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#TheoryThursday: "Do not become enamored of power." - Michel Foucault

Posted 4 months ago on June 23, 2014, 10:09 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Power, TheoryThursday

“Preface” to Anti-Oedipus by Michel Foucault

During the years 1945-1965 (I am referring to Europe), there was a certain way of thinking correctly, a certain style of political discourse, a certain ethics of the intellectual. One had to be on familiar terms with Marx, not let one’s dreams stray too far from Freud. And one had to treat sign-systems — the signifier — with the greatest respect. These were the three requirements that made the strange occupation of writing and speaking a measure of truth about oneself and one’s time acceptable.

Then came the five brief, impassioned, jubilant, enigmatic years. At the gates of our world, there was Vietnam, of course, and the first major blow to the powers that be. But here, inside our walls, what exactly was taking place? An amalgam of revolutionary and antirepressive politics? A war fought on two fronts: against social exploitation and psychic repression? A surge of libido modulated by the class struggle? Perhaps. At any rate, it is this familiar, dualistic interpretation that has laid claim to the events of those years. The dream that cast its spell, between the First World War and fascism, over the dreamiest parts of Europe — the Germany of Wilhelm Reich, and the France of the surrealists — had returned and set fire to reality itself: Marx and Freud in the same incandescent light.

But is that really what happened? Had the utopian project of the thirties been resumed, this time on the scale of historical practice? Or was there, on the contrary, a movement toward political struggles that no longer conformed to the model that Marxist tradition had prescribed? Toward an experience and a technology of desire that were no longer Freudian. It is true that the old banners were raised, but the combat shifted and spread into new zones.

Anti-Oedipus shows us first of all how much ground has been covered. But it does much more than that. It wastes no time in discrediting the old idols. even though it does have a great deal of fun with Freud. Most important, it motivates us to go further.

It would be a mistake to read Anti-Oedipus as the new theoretical reference (you know, that much-heralded theory that finally encompasses everything, that finally totalizes and reassures, the one we are told we “need so badly” in our age of dispersion and specialization where “hope” is lacking). One must not look for a “philosophy” amid the extraordinary profusion of new notions and surprise concepts: Anti-Oedipus is not a flashy Hegel. I think that Anti-Oedipus can best be read as an “art,” in the sense that is conveyed by the term “erotic art,” for example. Informed by the seemingly abstract notions of muliplicities, flows, arrangements, and connections, the analysis of the relationship of desire to reality and to the capitalist “machine” yields answers to concrete questions. Questions that are less concerned with why this or that than with how to proceed. How does one introduce desire into thought, into discourse, into action? How can and must desire deploy its forces within the political domain and grow more intense in the process of overturning the established order? Ars erotica, ars theoretica, ars politica.

Whence the three adversaries confronted by Anti-Oedipus. Three adversaries who do not have the same strength, who represent varying degrees of danger, and whom the book combats in different ways:

• The political ascetics, the sad militant, the terrorists of theory, those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political discourse. Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.

• The poor technicians of desire — psychoanalysts and semiologists of every sign and symptom — who would subjugate the multiplicity of desire to the twofold law of structure and lack.

• Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus‘ opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini — which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively — but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular “readership”: being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living). How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christian moralists sought out the traces of the flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guattari, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.

Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis de Sales, one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.

This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide for everyday life:

• Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.

• Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.

• Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

• Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.

• Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.

• Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.

• Do not become enamored of power.

It could even be said that Deleuze and Guattari care so little for power that they have tried to neutralize the effects of power linked to their own discourse. Hence the games and snares scattered throughout the book, rendering its translation a feat of real prowess. But thse are not the familiar traps of rhetoric; the latter work to sway the reader without his being aware of the manipulation, and ultimately win him over against his will. The traps of Anti-Oedipus are those of humor: so many invitations to let oneself be put out, to take one’s leave of the text and slam the door shut. The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness: the tracking down of all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everday lives.

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Fund the Spiritual Insurrection—Gift the Iconic Ballerina and Bull OWS Poster. (Now Accepting Bitcoin!)

Posted 4 months ago on June 2, 2014, 12:40 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Ballerina and Bull Poster, Occupy Wall Street

Give us a boost in time for a hot summer! Let's send 1,000 Occupy Wall Street posters into the wild!

Order a fine art quality poster or canvas for your comrades and friends. Proceeds of your donation will go towards an activist fund managed by the Occupy Solidarity Network. You will be pleased with the crisp, high-quality reproduction that we offer.

For those of you who've been asking for a way to pay with bitcoin... the time has arrived! Simply add the poster to your cart and during the checkout process you will be given an option to use bitcoin. Hooray!

