On Wednesday we went into occupation of ourselves. This was a joint action between Leicester, New York and Ayr. This is part of a general call for action and discussion about alternatives and repossession and opening out of spaces that have been violently enclosed.
In New York we took our occupation down Broadway, past City Hall and a labor rights protest against developer Sam Chang and past the portacabins at the World Trade Centre site that bore the flags of the National Union of Crane Operating Engineers and the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters. We occupied Broadway in order to witness the allegedly alternative form of organisation at Occupy Wall Street. The occupied space:
- made us think about how public, or previously enclosed spaces are colonised by sub-groups and permacultures, and re-enclosed by them – it made us think of homeless shelters;
- was clearly part of a spectacle, with the police watching the tourists watching those who faced out of the occupied space with their single issue placards who in turn corralled those who had settled the square;
- used consensus decision-making, and was clearly being dominated by a few people who were owning the process for others – in fact the process of repeating the words of each speaker as they spoke, formed a liturgy of consensus that risked talking down/overwhelming those who were deemed to have invalidated the process; moreover it felt like “his name is Robert Poulsen“;
- used consensus to decide to spend $2000 on 30 flags; the speaker proposing this wanted US-made flags that could be inscribed and used in direct action; he did not want “shitty flags” that had been made abroad; so much for labour solidarity in the face of the transnational finance capital that was located 50 yards down the street; as for ignoring capital and making rather than buying flags, well that wasn’t on the agenda;
- was clearly fetishised – in the face of a threatened eviction, which did not take place this morning, the occupiers cleaned the square – they became good occupiers, in order to keep the spectacle on the road. They inscribed the square with power, the same socially-reproduced power relations that they claimed to be opposing, and used consensus to re-inscribe that fact. Then it felt that the square was reified as the only focal point for action. Rather than walking away from its normalisation with the legal framework demanded by the Mayor, the occupiers cleaned their cell. You will obey the bunting. Whoever hangs it up.
And so we walked away back up Broadway and thought about occupation as an ideological apparatus that was unable to reveal a tranformatory social moment because it could not imagine a revolutionary other world. We thought about how capital needs disruptors like these in order that it can adapt to them and re-produce its logic through their actions. We thought about how a radical set of ideas around equality in a square might never become tranformatory because they cannot move away from concepts like equality as it is formed within the legalistic institutions of democracy-in-capital.
And we thought about November 9/30 in the UK, and the types of actions that might unfold from there. We thought that what is at stake is being against inequality through capital, not a fight for equality or its subsumption under equality of opportunity/social mobility. These are bourgeois sops/liberal justifications. The fight is for the negation of inequality under capital, and for alternative forms of value and ways of realising that value. And so we thought about how to use November 9/30 to engage in a critique of labour-in-capitalism as the organising principle for the structures of our lives, and we thought how to connect students and workers in this project, in order to overcome this historical crisis. And we wondered about the role of the University, and what might be salvaged from the neoliberal university, and how that space might be re-invented against the reproduction of the university as education-for-capital.