Richard Day: ETHICS
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PeraclesPlease: Regime Change and Precedent
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.