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

More information:

- 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.

Click here for related articles and statements.

 

  • Gaseous

    Terrible journalism.  The different pieces you cite obviously aren’t even using “Oakland Commune” in the same way as each other, let alone as the handle of a clique: 

    “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””

    And even using your methods (ascribing every use of a term as evidence of a conspiracy), this quote would seem to celebrate mass participation.

    • http://www.hellaoccupyoakland.org/ wiseoldsnail

      the different pieces cited were all published together in one booklet (which we’ve linked here) as a statement from people calling themselves ‘the oakland commune.’ it is they who make direct statements, which we quote here, informing readers that they do not believe in a popular movement, and that they do believe that destruction is the only way. the fact that they celebrate community involvement doesn’t prove they care about it or that they see it as a necessary path toward justice. of course any vanguard benefits when they manage to garner any bit of public support.
      the point of this statement is to align ourselves with principals of transparency and accountability, and to state our value of the expressed desires and needs of the residents of oakland, as we’ve done since our inception. while many of us felt that we were a part of the ‘oakland commune,’ and believed that to be a description of the physical manifestation of our political existence (encampment, mutual aid, etc), it seems, by what we’ve learned, that a very few are now taking ownership of that term, and in turn using it to declare occupy oakland dead while they, the chosen few, are the embodiment of the real movement.
      what we hope to accomplish, as always, is open dialogue. in this particular instance, we are declaring, as occupants of oakland, that occupy oakland is nowhere near dead, and that the many great works being done are proof of that. we also, as stated, are accepting that those claiming to be ‘the oakland commune’ want no part of occupy oakland. while not accepting their declaration of our demise, we do accept their choice to divorce themselves from us.
      part of the ‘joke’ on us is that, contrary to their statement suggesting that the commune named itself, the flying of the banner labeling the encampment as ‘the oakland commune’ was an intentional maneuver. the references to the paris commune are their own. each person will or not take responsibility to read their publication to determine whether oomedia’s take on the situation seems fair and relevant.
      given the fact that many of us continue to operate with respect to the original complaints by ows, combined with concerns specific to oakland, and are on a quest to enlist the support of the communities at large, we find ourselves in direct opposition to these few who have published out loud that they do not value popular opinion or involvement, as they believe they are the anointed ones. they value public participation when it empowers them, but do not value public opinion when it is against them. they have stated that their intention is to infiltrate longstanding social networks, such as unions, for the purpose of exploiting their power or eliminating them. this is not something that was ever discussed publicly at occupy oakland general assemblies, and is contrary to our stated goals of garnering support from the public and all established social networks for the purpose of developing a truly popular movement, and doing so in a transparent manner with no back room deals.

  • Rocky Waschbär

    Yeah, this article is garbage. You cite sources that EXPLICITLY do not represent everyone who takes part in the Oakland Commune concept (or even the Oakland Commune itself), you quote legitimate critiques of pacifism as some kind of evidence of authoritarian subterfuge, and you even manage to talk about the Oakland Commune as though it’s a shadowy organization rather than a concept that certain people have chosen to organize around.

    There is no “clique”, there is no “vanguard” (besides for the Leninists selling their newspapers), there are just a lot of people who are critical of Occupy’s hardline pacifist and liberal stances. It seems like you’re just complaining that the Oakland Commune is out-organizing Occupy.

    • http://twitter.com/Kevin_Seal Kevin Seal

      Rocky,

      You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.  

      This statement doesn’t cite “sources.”  It cites a single “SOURCE”:
      http://magazinredaktion.tk/oakland.php

      Download the Commune’s PDF booklet and read it.  It grossly misrepresents Oakland, exploits the Oaklanders who want to build a protest movement together, and takes advantage of the hard work thousands of people here in town have put into these committees.

      The Oakland Commune is a bunch of academic hacks trying to use a disadvantaged city as the laboratory workshop for their insurrectionist experiments.

      Occupy Oakland, on the other hand, is a broad-based, inclusive, and productive movement, which has proven itself to be a worthy vehicle for organizing, helping the community, and expressing dissent.

      Kevin

      • Rocky Waschbär

        Occupy Oakland would be a completely ineffectual, lowest-common-denominator, pacifist protest movement if not for the influence of people willing to organize around effective tactics and ideas rather than trying to cozy up to the mainstream media and business owners.

        You can talk all you want about how Occupy Oakland is “broad-based” and “inclusive” and pretend that that isn’t just coded language for being composed of people with utterly conflicting goals and interests.

        And the fact that this article cites only one source even further proves my point that it’s falsely attempting to represent a diverse group of people by drawing a few excerpts from a single collection of writing which, by the article’s own admission, contains content not agreed with by the editors – so this article attempts to paint a picture of a unified “vanguard” clique by quoting a few small excerpts from a collection of ideas that may contradict or outright conflict with each other. It’s silly and misleading.

        The Oakland Commune is more than what is being represented in this article. This still just sounds like hardline liberal Occupiers getting upset that the Oakland Commune is acting autonomously and apparently finding people willing to join in, outside the official scope of Occupy Oakland’s working groups.

