Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Philly: Daily log

Thursday, 10/6/2011
Up at 5:15. Pack my shopping cart with cushion for sleeping, sign boards… on Dillworth Plaza at 7 AM. Police—a strong but discreet presence. Not quite invisible, but ‘show of force’ not in the plan. Entrances to City Hall courtyard closed. Glassy towers gleaming in morning sun. Sky absolutely clear. In the 50’s. Weather report: be in the 70’s by afternoon. Waiting for peeps in the Food working group.
TV news trucks more visible than cops.

5 PM … took a brief nap on the cushion I brought. Helicopters overhead. Drums, People talking, talking. People talking everywhere. Face to face. Not on face book. Not typing up petitions for MoveOn….
11:45 PM
Last meeting after breakdown—food put away as best we could manage, boxes stacked on tables. Worry about rats. This morning we had bread, two small jars of peanut butter, apples—not a lot more. Tonight—three 6 foot tables loaded with boxes of produce, canned goods, bread.. most of it dropped off corner of Chestnut and Broad—people stopping, unloading from their cars. Discuss plans for tomorrow. Friends Center offering generous use of kitchen—have to keep to available hours. Turns for breakfast lunch… food teams become servant-class if we don’t give each other relief to attend meetings, circulate, talk to people, go to GA’s, become part of the community conversation. Exhaused. 19 hour day. More a part of food group at end of day, less facilitation etc… numb, numb & sleep walking, deliriously happy and ready for sleep

5:45 AM. Slept on my matt. 2 quilted blankets—to sleep with noise of late night traffic, sirens, voices, voices everywhere, people talking… gradually grows quieter, fades seamlessly into sleep where my dreams seem no different—hear “MIC CHECK! … mic CHECK”… in my
Sleep. Aware even in sleep how quiet, how strangely it becomes. Open my eyes and see shadow sleepers wrapped in blankets. Reasonably warm
--- -
City comes to life, perfectly symmetrical, waking as to falling into sleep. First busses que on Broad. A street vender backs in his cart across the street. I fold my blankets, take my medications, rinse my mouth with bottled water. Pull on the heavy sweater I got from an Ecuadorian street vendor years ago… for ten bucks.
Walk the rounds. Shadow tents. Shadow sleepers. Here and there someone awake. We meet and talk, recount the night. A young woman, one of our food crew…something about her—wonder if she’s from Mennonite background?...sleeping on two chairs by our food tables… a single blanket. She looks cold. I take one of my quilted blankets and cover her up.
The conversations begin again… the city permit. Couldn’t decide at the evening GA. Do we want to ask for it? Do we go without? Are we being co-opted by their being nice? What does the city get out of this? Tales of the night. Mayor Nutter came out and talked with people around 1:30 this morning. Couple of us talk with Police Chief Ramsey. I mention my concern for pedestrians and workers who can’t pass through City Hall. “If we promise to stay out of the Courtyard would you open it up? Say’s they’ve had people complain about that. He appreciates our concern, will take that into consideration. We talk about sanitation. He says he’ll ask the head of City Santiation if they can schedule a truck to do a pick-up once a day.

A man from the Medical team says we need to have an education meeting on dealing with cold. Can live 30 days with food, he says—3 days without water. 3 hours loss of body heat enough to kill you.
Man comes by with two boxes of Dunkin Munchkins. It’s getting light. I open them and put them out on the breakfast & Snack tables.

The day begins…


  1. One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”


  2. Ross,

    Thanks for your thoughts on this--and for the link to your analysis. I'll print this out and bring it to the attention those I talk with in conversations on the ground.

    Home to feed cat, do laundry--back to City Hall as soon as I can get away. Day 4. I hope I can get an arctic sleeping bag and tent--so can keep staying overnight when the weather turns bad. Have never in my life had so many wonderful conversations on politics/economics... what kind of a world we want to make for ourselves.

    There are well informed individuals, with strong Marxist grounding, involved in the Occupations. I've had long conversations with some of them. Yesterday a group met with a German radical socialist and heard about his views of what has been happening across Europe--this is both a profoundly local movement, and one that includes individuals with deep international understanding.

    Because this is a movement that is committed to an evolving agenda based on consensual process, those views will be, and have been very much part of decisions that are made.

    It reflects a certain misunderstanding of how this process works, to cite this or that ideological perspective as missing. If it IS, in fact missing--it's only because the one who has recognized this, has withheld him/herself from direct participation. Analytic discussion is important, but as long as it occurs OUTSIDE the process of actual decision making, it is impotent to effect change.

    At minimum, to free them from academic irrelevance, these conversation need to be brought to the Occupation sites, where there is an almost 24 hour dialog being carried on--hundreds of conversations, discussions, learning groups--and not of FaceBook, but face to face, person to person, where disembodied ideas become physical, embodied. These enter into the decisions made in the General Assemblies.

    Outside observer critiques are a quaint luxury, lacking full, bodily engagement. The time for that has passed. Now is the time to come together as DECISION MAKING bodies, charting by-discovering together, the course of collective action.

    Peace & Solidarity!