Tag Archives: New York City

May Day 2012: a real Labor Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

ImageSpring is in the air, and you know what that means–that’s right, Occupy Wall Street is back, bigger and better than ever! Although actions have been ongoing for several weeks, the first major action will be the worldwide General Strike called for May 1st. From OccupyWallSt.org:

May 1st, also known as International Workers’ Day, is the annual commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when Chicago police fired on workers during a General Strike for the eight-hour workday. In many countries, May 1st is observed as a holiday. But in the United States, despite the eventual success of the eight-hour-workday campaign, the holiday is not officially recognized.

Now, in response to call-outs from Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland, and other General Assemblies and affinity groups, the Occupy Movement is preparing to mobilize a General Strike this May 1st in solidarity with struggles already underway to defend the rights of workers, immigrants, and other communities who are resisting oppression. Dozens of Occupations in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia have already endorsed May Day.

To quote the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, who recently called for a national General Strike in Spain on March 29th to protest labor reforms:

For the CNT, the strike on March 29 must be only the beginning of a growing and sustained process of mobilization, one which includes the entire working class and the sectors that are most disadvantaged and affected by the capitalist crisis. This mobilization must put the brakes on the dynamic of constant assaults on our rights, while laying the bases for the recovery and conquest of new social rights with the goal of a deep social transformation.

I’ll be at the NYC action; hope to see you there! I’ll post links and updates as they become available.

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

We Are the 1 Percent

POSTED BY ORHAN

Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that  draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:

Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.

It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.

The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.

Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).

About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.

The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.

The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.

According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”

Real Americans

POSTED BY ORHAN

There are now over 130 #Occupying groups nationally. There’s a site to find one nearby or start your own.

I went to Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon. The energy was different than a demonstration–the people were, well, occupying, not marching. The group was predominantly young, but people of all ages were participating. The area was mobbed with tourists, media (but not MSM), people who work in the area, some jeering, others curious or obviously sympathetic. My sense is that the energy changes from hour to hour.

There were lots of small groups, people working out tactics and strategy; if there’s anything like an organizational focus, the General Assembly is it; the emphasis is on leaderlessness, non-hierarchy, non-violence, consensus-building, giving everyone a voice.

There was a fairly heavy police presence, but the cops appeared laid back; they’re also learning–nothing energizes people like seeing college kids penned and pepper-sprayed.

Right now the people need sleeping bags, blankets, boots, food.