Occupy Wellington: what is the 99?

Sunday: 13/11/11 2:30pm

Location:
Free University,
Jack Illiot Green,
Civic Square
Wellington, New Zealand

What is the 99%?
Who is the 99%?

Possibly the best agitational slogan to come forward in the past 30 years from the left, too often in the occupy upsurge this idea has been taken at face value, something which undermines the slogan itself. The 99% represents decades of struggle and thinking around the idea of the haves and the have nots, workers and capitalists, the many and few. If we are going to make full use of the powerful potential contained within the idea represented by the 99%, then we need to know what it means, to discuss and understand the connotations and challenges that are summed up in such a pithy statement.

This is a public workshop as part of the Free University being held on Sunday.

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Don Franks says:

    ” If we are going to make full use of the powerful potential contained within the idea represented by the 99%, then we need to know what it means”

    That idea represents a crude measure of inequality, a timely reminder, because global inequality hangs heavier across our lives than it ever did before.

    The more powerful potential human equation is the relationship between the working class and the capitalists.

    The creation of surplus value by the working class, and the appropriation by the capitalists of that value, the political potential of the power of the organised working class are concepts that the occupation movement must consider if they are to move forward.

    The initiation and movement of the Occupation movement in the USA is a great step up for our side, the responsibility of marxists is to be more than cheer leaders.

  2. “The initiation and movement of the Occupation movement in the USA is a great step up for our side, the responsibility of marxists is to be more than cheer leaders.”

    My impression is that this talk intended to deepen discussion of what the 99% means, using the tools of Marxism. In fact this blurb contains the very formulation you refer to, workers and capitalists.

  3. Don. How are we cheerleading?
    How do you know that the points you’ve raised were not raised within the workshop? How do you not know that they will not be raised in the following workshop on “What is the 1%?”

  4. Don, at every opportunity you have slammed the Occupy movement and by implication the people putting weeks of hard work into building it. I have yet to see you contribute a single useful suggestion for what we could do better, let alone anything practical. How about you put your many years of activist experience to use, and give us some constructive suggestions?

  5. Don Franks says:

    Sure, Strypey.
    I suggest you read the various pieces I actually wrote and address the points made therein rather than complaining that I have the temerity to hold some opinions contrary to your own.

  6. Re Don Franks – Zing!

  7. Don. It is frustrating to discuss this with you, I guess agreeing to disagree is where this might have to go.
    But to just begin a discussion about class and capital to a group of people who know little of either just goes into the ether.
    The inital discussion of a 99% leads to an acknowledgement that there is a 1% who have different interests. A further discussion follows where you ask “why then if we are 99% and they are 1% are they in power?”.
    Part of our task is to speak with people, not at them, or past them. I don’t see where else your line can go but the waving of ones hand in the air and state that the occupy movement is not good enough, nothing is good enough.

  8. I do take the point that you have to start with where folks are at but at the moment we disagree on how this is actually done.
    I don’t think I’ve ever said the Occupy movement was “not good enough”; I just don’t see it morphing into a revolutionary direction.
    The upside is, we’re not only still discussing these things but also working happily together on the points where we completely agree, such as solidarity with the locked out meat workers struggle.

    • //I don’t think I’ve ever said the Occupy movement was “not good enough”; I just don’t see it morphing into a revolutionary direction.//

      Why not? It might not fully or coherently move in that direction, but there is already a large tendency within Occupy that is engaging with revolutionary politics in a raw/initial sense. My problem is I feel you have a set verdict and you see what you want to see, there is far more good than bad involved in Occupy, you have rightly critiqued the Occupied Dominion Post but I have seen no positive comments towards the far greater progressive work we are doing. Instead of repeatedly coming back to the first editorial in isolation, how about engaging with the full five issues so far?
      For example you say that you don’t see Occupy moving in a revolutionary direction, yes there are people from all sorts of funny/weird/reactionary political backgrounds. But the vision statement of Occupy Wellington is a good step in my view.

      //What is causing these problems?
      The local and global problems currently facing us are the result of hierarchical economic and political institutions with the wrong priorities: the pursuit of power and profit is currently placed above the needs of people.

      How do we find solutions?
      We cannot expect the solutions to these problems to come from within the institutions that created them. Solutions must come from the people, united. A change is required, locally and globally, which can only be achieved with the collaboration, cooperation and creativity of all the world’s people.//
      From the Occupy Wellington Vision Statement:
      http://occupywellington.wordpress.com/about/vision-2/

      Quite simply there are important things to talk about with people who are interested and excited to listen and engage back in a serious sense.

