Occupied Dominion Post: editorial

Let’s get something straight: this movement has issued no demands. It is not a protest. It’s an occupation. Rebellions don’t have demands.

The above statement is from issue two of the Occupy Wall St Journal and in that spirit we are currently occupying the heart of our city. We’ve set up our tents and kitchens, we’ve put up our banners, and we are refusing to leave. As we reclaim the city we are reclaiming our own minds.

We are not just a handful of dreamers – we are realists. We are not stupid – we know something is very, very wrong with the world. We are not cowards – we are stepping up and putting ourselves forward to take part in this movement. We are not naïve – we know the problem is not a few greedy people ruining the system, the problem is a system based on greed that ruins people.

We are not alone. We are all over the world. In hundreds of cities on every continent, we are sharing tents, sharing food, sharing ideas and imagining a world where we share everything. We are trying to change it all from the bottom up. We are the 99%.

It has not been easy and it shows no signs of getting easier. Torrential rain and freezing cold temperatures have plagued occupiers from Auckland to Invercargill. There are other threats too – in New York, police brutality has become an everyday reality for the peaceful occupiers in Zucotti Park. In Melbourne and Sydney, our brothers and sisters have been dragged from their beds at 5am to be punched, kicked, elbowed, choked and dragged across the concrete by hordes of police. Across the world, peaceful protesters have been met with the full force of a violent system that will stop at nothing to keep itself alive. The longer we stay, the more people hear our message… and the more desperate the 1% become to shut us up.

Social change is never easy. The transformation of an unjust society into something better was never going to happen overnight, and it was never going to happen without the ruling financial elites lashing out and trying to scare us into backing down. Now more than ever we must stand our ground. We must remain together, we must remain warm, friendly and welcoming to all the people who can be engaged with our message of fairness, freedom and love. We must talk to each other, share our ideas and experiences, and find a way to take this movement forward. This is only the beginning of a struggle to change the world. We are taking on the entire might of the corporate power structure and its servants in the government and the state apparatus. While they have money and guns, we have koha and aroha. It is up to us, the 99%, to show the world which is more powerful. – Alastair and Joel

Occupied Dominion post (pdf)


  1. Don Franks says:

    I’ve got no doubt that occupiers at Civic square have sincere wishes to remove social injustice.

    I don’t believe that progress will be made by talking up symbolic protest to a ridiculous degree.

    “We are taking on the entire might of the corporate power structure and its servants in the government and the state apparatus”

    In reality you are taking on the determination of the Wellington City council to clear your camp area for a children’s Halloween party.
    Of course the council will call in the cops if necessary, but that’s hardly the entire might of the corporate power structure.

    Neither do I think that social justice for the 99% is well served by discarding scientific socialism in favour of romantic mysticism.

    During the sixties, before discovering marxism, I had a lot of time for phrases like: ” while they have money and guns, we have koha and aroha”

    For a while I clung to the notion that offering flowers to riot police while chanting give peace a chance might melt their hearts, now I realise, as most people do, that that’s just a silly dropout fancy.

    What on earth has happened to the argument for opposing their money and guns with class conscious workers organisation?

  2. I think the Occupy Together movement taken as a whole challenges the system itself. But there’s also an aspect of combined and uneven development.

    ETA: Also the piece acknowledges this is only the beginning. IMO the piece on Redline bends the stick too far in saying this doesn’t even take things “one step” closer to overthrowing the system.

  3. I don’t think there is anything wrong with symbolic protests. In fact, with the low level of political activity in the current period I think most protests will need to be largely symbolic, in the sense that they are mainly aimed at communicating something.

    My worry with the OWS movement is that it isn’t communicating anything much.

    Some leaders seem determined for the protests *not* to communicate anything clear.

    In the USA particularly, it might be that some of the initiators have a reactionary interest in preventing the growth of formally-organised political groups and socialist parties.

    But I find it very odd that socialists would reprint the declaration of “no demands” as though this were a virtue.

    At the moment there is the need for the greatest clarity in demands. An election coming up and capitalism producing so much carnage, there are so many concrete issues on which socialists can make demands, things which large sections of the population would support.

  4. One of the most immediate and common demands (globally) is a 1% tax on financial transactions, which Occupy Auckland at-least is marching for.

    However when that was discussed at Occupy Wellington, a lot of people felt it was too limited to the current system. So that gives some indication that what’s happening is dynamic, complicated and worth paying attention to – though it’ll be a while before we can really say what its significance is.