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News: A year on, bitter Italians keep #M5S flying high

Posted 5 months ago on May 20, 2014, 10:48 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #EP2014, #M5S

ROME (Reuters) - Franco Picini, a schoolteacher in Italy’s capital city, says he has voted for the left all his life, but in this month's European parliament elections, he will back the 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.

“I know his political platform isn’t very clear, but enough with Italy’s old political guard! They all have to go,” says the slim 58-year-old, who teaches teenagers with special needs. “Grillo is the only alternative ... if we want to start over.”

The 5-Star Movement swept into Italy's national parliament for the first time last year, riding a wave of discontent with the country’s politicians and their mismanagement of the euro zone’s third largest economy.

But over the past year, 5-Star has been rocked by internal strife and has little to show in the way of new legislation.

Even so, with Italy still scarred by a three-year economic downturn, the 65-year-old Grillo’s grassroots populism remains a potent electoral weapon.

Polls put Grillo's support at about 27 percent for the European elections on May 25, up from the 25.6 percent he took in last year's national elections. That's behind the Democratic Party's 33-34 percent, but some say polls underestimate 5-Star as pollsters typically conduct telephone surveys on land lines, while younger voters, the core of Grillo’s support, tend to use mobiles.

“Since the crisis isn’t going to be resolved over the next few weeks, the political space for Grillo is still vast,” says Elisabetta Gualmini, political scientist for the Istituto Cattaneo research group and author of a book on the 5-Star Movement.

Italy, like other southern European states, is showing tepid signs of economic recovery, and investors are returning to a debt market they had shunned en masse, but business is still suffering, and unemployment high, especially among the young. Even before the crisis, Italy's real per capita gross domestic product had not improved since 1997, two years before the introduction of the euro, according to Eurostat.

Grillo’s critics say the party has wasted an opportunity over this past year to put their popular mandate to good use, maintaining a stance of opposition in parliament, and refusing to join with other parties to pass legislation. But it is seen as a badge of honour by supporters disillusioned with decades of political compromise that has kept coalitions together at the expense of much-needed reform.

And Grillo is having a broader influence on Italy's political discourse. The Democratic Party's new prime minister Matteo Renzi, at 39 Italy's youngest ever, peppers his speeches with slogans from Grillo’s hymnsheet, and last month announced he was selling dozens of official government cars on eBay as a way to reduce the fringe benefits of Italy’s politicians.

"Renzi and Grillo are very similar. Renzi is the only politician who could eat into the 5-Star Movement’s popularity, because he uses the same populist communication strategies that Grillo uses; he speaks directly to homemakers, factory workers," says Gualmini.

ACCOUNTABILITY

In last year's elections, Italians lapped up Grillo’s rhetoric that it was time to make government more accountable, especially after a year of austerity measures at the hands of the technocrat government of Mario Monti, who was appointed, not elected, to bring Italy back from the brink of default.

"Neither the right nor the left has done anything to make our life better, or to try something new," says Massimo Ornaghi, a 42-year-old information technology engineer who voted for Grillo in last year’s national elections. Ornaghi says that if 5-Star hadn’t run, he wouldn’t have voted at all.

The result gave 5-Star a formidable block of 163 lawmakers between the lower house Chamber of Deputies and upper house Senate.

"The attention we were getting, particularly abroad, was huge," recalls Vito Crimi, speaker of the party in the Senate.

"It was enough to give us all big heads, and some did get cocky."

From the start, Grillo, who founded and runs 5-Star but is not in parliament, said his party "was neither right nor left, but behind the scenes to check on those who govern”.

Sometimes they have been very much centre-stage, including a heated attempt to filibuster a property tax bill that led to scuffles in parliament. They failed on that occasion, but on others have exerted influence on government policy. On party financing, long a controversial issue in Italy, they helped push the former government of Enrico Letta to substitute state financing with voluntary contributions by 2017. 5-Star also say they influenced Renzi’s plans to reduce the power of various levels of local government in Italy.

"(Grillo) has managed to strip certain controversial issues that used to previously belong either to the right or to the left of the political spectrum," says Roberto Weber, from polling organisation Istituto Ixe’.

Perhaps 5-Star’s most effective move, in the eyes of its supporters, is to have agreed to halve their salaries to about 4,000 euros a month and use the savings to support small and medium-sized enterprises.

"The other lawmakers drone on about spending cuts, but when we asked them to follow our example and cut their salaries, there was no response," said Nicola Biondo, head of communications for the party in the lower house.

Though in terms of legislation the party has little to its credit, it did secure a popular amendment to the budget that allows private businesses to withhold tax for unpaid bills owed by the state.

