TOTW - Where did we go wrong

  • Posted on: 25 February 2018
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

For better or for worse anarchists are lauded with the responsibility for the failure and success of the Occupy movement. We can squirm at this but there is one point that is worth reflecting on. For the past decade anarchists (and friends) have argued, when asked and involved, for a "no demands" attitude towards the MSM and agents of the state. We understand, and agree, that this is aligned with an anarchist approach to politics (ie only negative).

But has it been effective? If the effectiveness of Occupy is measured by tents on the ground, or the length of time people used the word Occupy in a sentence how was the uncompromising "no demands" attitude of anarchists helpful or not? How about the argument that politicians were probably willing, in certain cities, to dish out money for a reform or two, maybe even a building or two, which could have been the foundation of a movement along a certain line (say homelessness) but was never on the table and therefore never even discussed.

Is the no demands attitude and practice helping anarchists maintain our political line or is it isolating us from possible allies who might take our ideas seriously if we were willing to actually help them out? Have we been clear enough in our messaging about why we don't want to negotiate with authority in the first place?



The problem is not in "no demand" attitude. The problem is that it is only half of the attitude anarchism needs.
The second half is creating our own reality, our own life. "No demands" cannot be considered under assumption that the capital and the state are the only source of resources. The thing is we have to build our own economy, our own industry, our own material and immaterial civilization base.
Only then, "no demands" will make full sense. This bird needs two wings to fly: radical separation from the old world of power and equally radical building of new world in all its dimensions.

This is what we try to support in our work at

What percentage of parts are made in China or is this the sound of one wing clapping?

This is quite an underinformed and possibly reality-detached, if poetic, question. Look at yourself, comrade and tell yourself, how much of your personal belongings are made outside of capitalist system (why China should be singled out?).
Now, the question is whether you want to change it or not. The choice is yours, as the consequences are. Whatever is your perspective, I respect it -- even if I do not share it.

not sure if this is what you meant, but china is not outside of the capitalist system.

I agree. What I mean, it is is not about China only.
We start from what we have -- building stuff from components coming from capitalist world. But already we work on technologies which will be available for local communities and will be capitalism-free. This is a Very Long March, but unless we start, we will never finish it.

"Halg-baked" is indeed a term that's accurate enough to characterize what Occupy was, in a few words.

Like you know... when your loaf of bread didn't rise in the oven coz you still don't get how to prepare the dough.

I can bake bread AMA!

Since 1826, the bakers and pastry chefs of Paris have only half-cooked all their dough

I have no problem with demands in and of themselves but if there is no implicit threat behind them than what do you get? Either nothing or something worse than you started with. And that just assumes the demand is the right one.

If every occupation had the hindsight to demand a building, no strings attached that sounds like one hell of an idea. But that sort of hindsight still isn't even possible, liberals don't want self management. They want representation. They still want politicians to "do something." It is just a disconnect with what demands look like. I could easily imagine the liberals in those occupations saying something like "that would be a selfish demand." Even now! And it's because they conceptualize themselves completely different. And that is assuming the anarchists in those occupations would have even been smart enough to come up with self sustaining demands (unlikely)

Maybe the answer is, we should come up with better ways to articulate what we want and how we desire getting there. I say we very loosely.

Initially, there was a collective. This collective proved to be significant. This collective had collective energy. The collective had community. Yes, we can do this. Yes, we can but I'm telling you to do this: it's up to EACH of us, right? That killed it! People made their excuses and left others to carry the can. I'm too busy right now? Next week would be better? I've got a test in college next week etc etc. Until many more are in the shit, westerners will not stick together through thick and thin, there ain't enough poor yet. The Panthers nearly took off but insider power struggles brought that down.

This is bullshit. If anything, I would identify this attitude as, not the cause of the death of Occupy, but the nail in its coffin. Occupy was built on the ideas of consensus and independent action. You were always allowed to engage in actions which were not approved by the GA, and *people did*. Some of the best shit to come out of OO was shit that was never even proposed at the GA, let alone passed. You didn't have to go to the GA to set up a new tent, or a workshop, or a march, or a McDonalds takeover, or whatever, people would just fucking do it. The GA was always a forum and a means of representing the few things we basically all agreed on, not a governing body, and this crap about "the collective over the individual" completely ignores this fact.