        • Oso

           white folks use ‘liberal’ to mean PoC who want better schools and jobs and don’t think white kids tipping over trashcans, breaking windows give a fuck about them – and the PoC are largely right about that.

          • Oso

             I’m awaiting the gentleman’s reply condemning ‘identity politics’ meaning when we think for ourselves without seeking white leadership.

        • http://www.hellaoccupyoakland.org/ wiseoldsnail

          it’s amazing that you are criticizing the use of ‘one source’ when the point of this statement is that this ‘one source’ is published by a very small contingent of people who have now stated openly (by publishing this ‘one source’) that they are not for the building of a popular movement, but for destruction as their main tool for change.  the ‘one source’ is a collection of sources, and a collection they handpicked to represent their ideology.

          it’s doubly strange that this is your critique, given that the publication of this booklet and the contents therein are their main public admission of their tactical simplicity : destroy.  in public, these people pretended to be part of occupy oakland, and pretended to believe in the building of a  popular movement.  in reality, they controlled the discussion by ostracizing and alienating members of the communities, and by, for instance, censoring publication on the occupy oakland website and controlling the money.  they celebrate destruction.  they mock the concept of community self-control by purporting to know better what’s good for the community than members of the community know ourselves.  their desire to take over the name ‘oakland commune’  is really sad, because the true meaning of ‘oakland commune’ is nothing like what they project.

          what’s silly is the fact that they chose to present, as one booklet, this bunch of contradictory and conflicting essays and articles as their manifesto.  the ‘oakland commune’ they speak of are themselves, along with anyone they can convince that taking power over others is somehow revolutionary.  unfortunately, many of us who were unaware of their plan went along with it for too many months, believing their public message while being in the dark about their private scheming.  this is the definition of shadowy : when a person or group’s public persona and public statements are revealed to be in direct opposition to their actual plans and actions.  unfortunately, as with any vanguard and any tyrannical entity, they usurp a phrase and misuse it to empower and embolden themselves.  this is similar to how opd usurps and misuses the phrase and concept of ‘mutual aid.’ 

          nobody dragged this out of them.  nobody is separating this self-proclaimed vanguard from the popular movement that is occupy wall street and occupy oakland.  they did this themselves.  they penned these words and published them as a unified statement, dividing themselves not only from occupy oakland, but from the vast majority of the residents of oakland. 

          personally, i love the concept of the oakland commune as a way of life, as manifestation of our decision to undermine capitalism and tyranny by a dedication to the tenets of true mutual aid.  the encampment was a good model, though of course not perfect.  it was one extended action, but not the whole commune.  the ideas behind the encampment are what the commune is really about : mutual aid.  

          unfortunately, we’ve come to a crossing, and have to choose our battles.  we cannot fight for the term ‘oakland commune’ as we are busy truly creating it.  

        • Officer Friendly

          Yes, what would us poor niggers do without the white saviors of the Oakland Commune? Those college brats stole our thunder, turned it into their thing and smashed a bunch of windows. That’s why Leo gets his ass beat every week. They’re a bunch of fucking university racists, typical in that they don’t realize it.

          Rocky, you’re a racist, and like most racists you don’t realize it. Why do you think Oakland would be ineffectual? What do we lack that pampered UCSC kids have? What made OO special? Was it the rhetoric, the smashing, or the police brutality which we have suffered under for hundreds of years? Nobody can take credit for Occupy. It’s a leaderless movement, an emergent phenomenon, vox populi. The attempt to claim it as their own only shows how spoiled they are, Marxist marks with delusions of grandeur.

          And anyone who opposes FTP marches because they are dangerous or too provocative, has no license to say “fuck the police” as a self promoting tag-line.

    • http://twitter.com/tyfong919 Timothy Y. Fong

      Could you explain 
      1) What you mean by liberal
      2) Why it’s a bad thing

      Thanks.

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    . .

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mcsole Tim Holland

    you people fucking suck.  the only reason occupy oakland has ANY teeth is because of the radicals.  they have been an inspiration to us all.  you allude, publicly that members of your organization might be provocateurs?  why do liberals have such a hard time understanding security culture and working out their bullshit internally with people they disagree with?  when we have issues about tactics, etc. within occupy denver, we resolve it like adults, not airing our public laundry for the entire world to see.   our initial media team pulled the EXACT same shit, trying to make occupy an arm of moveon.org, all those people were stripped of their ability to communicate with press or pretend to speak for the people who actually were interested in resisting the state…    

    #solidarity with radicals in oakland…  liberal pacifists, there are still a few more weeks for you to go sign up and volunteer for obama!  

    and shame on yall for using Bootsriley quotes to bolster your bullshit argument.

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  • Behindmypaintedsmile

    Whoever wrote this is an absolute joke. They claimed not to represent Occupy Oakland yet claimed OO has divorced itself collectively from the Oakland Commune… hmmmm. Seems to me like a replay of the Bolsheviks. When will you guys start executing anarchists and everyone else who doesn’t agree with your methods of resistance? Grow a pair of balls and get militant. FUCK PACIFISM (IT IS THE PROBLEM). To be complacent in the face of violence is itself violent. LONG LIVE THE COMMUNE AND DEATH TO PACIFISM AND PEACEFUL/LAWFUL PROTEST. LONG LIVE MOTHERFUCKING ANARCHY!!

