Ben Webster

works in the education sector in Philadelphia.

Notes of a Library Worker

Notes of a Library Worker

When I tell peo­ple that I work at a library, a com­mon response is to ask whether I sit around read­ing books on the job all day. Although asked jok­ingly, the stereo­type con­tains a ker­nel of truth and points to a real site of con­flict.

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

May Day was a gam­ble for Occupy Wall Street, and a nec­es­sary one. Instead of herald­ing a national renewal, spring­time has found Occupy short of ideas and run­ning on vapors. Life after the encamp­ments has not led to a gen­er­al­iza­tion of occu­pa­tions, and the prospect of reestab­lish­ing them in their ini­tial form is remote. The 1st of May was log­i­cal tim­ing for a revival – or at the very least, a life­line, a con­fir­ma­tion of vital­ity, an open door. Bol­stered by the call for an expanded gen­eral strike, May Day 2012 smelled of hope, but also des­per­a­tion. Our sense at the out­set was that fail­ure in the streets – whether the result of low turnout, police out-maneu­ver­ing, or flat rep­e­ti­tion of ges­ture – would radi­ate far beyond New York, effec­tively bring­ing the move­ment to an impasse. Although our fears ulti­mately proved unwar­ranted, there was lit­tle in our expe­ri­ence of May Day that augured an esca­la­tion of strug­gle; no spark to set the sum­mer ablaze.

The General Strike: An Incomplete Bibliography for Ambivalent Occupiers

The General Strike: An Incomplete Bibliography for Ambivalent Occupiers

Occupy Oakland’s call for a day-long gen­eral strike on Novem­ber 2 has revived inter­est in the tac­tic, calls for which were also heard over the win­ter in Madison, Wis­con­sin. Yet the gen­eral strike is prac­ti­cally unknown today in the United States, func­tion­ing more as a rhetor­i­cal index of mil­i­tancy than a seri­ous pro­posal for uni­fied action. In sol­i­dar­ity with this movement’s pro­found rup­ture in polit­i­cal lan­guage, we’ve selected a few impor­tant moments in the his­tory of the con­cept to illus­trate its poten­tial direc­tions.

Who Threw the Can of Green Paint? The First Two Weeks of Occupy Philadelphia

Who Threw the Can of Green Paint? The First Two Weeks of Occupy Philadelphia

On the morn­ing of Octo­ber 14, one week into Occupy Philadelphia’s encamp­ment beside City Hall, some­one emp­tied the con­tents of a paint can on the building’s south­west­ern entrance. This inci­dent sug­gests the ambi­gu­ity and con­tra­dic­tion in the polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion of Occupy Philadel­phia. What con­sti­tutes mean­ing­ful action – a spec­tac­u­lar act of van­dal­ism, the peace­ful occu­pa­tion of pub­lic prop­erty, or direct action on the hori­zon more con­fronta­tional and rad­i­cal? There has been no short­age of activ­ity – daily marches strike out to the usual tar­gets – but as of yet no dra­matic con­fronta­tions like those of Occupy Wall Street have occurred.