Food for Thought: A member of #occupydamestreet reflects on what it still stands for


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Lately there has been some obscurity around what ODS actually stands for and what it’s internal principles or tenets are as a movement. This obscurity is to blame, in part, by aggressive attempts at ‘pushing the party line’ or usage of entryist tactics at General Assemblies by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). These attempts have sewn a paranoia in the camp. It seems, as a result, that there is an atmosphere of distrust and distaste for anything left-wing that has been previously trying to achieve progressive change. To take a critical look at this obscurity, we have to refer back to the original press release which presumably still stands as the cornerstone of the movement’s principles.

No where in this press release does it say “individuals only”, “ONLY come as an individual”, “organisations aren’t allowed”, or “ODS will never work with or co-operate with other organisations, parties, or trade unions.” The variations of these claims goes on.

It merely states that ODS is a non-partisan movement in itself: “This is a diverse people’s initiative unaffiliated with any political parties” and “We invite any person to join us, but we ask that they leave their political party behind.”

Although the wording may be obscuring, the latter statement translates to me as “Do not bring an official political party line into ODS decision making, but rather give your own input and opinion.” Obviously a person is not going to literally “leave their political party behind.” They are still a member of it and entitled to be. Furthermore they are perfectly entitled to be a member of ‘X’ while working with and being an integral part of ODS. To be a truly “diverse people’s initiative”, people from all walks and backgrounds have to be included and welcomed. Indeed, to create a revolution, we should “ever call into action on our side the entire sum of all the forces and factors of social and political discontent”, to quote James Connolly.

It is important for us all to reflect on the original mandate, and to be open to change too. Nothing should be held as holy ritual — including the consensus decision making process, which in my opinion at this point in time is regressive. I would favour 90/10 weighted majority voting as a compromise. I agree with Andrew Flood when he speaks of people who blocked decisions (to march/work with Dublin Council of Trade Unions) as using a veto, as “this group had pre determined that they were going to block these proposals and had no interest in seeking compromise.” It’s important to clear up that I don’t think this ‘group’ had pre-organised themselves as ‘blockers’, but rather themselves pre-decided that no matter what, the DCTU initiative would be blocked due to ideological reasons, paranoia/hijackphobia, lack of knowledge on the complexity of the issue and/or due to an obscurity of what the principles of ODS actually are. Either way, as a movement we should “have the ability to change or cease as circumstances dictate and self-knowledge to initiate when change is required.”

People should have faith in the good intentions of their comrades. I think that the blocking of the DCTU proposal was a backward step. A lot of people at ODS did want this proposal to pass, and that is shown by this current show of solidarity with the DCTU march by a group of people who participate in ODS. It is simply incorrect to claim that had the proposal passed, it would have violated the principles of ODS, and so it leads me to making this post. It’s important now, 6 weeks on, to take a step back from the heat of the moment and to reflect on what we are doing and where we are going. We should ask some questions of ourselves and of the movement: as something that began as progressive, are we now continuing in a progressive direction?

Food for thought.

Jimmy Billings is a member of the #OccupyDameStreet camp and is writing in a personal capacity.

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4 Responses

  1. Think about it

    November 22, 2011 9:15 pm

    This really is too little too late. You went along with the McCarthyite witch hunting and now you complain that the camp is falling apart.
    Even now you still accept nonsense like “or usage of entryist tactics at General Assemblies by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)” – how exactly does one “enter” or “hijack” an open assembly that is governed by consensus decision making? What would be the point since it would be blocked?
    The real problem which you never stood up to was the exclusion of left politics by a small hysterical group in the camp, and the refusal to support the DCTU march is the logical conclusion of this. This is the real definition of sectarianism – you put the camp ahead of the interest of building a wider movement – but this is about a global movement, not just a campsite.
    You focused on demonising the left instead of challanging some of the right-wing (or at best painfully naive) ideas in the camp.
    My conclusion is that occupydamest is dead, its time to start anew and build a genuine expression of the global occupy movement in Ireland.

  2. potop

    November 23, 2011 5:21 pm

    Article and comment are both very arrogant. how can you say that the instance was blocked for “ideological reasons, paranoia/hijackphobia, lack of knowledge on the complexity of the issue and/or due to an obscurity of what the principles of ODS actually are”. People’s reasons were crystal clear. Parties and unions are dead as political organisations. In Ireland even more than anywhere else. their attempts to coopt and demolish people’s independent achievements are the most pathetic symptom of their decomposing. Today genuine emancipatory politics is just possible at a distance from the left, at a distance from their miserable survival strategies, at a distance from their envy

  3. C. Flower

    November 24, 2011 11:18 am

    A good post. The comment on it, in its hostility to ODS – which was and is a spontaneous part of “the forces and factors of social and political discontent” is a clear demonstration of the hostile and bullying attitudes from left parties that led to some entrenched positions of isolationism in ODS.

    The efforts of the SWP to co-opt ODS under its own banners were widely disseminated on video. It was not a pretty sight.

    It is perfectly possible for a movement like the occupations, and the left groups/ trade unions to operate in a mutually supportive way, while giving time, patience and space to the process of political debate as has happened outside Ireland.

  4. LeftAtTheCross

    November 24, 2011 11:38 am

    “clear demonstration of the hostile and bullying attitudes from left parties”.

    C.Flower, you could drop the plural from “left parties” in fairness. Apart from the SWP actions to which you refer I haven’t seen or read anything which could be described as hostile or bullying. The CP has been supportive from a distance. The SP have been critically supportive, the CP and WSM similarly, while the WP hasn’t made any statement on the Occupy movement. To tar all Left parties with the same brush is simply inaccurate.