Occupy Central VT Discussion and General Assembly Notes 3/3/12
03/05/2012 in GA Minutes
Occupy Central VT Discussion and General Assembly 3/3/12 (20 – 25 in attendance)
- Discussion – Elections and the State
- Welcome & Introductions: 5 min
- General Assembly: 45 min
- Reports Back from Working Groups: 15 min
- Special Request: Topics to cover during the Goddard conference + spokespeople/interviewees: 5 min
- WG-to-WG Operations around upcoming Actions & Activities: 15 min
- ~ Goddard Conference (tabling, break-out space, outreach, GA held there?)
- ~ Direct Action (post office, VT Yankee, 1%, May Day, others?)
- ~ FWG: Proposal Process
- Announcements/New WG formations: 10 Min
- Soap Box
- Articles on elections: Argument that Occupy should be involved in elections. At least one candidate running as and “Occupy” candidate (PA?). Other article argues that we should continue to model consensus-based behavior, rather than getting involved with the combative and entrenched field of electoral politics. Also, I want to talk about the State more generally, and government.
- I thought the readings were interesting, especially the emails from the discussion list between Wes and Sue. This is a movement, not a party. It is a rare and wonderful thing to have a movement, and have the opportunity to be transformative. We have more power to pressure elected officials and the government without being coopted. We’re broad based; still trying to get my head around the 99%, not just anarchist/leftist/workers/progressive/democratic. Has to keep moving, can’t just settle – has to be really diverse strategies and tactics. I would not support Occupy candidates, or endorsements of candidates. Should educate and pressure people who hold office. Our working groups can form relationships with local office holders. Federal elections are entertainment spectacle only. Our democracy is like a 200 year-old tree, we have to keep it from succumbing to corruption or malnourishment. We have to innovate from the ground up – I like the Workers’ Center campaign for a peoples’ budget. Politics is not government. On a local level, some elected people are actually public servants. Some elected people are actually concerned about public good. Their mission is to assure public safety and public goods. One of the biggest threats right now is the privatization of public goods: prisons, the Postal Service, all our rights and survival needs. Gov’t needs to be transparent and accountable enough to assure those goods – Occupy can do this.
- We’re populist and not a political party. I advocate for solidarity. We have allies in many places. We have to respect and support those who respect and support us.
- On the blog, comment: statement of autonomy (http://www.nycga.net/resources/statement-of-autonomy/). There’s division around the 99% declaration group of OWS (declaration got leaked before it was brought to the general assembly – idea to send delegates from groups to Philadelphia for a centralized summit). Found the statement of autonomy from OWS – says basically we are not a political party; instead, we’re here to build political systems to counterbalance government, as government truly by the people. Occupy might challenge your organization as to whether your practices are participatory. Got to me because of my original reason for getting involved, that this is a movement outside of business as usual.
- I agree this is a movement, have to keep bringing people in and getting them involved. If we align ourselves with a candidate, it shuts people out who don’t agree with that candidate or party. Black Panthers, when they wanted to grow, would do service in their community. Hamas has become a strong political force, for better or worse, by performing services for their communities. As a movement, that’s the direction we need to go in.
- I agree with emphasizing the need to localize, build our base. How do we relate to what our government is, and what it could be (2 different things). What’s good about it, and what isn’t? Direct democracy to me is not excluding the minority, but I don’t know what it means to everyone else. Reworking the system of government – who has power? Throughout history we’ve resolved that by killing each other, and only recently some voting too. Our process here, to me, is sacred. The cutting edge of how we will redefine our self-governance in the future. The power of the process is that it is an enormous leverage point. The decisions we make at a point of leverage make an enormous difference as to where we land. Developing a process that allows for 99% of views, including a way of interacting with electoral politics, is what we’re tasked with doing.
- What is governance? How are we organizing ourselves? Occupy was an awakening for me. Organizing ourselves in an empowered way, and compassionately. Compassion missing from our current system. I want to develop the ways we can serve as educators. ALEC (http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed) is destroying America, working through state legislatures. Focus of many Occupy actions around the country on 2/29. Vaccination issue being discussed in VT originates from ALEC. I see massive change coming; we will not survive unless we change – our culture is destroying our bodies, land base, ecosystems. How are we going to build our own infrastructure (including even cell phones, internet technology…)? To think we’re going to have the same system of governance in the future is insane.
- Early in Occupy Wall Street, the statement was that we don’t make demands because it legitimates authority. We recognize that the authority of the government is tenuous. The question of reform vs. revolution is a big one. We don’t have a lot of time to figure it out. The local level is where it’s at. I think the power Occupy has taken by not engaging is something that has shifted the state of politics.
- This is my first time to a GA. There are 2 things that politicians listen to – organized money and organized people. Wall St has organized money, corrupting politicians. Occupy has organized people. Political system itself is corrupt. MF Global (http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2011/12/16/the-astonishing-collapse-of-mf-global.aspx) – corporation stealing customers’ money, JP Morgan stole it from them. Nobody is going to jail for it. Head of MF Global is friend of the President and holds other powerful positions, and he’s not going to jail. We have a debt-based economy that’s on the verge of blowing up.
