Last month, I wrote that the Occupy Wall Street organization looked like a child from a marriage between Animal Farm and Animal House. In an insider account written by an Occupier alarmed at the hijacking of the movement — and its funding — from the OWS “General Assembly,” it’s clear that the analogy didn’t go quite far enough. It’s Animal Farm meets Animal House, all right, but with Niedermeyer running the Deltas.
It’s impossible to do this justice through excerpts, so be sure to read it all. However, a couple of points stand out (via Instapundit):
On Sunday, October 23, a meeting was held at 60 Wall Street. Six leaders discussed what to do with the half-million dollars that had been donated to their organization, since, in their estimation, the organization was incapable of making sound financial decisions. The proposed solution was not to spend the money educating their co-workers or stimulating more active participation by improving the organization’s structures and tactics. Instead, those present discussed how they could commandeer the $500,000 for their new, more exclusive organization. No, this was not the meeting of any traditional influence on Wall Street. These were six of the leaders of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
To understand what follows, one has to have some familiarity with the organization of OWS. The General Assembly (NYC-GA) nominally makes all the decisions through overwhelming consensus; it requires 90% agreement to approve any decision, including expenditures. Sound groovy? Well, not really; a minority of 11% can essentially block all action, and apparently often do. And you thought the US Senate was bad …
This produced the need for subcommittees, called Working Groups (WG), which try to vet all issues and make recommendations back to the NYC-GA. It also eventually led to the creation of the Spokes Council, thanks to frustration in the Structure WG with the “Finance WG’s monopoly over OWS’ funds.” To use the UN analogy of the “General Assembly,” the Spokes Council would be the Security Council of OWS. The account by Fritz Tucker shows that the better analogy for the Spokes Council is that of the pigs in Animal Farm. Think I’m kidding?
Daniel, a tall, red-bearded, white twenty-something—one of the six leaders of the teach-in—said that the NYC-GA needed to be completely defunded because those with “no stake” in the Occupy Wall Street movement shouldn’t have a say in how the money was spent. When I asked him whether everybody in the 99% had a stake in the movement, he said that only those occupying or working in Zuccotti Park did. I pointed out that since the General Assembly took place in Zuccotti Park, everybody who participated was an occupier. He responded with a long rant about how Zuccotti Park is filled with “tourists,” “free-loaders” and “crackheads” and suggested a solution that the even NYPD has not yet attempted: Daniel said that he’d like to take a fire-hose and clear out the entire encampment, adding hopefully that only the “real” activists would come back.
Yeah, well, some animals are more equal than others, too. Free-loaders and crackheads? Funny, that’s exactly what many people think of the entire Occupy movement. What ever happened to radical democracy and radical equality? In a dash of Lord Acton, it turns out that power corrupts even the socialists … or as history showed time and again in the last century, especially the socialists. When it came to creating the Spokes Council, they plotted to usurp real power — and the cash, let’s not forget — by manipulating the rules and flat-out ignoring them:
The main obstacle to the creation of the Spokes Council was that the NYC-GA had already voted against it four times. One audience member observed that no organization would vote to relinquish its power. Some of the strongest proponents of the Spokes Council responded that they had taken this into account, and were planning on creating the Spokes Council regardless of whether the NYC-GA accepted the proposal. They claimed that, in the interests of non-hierarchy, neither the Spokes Council nor the General Assembly should have power over the other.
In the minutes of the teach-in on Saturday the 22nd, the leaders recognize that usurping power from the NYC-GA might make people uncomfortable. The Structure WG’s eventual proposal was to keep the General Assembly alive and functioning while the Spokes Council “gets on its feet.” Working Groups could still technically get funding through the NYC-GA, but the “GA may stop making those kinds of decisions because people [will] stop going… To officially take power away isn’t necessary,” especially because the NYC-GA works on the consensus model. A small group of people aiming to delegitimize the NYC-GA could easily attend each session merely to block every proposal. According to a member of the Demands WG, this is already occurring in several Working Groups.
To placate the rest of OWS, the Structure WG amended their original proposal and gave the NYC-GA power to dissolve the Spokes Council. This amendment is irrelevant, however, given the 90% majority requirement in the NYC-GA, and the ability of members of the Spokes Council to vote in the NYC-GA.
Fritz Tucker tried to speak out against this usurpation of power. How did that work out? Just exactly as anyone who spent any time at all studying Soviet politics might imagine:
When my turn came to speak, I brought up the plans of “the leaders of the allegedly leaderless movement” to commandeer the half-million dollars sent to the General Assembly for their new, exclusive, undemocratic, representational organization. Before I could finish, the facilitators and other members of the OWS inner circle started shouting over me. Amidst the confusion, the human mic stopped projecting what I, or anybody was saying. Because silence was what they were after, the leaders won.
Eventually one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking “opinions, not facts,” which is why I would not be allowed to continue. He also asserted untruthfully that I had gone over my allotted minute. Notably, the facilitators and members of the OWS inner circle regularly ignore time restrictions.
What a shock! The leaders getting criticized get to make the determination whether certain people can speak, and then whether their speech contains opinions or facts. What a great system OWS has designed … for people who want to seize control of the movement and the funds. It looks like this movement has its own 1% that want to dictate to the 99% how to live their lives. Frankly, I think the 99% have a better chance in the system we have than in the neo-Stalinist model they’re building in Zuccotti Park, and we have a century of experience on our side in that argument.