Story time: The last GA in OO I went to, when the camp was gone and the numbers were dwindling, someone (fuck if I know who) decided to switch up the style, and everyone broke into small groups of ~5, and each group would send up one person to speak and summarize the points that were made in the group. I figured, hey, why not give it a shot, and sought out a group where I knew no one. The point of discussion they were talking about was at a recent FTP march where someone got arrested with "a quarter stick of dynamite" (which is what the police call an M80 firecracker), and how OO should respond. I said my piece, that anyone is allowed to show up to these marches, and anyone can tag the name "Occupy" on them, so it's silly to think that OO needs a position on it. After all, we're just a bunch of individuals trying to do something together. Nobody disagreed. We wrapped up the conversation, and someone volunteered to summarize, and went up to speak. This volunteer proceeded to say the exact opposite of what I had just said -- "We need to remember Occupy isn't about individuals, it's about the collective, and we need to do this and we need to do that and yadda yadda yadda." After the GA, there was a band from Germany visiting (their claim to fame being they opened for ATR or something), who wanted to see Occupy. They start playing their set, but the crowd was just dead. Multiple times throughout the show, the lead singer would say things like "Should we just stop?" "This feels kind of sad" or "Do people just want to go home?" Each time, the crowd would respond No, keep going! Keep playing! This is fun! And each time, the band would play the next song, with a growing sense of unease, then disappointment on their faces. I believe they made it through the whole set list like this.

Like I said, last GA I ever went to, and also the least enjoyable, but it was also extremely insightful.

"Do people just want to go home?" lmao so sad, so on point

Fuckin' spooks are everywhere!

I threw myself in to this occupy crap at the time and it wasn't the anarchist praxis of NO DEMANDS that killed it IMO: more of a basic problem of the fizzling out of the energy. The vast majority of the people there, couldn't sustain their interest beyond a few days or at best, weeks and any bargaining power we theoretically had was the result of this paper tiger at the beginning.

With that in mind, it would make sense to try and grab any resources while the getting was good. A deliberately two-faced approach where the black flag crowd rattles the sabre and looks all menacing, then the more respectable looking, friendly, hippy activists extort the larger sympathetic community for resources.

For this to happen, these two extremely antagonistic tendencies within "the movement" would have to acknowledge their fucked-up, symbiotic relationship. That's pretty damned unlikely because everybody is too petty and proud but what a masterpiece of a scam it would be!

Agree pretty much. Use the societal outrage in the initial confusion to grab real things whether it be money , a mass outlet or anything currently out of our reach.

I actually agree with your last point. There needs to be dynamic relationship between inner civil libertarians and anarchists and outer civil anarchists and anarchs. I'm not on the civil side but I do think they could be much more effective if they focused on things like nullification and law abolition as opposed to state cheese bread and butter issues as well as identity enfranchisement. Just get rid of the laws and let the anarchic play.

hippies extort the sympathetic community? what? this is like your ideal solution? have you ever been extorted by a hippie? fuck that... have you ever tried to have a conversation with one? seriously what are you talking about/advocating here?

Nothing about mass movements is "ideal". Yes, I've been extorted by a hippy before but I wasn't advocating being on the receiving end of it. Sorry that hustling is such a foreign concept to you? That must be nice.

"No demands" makes sense in certain contexts (where there's a big sell-out left, like Italy or Greece in the 80s) but I don't see why anarchism wouldn't be compatible with demands in some circumstances. In particular, anarchism creates autonomous zones, the "demand" is to leave them alone. People like Le ZAD and the Zapatistas make these kinds of demands. It's not the same as demanding the state solve our problems, it's about creating a boundary the state respects.

This said, I think Occupy went wrong for several reasons.

1. It was trying to hold high-value spaces in contexts where the spaces had no particular strategic function. It wasn't blocking anything, it wasn't disrupting anything. If the point was to create another world then it would have been better to occupy out-of-the-way spaces which the state wouldn't want back so desperately.

2. Too much idpol. Some of the idpol in Occupy was the work of undercovers. But, anarchists are far too tolerant of idpol, and its sectarianism undermined the movement. Read "Who is Oakland" for example. More generally, the procedure-fetish undermined the creation of an insurgent timespace.