- General agreement that our economic and government system is generally corrupt. But I hear what was said – this is the system we have. In other places where the system is thrown out completely, the people have been exposed to cooptation. How do we create the change that we want? What is our sphere of influence and how can we leverage that? We’re lucky in VT to have an accessible legislature, and even more so locally – our cities and towns; town meeting next week. I love the idea of education; we should be spending our time helping people feel empowered to get involved. I don’t just want to sit around and talk about how corrupt everything is, I want to feel like we’re moving forward. We’ve had trouble galvanizing toward action as this group. Education for us and outward is where each strategy begins. Co-education: we educate each other with many viewpoints on any issue.
- Agree about education. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I’d heard of ALEC, but it hadn’t quite clicked until hearing about it here. Everything that people bring here is valuable to me. Tabling and education are crucial and are the answer to what we can do next. A lot of people vote without thinking. Personally, I’ve voted in every election I could in my life and it is very important to me.
- Sounds like we’re in agreement that they system is corrupt, but the question remains how we interact with it. How do we engage in the current democratic system? My vote is to expose the dysfunction of it, but also to promote what we want to see. Personally, individual candidates: they can serve us better than we can serve them. It’s their job to be our servants. There are other institutions that we have to figure out how we want to interact with. Unions – there are corrupt ones, but there are also member unions. We can expose the corruption in organizations, too, and we can be in solidarity with them. Goddard – how do we relate as a movement to educational institutions?
- Education is broad – some learn by reading, some by listening, some by doing. This movement has to incorporate all of them. Educate by showing what democracy looks like.
- For years I couldn’t listen to news. It’s literally painful to listen to the state of our world. Harmful to listen when there’s nothing to do about it. What we can do is create a body that gives people a channel to plug into and know that they are being effective. Our strategy for the last several months has been to build our process and have a solid base from which to act in the coming months.
- We are lucky to have town meeting, and we should be involved. Resolutions in many towns dealing with important political and economic issues. Other Occupies have interacted with elections – mic checked at the NH primaries. We should be there for Obama visit. We can talk more theoretically – what is the State? Liberal – pluralistic view that different forces compete for attention. Conservative – government needed to keep things together in competitive society. Marxist – the State is the way that one class uses to rule over the others. Anarchists – similar to Marxists. If we want to, we can talk about this, but we only have 10 minutes.
- What do we do? I’m trying to focus on the present moment – what can I do now and in the next week? Education is not just up to the Education and Empowerment working group. If some people have lots of information about topics and other people want to find information, and others like to organize information, then we can make really useful documents around the topics we cover. Another place I’m looking now is food – too much imported in VT. If we liberate our food sources, it goes a long way to liberating our population. If anyone’s interested in food or in making informational documents, talk to Yehshua.
- Our government started by killing, maiming and pushing people off land, and grew by enslaving people. And continued through government backing of corporate exploits throughout the world, and going to war when capitalism is threatened. We need to show people that what we are doing works – people will join when they see that shit gets done here (unlike current system), and we’ll do more when people join. I believe that this process works, and we just have to show it.
- OWS was a response to a major economic crisis, mainly. The government bailed out the rich and left the rest of us out to dry. This delegitimized the government. OWS said we don’t make demands because they won’t meet them, and the people in power are not legitimate. We make our demands to the broader public sphere – we’re addressing our fellow citizens, not our “leaders”. We have to develop community-based alternatives to government, and we have to reinvigorate the public sphere.
- “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” – Jefferson
Thinking about discussion on strategy and tactics for next time. Talk to someone on Education if you have an idea for future topics.
Approval of agenda and facilitation team. OK.
- Facilitation: Please join us – Thursday at 6 phone conference. Continuing to evolve our GA process. Finalized this week a proposal to formalize our proposal process.
- Direct action: Postal workers: solidarity with other groups; strategic campaign (not just action or event – campaign with timeline). Goals: save several hundred jobs in VT on May 19, a thousand in VT over time, a hundred thousand eventually in US.
- Education: 25th of March 7 – 9 at UU Church, 2nd in our series of economic discussion – solutions to capitalism. Strategy teach-in coming up March 24th before the GA.
- Theater: Been doing peoples’ mic weekly around issues (VY, Lowell wind…). Might read a piece during soap box later. We had some ideas around the Goddard conference, worried about being confrontational – will talk about later in the agenda.
- Finances: Settling up with people. $57 on hand. Not including pass-the-hat last time for UU space, or pass-the-hat for coffee. Some money has been put up for books for our table at Goddard.
- Tech: Lots going on. Need some help around design for website (WordPress). Please send tech suggestions for changes to the website to make it more friendly/pretty/helpful.
- Occupy Farms: Wrote up some vision statements/goals. All up on website. If you know people with land, or have connections to farmers, we need help networking and also surveying so we can know how to best use our land here.