Its popularity has survived what often proves fatal to mainstream parties - a series of bitter internal feuds and high-profile defections and expulsions. As many as 14 of its 54 senators and four of its 109 deputies are no longer with the party.

"The idea that everyone counts in the same way in 5-Star is pure hypocrisy," says Luis Orellana, one of the senators who was expelled in February.

SHIFT TO THE RIGHT?

Hurt by the defections and to counter the freshness of Renzi, who had not set foot in parliament until he became premier, 5-Star has been tweaking its policy platform. Grillo, in his blog, has recently tried to attract centre-right voters, in particular small businesses and entrepreneurs, traditionally on the right of the political spectrum, whose biggest complaint is Italy’s high taxes.

"The party has gradually been moving towards the right," says Mario Catania, a member of the centrist Civic Choice party and former minister of agriculture in Monti’s technocrat government.

That’s partly a strategic move, analysts say, as Grillo is trying to take disillusioned voters from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which has also suffered internal divisions.

On the blog, which is also an active debate forum, Grillo in April suggested abolishing Equitalia, a private tax collection agency, which he dubbed "the oppressor of small and very small companies, while closing an eye to rich people".

A major plank of Grillo’s strategy ahead of European elections is to fuel euroscepticism and seek a popular mandate to abandon the euro, unless there are changes to the financial and budgetary constraints the currency group has signed up to.

"We need to hold a referendum, and our vote will be 'no' if the conditions of the Stability Pact and the Fiscal Compact remain," says Crimi, the party’s Senate speaker.

He says 5-Star’s biggest achievement is to have restored credibility to Italian politics. "Thanks to us, many people have fallen in love with politics again, and we have opened a window into how our institutions are run."

"This is a model of transparency that we now want to export to Europe," he adds.

Millionaire Grillo has said that if 5-Star doesn’t poll first in Italy, he will step aside.

Many don't take him at his word, as they believe the party would fall apart without him.

"He’s saying so to shake things up," says Nicola Biondo, the party’s communication chief in the lower house. "He wants us to aim high."

(Editing by Alessandra Galloni and Will Waterman)

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Statement from #Justice4Cecily

Posted 5 months ago on May 19, 2014, 11:21 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

Today, Cecily McMillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did not receive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.

The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means. For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large.

The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD.

We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.

At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled.

It’s no great secret that police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are an all-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we're furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.

While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge police sexual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell Hooks describes the love ethic in All About Love as:

“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to “not fall in love with ourselves”.

Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work.

Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world.

Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from copwatch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own.

A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying “you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that praxis is the "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through.

To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

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Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days: A Call to Action

Posted 5 months ago on May 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

No #Justice4Cecily, No Peace. Rally at 7:30PM TONIGHT, Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced in New York City. Her imprisonment and botched trial are just the latest in a two-year trial of injustices that leads back to her brutal arrest on March 17, 2012 in Liberty Square. She has become another symbol of the two-tiered justice system in the United States: prisons overflowing with nonviolent offenders, whistleblowers and political dissenters while thieving executives and banksters walk free.

As Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” The perpetrators of the crime of poverty not only walk amongst us but are elevated by a broken system to the highest offices of government and corporate power. Enough!

When we took to the streets across our country in 2011 in dignified and peaceful protest, we were brutally arrested by militarized police officers sent to destroy our solidarity and resolve. By the thousands we occupied jail cells and courtrooms and learned of the atrocities committed to the ‘other 1%’: the 1 in 100 Americans who are currently ensnared in the prison system in some form. This is the highest rate of incarceration this country, and the world, has ever seen. Enough!

We need a mass and militantly non-violent movement to bring down the broken prison system in the USA and restore justice.

This is a call to action.

Take a one-day vow of silence against their violence. Take a picture of yourself with duct tape covering your mouth and on it write the name of a prisoner you know. Post it online. Join with others at your local District Attorney’s office for a rally or direct action. Create or join a silent candlelight vigil in your community against police brutality and for freedom for all political prisoners.

You will not be alone in your silence. We will join your silence with ours and unite in a deafening roar to let the country know we will not stand by while you destroy our loved ones’ futures.

At the end of the one-day silence, we will take bold and brave direct action together to shut down the prison-industrial complex. We will have your back.

Our silence against their violence.

Justice for Cecily!

Justice for Trayvon!

Justice for Troy Davis!

Justice for Marissa Alexander!

Justice for Chelsea Manning!

Justice for Ramarley Graham!

Justice for the victims of poverty!

Justice for the victims of systemic racism!

Justice for all.

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