Revolution #248, October 23, 2011
A Night Under Skyscrapers and Stars at Occupy Wall Street
"A Dialogue Is On"
We received this correspondence from someone who has been out at Occupy Wall Street:
October 12—I spent my first night sleeping under skyscrapers and stars! The determination, joy, anger, and sense of love, sacrifice and communal spirit of the masses coming together in a new way to stand up and fight is wonderful and significant. I awoke in the morning to see a student from Georgia who was up working and conversating late into the night was already changed and on his third cup of coffee at his post behind the information booth. When I went up to say good morning an anarchist youth who had gone on the 4 a.m. silent march to the police precinct to protest the raid on Occupy Boston was there arguing that a seven mile march to today's protest on the Upper East Side would really have much more of an impact than just taking the MTA up there. His righteous anger was going in all kinds of wrong directions—particularly in the form of wanting rich people to pay.
The night before around 1:30 a.m. there was a stir of outrage and debate as we watched on the big projection screen a live feed of police raiding, arresting, brutalizing, pepper spraying people in Boston. Police threw their supplies in the garbage and basically went on a destructive rampage. Sharp struggle broke out around the information booth as to how to handle this. There was quickly a crowd gathered and some people were profoundly shocked by this, there was deep cognitive dissonance— why would the police act in this way? Were people in Boston doing something wrong? Did they provoke this action? Is there some kind of justification for this? No. I replied. This is what they do all the time, this is how they behave, it was only a matter of time, the rulers of this system have a problem and they want this to end, but if they crush it people could come back even stronger, so they haven't done so yet, but this is going to be a fight. I read the quote from BAsics on the role of the police [1:24] and kept making the point that they are serving and protecting the system of exploitation and oppression, and that it's going to be a fight to keep this occupation going and spreading and to continue to resist.
There was some confusion, Why aren't the police on our side? Their pensions are being cut too, how do we win them over or neutralize them? Or, no they can't stop us, they won't try and do that because people will just become angrier. It's true, they might and that's something they are weighing, but it could also successfully demoralize and disorient people, it depends on how we handle it. In the crowd some one started opposing what I was saying, "No, we're the problem, we are the police. Everyone has a police officer in their mind. We're the same as them, the problem is in us. Until everyone here recognizes that the problem is within and we have to start there, then this is going to continue to happen, you aren't recognizing your ego and it's really scary." I brought out how extremely wrong this was, and the real role of the police how there is a fundamental difference between us and a force whose role is to brutalize and repress the masses. There is a big difference between us and the police who put their hands on people every day, brutalizing and dehumanizing them. Thousands of Black and Latino youth are stopped and frisked every day in NYC and the police routinely kill people for being Black or even for no reason at all. A crowd gathered around, I brought out that the problem is the system, and that's why we have to continue to resist and prepare to make a revolution as soon as that is possible. He said this wasn't possible because of our human nature, several other people chimed in, there was intense back and forth with others weighing in. There was an overwhelming feeling that there was a basic reality to what I was saying.
Off of this a few of us raised that this questions of the police had to be further joined and clarified. A statement was posted on the Occupy website that reflects this debate. What all this points to is the process people are going through where lessons are being learned and questions are being debated out about what it is that needs to be done to bring about the desired change in the world. How to handle the repression is very sharply posed.
* * *
At the general assembly meeting I made an announcement informing people that the prisoner hunger strike was occurring and inviting people to help me write a letter from the occupation to the prisoners. The idea being we would present this at the GA, propose it be adopted as a letter of support and posted on the website. There was a positive response, especially from Black masses there.
Two young Black women, high school students from California, came and met me and took up writing a letter and found me a place to sleep next to them. We set up and invited in the young white guy, former student, young intellectual, who was sleeping next to us, into the project. We read the article from Revolution newspaper out loud together. People were shocked by the treatment of the prisoners, but even more shocked by the comments from the representative of the prison and the governor. One young woman said, "I'm ashamed of my state." They started talking about a walk out or protest at their school, people there writing letters to him, and also teachers they knew who would want to take this up.
We all wrote the letter together and the young guy from up north took responsibility for presenting it to the facilitators meeting to try and get it on the agenda there.
The group also got the newspaper and passed around BAsics, each reading sections of it. People are really glad that we are there, some looking to me and raising different questions, coming back from discussions to tell me about it and what's being discussed, wanting to know when we'll be back, when we're having meetings. Bringing their questions of leadership, revolution—does it start from within, do we have to change ourselves first in order to "sustain our activism" or do we have to "deal with reality" as another young Black woman was arguing very correctly.
* * *
I talked with a young actor and Starbucks barista into the wee hours of the morning. Just barely a month ago he was utterly depressed. Not having acting work for nine straight months for the first time in his life and fed up with meaningless work, he said he threw a fit at Starbucks like something you would see in a movie, an angry tantrum throwing his apron into the garbage and then breaking down into tears. His father, who is a liberal high school teacher where he grew up, said to him when Occupy Wall Street got going, "why don't you go down there and see what's going on." He did and what he found was many other people who felt the same way he did and who didn't want to accept this any longer. More and more he wanted to be a part of it and he marched on the Brooklyn Bridge, and he got arrested and seeing how the arrests went down, something changed in him. He said he realized from that moment that this is exactly what he should be doing with his life; he loves acting still, but as a young person today, there's nothing more important than fighting this fight. He said it was like a part of him he didn't even know he had, that he didn't even know had been empty, was suddenly full. Since then he's thrown himself into this wanting to do everything he can to take responsibility for it. He told me that he is having to defend the occupation from his friends who are raising questions provoked by the backlash going on in the media.
We got into the need for revolution and the viability of communism, I read from BAsics, the quote on human nature and also the quote on "these beautiful children who are female in the world." He is also an atheist and very passionately opposed to the subjugation of women. I struggled with him to get the book, he didn't have money but he said he will as soon as he does. He asked about why after a revolution you could not just eliminate hierarchy, and we got into questions of state power what it's good for, the need to hold onto it and make it something worth holding onto and the new synthesis and who Bob Avakian is. Afterwards he went home and wrote a long essay, which said among other things that what he saw and heard in the park really filled him with hope, and that he saw it as not simply about Wall Street or any particular thing but about "presenting an idea to the world for consideration."
I wrote him back with quotes from BAsics, and a dialogue is on. I am thinking a lot about how we need to be doing revolutionary work at the encampment, applying the statement “On the Strategy for Revolution” at the end of Chapter 3 of BAsics.
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