3. The state had a good strategy, tolerate at first but keep up the pressure, cause constant stress so people burn-out, then when the movement is weaker, attack. We didn't have a counter-strategy against this. And, yeah, people's short attention spans contributed to this. (States similarly waited out events like the 2008 Greek revolt, the 2005 French banlieue revolt, and the 2011 UK uprising).

Compare this with, say, Le Zad, or the Bolivian Gas War, or the Zapatistas, or British anti-road protests, or European squatters' movements in the 1980s. Differences? 1) they focused on occupying low-value spaces and sometimes on causing disruption in this way; 2) they had some kind of subsistence base or local support network which provided goods outside of capitalism, which sustained resistance over longer time periods; 3) they were focused on action, not procedure; and 4) they had counter-strategies for when the state attacked (generally, impose costs, regroup and occupy elsewhere). Some had demands, some refused demands, but they persisted for longer than Occupy, and some of them won.

It's almost as if an occupation needs longterm logistical and strategic planning!? Seriously though, without getting too deep in to military analogies, the basic needs of groups of people are pretty damned obvious.

Food, shelter, community and how to sustain these things over time, which includes defending the space. The procedural sideshow and seeming decision-making of the GA is a minor detail in comparison. Failure is guaranteed if you can't prioritize accordingly.

GA by themselves aren't doomed to become this horrible, disheartening display of "prodecuritis" as seen produced by academic kids who don't get a sense of real-life issues or at best treating them separately. It depends what stakes are involved, their intensity... Get a GA of people putting their handguns on the table and dicussing issues of millon-dollars drug deals, and you're sure not to have stupid Robert code fanaticism or whatever. Are big corporate meetings following such schizo-paranoid codes anyways? I doubt so.

So as long as you stay away from meetings with privileged kids enforcing their bullshit, there ight be a chance for constructive GAs.

I meant to write "proceduritis".

If the procedure and facilitation are loose and the meeting still accomplished all of its goals. that one person, radicalized in occupy, will always complain.

This is the legacy of occupy.

Lol, @critic, if only you'd know about the actual demands that ZAD occupiers were coming up with... Not sure if NA anglo anarchos would have got the humor.

"Is the no demands attitude and practice helping anarchists maintain our political line or is it isolating us from possible allies who might take our ideas seriously if we were willing to actually help them out?"

Allies wut? We don't need slaves who're accepting compromise with dominant politics. They're more likely to be needing us.

"Have we been clear enough in our messaging about why we don't want to negotiate with authority in the first place?"

No we haven't. That's why Occupy Mtl was dealing with cops and city admins, as well as allowing neofascist elements in its midst. Next time start off from an anarchist perspective, and not some bullshit paper-thin socialist one, coming from abhorrent antisemite Lefties like Kalle Lasn. Hopefully if there's a "next time".

Occupy has failed not due to its anarchistic aspect, but rather its non-anarchistic aspects... like collaborating with municipal authorities and the pigs in many cases, nonviolence cult, alienating (and sickening) assembly structures, etc. Even doing assemblies was a cause of failure. Debord was right about the idea of making assemblies permanent, 24/7, in the way of dissolving the relational separation between (1) the assembly as a punctual political process and (2) daily life.

Social arrests in the space of openings o the public place = perfekt move! But just do it right, and with a clear aim, or else a cohesive function.

successful long-term strategy, and won. Shelter & a community of supporters supplying the figure-protester with solidarity, food, clothes, water, removal of waste, latest news, etc. Demands were clear too. Also, Ted K was successful. He strategy was clear: getting his manifesto printed in full in the mainstream press. If it wasn't for his brother, who knows. Occupy was littered with hobbyists and 15 minutes of fame. No clarity. No rules.

Now could I manage to live +40 mostly-miserable years on this Earth and not meeting with Butterfly to become her Alex Berkman 'til death? Should be my life's purpose! Got some stuff to catch up to, now...

But EF! as went way too liberal and into IP witchunts no? They fucking ditched Roy Coronado over sexual misconduct claims (that were obviously The Truth because they came from women or LGTBQ people!).

Coronado was a creep. Yeah there was some liberal identity stuff related to how some people talked about his creepiness, but he was still a huge creep.

I think the whole believing people about sexual assault is about how you approach supporting someone who experienced it, not how you deal with the accused. But, in this case Rob didnt seem to care about how he made people feel so why keep someone like that around?

