5 years after we Occupied Everywhere

The other day I was walking through Amsterdam with a friend and as we were passing Beursplein I thought back to one October morning when thousands of people converged to Occupy the square. And I realised that said morning – 15th October 2011 – was five years ago give or take a few days. I mentioned this to my friend but he said “Yes but what was achieved after everything?”

I didn’t give an answer because I didn’t have one. But it set me thinking. Ok, the revolutionary year has led, either directly or indirectly, to some terrible outcomes, e.g. civil wars in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Yemen; authoritarian and sometimes quasi-fascist regimes in Egypt, Turkey, Hungary, the disunited kingdom; plus some electoral scares elsewhere such as Austria and amerika. Nowhere has the burden of the capitalist crisis/heist been shifted onto Capital. All this being said, it has also led to some positive legacies, Rojava being the most promising, but also the PAH in Spain along with the municipalist experiments, and several liberated factories where workers and communities have reclaimed them from anti-productive capitalists (e.g. the VioMe coop and solidarity support is still preventing the theft of their facility).

But the reason I couldn’t give an answer to my friend is that simply listing the long-term outcomes seems to insult the importance of an amazing process as it was happening back then. It doesn’t feel right to try to do a results-based evaluation as if it was a marketing campaign, or lobbying service, where we ascribe value (‘evaluate’) to effects, count them against the others on offer, and ‘choose’ the most cost-effective product on the market.

The Movement of the Squares came 3 years into an economic crisis/heist and was a game changer in calling out the classed nature of state-imposed response. The elite, as a political-economic class, controlled wealth and governments and were shifting the costs of economic contraction onto the rest of us – us who had prior to this been silent or even not realised that we belonged in the same category until then. All this changed when the Movement announced itself loudly and very visibly, whether in the form of Mohamed Bouazizi the street vendor setting himself alight after being harassed by local officials and his goods confiscated, the M15 setting up camp opposite parliament and proclaiming “They call it democracy and it isn’t”, coupled with “It’s not a crisis but a scam”, or in the Occupations bringing the spotlight onto massive financial powerhouses of the 1% and declaring “We are the 99%”. It was no longer a case of pressuring governments to modify this or that particular policy or measure, but a proclamation that the entire system where governments who claim to represent the will of the people but who in reality implement the will of Global Capital had to change.

And on top of this, once given form in the shape of slogans or tactics the ideas seemed to take on a life wholly independent of those who coined them. Choose the metaphor you want – wave, forest fire, virus, whichever – but once it had been ignited the contagion was unstoppable. One man’s protest in Tunisia almost immediately inspired and empowered the multitude across north Africa and the Persian Gulf, then Madrid and Athens once infected became epicentres, and then Wall Street and then countless squares across Europe, Anglo- and Latin America and beyond were simultaneously Occupied on the morning of 15 October. In the days coming up to that date I remember reading messages about the different occupations being proposed under the phrase ‘Occupy Everywhere’ and thinking ‘Yes, this is it, this is the revolution we have been hoping for. It is global, it is one, it is autonomous, and is – we are – unstoppable. The world is transformed’.

The fact that it turned out to be in fact quite stoppable is irrelevant to how things looked at the time – for those of us involved in whatever way, the horizon of what was believed to be possible was completely exploded. This was a libertarian and anti-capitalist revolution, on a scale what was imminently global, intimately connected yet perfectly autonomous, where within the one revolt each confluence freely and radically democratically decides what to do and how to do it in their context. It was real, it was happening, the realisation of the Alter-globalist phrase “One No and many Yesses”, and the Zapatistas’ “world where many worlds fit”, all of which were identified in signs and human mics naming the one and many enemies: austerity, banks, budget cuts, the IMF, capitalism, debt, greed, the EU, money, corporate-controlled democracy, war, Sarkozy and Merkel, cannabis prohibition, fascism, the Bloomberg conspiracy, Draghi, the Germans, chemtrails, … Ok, the list contains some dubious candidates. But the point is is that they were allowed to fit. And in being spoken at assemblies the dreams, visions, and theories of a radically better world that all of us had been building inside us – some of us for years, others only recently becoming politicised – suddenly were no longer dreams and theories but concrete possibilities. They were happening. And that is the ember that still burns however quietly and clandestinely, long after the inferno has been contained. Although 2011 failed, we know that the smallest protest with the most moderate demands contains the possibility for a world transformed.

Speaking from inside: two statements from prison movements

I came across two statements worth sharing today. The first is from the Korydallos Womens’ Prison in Greece, where prisoners have been protesting for months about issues of overcrowding, excercise facilities, and medical mismanagement. It is significant that the highest concentration of solidarity actions with the US prison strike have come from Athens, many of them from inside prisons. Therefore it is only right that the rest of us share the stories of the struggles in greek prisons. Text shared from InsurrectionNews:

On Friday Oct. 14th a delegate from the Ministry of Justice came to the women’s prison as per our request. During the meeting we discussed in depth our issues and proposed solutions in order to re-allocate the prison space and satisfy the needs of women prisoners. The main issues concern the integration of the story below our wing into the women’s prison in order to achieve decongestion as well as the necessity of an area for our yard time where we could spend time outside in humane conditions. The discussion moved within the framework of providing information without the ministry making any commitment. However, there was a mutual understanding of our fair demands and a promise to provide solutions to our problems. Until those promises become actions we decided to continue our mobilizing which basically means that the prison will remain open during midday lock down and delay evening lock down by one hour.

