Saturday, November 12, 2011

St. Paul Principles and Occupy Denver

While I don't believe in non-violence as an absolute moral principle, I still have a tremendous admiration for the work of Ghandhi, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Marshall Rosenberg, and I share the belief of many Occupy Denver members about the need to promote non-violent resistance within our particular movement. And it's because I share the values of non-violence that I think it's absolutely essential that we commit to the St. Paul Principles, which, in my interpretation, not only aren't in contradiction to non-violent strategies but offer the only means of sincerely putting those strategies into action. The St. Paul Principles, as I interpret them, do not say that everyone has to agree with the actions of other people in the group; they don't say that you have to approve of actions you might define as violent. They merely state that “our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups”, which is to say that you have every right to disagree with and even resist other people's actions as long as you don't do it through the use of force. You can gently try to discourage someone within our group to not use violence but you can't use violence or the threat of violence to ensure compliance. If someone throws a water bottle at police, you might, in the name of non-violence, respectfully express your disagreement with the person's actions or even stand in front of the police and take the hit yourself. The St Paul Principles say that you can do that. But you can't forcibly try to take the water bottle away, you can't wrestle the culprit to the ground and remove him or her from the situation, you can't verbally threaten the person with violent retaliatory action, and you can't turn him or her over to the police so that they can administer the violence you sought to avoid. The St. Paul Principles, in other words, allow people with different ideologies to remain in disagreement while simultaneously remaining in solidarity against corporate exploitation. Put another way, the St. Paul Principles allow us to use the same non-violent strategies within our group that non-violent advocates would like us to use in response to the forces of the corporate state. If we can ask that our members respond to the violence of the police with acts of non-violent resistance—that we respond respectfully to their disrespect—then we ought to insist that we treat acts of violence by our own comrades the same way. If we're asking our members to not dehumanize the police (the only group we can unanimously agree has acted violently), to not, as recommended by the Eight Rules of Non-Violence, see them as enemies but as potential recruits, and to not respond to their violence with violence of our own, then we ought to be able to respond to our own comrades, even when they disagree with us, with the same measure of respect and decency.

Not only that, but repealing the St. Paul Principles without a plan for enforcement won't actually accomplish anything besides a further division within our movement. Even if we repeal the St. Paul Principles, people are still going to act in ways that some people define as violent. People will show up on Saturdays who have never been to a General Assembly and who know nothing about its decisions, or who have been to GA but don't care about its decisions, or who have been to GA and care about abiding by its decisions but, in the heat of the moment, out of fear or anger, do something in violation of GA policy—people within the movement will still act in contradiction to GA decisions whether you endorse the St. Paul Principles or not. On the other hand, if we're serious about enforcing non-violence—if we're serious about policing ourselves in respect to the principles of non-violence, then, one, we have to be a much more organized and more hierarchical and more centralized entity than we currently are, and, two, we'll have to use force, violence and/or the threat of violence, to guarantee that everyone acts in accordance with our principles. And we'll then no longer be a non-violent movement. If you mean to take Ghandi's and MLK's ideas seriously and literally, and if you mean to model a real democratic community and process, then you can't use violence in the name of non-violence and you can't advocate top-down enforcement of General Assembly decisions. The danger here is in re-shaping the concepts of non-violence and democracy into commodity fetishes that are completely void of significant moral and practical meaning.

In my view, the St. Paul Principles offer a way out of the ethical conundrum. The issue of enforcement doesn't have to be altogether avoided, because a top-down, coercive, and centralized program of enforcement isn't the only option. We can enforce the majority of our primary values democratically, through social interaction, which is mainly what we've been doing and precisely what the St. Paul Principles encourage, but no set of principles, be they democratic or non-violent, can be expected to account for every situation we might encounter and to rule over our every behavior. Neither the St. Paul Principles or the principles of non-violence or democracy should be looked upon as absolute and infallible moral commands. Obviously, if a fellow protestor attempts to rape or murder another fellow protestor, then the St. Paul Principles as well as the principles of non-violence and democracy need to be overlooked in order to end the abuse as abruptly and efficiently as possible. The St. Paul Principles, or any principles, shouldn't be seen as mandates for behavior, nor were they intended as such. The St. Paul Principles specifically mean to challenge top-down decision-making and organizing and to empower everyone involved to take direct action in the world around them. They DO NOT advocate violence. True, they allow affinity groups to choose their own courses of action, but not without some form of consensus or direct democracy to decide on goals and tactics. The St. Paul Principles aren't dictates; they are guidelines, however, for continuing the discussion, for existing in unity and camaraderie with each other in spite of our ideological differences, and for allowing those of us who prize non-violence to continue to practice and promote our values without moral contradiction and without demonizing comrades who think and act differently, which isn't just a more honest and committed non-violent practice but also a much more effective strategy for convincing others to share our values. We need the St. Paul Principles, that is, to prevent the precise kinds of divisions we've seen from recent efforts to have the principles repealed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The revolution is at hand. Though naked, I will blend with the darkness. You will not see or hear me enter. I will cross over your well-trimmed lawn and slide quietly through a crevice, creeping into your privacy. My bare feet will not make a sound as I step across the kitchen tiles and the wooden floors in the hallway and passed the kids' rooms until I reach and open your door. I will stand over your sleeping body with my hand held out to lead you further into your nightmare.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Message to Occupy Denver/Wallstreet

