From #Ur-Occupied Boston (#Ur-Tomemonos Boston)-General Assembly-The Embryo Of An Alternate Government-Learn The Lessons Of History-Lessons From The Utopian Socialists- Charles Fourier and The Phalanx Movement-“Administrative Institutions and Practices”
Click on the headline to link to the archives of the Occupy Boston General Assembly minutes from the Occupy Boston website. Occupy Boston started at 6:00 PM, September 30, 2011. The General Assembly is the core political institution of the Occupy movement. Some of the minutes will reflect the growing pains of that movement and its concepts of political organization. Note that I used the word embryo in the headline and I believe that gives a fair estimate of its status, and its possibilities.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!
Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It, It’s Ours! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
Below I am posting, occasionally, comments on the Occupy movement as I see or hear things of interest, or that cause alarm bells to ring in my head. The first comment directly below from October 1, which represented my first impressions of Occupy Boston, is the lead for all further postings.
Markin comment October 1, 2011:
There is a lot of naiveté expressed about the nature of capitalism, capitalists, and the way to win in the class struggle by various participants in this occupation. Many also have attempted to make a virtue out of that naiveté, particularly around the issues of effective democratic organization (the General Assembly, its unrepresentative nature and its undemocratic consensus process) and relationships with the police (they are not our friends, no way, when the deal goes down). However, their spirit is refreshing, they are acting out of good subjective anti-capitalist motives and, most importantly, even those of us who call ourselves "reds" (communists), including this writer, started out from liberal premises as naive, if not more so, than those encountered at the occupation site. We can all learn something but in the meantime we must defend the "occupation" and the occupiers. More later as the occupation continues.
In the recent past as part of my one of my commentaries I noted the following:
“… The idea of the General Assembly with each individual attendee acting as a “tribune of the people” is interesting and important. And, of course, it represents, for today anyway, the embryo of what the ‘new world’ we need to create might look like at the governmental level.”
A couple of the people that I have talked to lately were not quite sure what to make of that idea. The idea that what is going on in Occupy Boston at the governmental level could, should, would be a possible form of governing this society in the “new world a-borning” with the rise of the Occupy movement. Part of the problem is that there was some confusion on the part of the listeners that one of the possible aims of this movement is to create an alternative government, or at least provide a model for such a government. I will argue here now, and in the future, that it should be one of the goals. In short, we need to take power away from the Democrats and Republicans and their tired old congressional/executive/judicial doesn’t work- checks and balances-form of governing and place it at the grassroots level and work upward from there rather than, as now, have power devolve from the top. (And stop well short of the bottom.)
I will leave aside the question (the problem really) of what it would take to create such a possibility. Of course a revolutionary solution would, of necessity, have be on the table since there is no way that the current powerful interests, Democratic, Republican or those of the "one percent" having no named politics, is going to give up power without a fight. What I want to pose now is the use of the General Assembly as a deliberative executive, legislative, and judicial body all rolled into one.
Previous historical models readily come to mind; the short-lived but heroic Paris Commune of 1871 that Karl Marx tirelessly defended against the reactionaries of Europe as the prototype of a workers government; the early heroic days of the Russian October Revolution of 1917 when the workers councils (soviets in Russian parlance) acted as a true workers' government; and the period in the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39 where the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias acted, de facto, as a workers government. All the just mentioned examples had their problems and flaws, no question. However, merely mentioning the General Assembly concept in the same paragraph as these great historic examples should signal that thoughtful leftists and other militants need to investigate and study these examples.
In order to facilitate the investigation and study of those examples I will, occasionally, post works in this space that deal with these forbears from several leftist perspectives (rightist perspectives were clear- crush all the above examples ruthlessly, and with no mercy- so we need not look at them now). I started this Lessons Of History series with Karl Marx’s classic defense and critique of the Paris Commune, The Civil War In France and today’s presentation noted in the headline continues on in that same vein.
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points
*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-Mart- Defend the right of public and private sector workers to unionize.
* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dues on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).
*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!
*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!
*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed.
Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!
Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
“Administrative Institutions and Practices”
Source: The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier. Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction. Translated, Edited and with an Introduction by Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu. Published by Jonathan Cape, 1972;
First Published: in 1822, Théorie de l'unité universelle.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
The internal administration of the Phalanx will be directed at the outset by a regency or council to be composed of those shareholders who have made the greatest contribution in terms of capital and industrial or scientific knowledge. If there are women capable of exercising administrative functions, they should be included on the council along with the men; for in Harmony women are on a par with men in all affairs of interest, provided they have the necessary education.
