This text explores the problem of emergence of authoritarianism within groups on the radical left. It is based on the reflections of participants from the Occupy ICE activist camp that was established outside the immigration centre in Portland, USA. Comparing the self-critical reflections of members of the camp with anthropological literature on actually-existing egalitarian societies unearths some lessons for social movements regarding how internal dynamics of domination can be resisted. It brings to the surface questions of the importance of things like structures vs. individuals, compassion vs. self-preservation, and the innateness vs. malleability of human nature; all recurring sources of tension for many on the left.
One month in, the encampment at the Northwest Detention Center immigration prison in Tacoma continues. While it has been much lower profile than #occupyicepdx, it is the site of the largest immigration prison on the west coast. Prisoners inside have repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and other forms of resistance over the years.
Comrades, can’t you see, we’ve helped to build something truly uncontrollable? Something proletarian, communal, autonomous and buck-wild? From the first march called by the alphabet soup of socialist orgs to this moment, everyone has put their shoulders to the wheel and pushed. It’s been an amazing, inspiring effort. But comrades, victory is so close. We can’t stop now!
We are two weeks into #OccupyICEPHL. We have ceased occupying the ICE offices since July 5 and the current encampment at City Hall has lost a lot of its original momentum. The Left in Philly united on July 2nd for the original occupation, but it has been fractured by burnout and internal conflicts. A lot of us are wondering, how did we get here and how do we move forward?
We’ve received the following report from participants in the occupation around the Portland facilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While our collective has no official position on issues internal to the occupation, we consider it important to promote constructive conversations about power dynamics within our movements and the ways that they can impose limits on what we can accomplish together. For more material on this subject, consult our earlier report, “The ICE Age Is Over: Reflections from the ICE Blockades.” Shortly, for the sake of amplifying multiple perspectives, we will add one more text from Portland.
The beginning of OccupyICE Philly started out as a beautiful event which had so much potential. Before the end of the first night that was actively squandered by the “central committee” of the “occupation”. What began as a direct interruption of ICE’s ability to operate their office devolved into a purely symbolic self-victimizing spectacle, one that was unable to defend itself or escape enemy capture.
On July 2nd, a coalition of groups in Philadelphia occupied the local ICE office. In what follows I offer a few quick sketches of the occupation. I was there at the opening of the march at City Hall at 5PM until I had to leave at 9, and then again the next day (July 3rd) at 9:30, leaving just after noon. Today, July 4th, the occupation enters its third day. The account and ideas below are therefore cobbled together from my own experiences, from Unicorn Riot’s live feed, and from reports from comrades who were there when I couldn’t be.