Yeah, because anarchists are meant to care how people feel. Fascists feel pain when you punch them in the face. Pigs get upset when you call them names. Punk never offended anyone either. Who cares about the fact that life on earth is about to go extinct, let's make sure nobody ever upsets anyone.

you know Rod, I hadnt considered that. maybe its ok to pressure people into having sex. caring for someone who had that happen is just as ridiculous as caring for cops and nazis.

>anarchist you disagree with = Nazi

Yeah we saw at the bookfairs this year how that ends. This is why the real Nazis are kicking our butts right now.

Death to idpol.

If you're an anarchist, and someone is pressuring you to do something you don't want to do, you tell them to fuck off.

This patriarchal myth that women are too weak and too socially conditioned to act like anarchists and naturally deferential because of muh patriarchy, therefore we all need to introduce backdoor statism to protect them is no more progressive for its being promoted by self-styled feminists than it would be if it was being imposed by Christians or Muslims.

Noooo... We just need some Allied pigs who'll be playing queer and benefit from the overwhelming trust of the potential victim in order to abuse her himself!


Yeah, because you can have anarchist spaces and trust everyone. Idiot.

It takes time to learn who you can trust. Ban-fever is no substitute for actually building affinity.

If the guy can't be trusted, then tell people he can't be trusted. (Like you need to, after his name's been smeared across the internet). No need for bans just in case people are still stupid enough to trust the person they've been told a hundred times not to trust. i.e. destroying anarchist models of organisation just to "stay safe".

By the way, how do you idiots plan to have any kind of universal rights or services or inclusive anything, if you're banning anyone who breaches your behavior codes? Even liberals and social-democrats believe in *some* basic rights. Even serial killers still have a right to free speech, free health care, food, shelter and so on. But neoliberalism destroys this, and idpol accepts the destruction of any kind of social baseline because it helps them to purge the scum. But then what? What happens to the bad people in your utopia, when they're banned from all your collectives or syndicates or bolos or whatever? They all starve to death because the food collectives won't serve them? They get thrown in the sea? Exiled to some outlaw space? Gassed? Do tell us, please.

And having sympathy with someone is not the same as going round banning people.

You idpol snowflakes need to realise that your agenda of banning anyone who isn't ideologically perfect is actually KILLING PEOPLE. Homeless people turned away from shelters because they're drunk or they have a rep for aggression. People denied welfare or medical treatment because they're too rude. Have you even TRIED working with homeless people, or refugees, or street children? There's so much aggression and "microaggression", an idpol would faint in three seconds. You are part of the genocidal behaviorist project. Zero tolerance for the real social effects of poverty and despair. And dressing it up as solidarity with the oppressed (meaning: middle-class people upset by bad words, displays of anger, or bad sexual etiquette) makes no difference. You're the fucking Nazi.

"Homeless people" aren't into one of our pre-selected categories of Oppressed and Survivors, no matter how street people are de facto survivors of society's oppression but hey, who the fuck exists outside our social categories anyways? Humans? What is that? There's just the good, goood LGBTQ and POCs, and the baad baad White males. Look... they're living miserable lives in the streets? You'd better believe it's their fault becoz they've been oppressing us for ages!

Omigod omigod, them gnarly lumpen r sooo triggering.

"Coronado was a creep. Yeah there was some liberal identity stuff related to how some people talked about his creepiness, but he was still a huge creep"

So in a nutshell:

1- Coronado was a creep
2- Creepiness due to a bunch of ID pol millenials bad-mouthing him
3- He was still a creep tho!
4- Was okay to trash such a huge eco-insurgent because he felt like a creep to us... And was also into having sex with women so that's creepy... eeewww!

