OCCUPY OAKLAND MEDIA COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON THE OAKLAND COMMUNE
Occupy Oakland began on October 10, 2011. Since then it has become clear that a rigid distinction needs to be made between Occupy Oakland and the self-described Oakland Commune. The Media Collective is making this statement to provide clarity by describing this dysfunctional relationship, including links to documents created by the Oakland Commune.
While the general purpose of a press release is to give information, OOMEDIA is also using this opportunity to continue our claim of affinity with all participants and supporters of Occupy Oakland, Occupy Wall Street, and the several members of the Occupy Oakland Tactical Action Committee who first spoke up about the Oakland Commune. We are not speaking on behalf of every person who describes him or herself as a participant in Occupy Oakland, but only want to bring attention to a division that has always existed and which has yet to be fully exposed.
We accept The Oakland Commune’s wish to divorce itself from Occupy Oakland with its declaration: “Occupy Oakland is dead. Long live the Oakland Commune” (Blog post, retrieved from http://www.bayofrage.com/featured-articles/occupy-oakland-is-dead/). We also accept its rejection of Occupy Oakland’s commitment to mass participation. As they have stated: “We [the Oakland Commune] are not the 99%. We are not a fucking percentage at all. We do not count. If we have any power, it is because we are the enemies of all majority, enemies of ‘the people.’ As the old song goes, we are nothing and must become everything” (The Oakland Commune, p. 16).
We can only speculate on the specific origins of the Oakland Commune, which is made up of a clique that seems to have been active long before Occupy Oakland, but the phrase was injected into the movement when a banner appeared at Oscar Grant Plaza claiming the camp as the Oakland Commune. The phrase refers to the Paris Commune of 1871, as the group’s writings now make clear (The Oakland Commune, p. 77). Many people, including some who were not a part of this clique, began to use the phrase as an alternate name for the encampment. This association appeared innocent at first, and it was not apparent that this clique was operating in the shadows of Occupy Oakland with an aim to mold and control the movement.
For months we have observed the destructive methods of this vanguard clique, and what we provide here is some evidence of their disruptive beliefs and actions as publicized through the dissemination of their own materials, some of which are based on misinformation, contradictions, oversimplifications, and co-opted narratives of supporters of Occupy Oakland. Their stated beliefs and goals include:
- – embracing destruction for its own sake (nihilism) in support of fighting for its own sake (insurrectionism)
“First things first, we were not direct participants in all of it, but we fucking love property damage. This is a very non-political (in the classical sense of the word) love and really we just love to see shit fucked up. Fuck normalcy. Besides the wanton vandalism, this march was exciting because it was a large group of people acting completely outside of and against the general political sentiment of what has so far been the occupation movement” (The Oakland Commune, p. 47. Entire book available here ).
- – claiming ownership of the November 2 port shutdown, the December 12 blockade and other successful actions which were not their own, as well as actively co-opting the encampment by renaming it according to their values
“On December 12 a second blockade of the port turned out to reach fairly large dimensions, pushing the movement (that gave itself the name Commune of Oakland) towards its point of culmination on January 28, when thousands of people made a publicly announced attempt to take a building of an adequate size for the movement” (The Oakland Commune, p. 4).
- – shutting down all critical conversation of violence, vandalism, and “diversity of tactics,” and alienating and swaying opinion against peaceful protesters by any means necessary
“There is an intelligence in this declaration against peace, but it cannot be reduced to this or that position on violence. Any attempt to define violence will always fall back upon abstraction. Any attempt to deploy such a definition is always already useless. . . . [T]hese peace-warriors operate on an assumption that so long as they are sufficiently meek, their cause will be just. Following from this, so long as they are passive, the inevitable violence enacted upon them by the police will appear illegitimate. This attempt at self-victimization, beyond being a foolish tactic, is a specific measure to invalidate resistance and to justify the operations of the police state. . . . Social war is the discrete and ongoing struggle that runs through and negotiates our lived experience. As agents of chaos, we seek to expose this struggle; to make it overt. The issue is not violence or non-violence. What’s at issue in these forays against capital is rather the social peace and its negation” (The Oakland Commune, p. 43-4).
“A small, yet dedicated group of morons set about trying hopelessly to defend the property of their masters. In the name of non-violence, these thuggish pacifists assaulted demonstrators and sought to re-establish peace on the streets. . . . The anti-capitalist march and the formations that comprised it, should also be looked to as a practical means of neutralizing and marginalizing such peace police . . .” (The Oakland Commune, p. 39).
- – planning to infiltrate and instigate unrest in Oakland with or without the participation or consent of the people
“Reformists urge coalition building, as though the union bureaucracies could somehow lead a radical movement. While some purists refuse coalitions, the revolutionary response is infiltration and invasion. When we approach the unions we don’t seek their guidance; we seek to introduce class antagonism into those institutions, to construct a broad class power, menacing and inescapable for the bosses just as it is irresistible to workers who spend each day on the defensive. . . .” (The Oakland Commune, p. 77-8).
“The construction of a thing called “The Oakland Commune” at a plaza that was re-named after Oscar Grant was, in this sense, not a franchise of Occupy Wall Street but a revolutionary defense of that particular space, the demand that we who occupy it have the right to decide what will be made of it” (The Oakland Commune, p. 6).
To reiterate: we did not create the division between Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Commune; we are merely making it obvious to everyone. We are suspicious of what is going on inside this organization and do not understand why they attached themselves to Occupy Oakland. We do not dispute their right to exist but want to point out that Occupy Oakland was founded on principles of inclusivity and transparency, and that the self-described Oakland Commune has come out in direct opposition to those concepts. OOMEDIA will continue on, as part of Occupy Oakland, in the quest for social and economic justice.
In support of those goals, we are continuing to support other actions. In the weeks to come we will be :
1. Releasing an ebook, A People’s History of Occupy Oakland, Volume 1
2. Holding a press conference on October 25th
3. Starting an apology campaign to heal the rift between the community and Occupy Oakland
4. Showing our support for the renewal of of efforts to build a mass movement in Oakland by actively participating in the Oakland Empowerment Movement celebration
- CBS5 news story featuring the Oakland Commune censoring Occupy Oakland
- Popular articles by one or more persons publishing as ‘OaklandCommune’ on the Bay of Rage website
- Video created by the shadow clique, title: The Oakland Commune -
*A note on The Oakland Commune: the editors state in the introduction that they don’t agree entirely about the content of the text, but this collection is still meant to represent those calling themselves the Oakland Commune.