Group to group communication:
- Facilitation request: we’d like reusable, nice signs to direct people to the GA when we’re having it. Arts, would you be willing to take this on? Maybe; need to consult.
- Postal workers: organizing with postal workers, Occupy Upper Valley, and other groups. Goal is to save the Postal Service, and prevent its privatization. Most immediately, the goal is to stop the closure of the White River Junction distribution center (scheduled for May 19). Given that congress is not likely to fix this problem, we need to change the balance of forces. Probably by creating a tremendous ruckus that resonates across the country. Ambitious, but this is Occupy, and it is 2012. Building a coalition, closer to the 99% speaking for themselves. Right now, we are trying to reach out to town meetings – will you take a stack of fliers to distribute at your town meetings? Sign them out so we know how many are going to which town meetings. Don’t waste them; get them into peoples’ hands. Building up to the big march on May Day. Then a mass picket at WRJ distribution center. Not just for people interested in direct action, but also for others; creative actions including writing love notes to the rural post offices in danger of being shut down. Also, looking for people to form an ad hoc committee. Arts has been talking about a Post Office musical.
- Handing out fliers. Paper passed around for people to sign up and take fliers today.
- Heather and Traven (email@example.com) – point people for ad hoc group. Get in touch with them to get involved!
- Tech resources. Tech will help!
- Goddard: Conference on March 10. See last week’s notes for history. There will be 2 Large tabling areas. We need to get word out to other Occupy groups to make it a vibrant space that is action-oriented. Normally, our GA is 3 to 5 on Saturday, but many of us will be at Goddard and the conference ends at 4. We’re welcome to have the GA there after the conference, or we could have the regular one here recognizing that some will be late from the conference. The GA there would be a great way to coordinate with facilitators from across the state and have a sort of statewide/regional summit assembly. We already have connections to Burlington, Barre, and Upper Valley.
- GA next weekend? 4 to 6 at Goddard, yes! Yehshua will coordinate rideshare.
- Tabling (Who can coordinate? Who can staff?).
- OCV Education table with books/zine library (beginning of OCV library?!).
- Postal workers table with love letter action.
- OCV general info table. Barry, John, Yehshua to piece together process pamphlet including explanation of hand signals. Colin will print and bring to conference. Colin will print vision statement fliers. Yehshua will create ALEC flier. Facilitation WG will create a general OCV flier. Yehshua will look at the survey to see if it might be worth bringing. We can hang the Occupy Café poster.
- Occupy VT table with times and locations of assemblies and sign-ups for people who want to join. Colin will try to bring a computer so that people can join their local Occupy email lists.
- Occupy farms will have something.
- Vermont Yankee actions/information.
- May Day – general strike/rally. Training 9th-15th week build-up to May Day.
- Transition Town info (Who has connection? Welcome them to bring material).
- Comment on the blog post (http://www.occupycentralvt.org/2012/03/02/occupy-goddard-all-call-to-occupy-vt-groups-tabling-networking/) in order to volunteer to table – show up early.
- Peoples’ mic performance – between panels, maybe some time at lunch.
- Finances: People putting in a couple hundred dollars (buttons, space rental, tech resources), would be good to pay them back. Money donated for Goddard scholarships – some unused. OK with it going to general fund? It’s OK with the donor for the outstanding expenses. Concern had been voiced about the source. Agreement about the show of solidarity. Finances to think about the topic of who we accept money from.
- Anyone who’s interested in working on the Occupy Café, talk to Margaret. Informal way for us to continue to interact.
- No coffee hour until March 31st.
- The 30th, call to show up at DC (http://interoccupy.org/national-occupation-of-washington-dc-occupy-power-march-30-to-april-30/). Sue and John can drive people down (one way).
- 99% Spring (http://the99spring.com/) – call nation-wide for grassroots groups (grassroots global justice…) and also larger, like (Moveon.org…). Week of trainings April 9th – 15th. In VT April 14th, statewide interactive televised training. 10 sites throughout VT. If you think a group should sign on to this letter, let the Workers’ Center know. If you want to help plan, get in touch with Heather. Might follow up with doing our own nonviolence training.
- Left forum in 2 weeks, talk to Heather if you want to coordinate getting there (http://www.leftforum.org/).
- Can borrow Horizontalism from Sue, about Venezuela (http://www.akpress.org/2006/items/horizontalism).
- Press conference 10:30 to noon on the 31st. 4-5 rally outside Statehouse, then more time inside. VY Actions. Other date in Brattleboro. On SAGE alliance website (http://sagealliance.net/action_center).
- Film will be coming, Yehshua distributing, can work on screenings.
- Strength of the Storm – movie made about mobile home residents in wake of Irene. Screening details on the VWC site (http://www.workerscenter.org/calendar).
Soap Box. 5:05
- Poem: The Low Road – Marge Piercy (http://www.margepiercy.com/sampling/The_Low_Road.htm)
- OWS statement of autonomy (http://www.nycga.net/resources/statement-of-autonomy/)