Harmony cannot tolerate any general community of goods, and there can be no collective recompenses to familial or conjugal groups. Harmony is obliged to deal with everyone individually, even with children who are at least four and a half years old, and dividends must be shared according to each individual’s contribution in terms of labour, capital and talent.
It is allowable for relatives, couples and friends to share what they possess, as is sometimes done in civilisation. But in the dealings of the Phalanx with its members, even with five-year-old children, individual accounts are kept. A child’s earnings are not given to his father; and once he reaches the age of four and a half, a child becomes the owner of the fruits of his own labour, as well as of the legacies, inheritances and interests which he may have acquired. These are kept from him by the Phalanx until he comes of age — that is until he is nineteen or twenty and able to advance from the sixth tribe, the lads and lasses, to the seventh, the adolescents.
After having evaluated the land, machines, materials, furniture, supplies and liquid capital contributed by each member, the regency issues 1728 exchangeable shares. These shares are backed by the property of the Phalanx, its land, buildings, flocks, workshops, etc. The regency issues these shares, or portions thereof, to each member in accordance with his contribution to the Phalanx. It is possible to be a member without being a shareholder; it is also possible to be an outside shareholder without being an active member. In the second case a person has no right to the two portions of the revenue of the Phalanx which are assigned to labour and to talent.
The annual profits are divided into three unequal portions and distributed in the following manner:
5/12 to manual labour,
4/12 to invested capital,
3/12 to theoretical and practical knowledge.
According to his abilities, each member can belong to any or all of these three categories.
In connection with its administrative responsibilities, the regency gives each poor member an advance of one’ year’s clothing, food and lodging. This advance entails no risk, because it is certain that the work which the poor man will perform under the stimulus of attraction and pleasure will produce a yield in excess of the advances made to him. After the annual inventory the Phalanx will find itself in debt to all the poor members to whom it has advanced the minimum. This minimum includes: 1) Board of five meals a day in the third class dining room; 2) Decent clothing including work- and dress-uniforms, as well as all the tools and implements needed for farming and industrial work; 3) Lodging consisting of a private room with toilet, and also access to the public halls and festivities of the third class and to the stalls reserved for the third class at the theatre.
At the outset, before the Phalanx makes its first harvests, the regency is responsible for the purchase of provisions; but their use and management is to be entrusted to the gastronomic series.
If the Phalanx is composed of 1500 members, they will be roughly divided into the following gastronomic categories:
900 members of the third class,
300 members of the second class,
100 members of the first class,
50 members eating food prepared to order.
In all there will be five series devoted to the preparation of food; in addition to the four categories mentioned above, there will also be separate cooking for the animals who will be plentiful and well-treated in Harmony.
Each of the categories noted above will be divided into subdivisions corresponding to the three sexes. There will be separate types of cooking for men, women and children... . Each of the three sexes will have its own tables and dining rooms. They will sometimes eat together in groups of various sizes at lunch or supper. But ordinarily there will be no sexual mixing at dinner, which is a meal during which each of the sexes will engage in its own gastrosophic cabals... .
Children will not dine at the same table with their fathers. This civilised custom would put a crimp on the studies of the fathers and the pleasures of the children. It will be enough for them to eat together at the two small meals, the délité and the afternoon snack. But the two middle-sized meals, breakfast and supper, as well as the pivotal meal or dinner, will be arranged more methodically and according to the wishes of attraction. These arrangements will be perfectly free; they will be in strict conformity with the wishes of the passions. We are unable to recognise these wishes in the present order which distorts the play of the passions. In reading this sketch a father may say: “But I enjoy dining with my wife and my children, and I will continue to do so, come what may.” Such an attitude is quite mistaken. Today, for want of anything better, a father may enjoy eating with his wife and his children. But when he has spent two days in Harmony and taken the bait of the intrigues and cabals of the series, the father will wish to dine with his own cabalistic groups. He will send off his wife and his children who, for their part, will ask nothing better than to be done with the lugubrious family dinner.
Since no coercive measures are tolerated in Harmony, the work to be done is indicated but not ordered by the Areopagus, which is the supreme industrial council. It is composed of the high-ranking officers of each series, and it serves as an advisory body with regard to passional affairs. Its opinions and decisions are subordinated to the wishes of attraction, and each series remains free to make decisions concerning its own industrial interests. Thus the Areopagus cannot order that the mowing or harvesting be done; it can only declare that a certain time is propitious according to the available meteorological or agronomic data; thereupon each series acts according to its wishes. But its wishes can scarcely differ from those of the Areopagus whose opinion is held in high esteem.