The emergency session of the Occupy Philly General Assembly this past Thursday decided, at around 10PM, to immediately move from Dilworth Plaza, where Occupy Philly is currently grounded, to Thomas Paine Plaza. When the proposal passed, everyone broke into smaller groups, rushed to grab whatever was around, and began moving to the other side of the street. Soon after, the police arrived, confusion descended, and, not having decided on any plan ahead of time, we spontaneously broke into three groups: the first regrouped back at Dilworth, the second was left at Thomas Paine, and the third decided to storm City Hall. At the end of it all, we were forced to abandon our objective, withdraw back to the original encampment, and rethink the whole affair.
Philadelphia has a large population of black, disaffected youth. It also has a black mayor. But when some of these young people began to spontaneously protest the obscene level of urban segregation and systematic poverty of the city with “flash mobs,” it was Mayor Michael Nutter who launched the counter-attack, imposing the disciplinary measure of an earlier curfew in wealthy white areas. Curfews, as George Ciccariello-Maher points out, “have historically served as a racist weapon for the containment of Black bodies” – but Nutter himself made the point by accompanying this measure with an ideological assault on black Philadelphians in general.
All eyes are on Oakland. And rightfully so. Oakland has shown the other occupations how the movement can be successfully escalated. By transforming the occupation of a park into a general strike, Oakland has indisputably emerged as the most militant section of the national occupation movement. All the other occupations across the county are asking themselves how they can follow in its footsteps. But, as strange as it may sound, the best way to reproduce the level of militancy that has erupted in Oakland may actually be to not follow in that city’s footsteps.
The International Herbert Marcuse Society held its fourth biennial conference at the University of Pennsylvania. A mix of academics and activists, the conference represented yet another attempt to connect the two worlds. What better way than to have Angela Davis herself – renowned intellectual, renowned communist – share her thoughts with us on a chilly Friday night.
It could very well be that the durability and radicalization of this movement will rely on its potential as a mediating element between the the various segments of the class, their particular interests, and their traditional forms of struggle. Achieving this means going beyond a spontaneous reflection of changes in our working lives. It has to start by understanding the system underlying them.
Spanning an entire generation, a linguistic divide, and a geographical shift, the epistolary encounter between Anton Pannekoek and Cornelius Castoriadis in many ways marks the internal transformation of the ultra-left. But the ultra-left, far from a historical relic, is making headlines again.
Everyone on the left has pointed out that the riots in London are rooted in capital’s assault on the working class, couched in the ideological language of austerity – and that this was the kindling sparked by the racist police brutality that culminated in the murder of Mark Duggan. But our task – like Marx’s task, when he defended the violent upheaval of the Silesian weavers – isn’t to give a moral evaluation of the riots, like schoolmasters diligently stacking the pros against the cons, but, rather, to grasp their specific character.