  5. Quite simply the group in Wellington is pulling together.
    As well as that, we are establishing the processes for how the group will grow and develop.
    I gave a workshop on the crisis and capitalism to 30 or so people. Other workshops have been happening in a similar vein. I’m doing another one soon around hegemony and the concept of the 99%.
    I’d like for you to come down and try tell the people this Don. Most people are totally new to politics. Green and new as can be. Education and discussion is a slow, patient process, which is ongoing.
    Anyway I’ve got to finish the next issue of Occupied Dominion Post. The theme is based around the discussion of how to move forward as a movement.
    Come down Don over the weekend and we can talk there instead of the internet. A bunch of people are keen to hear you play some songs…

  6. It’s really easy to throw phrases like class-conscious workers organisation around on the internet. It’s really hard to win people over to the idea in practice. You know this better than anyone Don. You also know all about the mass line – unite the advanced around radical politics, win over the middle elements to isolate the most backward.

    The fact of the matter is that Occupy, for all its complexities and occasional inertia, is without a doubt the greatest explosion of radicalism and anti-system sentiment in many years. People are taking part from all walks of life, but they are mostly young, disenchanted with the economic and political systems, and searching for something better. Mostly these are young people new to politics – they aren’t part of the scene, they’re not members of political parties or unions, they’re not part of radical organisations.

    We’re starting from scratch to see where this movement can go. We’re trying to figure that out through a creative, organic process involving many different voices. That direction, imho, ultimately has to be a lot more radical than “offering flowers to riot police while chanting give peace a chance”, but you’re not going to convince people of this by standing a mile to their left, lecturing them from a prolier-than-thou pulpit and offering gloomy, bitter cynicism as the only item on the menu.

    Engage with the people involved in this. Talk to them, see what they’re all about. I think we need to try and learn the language of this new explosion of discontent, rather than try and teach it our own.

  7. Don Franks says:

    Joel we can have a yarn about this latest stuff, just as we habitually have a yarn about all sorts of stuff.

    I already told you my political priorities for this weekend.

    Just a couple of things here.

    If you post on the internet with a comments column that’s creating a legitimate place for serious discussion.

    Also, you’ve not addressed the central political points that I made.

    {Or Ben’s very relevant point about concrete political demands)

    Joel, there is heaps of aroha and koha at the country and western club I belong to, but that doesn’t make that group into any sort of anti corporate organisation.

    I put it to you that freedom, fairness and love will never be meaningfuly realised for the international proletariat without armed struggle.

    What has happened to arguing for the need of class conscious workers organisation and socialism?

    • Don, you make it out that that argument is not being put. It is. Just not in the language you’re putting forward. As well as that it is happening on the ground as well as in print. But we’re starting the discussion, not ending it, you’ll see that in the next issue of the Occupied Dom Post.
      WSWS tried saying what you’ve said when they attempted an intervention. I think they said exactly that.
      Concrete political demands are useful, but within that context we’re arguing to convince, not to win. The peeps within the occupied zone are mostly very new to politics, so we need to build a political language and base around our socialist politics. But we’re also starting from the ground up, building a programme, building solutions and ideas. Stop obsessing about the outcome and ignoring the process, they’re both as important as each other.
      But also, these discussions take time. I don’t have to answer to you at every step. Because it’s not a short term strategy. There aren’t necessarily short term results.
      If you went down and said what you’ve written here, you’d be speaking gibberish. As I said I’ve given a talk on Capitalism and the Crisis, I’m giving one on “Hegemony and the 99%” as well as a “what is a Revolution” workshop.
      There is a huge outpouring of raw-revolutionary consciousness. I’m seeing it within the group and wider, within the layers of people I move within. There is a suspicion of “politics” but an openness to revolution. The march through Courtney Place started chanting as a whole “one solution, revolution” as a unit.
      But we can’t use the old methods of engaging, like these politics and movements themselves, we need to find new ways, relevant ways to communicate our ideas…

  8. Don Franks says:

    Mate, chill a bit, you don’t have to answer to me at every step and there is nothing in any of my posts that remotely suggests that I require you to.

    If you’re really certain that if I went down to the camp and argued for workers power to effect social change it would be taken as speaking gibberish , well, ok, I’ll be better staying put here and get on with the work on my other political stuff.


    If people are marching around town demanding “one solution revolution” and do not have any time at all to consider a working class component to that process then I find it hard to see how they are fair dinkum about the business.

    • But Don, there is discussion(s) around the issue of class and working class agency. Mike Williams (ex-wharfie) is speaking about the Rena disaster. There’s agreement on the bankruptcy of the system, but a lot of people are coming at it from a different angle than might be expected. We’re
      But right now, good work is being done with good people, things are moving forward, we’re putting our arguments forward and engaging with what is at hand.

  9. I’m not sure the meaning of this concept of “workers power” and how it relates to the revolutionary aspirations of other sections of the people. Are for a political order of limited political agency — where workers (as a class) decide and others are essentially silent?