"Julia Butterfly Hill and EF had a
successful long-term strategy, and won. "

seriously? your idea of winning is pretty bizarre.

wait. i thought they delayed it long enough until someone paid off the loggers and they didnt cut

group of all? Many groups implode on purism. I love Julia Hill's determined stance. Apparently, her health has suffered due to tactics used by the logging company. I would add that she developed a real relationship with 'nature' due to the length of stay away from all the distractions on her thinking. She was able to literally see and know the simple truth of biodiversity. She said she was willing to die. That's full on. We are not prepared to die until it's too late.

yeah i dont think the problem is demands or no demands or .023 demands or what ever. the problem is looking at it within a political framework at all where such rhetoric as demands do or do not acquire popularity, meaning and force. it is a mistake to think you can run with leftists and not have them try to turn you over to the cops eventually. i don't know what else it should have been , my personal involvement was pretty tangential. but i think even for those of us of whom such can be said, the best we can say is that we learned things, that we passed through intensive situations that changed us, made or broke relationships, that opportunities were there to communicate with each other rather than 'society at large', 'the masses', the 'powers that be' or whoever the fuck that either doesn't exist and/or we don't really want to talk to anyway. i think it's from here that any analysis of success and failure ought to start, although naturally - it seems to me - a rather personal answer and not something susceptible of a broad, sweeping analysis...i know i saw small handfuls of people set some pretty impressive events in motion, we didn't give a fuck what anyone thought, our project was to as much as possible to stop time, to interrupt the flow of capitalist functionality in our own lives much as in the spaces we took over. and i saw it all fizzle out under the demand for a political agenda, i saw some horrific backstabbing go down. while insurrectionary momentum was underway, configuring its own possibilites of action and solidarity, no one could stop us we just flowed around and started again somewhere else; once we started turning on each other - predictable as clockwork, once the @s pushed it to a place the tankies weren't comfortable with - it was dead before the cops shut it down.

They should have had hot showers and soap at the occupied zone, we're not freaking homeless bums, we're exceptional folk with a sensitive hygiene culture.

see bolo'bolo section on hygiene or B is for body odor in days of war nights of love

Yeah... but you're a socio-sanitary fascist. Tho that's another issue I guess.

I'd be less harmful to anarchists as a socio-sanitary fascist than as an individualist-ebola infected liberal at an Antifa rally.

I was in a great many Occupy DC actions from the start of it through the Siege of the Koch Brothers "defending the AmeriKKKan Dream" convention, the Battle of the Barn, the siege of the Alfalfa Club, the Feb 4 2012 police raid, and so much more. Though I did not camp with them(I have my elderly mother to look after too) I made a point of getting my ass in the grass as much as I could when it counted. When the deadline to break camp came and the Tent of Dreams went up, I was there. In fact, too many of us can't say the magic words "I was there" and that limited anarchist influence over Occupy.

The irony is that while the pre-existing anarchist movement fed only a few people into Occupy DC, Occupy DC fed a number of still-active fighters into the anarchist movement here. By the Battle of the Gap on Mayday 2013, many were experienced veterans of years of street action. This was right after Gap labels were found in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh where over 1,000 workers died. Organizers diverted the 2013 Mayday march to the Gap, and furious protesters stormed the building in two waves, the second wave going right through the police line. That day was more than rough but we had little to complain about in the final outcome of the fight. Two weeks later some of us were right back at the GAP at a protest by an unrelated labor group.


Luke From DC are you part of the *radical* dog walking collective copying pasta the wiki page?

All of what I said about Occupy DC I saw with my own eyes, and in some cases my own hands

model of occupation has got to be the most difficult to maintain in the long term except in some rare places around the world. I don't see the Occupy movement as a failure because I never believed it was anything more than a temporary fight with authority and not a permanent seizure of the commons. Who is occupying public space illegally? Homeless people are living in places for years at a time as the surplus population of homeless, jobless people grows. Of course food not bombs provides them some logistical support as a praxis. I think you need to know what you want out of the occupation, a place to live, a fight with authority, provide logistical support to existing squatters? Some of us are already living in shanty towns and tents but it would be nice to have a building or a collective house yes? Someone mentioned building dual power which is not a new idea, maybe we need more business majors and less philosophers? What type of anarchist run businesses already exist, publishing, coffee shops, bookstores, farms and communes?

