The Occupy movement is not just your average popular movement. Could their struggle, as in the 1930s, be a battle between anarchism and fascism?
- Alle tar ansvar!
The Allting as the Hub of the Occupy Movement
What defines the Occupy movement is perhaps more than anything else the rejection of the leader principle and the eternal struggle for approval. Rather than begging the oppressors for their approval, occupyers establish their own status and pride, their own media, methods and institutions. They do this without leaders, and instead the Allting (general assembly) has become their hub.
The Allting makes all the decisions and consists – as the name suggests – of all members of a community. They also choose moderators and facilitators who ensure that the conversation progresses, while all groups and persons have their say. The Occupy movement’s Allting can thus be seen as an ambitious attempt at lordless communication.
The Militarisation of the Public Sphere
In today’s Norway, as good as no public communication is lordless. For example, our King has his military troops in Afghanistan, and activists protesting this war and occupation are labeled in the public sphere as dangerous extremists. Their mobilisation videos are labeled as threat videos as Norwegian soldiers, tanks and military leaders are displayed, and the PST (security police) jails those who upload the films and spends resources on finding out whether the filmmaker had accomplices.
Increasingly, we see a militarisation of the public sphere, language and communication, and in this militarised communication, the enemy images are very simple. An anti-war protest thus becomes a bunch of hate-messages from dangerous extremists, in other words completely bad people, while the King, the soldiers and the police become totally good. There is no room for any nuances, colours or shades of grey, and in their eagerness they forget «old» laws and paragraphs, like the Constitution and the Free Speech paragraph (§100):
§100 – There should be free speech
No-one can be held legally liable for having given or received information, ideas or messages, unless it is defendable in relation to freedom of speech and its motivation of the search for truth, democracy and the free forming of opinions of the individual. The legal liability should be written in law.
Frank statements about the government of the state and about any thing whatsoever are allowed for everyone. There can only be established such clearly defined limits to this right where extraordinarily grave considerations make it defendable in relation to the motivations of free speech.
The King, or the lord, makes the decisions, and the anti-war protesters don’t even have the right to disagree to these decisions. Instead, their resistance is labeled as criminal, dangerous and terroristic, and the security police knocks on the door of the filmmaker in Skien and throws him in jail. Apparently, this creates More Openness, More Democracy…
Playing With Fire: Example of an illegal demonstration from the circles that may one day become Occupy Oslo. Photo: Torstein Viddal.
Just like Occupy Oslo, the think tank Svart Analyse (Black Analysis) in February 2012 does not exist other than as an idea. The aim is to establish it later this year, and the Norwegian term «tenketanks» (think tank) was consciously chosen to emphasise the fact that many of the think tanks in our world today are connected to warfare. The first part of the term – «think» in English – explains what type of armoured vehicle we are talking about, it’s a metaphorical «thinking armoured vehicle» which should assist the other tanks in the war campaign by thinking brilliant and strategic thoughts.
In any case, the idea is to assist Occupy and other social movements with brilliant and strategic thoughts in the cultural struggle that many now feel is ongoing and think will define societal life in the next few years. A struggle where concepts like WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Electronic Frontier Foundation are stars in the sky, alongside the Occupy movement. Here, too, the keyword is «lordless communication» – ways to have a conversation without some people being lords and the others thralls who beg for respect, accept and approval of the lords.
Svart Analyse will also try to formalise and systemise what many of us are already doing today, that is to make sober, calm and as unprejudiced and neutral analyses as possible of our society and the contemporary. Far too many think tanks today are connected to specific political parties or ideologies that they seek to promote, and an anarchistically based think tank could turn out to be an interesting addition to this flora of think tanks, precisely because it is anarchistic and therefore «clean», in the sense that it’s not sentimental regarding «the left», «the right», «the environmental movement» or specific religions, ethnic groups, genders or economic interests.
The Blackening of Anarchism
Anarchism has in many ways risen and gotten many new friends with the application of its principles in the Occupy movement. Yet, historically, anarchism has been the victim of «lord communication» in the shape of discrediting and disinformation campaigns, like the series of false-flag terror attacks in Czarist Russia that was blamed on anarchists. In America, an equally dubious event at Haymarket in Chicago – described by our own anarchist writer Knut Hamsun in his book «Fra det moderne Amerikas Aandsliv» – during a labour demonstration in 1886, led to the portraying by cartoonists and propagandists of anarchists as «bomb-throwing anarchists». This was a useful delusion that the state of those years sought to spread, in an era when anarchists were close to – and very much thought it was possible to – succeed.
From our own age we recognise the propaganda cartoons with bombs in the shape of the Danish tabloid Jyllands-Posten and their blasphemous charicatures of the prophet Muhammed with a bomb hidden in his turban. Muslims are the new chosen enemy blamed for everything that goes astray, from terror attacks and financial crises to food shortages and real-estate prices, and the concept of muslims as dangerous extremists who at any time might blow themselves up, travels the world and has really been allowed to establish itself, largely thanks to efficient propaganda and intelligence work.
Anarchism as we now know it from last year’s popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, America and England, and globalised through the Occupy Wall Street movement, is popular, practical and concerned with real democracy and criticism of illegitimate power. It strives towards autonomy – self-rule – and Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ), and increasingly chooses to no longer approve of existing authorities based on illegitimate power.
The movement’s dogmas of «1%» and «99%» communicate efficiently that something is wrong, a fact already felt by people in almost every nation except Norway, yet at the same time, part of the genius and appeal of the movement lies in the fact that it doesn’t possess all the answers to everything. Instead of answers, the Occupy movement has a method. Direct democracy. Its physical manifestations in the shape of tent camps that occupy parks, squares and public spaces, equally communicate to all who walk past that the occupyers mean business, that they’re dedicated and think in the long term. Those days are gone when you applied to the local governments for permission to have an event in a Free Speech Zone for a couple of hours – now, instead you build parallel democratic structures to the existing and hold Alltings in the different districts of the big cities.
And at the same time, it is of course the movement’s success in itself that presents its gravest threat. As the Occupy community becomes its own and a far more democratic alternative to the existing one, the flaws and the injustice of the established system become visible. These are aspects of our systems that can’t stand too much light or lasting focus, precisely because the popular foundation of the established system proves to be something of an illusion.
The Cultural Struggle of the 21st Century
In the USA, a number of observers have claimed that the new and extended authorities of the military mixed into the defense budget for 2012 – the NDAA 2012 – comes partly as a response to the successes of the Occupy movement. The NDAA law grants the military the option to kick in the doors of «suspected terrorists» in the USA and the rest of the world and abduct them to military facilities and torturous black holes indefinitely, without giving the «suspect» any access to legal advice or even any hope of a trial.
As in the 1930s, anarchism thus faces open conflict with more or less obvious fascist groups that have occupied the state apparatus. Presently, the state is to some extent treading water, probably just waiting for the occupyers to sour and go home, continuing with their jobs and their lives. But when push comes to shove, we will likely see disappearances and orchestrated fear campaigns, something the US intelligence services have long and ugly records for from Latin America. What forces that in the end will win this formidable cultural struggle will be pretty decisive for both humanity and the 21st century.
By Torstein Viddal
system developer at the Norwegian United Nations Association,
member of the Tent Camp Group of Occupy Oslo and incubator for Svart Analyse