We confess that the Calbuzz Cultural Trend Analysis and Kim Kardashian Watch Team never quite understood the whole Instant Runoff Voting thing, either theoretically or mechanically. And as we’ve looked agape at the 24/7 fail that is Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in recent days, we’ve fervently hoped it doesn’t come to a burg near us anytime soon.
Quan, of course, is the Democratic hack who became Oaktown’s chief executive last year by virtue of a) finishing 11,000 votes behind our old friend Don Perata and b) collecting enough 13th round ballots, five golden rings and a partridge in a pear tree to emerge victorious, long after all right-thinking people had padded off in their jammies, foolishly thinking the election was over.
In any case, Mayor Q-ball has now managed, in near-record time, to transform herself into a global laughingstock with her human boomerang-style mishandling of the Occupy Oakland protests: “Her message was this,” Old Chronicle Oakland columnist Chip Johnson understated after the city’s first OO riot, “She had nothing to do with anything that upset anyone. “
Quan’s fine leadership was again on full display in the early hours of Thursday, when yet another violent, full-blown free-for-all broke out on the streets of her fair city. The only saving grace for the mayor this time out was that even bigger morons than herself, if you can imagine that, joined the latest fray.
These would be the sociopathic tweakers and punks who engaged in what the Responsible Anarchist Community likes to call Black Bloc protest tactics. Their witless actions as unpaid provocateurs (they’re apparently too dumb to get paid by the cops for acting out) hijacked much of the news coverage of what was otherwise a pretty cool day of protest in the East Bay, in the process handing Fox News and the Michelle Malkins of the world some dandy images with which to attempt to discredit the entire 99% movement.
What would Bakunin say? Judging from a sampling of comments on several lefty sites favored by Occupy activists, the thoughtful window smashing, trash-burning and rock throwing of the boys and girls in the black hoodies wasn’t all that popular with folks who are involved for less, um, nihilistic reasons, as in this thread from The Unrepetant Marxist.
But the fucking black bloc only does their bullshit when the masses are mobilized, thus allowing the bourgeois press to write about all the “violence” and turn the criminal into the victim, and the victim into the criminal. These scumbags are parasites…
I was at the general strike yesterday and while you may call them black-bloc, they were not agent provocateurs in my opinion. While I would not be surprised to find out that some are employed by the State apparatus, I talked to many and found them to be merely what might be called vulgar Marxists. I’m not sure the black bloc is much more than self-styled anarchists influenced more by Crass, than Marx or Bakunin. That said, the police were more than happy to let things accelerate in order to justify more heavy-handed tactics and got what they wanted by 1am when the contingent took the Traveler’s Aid building… In the end, they are more muddled-headed thrill seekers more than anything…
Have you read the two posts over at Jacobin on anarcho-liberalism? Part II is up today. It’s easy to see Naomi Klein as a fashionable “anarcho-liberal,” but I’m not sure about the black bloc? Didn’t they start in the 80s well before the Seattle’99/Adbusters incarnation of hipster localist “lifestylization” anarchism? Or were they just a decade early to that scene? Also, have you written anywhere of the street battles between the KKE and the anarchists in Greece? I’d be curious to know your take on a hyper-Stalinist Communist Party combating violent anarchists bent on killing communists. Do you take a side? Is there anything to learn from that mess?
OK, we’re not sure what that last one means either.
What is to be done: All this by way of limbering up to ask a key question about the Occupy movement: WTF happens next?
The venerable Jon Carroll, the Jamie Moyer of daily columnists, did some yeoman wool-gathering on the subject in a pair of Little Pulitzer-worthy investigative punditry columns this week, here and here.
But the Occupy movement is, I think, a larger and more permanent part of the American political landscape than just the sit-ins and the marches. The seed has been planted, and we don’t know who planted it. But the idea that something is rotten in society and it has to do with income inequality – well, that idea has higher approval ratings than any candidate for president…
There is a constituency here, people who have lost their homes or their jobs or life savings because of a system designed to make them suckers. They have experienced a profound loss of faith, and that is what will still be true come spring. I don’t think this thing is going away anytime soon.
Yes. And so.
Here are three things we know for sure:
1-Rather astonishingly, the OWS movement has succeeded in less than two months in raising the nation’s consciousness, and moving onto its agenda, the ugly issue of what to do with a dysfunctional political system, fueled and sustained by big corporate and Wall Street money, that aids and abets a Third World-rank inequality gap among its citizens. In truth, it’s hard to imagine, six or even three months ago, the New York Times playing on Page 1 a CBO study about wealth inequality, or a top rank Washpost pundit opining thusly:
In particular, growing inequalities of wealth and income – which should have been a central issue in American politics for at least a decade – are finally at the heart of our discourse. We are, at last, discussing the social and economic costs of concentrating more resources in the hands of the top sliver of our society.
2-The serial violence recently involving Occupy Oakland remains an outlier among protests nationally, and has more to do with a few knuckleheads who believe Xbox to be the real world, and a local culture of aggressive street protest that has simmered there since the 2009 slaying of Oscar Grant (now the namesake of the OO encampment), than with any such trend more broadly shaping OWS.
3-The OWS’s cutesy finger wiggling and human microphone schtick has become a so-10 minutes ago bore; All the yammering about creating a humanizing “process” mistakes the map for the territory, and carries way too many echoes of some strands of the mid-’60s SDS emphasis on “participatory democracy” as the key to building a swell, bright new future for everyone, shortly before that movement was jointly devoured by Progressive Labor Party apparatchiks and Weathermen.
Bottom line: At the risk of knowing that something’s happening here, but we don’t know what it is, Calbuzz sez: With or without leaders, drum circles or dehumanizing hierarchal social structures, the OWS people need to get out of their tents and organize a cohesive united front with a set of general principles and, yes, heaven help us, a pragmatic political agenda.