This kind of protest used to work. Occupations of public space which lasted for years or even decades, relying on civil rights to protest. The Aboriginal tent embassy opposite the Australian parliament. The rolling picket of the South African embassy in London. The Greenham Common peace camp. Brian Haw's anti-war camp in Parliament Square. The difficulty is that the state became more repressive and started banning this kind of thing. Occupy used this model, I think, in imitation of the Arab Spring and the Indignados. But these involved much larger numbers, and (in the Arab Spring) clearer goals, and they defended their spaces a lot more effectively. Actually this protest model goes back at least as far as Tiananmen Square, and is standard in the US "color revolution" playbook (e.g. Maidan Square). It's effective as a mass convergence on a still-active centre of political power, calling for regime change or reform - especially if the global media are supportive. But Occupy wasn't aimed at regime change or reform, it didn't have global media support, it didn't have mass-scale involvement, and there's no real centre of power in postmodern societies.

I agree that the revolutionary constituency today is the "surplus population" (unemployed, landless, homeless etc). This is clear from movements like the Arab Spring, MEND, etc.

Homeless land/building occupations are an established protest form in the global South - Brazil, the rest of South Aermcai, South Africa, India. It's worth looking how it's done. First off, the strategic places to occupy are abandoned buildings, brownfield sites and peripheries of cities - where the regulation is least. Secondly, occupations need to be physically defended. One of the most effective defences is to block roads in the area in the event of eviction attempts. It's worth studying and importing these movements I think. As well as housing, free sustainable services are an important part of autonomous survival. Water, heat, food, healthcare. And America actually has the potential for rural drop-out communities still, to a greater extent than Europe. People can seize or buy land and live off-grid.

Which is the reason why, ultimately, the TAZ strategy is a failure. What bothers Power is what seeks to challenge permanent character of State power, what seeks to STAY, and become a decisive cancer to socail order. Jean Quan and her cronies from a bunch of other city councils have probably figured that soon enough... or the FBI sent them a memo. The idea of making an autonomy village at the very center of a big city is a great idea, just that the way it was executed... the suspicious people involved... the extreme tactic-makes-strategy approach.... it was all wrong. What was even more is the fact that it wasn't picked upon, improved, reproduced in the months that followed.

The ZAD had the same approach than the Barcelona approach of countering repression: you evict us? Ok, we'll just move to another place in the area, or occupy some other place the next week. You don't need heavily-armed occupiers ready to sitck it to the The Man in a fiery Michael Bay-esque firestorm, you just need people and intent to make it persist. THAT is takign the insanity to the next level.

As president of the New Jersey Turnpike Anarcho-Hoboists Association (NJTAHA) we've been doing this shit since the Pilgrims landed, that's why Thanksgiving Day is sooo important as a traditional feast and time for drinking 24/7 365 days a year. We take our historical conquest of this our sovereign land and possession seriously and make sure the indigenous people hand over their wealth to us,,,,,,or else!


Also, great issues in your punctuation, pedant.

Le Way is Gunter. interesting!

A few commas and stops in a row ,,,,,,,, means nothing...........??

if the grunts organised and thought they could take my power, I would simply pay one half of the grunts to kill the other half of the grunts. Lack of solidarity is where it always goes wrong.

Which is why you see protesters hold a space until they are dispersed, kettled, or massacred(Tianaman Square), but you do not see guerrillas trying to do so. A guerrilla must be strongest where the Enemy is weakest, striking from hidden areas of support and disappearing before the Enemy can strike back. The US military (that backs the cops) is so strong that an invading foreign power seeking to hold McPherson Square would find that enough hardware to keep it would not even fit in the park.

OK, with that out of the way, it is possible to hold such a space for a while by making the costs of eviction more than the regime wants to pay, but the regime can up the ante by say, warning that they will kettle rather then disperse all occupants and then seriously prosecute in the Standing Rock/J20 model. Thus, the best possible response to the Feb 4, 2012 raid on McPherson Square would probably have been to abandon it, using a token defense as a diversion while Occupy pitched camp in Farragut Square just two blocks to the West. They would have probably had to go back through procedure to authorize a second raid on a a different site. Use this time to choose a safer spot backed away from the city center. What Occupy needed was a campsite far enough back to be "out of sight and mind" while resting and recovering" yet close enough to march on and engage downtown targets. Probably no campsite would ever have been safe, so a rotating set would have been needed. McPherson was kept fenced off for many months for "turf restorations" until presumed Occupy activists forcibly removed the fencing and it was not replaced.

Today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is playing a of "whack-a-mole" game with homeless camps and losing. Lacking the resources to raid them all at one, they get raided one at a time while people just move their tents and belongings to the site that was raided a few months ago.

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