Korydallos Women’s Prison

And secondly, The Ferguson National Response Network have issued a call for support for Joshua Williams, jailed for taking part in the Ferguson uprising in response racial murder by police. He has been placed in level 5 custody with violent offenders. The message is simple – if you protest against the institutions of the state you can be tossed in the worst parts of prison where fuck knows what will happen you. Call shared from itsgoingdown.

From Ferguson National Response Network

Josh Williams, who was jailed for his role in the Ferguson uprising, has been placed in level 5 of the prison, a violent environment which threatens his safety, and is asking for help in first getting moved to a different level, and also to be moved to another prison closer to home.

Phone numbers: (573)-751-2389 and (573)-751-3222

Emails: constituentservices@doc.mo.gov, InspectorGeneral@doc.mo.gov, comofc@oa.mo.gov, doc.media@doc.mo.gov

Message: “Hello, I am a concerned citizen contacting you on behalf of Joshua Williams #1292002, who is currently housed at the ERDCC in Bonne Terre, MO. Joshua Williams has been unjustly housed with violent offenders in level 5 at this facility, when he should be in level 2. Joshua Williams is a non-violent, wrongly convicted young man with no priors. Because the prison has jeopardized the safety of Joshua Williams and housed him haphazardly, we are also demanding that Joshua Williams be transferred to a facility closer to his home in St Louis, MO.

We need Joshua Williams transferred from level 5 to level 2, and his transfer papers should be approved and in process immediately.

I need this message to be passed on to the director, deputy director, and any other parties who can expedite this process. This is an emergency and of the utmost importance.”

You can also drop Josh a line with a few words of support at:

Josh Williams #1292002
E.R.D.C.C.
2727 Highway K
Bonne Terre, MO 63628

ONLINE OCT 19, 20, 21 Flood the Phones for Joshua Williams Call 573-751-2389 or 573-751-3222

Best of September

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“Dignity can’t be imprisoned” – banner drop in Korydallos Prison in Athens in solidarity with prison strike in US. Image from insurrectionnews.

The event of the month this month in my opinion is the prison strike in the US. I’m not getting great coverage of it here but the following articles are worth sharing: a good introduction piece here about slave labour and the prison industrial complex and the organising (or lack thereof) which led up to September 9th, although it was published on the first day of the strike so probably out of date at this stage and doesn’t really tell us anything about what happened. A more recent discussion article about reasons why women prisoners are not joining the strike in large numbers (yet!), most of the reasons rooted in patriarchal nature of grievances and tactics, and an exploration of ‘everyday resistance’ and how the movement might strategise around this. And finally a really useful summary of events day-by-day, and and most importantly with resources for how you can help. Support-wise, it is a bit US focused, but there are somethings there that people elsewhere can use. As I said, with lack of media interest it is kind of difficult keeping track of what is going on there. If somebody does have some good overview readings on the strike – preferably ones that don’t rely on the US dept of justice or other official sources for their info – then please do share.

On the same note, I haven’t come across any really good writings on the protests following the latest killings of black lives by police in the US, so please share if you have one or two to recommend.

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A huge demonstration against racism in Helsinki following a recent murder by militant far right group. Image by @yonatankelib.

The best thing I read this month came out just on the last day of September: a piece written by a group of militant organisers trying to organise among the low-wage immigrant working class in London. The focus of the article is about a text written in the 1970s by a US group – the Sojourner Truth Organisation – who had similar objectives, on the subject of how race and class intersect and the challenges this poses for collective consciousness. The London group discuss how the Sojourner Truth Org document is relevant and not in their context, what potential and problems there is for race-focused campaigns in London (such as Black Lives Matters in the US), and what are their principal challenges to organising with immigrant workers in racist UK.

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Although not as lively as the strikes that brought France to a standstill in June, the movement against the Loi Travail continues. Image liberated from Liberation.

And another late post is the transcript of a 1994 talk about similarities between Marx and Kropotkin, and their shared visions of moneyless, stateless communism. Fair play to the libcom library crew for digging this one out.

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Demonstration in Poland in June against restrictive abortion laws. Polish women are to initiate a work stoppage Monday 3rd October in response to recent proposals to further restrict and criminalise abortion – essentially a complete ban. Image shared from Lebedev’s notindependent.co.uk.

Elsewhere:

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Banner to commemorate Abdelssalam Eldanf. Shared from Struggles in Italy.
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Two YPJ (Womens Defense Units) soldiers take a break from defending Rojava’s experiment in autonomous democratic confederalism from both ISIL and Turkey to raise fists in solidarity with Irish campaign to legalise abortion. The sign reads in Irish “There is no Liberation without Womens Liberation”, above “Repeal the 8th”, a reference to the 8th amendment to the irish constitution outlawing abortion. Image shared from wsm.ie.