    Is our appeal for communism universal (the rising of the revolutionary forces within the working class and its many revolutionary allies seeking to liberate all of humanity) or is it sectoral (we are workers we want to decide)?

    Is class consciousness a self consciousness (i.e. a kind of worker identity politics) — or is it the consciousness of the oppressed and outlaw class of propertyless ones that it can only be free by uniting and freeing everyone?

    And which view and concept would we speak to if we represented our communist views broadly? And what would best represent our cause and yet also be attractive to the new and exploring forces?

  10. Jared Phillips says:

    “lecturing them from a prolier-than-thou pulpit and offering gloomy, bitter cynicism as the only item on the menu.”


  11. Jared Phillips says:

    “If you’re really certain that if I went down to the camp and argued for workers power to effect social change it would be taken as speaking gibberish , well, ok, I’ll be better staying put here and get on with the work on my other political stuff.”

    I thought the ‘gibberish’ bit was in relation to the armed struggle bit, which I agree would be gibberish. Nobody here is arguing against workers power, or not arguing for workers power. Any assertion that the WP doesn’t argue and act *in practice* for workers power is some weird concoction at best and an outright lie at worst.

    “What on earth has happened to the argument for opposing their money and guns with class conscious workers organisation?”

    I totally agree with class conscious workers organisation as being central, and with ‘orgainsation’ as an ‘operative’ word, not just hyperbole. It just seems weird that the mainstay of your analysis, in fact shibboleth, is around the lack of class conscious workers activity but at the same time you expect us to be in a position to be gloriously raising red flags into the sky and all that other good stuff in your poem.

    Quite simply I can’t make hide nor hair of your strategic or tactical approach for fighting for socialism in New Zealand.


  12. Don Franks says:

    “Any assertion that the WP doesn’t argue and act *in practice* for workers power is some weird concoction at best and an outright lie at worst.”

    Jared, I have no interest in unfairly misrepresenting other activists and don’t believe I am. My questions about workers power were prompted by the two editorials of Occupy Dominion post, both signed as the work of Joel and Alistair.

    Neither article contains any argument for workers power or for class struggle or socialism or proletarian revolution. Instead we have in issue one:

    “We are taking on the entire might of the corporate power structure and its servants in the government and the state apparatus. While they have money and guns, we have koha and aroha.”

    You may now believe any discussion of armed struggle to be “gibberish’; here the tone suggests negation of armed resistance.

    and in issue two:

    “We want to make new mistakes, not the same old mistakes that have been made time and time again. We want a new kind of movement to confront new forms of oppression, inequality and injustice – the old movements failed.”

    Its not concretely stated what the failed ‘old movements’ were, so readers are left to draw their own conclusions about what’s meant.

    It has been interesting to have this exchange of ideas, but I’m thinking we probably should respectfully agree to differ on socialist strategy and tactics.

  13. Jared Phillips says:

    As is well-evidenced WP members and other activists have been involved in asserting class politics during participation in the occupy movements. We have to engage as Marxists, not as providers of content analysis.

    Armed struggle has *never* been a point of emphasis that any of us have put forward at any stage in relation to the New Zealand situation or in the situation of other imperialist countries. To do such would be misguided and detrimental. Least of all would we consider intervening in less than politically intermediate struggles with mere rhetoric about armed struggle. It simply wouldn’t be a serious way for Marxists to participate. That doesn’t mean that we don’t think the taking of workers power would ultimately rest on the power of armed force, which it absolutely has to. I know I haven’t changed on this.

    I still see an extreme contradiction between what Alistair quite accurately calls the “gloomy, bitter cynicism as the only item on the menu” and the poem that we should be gloriously raising the red flags etc. Doesn’t make sense to me because it’s illogical and contradictory.

    In my mind it’s what happens when Leninism and branch-building etc is abandoned and all manner of eclecticism takes over.

    Cheers, Jared.

  14. Jared Phillips says:

    Also, respect is a two-way street. Unless I am mistaken your nice poem you published is a criticism of Marxist engagement in the Occupy movement. It does all sorts of silly things like imply that Marxists that engage in Occupy don’t study Marxism, which is utterly untrue and uninformed.

    A lot of people respect you, inculding myself. But respect is a two-way street. It’s not to be used to disarm debate.

  15. Don writes: “Neither article contains any argument for workers power or for class struggle or socialism or proletarian revolution.”

    That’s hardly fair. I would argue that both editorials have tried to raise the issues of class oppression that (in reality) are a major concern for most people involved with Occupy. I would also argue that the Editorials, and other content in the ODP (such as the consistent reporting on state violence against protesters in Australia and the US), raises questions about how this class oppression is maintained and how attempts to challenge it are inevitably responded to by the people at the top.

