#OWS may not have leaders, but it has people who think they are

This Daily Show piece (via Tim Lee via here) picks up on a theme I’ve seen elsewhere, namely, that there is a sort of “professional activist class” that at least feels as if it’s running #OWS. These are probably folks who’ve been involved in the anti-globalization movement for years; I knew some of these types of people in grad school.

In respect of this, a link that Matt Stoller tweeted some time ago shows much the same thing:

A Chill Descends On Occupy Wall Street; “The Leaders of the allegedly Leaderless Movement” By Fritz Tucker

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. ‘Teach-ins’ were held to workshop and promote the Spokes Council throughout the week of October 22-28. I attended the teach-in on Sunday the 23rd.

According to Marisa Holmes, one of the most outspoken and influential leaders of OWS, the NYC-GA started receiving donations from around the world when OWS began on September 17. Because the NYC-GA was not an official organization, and therefore could not legally receive thousands of dollars in donations, the nonprofit Alliance for Global Justice helped OWS create Friends of Liberty Plaza, which receives tax-free donations for OWS. Since then, Friends of Liberty Plaza has received over $500,000. Until October 28, anybody who wanted to receive more than $100 from Friends of Liberty Plaza had to go through the often arduous modified consensus process (90% majority) of the NYC-GA—which, despite its well-documented inefficiencies, granted $25,740 to the Media WG for live-stream equipment on October 12, and $1,400 to the Food and Medical WGs for herbal tonics on October 18.

At the teach-in, Ms. Holmes maintained that while the NYC-GA is the ‘de facto’ mechanism for distributing funds, it has no right to do so, even though she acknowledged that most donors were likely under the impression that the NYC-GA was the only organization with access to these funds. Two other leaders of the teach-in, Daniel and Adash, concurred with Holmes…

One take on this would be that no popular movement can sustain itself for long without a class of people like this providing some coherence and direction. Another would be that intellectuals are always the last to spot a parade, and then they try to get out in front and claim that they’re leading it. I’m not sure which of these takes is my own. Maybe both are.

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