A fork in the road for Occupy Dame Street?

The last 3 General Assemblies at Occupy Dame Street have seen greatly reduced numbers in comparison with those leading up to the controversial vetoing of common work with DCTU. I've been at all three and it seems quite a number of people have walked away, at least for a while, including at least a couple of the blochers. On the other hand the camp is solidifying, in particular with the construction of a large wooden hut last night to be used as a kitchen. It sends the clear message to those watching that whatever the differences we have been debating out under their CCTV cameras the camp is not going away.

Alongside the reduced numbers at assemblies it has also become clear that many ODS people still involved are working around the veto deployed at Monday's assembly and building for the DCTU march in new groups. Other Occupations are also being planned for. This highlights the problem of using a block as a veto in a consensus process, if a majority vote can lead to a minority choosing to walk away a block used as a veto can lead to something worse, a majority walking away. That appears to be what has happened but as we shall see it may not be a bad thing.

Now the bank / state / garda shouldn't misread that as meaning its easier for them to evict ODS (ah lads I know your following all this). Whatever our internal disagreement any attempt at an eviction will give us a clear external enemy to unite around as has been found in the US from New York to Oakland. But the potential for ODS specifically to act as an organising focus for the Occupy movement in Ireland is now greatly reduced.

This isn't by any means the end of the road. Nor should it be seen as the equivalent to that old joke about the left, that the first item on the agenda is always the split. Occupy is not the traditional 'winner takes all' left and this disagreement is not a traditional split for all its seriousness.

In Free / Open Software development it is not so unusual for a point to be reached where there is a fundamental disagreement about the future direction of a particular project. What then happens you get what is know as a 'fork', all the code produced to date is taken by each of two or more groups and each of those groups builds its idea of where to go next on the shoulders of that collective code. Over time it perhaps becomes clear which is the better path and most people follow that particular fork. Or twin development continues with each project continuing to take ideas from from each other and so offering mutual support.

That is the point I think Occupy in Dublin is reaching. One where various groups, including the camp at Dame Street take the collective work we have carried out so far and fork it in a number of directions. The only other option is the long and torturous road of trying to get those who vetoed the DCTU decision to either reverse that veto or change their attitude towards future work with organisations. But to pull people back we would almost certainly also have to also get agreement to move away from a system of pure consensus - the use of veto's means that many people no longer trust there is enough good will to make such a system workable.

All of the Occupations are messy. All of them face similar problems and issues to those of Dame Street. I passed around the article that appeared in Rolling Stone on Occupy Wall Street and many of us at ODS have LOLed at how the descriptions of the organisational problems of OWS mirror our own local experience. As I argued previously this common global experience is part of the process of formulating a common global intelligence about where we are going.

I'm aware of at least two such forks under development, both of which those at Dame Street are aware of. One or both is liable to be very much more about building the sort of alliances with unions and community organisations that have made the Occupies in Wall Street and Oakland much more capable of reaching out than the Dublin example so far. But neither are defined around that difference, this is why I think we are seeing a processing of forking rather than splitting. Both originate not with people who have walked away but rather those who have stayed.

This is in any case the right way to go. At Tuesday's assembly I made the point that rather than ODS seeking to Occupy other places as ODS (universities had been suggested) other Occupies should be crated in other places. Occupy is a model to be followed, not an organisation to be consulted. The 1980's saw significant occupations of universities, in particular the three week occupation in TCD which was my introduction to the tactic. The scale of the cuts and the corruption of the USI leadership would make a push to create Occupations in each of the major colleges an obvious starting point for any students interested in real resistance. The attacks that workers in the colleges are facing (and I don't just mean the academics) means there is common ground there to be built on.

Occupy is also not about the physical act of camping but also about the General Assembly. As we enter into a period of general struggle in neighborhoods across Ireland around the Household Tax we should at least be asking if the Occupy model could have a place in that struggle. I think there could very well be an argument that an Occupy Crumlin or Occupy Cabra, which would be based around a weekly neighborhood General Assembly, would be one way to escape the clientelist basis of electoralist politics that keeps the mass of the population looking to others to fight for them. Resistance to the Argentinian crash of 2000 very often saw the formation of such neighborhood assemblies.

And let us not leave out the workplace. With unionization levels low and the vast majority of unions corrupt at the top and very quiet at the rank and file level the need to Occupy the Workplace seems obvious. I don't meant just those that have gone bankrupt and where the boss is trying to flee redundancy payments - I mea all of them. This is a much more difficult call, one we can interpret as a push for the use of frequent assemblies in those workplaces where unions are organised instead of sending everything to a branch committee and to something very much more ambitious in those that are not.

If all that sounds a little crazy consider how crazy the idea would have seemed this time last year that a bunch of people would have camped out for a month in front of the Central Bank on Dame street and that they would be part of a global movement of people doing the same in 1600+ cities around the world. Or that one of those camps would have called a general strike in Oakland that shut the 4th largest port in the US or that another could have organised a day of action in New York that involved 35,000 people. These are crazy times we are living in which means the unimaginable becomes not only possible but perhaps the only way to go.

Well over a thousand Occupies have already blossomed. Perhaps in Dublin it is time to start thinking about adding to that number.

If your on Facebook there is an
album of photos from ODS last night
for you to view
  on the WSM page

Comments

the consensus system is good

the consensus system is good its just a shame consensus wasnt reached, it could have and should have been. however the proposals were so all over the place, there really should be some common sense used when thinking about putting forward longwinded proposals with all kinds of subclauses. the proposal finally voted for was a nonsense-that people can go or not go on the march as individuals-that would would have been the status quo without bothering going thru the motions of the stupid proposal anyhow-most people's time is a bit more important to them then to go thru that unnecessarily lenghty process, i watched in on video, i wished i'd made it to the meeting i'm sure i could have convinced them toward consensus to join the march. i didnt really understand why there wasnt a seperate proposal about speakers + people were clueless about the march changing from dame st to gpo. it seemed so formulaic that it could end up undemocratic by people just not understanding whats going on or favouring those that can stay awake!

thanks for the update

thanks for the update

  


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