    What we (all the people involved with the ODP, not just the socialists) are trying to do here is put out a newspaper, regularly and with increasing circulation, that exposes how shit this system is and clearly argues that the entire thing needs to be overturned and replaced, not just tinkered with. We’re trying to do this with participation from a wide range of people, all united around that basic analysis. This is not a newspaper representing the line of a communist organisation and it has never claimed or aimed to be that.

    This is a newspaper that is in harmony with the voice and aspirations of an unexpected, unpredicted explosion of discontent that is still evolving and changing every day. Its final form is completely unknown, and the only way we can have any ability or any right to suggest what form this movement should take is to actually take part in it.

    You haven’t really done that, have you? You’ve proudly posted online your ‘mates’ impressions of the people involved being a typical bunch of dope smoking hippies. This is almost certainly bullshit, because Occupy Wellington is a drug and alcohol free space and those people who have tried to drink or take drugs on the site have been told not to. People may sometimes come through stoned or drunk, but they are not allowed to hang around OTP or smoking up. Still, I’m sure your anonymous ‘mate’ knows what he’s talking about. He/she sounds onto it.

    By your own account, you came down with a friend once, awkwardly stood nearby on a day when not much was happening, made no attempt to sit down and talk to people and instead expected them to come to you. When one person did, you got into an argument with them about whether the Mayor is on our side or the enemies. This person disagreed with you – is that really a surprise? Most people in Wellington are not convinced Marxists with a corresponding analysis of the capitalist state apparatus. This argument about our good friend Celia happens all the time, and there are plenty of people involved who are not so enamored with the local politicians. There is a very diverse array of people and opinions in Occupy, contrary to your informed commentary about how everyone involved is “very much the same in terms of age, appearance and general demeanour”.

    The people involved with the Occupied Dominion Post are trying to reach out to the wider community and spread the message that has inspired Occupations in (by current reports) around 1800 cities worldwide. We are also trying to spur on discussion within Occupy itself, about where we go from here, how we get there and what obstacles we may face on the way. This is slow work but it can potentially lead to some pretty awesome things.

    That’s the approach we’re taking atm. I think its working pretty well. I have every intention of speaking my mind about revolution, about capitalism and working-class struggle, about the nature of the police and whose side they’re on. I’ve been doing that, as have others. I just happen to think there are better ways to do this than talking about the need for armed struggle in 2011 New Zealand, or asserting the need for a CLASS CONSCIOUS PROLETARIAN WORKERS REVOLUTIONARY PARTY to people who don’t know what any of those words mean.

    All the old movements DID fail. All the old forms of organisation DID fail. We actually kinda do need something new, and stubbornly sticking to the old methods and terms of reference just isn’t going to cut it. Atthe end of the day, I personally think there are better ways to convince people of the need for class conscious workers organisation than by slagging them off over the internet.


  16. Be interesting to see what the response shall be when the state troopers move in,and that day is going to arrive very shortly.

  17. Don Franks says:

    “All the old movements DID fail. All the old forms of organisation DID fail.”


    That’s rather a lot of failure to claim.

    Why not seek truth from facts and look concretely at some real “old movements” ?

    For example, the Women’s Sufferage movement, the campaign against capital punishment, the Anti apartheid movement and the anti nuclear warship movement could claim to have succeeded.
    The Gay liberation movement , the various environmental movements, the Women’s liberation movement and the trade union movement all achieved partial success. In various constantly evolving forms, all those movements are continuing today.
    The international communist movement could be said to have failed, in fact that has incessantly been said of it since its inception. But still, against enormous odds, that movement’s still continuing its uneven development and growth
    What about the “old forms of organisation’?

    Public meetings, marches, pickets, strikes, federations, clubs,unions, cooperatives, political parties, rank and file committees, sit ins, occupations, illegal secret cells, incorporated societies, trade associations – all those and more, all of them venerable forms of organisation, continue to function and flourish.

    None of them are without their contradictions, in fact they could not exist without them. But it flies in the face of the most superficial materialist analysis to claim that they all did fail.

  18. It depends what we’re talking about here. I thought we were talking about revolution and the struggle for socialism? Every attempt at that so far has been a failure. The socialist movement may have survived in the imperialist countries, but survival is not the same as success. It may have survived in larger numbers and in more advanced form in the neo-colonies, but every attempt to actually overthrow things there and build something else has failed, often with disastrous consequences. These are the facts we have to seek truth from.

    If we draw the net wide enough to include every progressive social movement of the past century or two, then yeah, plenty have succeeded… but I thought we were talking about raising red flags in the sky?

    Every successful revolutionary movement has made a sharp break with the revolutionary movements before it. From the Commune to Russia, Russia to China and many more, it’s always been about doing something new… and it’s always emerged from shocking and surprising places.

    We obviously don’t need to discard all the tried and tested ingredients you listed, but we pretty clearly need a new recipe.

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