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Fixing OccupyTogether

by middle-aged has-been Friday, May. 31, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Each movement defines its own language, and OccupyTogether is no exception. The problem is, their definitions are more vague than the old definitions. Here are some suggestions.

I was perusing the OccupyTogether.org site, and found some errors. Maybe they're not errors, but new definitions of terms that I thought had been set in stone, but were actually shifting. This document will try to answer their questions, with what might be obsolete answers dispensed by a middle-aged has-been.

What is Direct Action?

Direct action is solving a problem directly, rather than by making an appeal to someone else. If a family is evicted, a direct action would be to either give the family a place to live, or to break into the former residence and squat it. It means trying to resolve the problem without first making an appeal to society at large, or authority -- though if any appeal is made, it's within the context of addressing the problem directly, first. The direct action can be a demonstration about why existing systems or processes must change.

The Direct Action in Seattle 1999 was to stop the meetings. The sit-ins were not designed to attract media attention - rather they were to stop the meetings. Any media attention was going to be the result of resisting the meetings.

Occupy is a direct action because it seeks to take over space, and then feed and help people directly. More than any movement before it in recent history, Occupy has used direct action with political intetions to change the system.

How is Direct Action organized?

If the action is legal, probably through open discussion. If the action is illegal, then probably in secret.

The General Assembly model of organizing

A general assembly is an assembly of all members of the group or community. It's like a general meeting.

The consensus decisionmaking process is not necessarily used by general assemblies. In the 30s, the CNT used voting. Consensus process entered into the anarchist milieu via the peace and anti-nuke movement, which adopted it from the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends).

The consensus process is generally favored over voting because it's a tool for forming agreements on shared values, articulating needs and devising strategies. That is, it's a kind of negotiation that brings the whole into some agreement about mutual support.

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups are any group of people with which you have affinity. They may be organized by interest, or by social bonds between friends. The key point of an affinity group is that the members trust each other, and work on developing trust by doing things together.

The reason for trust is that taking direct action may have risks, and it's impossible to do so safely when you're alone or working with strangers or people who might as well be strangers.

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