David Graeber for Al Jazeera: Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots.

It certainly is an exciting time to be an American anarchist. I never dreamed that direct action would involve (tens of?) thousands of Americans and capture the attention of the media for more than a month.

To whet your appetite:

“How are you going to get anywhere if you refuse to create a leadership structure or make a practical list of demands? And what’s with all this anarchist nonsense – the consensus, the sparkly fingers? Don’t you realise all this radical language is going to alienate people? You’re never going to be able to reach regular, mainstream Americans with this sort of thing!”

If one were compiling a scrapbook of worst advice ever given, this sort of thing might well merit an honourable place. After all, since the financial crash of 2007, there have been dozens of attempts to kick-off a national movement against the depredations of the United States’ financial elites taking the approach such journalists recommended. All failed. It was only on August 2, when a small group of anarchists and other anti-authoritarians showed up at a meeting called by one such group and effectively wooed everyone away from the planned march and rally to create a genuine democratic assembly, on basically anarchist principles, that the stage was set for a movement that Americans from Portland to Tuscaloosa were willing to embrace.

That said, I think winter is a great time to head home, hunker down and organize locally. Building local economies is a hugely important if this movement is to be successful. It’s also essential to recruit EVERYONE, including cops, religious groups and the “1%” as we try to build a society that doesn’t need “armies, prisons [or] police.” Extend the olive branch to EVERYONE, but let NO ONE take the reins.

Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.

Graeber goes on to explain how none of the Founding Fathers believed true democracy could work in America, taking notes from Hobbes’ Leviathan:

According to the official version, of course, “democracy” is a system created by the Founding Fathers, based on checks and balances between president, congress and judiciary. In fact, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution does it say anything about the US being a “democracy”. The authors of those documents, almost to a man, defined “democracy” as a matter of collective self-governance by popular assemblies, and as such they were dead-set against it.

This is one area I slightly disagree with Graeber. Jefferson and the Anti-federalists were in favor of a much more democratic model than the one we ended up with. From what I remember about my course in American Political Thought,  TJ envisioned a landscape like Greece made up of hundreds of free city states, most of which allowed more-or-less direct democracy for most of the land-holding white males. I think OWS builds on that idea. I also think that mentioning TJ early and often can really help us start a conversation with right leaning Americans who might look on OWS with disdain.

To read the rest of David Graeber’s article click here:



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