On The Need for International Solidarity and Civil Disobedience

Today's economic problems weren't created by a few bad policy decisions. They weren't created by the repeal of the Glass-Seagal act or the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling or the Bush tax cuts for the rich. And changing policy, while it might temporarily alleviate the suffering of a few, won't solve our problems. If we really intend to take our country back from the ruling class, we have to fundamentally alter the hit-and-run economy the ruling class has constructed to keep us down; we have to overthrow Capitalism and create a sincere Democracy in its stead.

Let's not forget that the affluence experienced by the middle classes of the 50s and 60s came at the expense of the working and peasant classes in other parts of the world. Capitalism can't function without exploitation, most especially the exploitation of labor. The economic problems we are experiencing today are a direct result of internal conflicts within the Capitalist system itself, specifically the crisis of over-accumulation as income is consistently shifted from labor to capital. The problem isn't new, either. It's only new to a portion of the working classes of the First World who up to now have been benefiting from the monopoly control of corporations that reside in post-industrialized nations. The crisis of over-accumulation, however, is too severe at this point for the ruling class to allow First World workers to continue to share in the bounty. If the working classes of the First World want to get back their rights as human beings, not be forced to sell their labor at an ever decreasing price, they have to seek solidarity with the exploited of the Third World. What I mean to say is that the ninety nine percent has to include the non-ruling class members outside of the United States, and outside of Europe and Japan, as well. This has to be a world-wide movement or it's nothing.

That said, the movement also has to be more than a fashion statement, which is to say that it has to take seriously the idea that it might be effective and, as a result, draw down the wrath, disdain, and violence of the ruling class. It has to be prepared to do more than just chant slogans and sign petitions. It has to be ready to succeed, to become historically significant, which means it has to be prepared to break the rules of the system that created the problem and to effectively defend itself against the destructive powers that will inevitably coalesce once the movement becomes cohesive and proficient enough to be perceived as a genuine threat.

Limiting ourselves to legal strategies wont get us anywhere, nor will efforts to achieve solidarity with the police or military forces whose job it is to protect the ruling class from the people. There were plenty of men who donned SS uniforms who were great fathers, husbands, sons, and friends. But they were still SS men. Their job was to serve and protect the Nazi system. Make no mistake, police officers are the enemy. They do not represent the ninety nine percent. They are not on our side simply by dint of being workers. It is their job to resist us, to protect them from us. And failure to see them as antagonistic is to side with the elites against the people, to side with apathy and against action and creativity. For any movement to make a difference it has to take risks, and that means standing up to the violence of the dominant power structure; that means defying not navigating power's commands. If you are not yet prepared to take real risks, if you are not yet ready to insist on your rights as a complete human being, if you are not quite ready to honestly assert yourself—then you are not yet ready to occupy anything other than your couches and your patio furniture.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Grow Your Own Grassroots Defiance"

Last night, while preparing for an upcoming shindig that will feature poets, musicians, actors, and more, I noticed this poster (pictured left) on our hostess's wall. I was reminded of some of the conversations we have had in R.A.W. about the pertinence of growing our own food.

This is something I would like to discuss further. I know that there are many people, locally, nationally, and globally working on this, practicing this, teaching others, etc. I would especially like their input, ideas, and expertise. How can this be done? Is it feasible?

Also, what are we giving up if we are not participating in the creation of our own foodstuffs? Some of this is evident to me, but I want to hear from others on this! Let's talk. Let's continue this conversation:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rally at the Capital

AFT Colorado, AFSCME, and other public sector unions are rallying Tuesday at noon in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

If anyone wants to go but needs help with transportation, let me (Shane) know!

Monday, February 7, 2011


So that people can plan their schedules, we agreed to make the first Sunday of the month our regular meeting time. For now, we'll stay with 11:11 am at Michelangelos, unless someone wants to suggest other venues or times. Also, we're going to start writing our manifesto as a collaborative activity. Kate will start things off, and you can add your own voice as you see fit, however you see fit (debating what others have written, ignoring them, affirming, etc.). Look on the blog for Kate's intro. and contact Tameca if you're not sure how to post. Everyone's participation is HIGHLY encouraged. Finally, for the next meeting, bring some of your own work to discuss in respect to the manifesto. If anyone has questions, let me know. Ciao for now!