Tonight I was down at St James park approximately from 8pm to 1am. I left because the legal observers were confident the raid would not happen tonight.
I had some interesting conversations, met some good people, and was generally impressed with the show of support – about 700 people down there, and a good feeling in the air. People are definitely concerned about police violence, and they are a bit on edge, but they are not panicking.
The one conflict I noticed was between the drum circle people and the people who don’t want the drum circle to be fully active past 11pm. The problem with fully non-hierarchical decision making is, even if the vast majority of people feeling genuinely uncomfortable with that much noise being made at this time of night, there is no way to enforce the needs of the majority against the drum-wielding minority. People with drums can just hit their drums whenever they like. They think it’s cultural, even though they aren’t creating any kind of shared content which could contain meaning for the movement – they are just spontaneously expressing themselves without words or even definite song structures. I feel that the unions are way ahead of the occupiers in terms of songs and instituting shared meanings.
After midnight, we broke out into discussion groups to talk about the future of occupy in Toronto, after the eviction. A lot of interesting things were said about Anarchism, about the need to keep lines of communication open – but the most interesting thing that manifested itself to me was the fact that these occupations, these live-in protests actually are instituting new forms of life. This is why they don’t seem to be offering anything constructive to the national conversation – with respect to the systems of power that exists they show up only as a revolt – as saying “you’ve got your priorities wrong, you need to fix these problems” – which is a purely negative form of criticism, and can somewhat fairly be itself criticized as one sided and not offering anything constructive. But this is because what the occupy movement has to offer which is constructive is itself being built in the occupations – consensus-governed ways of sharing, of communication, of deciding, and of living together. And they are not perfect, I heard about some occupies which have slums in them – but the fact that they can get things wrong proves that they are doing something real and not just theory.
This emphasis on occupations as instiutions shows a new reason for why it is important to spend time at the occupations in order to understand what they are doing – because the positive constructive project of occupy is not some policy suggestions (which would be ignored anyway, if not for the revolt), but to make a new way to organize social structures. The way forward is to continue to build consensus decision making social structures to fulfill needs, to go into our communities and talk to people not only about the issues but about fundamental questions about how we live together, and how we should live together.
I am often quite quick to charge anti-hierarchical anarchists with mistaking anarchism’s critique of unjustified power structures for a critique of power structures in general – but comments made by a few people tonight changed my mind on this a little – it isn’t that anarchists believe that some hierarchy is justified, rather they believe that organization is possible without power structures being relations of domination, relations which exclude the interests and participation of some people.
I made some videos, I will link them here when they finish uploading.