The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #140645   Message #3246727
Posted By: GUEST,Etan Ben-Ami
29-Oct-11 - 12:27 PM
Thread Name: BS: Wall Street Protesters...
Subject: RE: BS: Wall Street Protesters...
On October 28, 2011, the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street in New York adopted a new structure for all operational decision making: effectively a new constitution. This puts most of the resources and the good name of OWS in the hands of a 'Spokes Council' designed by a vanguard committee: the Structure Working Group.

I believe the plan is seriously flawed. Though there is no reason to doubt the honesty and integrity of the members of the Structure Working Group, I think the new process could easily be subverted or corrupted. I tried to block it, citing both ethical and safety considerations.

The Spokes Council proposal includes provisions that place disproportionate influence in the hands of persons belonging to small working groups and caucuses, especially if they belong to several. They can add to their influence through classic political machinations like vote swapping.

The Spokes Council can also change its own charter and process of decision making without the approval of the General Assembly. Hypothetically, it could do away with consensus decision making, appointing a steering committee and officers.

The Spokes Council proposal does away with the protective mechanism of individual 'blocks' to consensus: a situation in which an individual raises serious ethical or safety concerns based on their perception of a proposal. (It allows blocks, but only if a working group or caucus creates a block through consensus within itself first. This is unlikely to ever occur.)

This plan was put forward as living and working conditions on Liberty Plaza began to decline. Simpler plans, involving less structural change, were never considered as alternatives at the General Assembly. Several of its proponents claimed the Spokes Council proposal was the only solution for efficient and effective management of worsening problems on the Plaza.

This was well received by occupiers who are frustrated with the difficulty of working together effectively. Prior to this proposal, any substantive action (eg purchasing storage bins) required the submission and approval of a proposal to the entire General Assembly.

The failure to fix this problem with simpler changes is highly suspect. Less ambitious changes would have enabled effective action before things declined to their present state. This would have led to a more careful examination of such sweeping changes in process. In short: they promised to make the trains run on time -- and the people said 'do it'.

At this time, a council which has never met, and which can change its own rules of process without real accountability, has been empowered to make spending decisions from a $500K pool of contributions to Occupy Wall Street.

I blocked this proposal with a careful analysis of its provisions, noting both safety and ethical concerns. The new 'constitution' was passed over my objections. I am taking the only ethical position I know, which is to dissociate myself from Occupy Wall Street.

I am now exploring the possibility of organizing a new social media project for wider-scale public involvement. It will address the issues of economic inequity and undemocratic corporate influence from the perspective of ordinary people in everyday life. Stay tuned, and let me know if you are interested in becoming an online activist.

-- Etan Ben-Ami,