Being pro-organisation and anti-authoritarian


Continuing the discussion from Ferguson: protesters hold peaceful march, militarized police aim guns at them:

First of all plenty of anarchists and libertarian-communists have already said that one of the reasons that Occupy failed is because of lack of organisation. We disagree with you about the need for hierarchy though.

My experiences of the heirarchical LGBT rights movements in the UK is that of pushing other marginalised people to the side to gain rights. First of all it was the lesbian and gay members of the LGBT movements marginalising the Bisexual and transgender members, then it was LGB ignoring the T. Now we have transsexuals defining transgender† to exclude other non-binary and non gender normative people. How many more decades are you expected to wait until it is your turn to be the one claiming rights, and who gets pushed aside then?

Being told that people will eventually work towards changing the law is meaningless when people are shouting abuse, attacking you and smashing your windows today. Sometimes the best thing to do is organise a group to fight for your collective interests against the will of the hierarchy, and do so knowing that they will try to take over and claim credit for your work in six months time.

† A friend of mine was involved in the work to change London LGB Pride to LGBT Pride in the early 90s, where they defined transgender as “People who challenge traditional assumptions about gender.”


I find this an interesting topic, and it’s by no means clear what is right. I think organizations that have made important changes in the US have been top-down hierarchical organizations, like SCLC, SNCC, and Human rights Campaign - I think that @GideonTJones really is spot on about that.

I had an opportunity back in my undergrad days to be in a class where Rep. Lewis came to speak to us (it was a 60s history class, and we were working on the civil rights section). Since we had just finished up with the section on more radical black power, and the class had a pretty good debate on the issue of self-defense, I asked him about that. He argued exactly that it was the organization and the discipline that the movement overall had which led to success.

But aren’t they also successful because they are addressing specific issues rather than trying to get broad, major structural changes for all of society? The classical civil rights was a targeted, discplined movement that sought to change very specific things about the American legal system. The Montgomery bus boycott was a tangible thing. They got specific changes. The final outcome was two major pieces of legislation which banned outright forms of racial discrimination in the public sphere.

But aren’t we still dealing with the legacy of the “bad old days”? If we agree with Sugrue, middle class blacks found new freedoms, while, in the case of detroit, working class blacks were abandoned by those who could now freely follow jobs to the suburbs, including middle class black families.

And what was Dr. King’s new crusade when he got shot in 1968? The poor people’s campaign! It was a broader set of issues he was set to deal with. Who knows where he would have gone with that, or how much stronger organized labor would be now if he hadn’t been killed.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that the failures of occupy were specifically that they had too much that they wanted to address, or that there were too many people with too many different concerns. I think that maybe occupy wanted to be the umbrella that brought this wide set of issues together into a common language. They (or some of them) wanted to address these root causes - but no one really agrees on what that is, other than to say “inequality” or the “capitalist” system"… I don’t know if honestly we can connect together all our social problems, collectively, and address them that way, at least not without a more radical set of solutions…


How about simple humanism? Let’s help the people flourish, kinda deal.

Inequality=bad, first off. Source of most of our biggest problems, including the fact 95% of folks are kept in crippling ignorance.


Agreed. But how do we get there. I don’t think the left gets hung up on this point. I think for most of us, it’s where we want to get to. But, as Faulkner said (and I’m paraphrasing), the past isn’t even past. This is doubly true when you talk about race in America. I know part of this is my historical training (though not all, because I’ve though like this for as long as I can remember), but until we can fully understand how we got here, especially in terms of race and gender, we aren’t going to be able to get past it and move onto something better. White, male America, in generally, just doesn’t want to have this discussion, for a number of reasons. It scares them/us. It makes them/us feel as if we are at fault, even if we are “nice” white people.

I agree with this too. Most people don’t even know how their neighbors live, much less how they got that way and they don’t actually care. The information is out there, they just don’t care. I kind of like what Bob Lefsetz had to say about it:

It’s not that we don’t have access to information, because at no time in history have we had more access to information then we do right now-- much of our ignorance is totally willful and is fed by what Eli Pariser called the “filter bubble”. What the internet (or rather Google) feeds us on our searches is what we’ve shown a proclivity to look at anyway. Like McLuhan said, the medium is the message in this case. It’s shaping how we get and filter our information. Much like TV did, much like books did, much like radio did, etc.

I don’t know, there are no easy answers. We’re not just going to be able to vote in new people or shop in a different way, or read different sources and it will all be fixed magically. Even if you are reading the information on our collective problems, you are going to be biased in how you understand it. It all tends to reinforce the current structure of the world. We have agency, but it’s rather limited in nature. Even the language we’re using, thinking in terms of left/right, in terms of race and gender, in terms of structures and institutions - all of that is going to shape the kind of solutions we can reach, which will only reinforce the modern consumer capitalist, white power regime of global power. I guess it always comes down to whether we can work within those structures that we currently have, or if we need fundamental changes to human existence to really move forward. Honestly, I don’t know.


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