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Half-Radical Media

I am not deeply familiar with the journal 「n+1」. I've heard of them, associated with critical theory (which I am fairly critical of) and floating somewhere between radicalism and academia. I recently picked up a copy of one of their experiments, n+1 Occupy, an irregularly-published newsletter focusing on topics related to Occupy; this is issue 4 (available as a free PDF on their website). A few thoughts and an overview:

  • The first article covered a 24-hour attempt to occupy an abandoned building, what was done with it while occupied and details of the police operations that took it apart. This tactic is interesting; I think it would be great if it can be the start of a movement to shift notions of land ownership more towards the communal, use-oriented, rather than the strict-ownership model. I have no idea if these tactics might ever impact the mainstram in that regard though.
  • A neat article about the OWS People's Kitchen in NYC. I have a soft spot for kitchen work; it was one of the more important parts of OccupyPHL, and I was happy to help with it in OccupyBoston during my brief visit there.
  • Next was a pair of articles on interaction between OWS and broader politics. Jonathan Smucker argues that cooption may be tricky, but it's a good problem to have and probably necessary to make lasting impact on society. Marisa Holmes provides another perspective, detailing how MoveOn and other groups are taking energy and branding from Occupy without being radically democratic and without "getting it". The critiques are both worth reading; I lean towards Jonathan's position, very significantly because while I think the Anarchosocialist organisation is interesting but it's not the only way to build a movement (recall that I am state socialist, not anarchosocialist). I am sympathetic to Marisa's concerns that the mainstream liberal groups she interacted with don't get it; I may have a (much) broader notion of what it means to contribute to worthwhile social change, but if the engagement truly is empty branding (I am willing to believe it may be), it's not helpful. Should Occupy directly engage with groups that don't share the anarchosocialist organisational style it has broadly adopted? That's a hard question for me to answer; it does seem a defining feature of Occupy, and it has made them very difficult to co-opt in-person.
  • Next was an article on the cultural expectations in certain financial markets. None of this is that surprising, and I got the impression years ago that this is what things are like in some markets through conversations with friends/family. Worth reading if you're not aware of this though.
  • Alongside this is a history of communist activism against foreclosure in the 30s; interesting stuff.
  • Next was an account of a shareholder meeting at Wells Fargo that went wrong (or right), which was pretty interesting.
  • An article on actual and necessary cooperation between religious communities and OWS. I'm not sure what to think about this; religion is a divisive topic in American society, and while the article is correct that some churches have a lot to offer the movement, I know that closeness beyond a certain level is going to put off atheists like me. OTOH, the anarchosocialists have managed only to impose their operating methods on Occupy; their philosophy is not mandatory. If religions could follow that lead and avoid branding Occupy, I would be comfortable with their involvement.
  • Report from a panel about debt in the United States. This is very interesting and goes all over the place. I have no comments about the specifics of the contents, but it was one of the more interesting bits of the newsletter.
  • Failed attempts to do things in Occupy; I'm not sure what the point of this article was.
  • An article on a very unusual perspective in Occupy; Selma James spoke on wage-slavery. If you haven't heard of her, she's from a splinter Trotskyite group, and made a name for herself by breaking further from Orthodox Marxism by updating Marxian economics to include an analysis of unwaged labour, and then going on to advocate that women should receive guaranteed wages for housework should they choose not to enter the workplace. I am very uncomfortable with her positions (as most people were; she received a lot of hatemail for her views once published); as a gender-role abolitionist, I am concerned that her views effectively preserve different roles for men and women in society. I am not bothered by her breaking from Marx so much as the specifics of this *how* she breaks from him. The analysis provided in this article is not as dismissive as I am on this and might be worth a read.
  • An article on the history of general strikes in America and an analysis of activist tactics today. Interesting, not deep enough.
  • An article by the aforementioned Selma James on historical activism by hookers in the UK. Interesting, but I remain opposed to the legality of sex work.
  • An article critical of the "Move Your Money" campaign, suggesting it's not radical enough and that it doesn't do as much as people would think. It then goes on to analyse what more radical reforms are possible. I disagree about "Move Your Money"; the analysis is unconvincing, but I like his analysis of Mondragon.
  • An interview with Jacob Appelbaum of Tor. Not terrible, but I intensely dislike tor, and the dude strikes me as being a bit of a nutter. Has some potentially good advice though.
  • A neat bit of poetry about activism.
  • A broad but not that interesting analysis of property relations in the US.
  • A clarification on events (mis?)reported in an earlier issue of this newsletter.