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OWS Anoints "Spokes" Persons


After one month or so of existence, Occupy Wall Street has finally added a layer of management.

Occupy Wall Street Debuts the New Spokes Council

Occupy Wall Street premiered their new governing apparatus last night in a sweaty high school cafeteria in Lower Manhattan. The Spokes Council, which passed with a large majority at a General Assembly in late October, met for the first time last night with the purpose of setting up what the SC will look like in future and who will be a part of it.

In contrast with the General Assembly, the Spokes Council uses actual microphones, meets indoors and operates on a "spokes" system: working groups that take part sit together and groups are arranged in a circle, like spokes on a wheel. Each working group is represented by an individual, or "spoke," who rotates every meeting.

At The Nation, blogger Greg Mitchell relayed a description of the organization of the Spokes Council:

10:30  First major Spokes Council meeting in NYC last night.  Steven Syrek, longtime with OWS at People's Library, attended and sent me this valuable description of the structure, which should interest other Occupyers elsewhere:

1. The Spokes Council was proposed by the Structure working group at the GA as a mechanism to streamline Operations at OWS. SC is a tool for organization. The SC that met last night is *a* spokes council but not THE spokes council. That is, it does not govern or speak for OWS, but it does provide a place for logistical organization among the different constituent groups occupying Liberty Plaza.  2.. The different groups are: Operations Groups, Movement Groups, and Caucuses.  3. At the first meeting last night, there were no spokes except the Occupiers, who automatically got a spoke as part of the proposal passed by the GA. Side note, nobody showed up to represent the Occupiers, so someone there had to volunteer to do it.  

4. Every group that desires to participate in SC had to submit a form identifying themselves as either an OG, MG, or Caucus.  OGs are for groups that perform essential logistical services for everyone at OWS. MGs are like affinity groups, mainly for groups working on issues relevant to OWS but not necessarily logistical in nature. Caucuses represent traditionally marginalized groups and are not necessarily open membership, whereas OGs have to be open membership and hold regular meetings.  Note:   Operations Groups and Caucuses get spokes at the Spokes Council, which means decision making power and the ability to propose budgets. Movement Groups do not get spokes but may make proposals to the SC via one of the relevant OGs. Anyone may still make a proposal to the GA.

5. First order of business is identifying all the groups present. Then going through all the forms submitted and asking the de facto spokes present, that is group representatives (with other group members seated behind them) if they feel each group in turn is obviously an OG or further discussion is needed to categorize it....This took a long time, but we ended up with a list of now officially recognized spokes and a much longer list of groups for which people have concerns. The meeting concluded at this point and will pick up again on Wednesday.

Many critics and supporters have been calling for better decision-making, so they might see Spokes' more streamlined structure as a positive development compared to the ponderous pace of the General Assembly. Others will see consolidation of power with an elite as a negative development—the Iron Law of Oligarchies in practice. Transferring power to the Spokes Council may simply be growing pains, but in, A Chill Descends on Occupy Wall Street, OWS participant Fritz Tucker cries "follow the money!":

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).

Occupy Wall Street’s Structure Working Group (WG) has created a new organization called the Spokes Council.
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.
... It is reasonable to expect any undemocratic organization to be co-opted eventually by a vocal minority or charismatic individual. On Friday, October 29, the proposal to create the Spokes Council was put to the NYC-GA for a fifth time, and finally received a 90% majority. The facilitators assisted the process by denying two vocal critics of the Spokes Council their allotted time to speak against it.

Grain of salt—Based on his previous entries, Tucker has functioned as a gadfly since arriving at Zuccotti Park, and his is only one account. His objections remind me of the argument I saw at an Occupy Baltimore GA over breaking up into smaller discussion groups. Still I will be curious to see where the movement and the money goes.

Just looking at this from a distance and through what one may deem an academic organizational development perspective, watching this will be interesting.  This portion of the Voice's article caught my eye.

And a big disruption came in the form of Greek artist Georgia Sagri, who led the splinter group that occupied a gallery in SoHo a couple weeks ago. Representing the Direct Democracy working group, Sagri stood and took the mic.

"I think through the spokes council process, working groups become organizations and they become parties," she said. "What's the reason for us to marginalize ourselves?"

The group reacted with general derision, even some jeering; Sagri was breaking process. Activist Ashley Love (who elicited boos at a community board meeting a few weeks ago) yelled "Shame on you all!"

Sagri, who is one of the original people that attended General Assemblies over the summer, told the Voice that the Spokes Council "shows a misunderstanding of what exactly we're doing here."

"Occupy Wall Street is never, and will never be an organization," she said.

We aren't very big yet here in Occupy Boulder but we have a 'Unity' Working Group however right now it just requires that someone from every working group attend each meeting and anyone can attend but it is to help with interaction between the groups.

Our most recent struggles have occurred over very passionate and perhaps very idealistic members feeling that if we weren't ready to take action in support of Palestine immediately we were... something... and they should leave the group... ugh....

We carry on...

Who gets to decide who is in any particular "group" or "caucus"?   Just the members of that group?   The entire group has to apply for membership in the council, as a single unit?  I assume that eventually people in the GA will want the right to elect the members of these important groups.

So then you have a general body of all the people, with a special leadership council made up of committees or rotating chairs, members of which are elected by the whole body.   I think we call such a system a parliamentary system or representational democracy.

I think we call such a system a parliamentary system or representational democracy.

Exactly.

Maybe I'm naive and the eternal optimist but I really like the "looks" of this organization.

The terminology is unique and resonates with the movement.

It is horizontal.

It is participatory.

It is replicable.

It seems well suited to, and in a sense, mimics the new age of social media.

It looks socialistic and should start scaring the pants off the 1%

 

 

DENNIS

I told you. We live in an anarcho-syndicalist commune! We take it in turns to act as a sort of officer for the week...

 

KING ARTHUR

Yes

 

DENNIS

...but all the decisions of that officer has to be ratified at the special by-weekly meeting...

 

KING ARTHUR

Yes, I see.

 

DENNIS

...by a civil majority in the case of purely internal affairs...

 

KING ARTHUR

Be quiet!

 

DENNIS

...but by a two thirds majority in the case of more...

 

KING ARTHUR

Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

(i must)

WOMAN:  Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
  ARTHUR:  I am your king!
  WOMAN:  Well, I didn't vote for you.
  ARTHUR:  You don't vote for kings.
  WOMAN:  Well, 'ow did you become king then?
  ARTHUR:  The Lady of the Lake,
      [angels sing]
      her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur
      from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I,
      Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
      [singing stops]
      That is why I am your king!
  DENNIS:  Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
      is no basis for a system of government.  Supreme executive power
      derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
      aquatic ceremony.
  ARTHUR:  Be quiet!
  DENNIS:  Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
      just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
  ARTHUR:  Shut up!
  DENNIS:  I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an empereror just
      because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd
      put me away!
  ARTHUR:  Shut up!  Will you shut up!
  DENNIS:  Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
  ARTHUR:  Shut up!
  DENNIS:  Oh!  Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
      HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
  ARTHUR:  Bloody peasant!
  DENNIS:  Oh, what a give away.  Did you here that, did you here that,
      eh?  That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me,
      you saw it didn't you?

O.K, reach for the iambic pentameter

 

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