    • wiseoldsnail

      if you read again i think you’ll find we claim to be occupants of oakland.  we’ve each never claimed to represent anyone but our own self.  also you’ll see that we shined a light on the reality that a group of people took ownership of the name ‘the oakland commune’ for the sake of publishing under that name, and in the text of their publication it was they who suggested a divorce, by proclaiming that occupy oakland is dead.

      you seem to be unaware that there was no judgement being passed on anarchists or any other political identity in the text of this statement.  seems your response here is to something published elsewhere, by others.  your melodramatic suggestion that we ‘start executing anarchists … ‘ is bizarre.  

      also, some of us are not the least bit interested in balls, and see them as the most vulnerable point of an entire half the world’s mammals.  why on earth strive for that?

      finally, give birth.  decide then, with that child in your arms, whether you will waste your time breaking shit up to no good end, and threatening the safety of regular working people who just don’t get it yet, because you believe that’s the best way to create a better world?  will your child be safe during that effort?  who will care for the child when your (heartfelt, well-intentioned) effort gets you killed or locked up indefinitely?  we are still, whether we like it or not, under great threat by a government who, even next week, is planning to make more excuses to lock people up.  find ‘graffiti’ on next tuesday’s city council agenda.  you think we need you in this revolution.  i tend to agree … which means we need you to not be locked up.

      in my story up there, you’ve now given birth.  what kind of world do you want to pass to the hands of your child, and the coming seventh generation?

      for myself, while i won’t hesitate to defend violence against myself or my family and trusted extended family, or pretty much anyone i’m able to save from violence, i’ll continue working to open the eyes of every person around me to this truth : education, information, and honest communication are the tools which will change things.  i agree with you a hundred percent about slow violence : economic warfare against us is real and deadly.  but, while i don’t condemn drastic action, i certainly won’t allow a crew of thoughtless, inexperienced people to alienate the vast majority of hardworking and big loving people in this town from deciding to take the risk and participate with us in this revolution.  that means drastic action has to be thoughtful, and not performed during actions and assemblies that would be more effective with more attendance.  shoot with a shotgun or delicately trim with a razor sharp knife?  i choose the edge.  when the circumstances change, i’ll be there.  for now …

      i believe the circumstances call for surgery, not explosions.  

      if you think a handful of belligerent hyperactivists will change the world without the consent and participation of the bulk of the population, one must fear the new world you intend to create : one in which those in power are those most willing to destroy.  sounds familiar.

    • http://www.hellaoccupyoakland.org/ wiseoldsnail

      if you read again i think you’ll find we claim to be occupants of oakland.  we’ve each never claimed to represent anyone but our own self.  also you’ll see that we shined a light on the reality that a group of people took ownership of the name ‘the oakland commune’ for the sake of publishing under that name, and in the text of their publication it was they who suggested a divorce, by proclaiming that occupy oakland is dead.
      you seem to be unaware that there was no judgement being passed on anarchists or any other political identity in the text of this statement.  seems your response here is to something published elsewhere, by others.  your melodramatic suggestion that we ‘start executing anarchists … ‘ is bizarre.  
      also, some of us are not the least bit interested in balls, and see them as the most vulnerable point of an entire half the world’s mammals.  why on earth strive for that?
      finally, give birth.  decide then, with that child in your arms, whether you will waste your time breaking shit up to no good end, and threatening the safety of regular working people who just don’t get it yet, because you believe that’s the best way to create a better world?  will your child be safe during that effort?  who will care for the child when your (heartfelt, well-intentioned) effort gets you killed or locked up indefinitely?  we are still, whether we like it or not, under great threat by a government who, even next week, is planning to make more excuses to lock people up.  find ‘graffiti’ on next tuesday’s city council agenda.  you think we need you in this revolution.  i tend to agree … which means we need you to not be locked up.
      in my story up there, you’ve now given birth.  what kind of world do you want to pass to the hands of your child, and the coming seventh generation?
      for myself, while i won’t hesitate to defend violence against myself or my family and trusted extended family, or pretty much anyone i’m able to save from violence, i’ll continue working to open the eyes of every person around me to this truth : education, information, and honest communication are the tools which will change things.  i agree with you a hundred percent about slow violence : economic warfare against us is real and deadly.  but, while i don’t condemn drastic action, i certainly won’t allow a crew of thoughtless, inexperienced people to alienate the vast majority of hardworking and big loving people in this town from deciding to take the risk and participate with us in this revolution.  that means drastic action has to be thoughtful, and not performed during actions and assemblies that would be more effective with more attendance.  shoot with a shotgun or delicately trim with a razor sharp knife?  i choose the edge.  when the circumstances change, i’ll be there.  for now …
      i believe the circumstances call for surgery, not explosions.  
      if you think a handful of belligerent hyperactivists will change the world without the consent and participation of the bulk of the population, one must fear the new world you intend to create : one in which those in power are those most willing to destroy.  sounds familiar.