook page links to libertarian and 9/11 truther Alex Jones' website).
But aside from that caveat, I think the intellectual and theoretical basis for OWS is undeniably there, and that we are talking about a theoretical tradition that is much more developed than most commenters on OWS seem to understand.
I write this as a communist who, though a Wobbly, is not an anarchist and is inclined to choose Marx and Engels over Proudhon and Bakunin. But, disagree with the anarchists on some matters or not, they have a theory and a functional protest praxis, and this should be acknowledged by pundits and intellectuals who presume to articulate a meaningful assessment of OWS.
Update: More on the Paulites within an Occupy protest.
Posted by Unknown at 10.10.11