      //The upside is, we’re not only still discussing these things but also working happily together on the points where we completely agree, such as solidarity with the locked out meat workers struggle.//

      This struggle has clarified and made stark the issues of class that a moral or more abstract discussion might not have raised as clearly. In turn Occupy Wellington has been one of the main drivers for solidarity. Over $250 was raised the other night fundraising for the locked out workers.

  9. Don Franks says:

    Occupy fundraising for the lockout is great, its an area where our orientations intersect.
    Our present political difference we’re debating is the question of revolutionary direction.
    That vision statement of Occupy Wellington provides a good encapsulation of my political difference with the occupiers.

    “The local and global problems currently facing us are the result of hierarchical economic and political institutions with the wrong priorities: the pursuit of power and profit is currently placed above the needs of people.
    We cannot expect the solutions to these problems to come from within the institutions that created them. Solutions must come from the people, united. A change is required, locally and globally, which can only be achieved with the collaboration, cooperation and creativity of all the world’s people”

    At a fleeting glance, some might take that passage as socialist ideas rendered accessible, a palatable dilute formula to whet a new person’s appetite for stronger stuff. Examined a little more closely, the Occupy Wellington vision statement actually reveals itself as a large step backwards. It is a directionless inaccurate statement obfuscating over a century of practical revolutionary experience.
    Despite the insistence of anarchists and others, the local and global problem facing “us” is not “hierarchy” but the capitalist system’s exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class.
    This exploitation is not a “wrong priority” or poor decision made by the top of a hierarchy. It is inherent in the system, carried on daily and hourly. The solution to this “problem” is absolutely not “the collaboration, cooperation and creativity of all the world’s people”. Such an abstract rhetorical claim might be made by almost any politician, but there is no truth in it. A substantial number of the world’s people have a stake in the present system for which they will fight to the death.
    Occupy Wellington’s crude and vague type of argument has been defended as being accessible to young people new to politics. It has been argued that a Marxist argument would be incomprehensible “gibberish” to them.

    I submit that the extract below, from: Why you should join the Workers Party, is just as readble as the Occupy Wellington statement and makes a great deal more sense, being based on analysis of society as it actually is, rather than an idealistic abstraction.

    “We all live in a capitalist society, which means that the working-class majority experience exploitation and poverty in order to guarantee profits and luxury for the ruling-class minority.
    The capitalists have many weapons at their disposal – not just the army police, courts and prisons, but a system of ideas developed over centuries, that shape people’s beliefs about what is normal, natural, and possible. These prevailing ideas tell us that we can do no more than tinker with the current
    system. However, the current economic crisis shows more clearly than ever that society must be radically reorganised if
    it is to serve the interests of the working-class majority. To challenge the entrenched power of the ruling class, workers cannot rely on parliament or parties like Labour, which support
    the existing system. We need to build a movement which can develop alternative, anti-capitalist ideas to create a revolution.”

    I don’t mean to be a pain in the arse Joel, but good intentions are simply not enough. A driving reason for me being blunt on this subject is my own previous opportunism in this area. I regret the time we wasted in the Workers Communist League fronting with liberal idealist politics instead of marxism.
    It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
    Why you should join the Workers Party argues:
    ” We believe that the working class and oppressed can only achieve liberation as a conscious project, based on ideas which are debated, tested against reality and constantly reviewed and improved. ”
    This response is offered in that spirit.

    • //That vision statement of Occupy Wellington provides a good encapsulation of my political difference with the occupiers.//

      I guess the question here is “is this vision statement fixed? is this a good starting point or a bad ending?”.
      Ian has submitted a number of amendments, but that has slowed down due to the issue in with the physical occupation.
      I guess Don, if you’re not involved in anything you can’t change anything. If Occupy was some fixed and factioned group then you could demarcate effectively like you have. But this is a group of people growing and developing politically. I mean, class didn’t make much practical sense to many people until the CMP lockout happened, now it makes a whole lot of concrete sense.
      We’ve been selling the Spark. Giving workshops on various Marxist topics. We are very open with our politics and our disagreements i.e. Human Rights Day. However there is much more progressive than reactionary in play here, which gives good reason to stay involved. Otherwise there’ll be no one there to put forward and champion the politics that you are outlining. I mean it was us who raised the need to align with the locked out meat workers in the first place.

%d bloggers like this: