Occupy Seoul and Occupy Yeouido (2011)

I try to keep my personal life to a minimum, but while I am visiting my wonderful girlfriend in the city of Daejeon. I will be monitoring and hopefully involved with the Occupy Seoul. I have been waiting for announcement that something would be happening in Seoul. As a foreigner here, I am reluctant to get involved in local political affairs. While I have supported and watched in solidarity with Union workers and the anti-G-20 protests, I also trend lightly as in many ways I don’t want to be pushing my agenda on local leftists. Some of which are often protesting their governments trade actions with my home country. Korea social action has traditionally had a slightly more nationalist flavor than the left in Europe and North America is probably used to.

I suspect this is partly from the siege mentality Korea has had to develop between the Japanese occupation and then its place as a strategic pawn in the cold war has a lot to do with distrust of outsiders as much as its history as the “Hermit Kingdom.”

The agenda in Yeouido and Seoul is more specific than the Occupy Wallstreet: much less nebulous and much more in line with Korean populism since the 1980s. But this statement in the as reported to the International press:

“Angry Americans are occupying Wall Street, the origin of the world’s financial capital, and we believe the protest is targeting the nerve center of greedy U.S. capitalism,” the groups planning the protest said in a statement.

“Many people in Korea have fallen victim to rampant speculation by domestic financial institutions out to bag huge windfalls in short periods of time.”

Which is about as close as statement of clear solidity with the American left as we’d expect. But the reference is specifically to the recent indications of a Korean’s saving’s bank scandal that begin in June. That quote is from KOFICA which still has pretty limited interested. In a way, Occupy Seoul has little radical inclination at moment. Furthermore, Still corporate corruption is and has been a serious problem for Korea.

One wonders what the turn-out will be, and if the government will stop student groups from participating like during the G-20.

The details as follows: Occupy Yeouido will begin in the afternoon and Occupy Seoul that evening. Both are decidedly on a much smaller scale than the US counter-parts. I hope to take part as best I can: 제대로 한국말 외국인으로, 그런 도움이 아닙니다.

Back in my nation of birth: The battle for the narrative in Occupy Wall Street has really begun. On Facebook groups, there has been an increasing number of leftists of various stripes and Union organizers calling for the occupation to adopt a posture of General Strike. A move which I hardly encourage. Some of my friends in the Socialist Party of the United States have been reporting that while some of the calls for this are getting louder, many involved are pushing back.

Furthermore, as some of noted in venues as far away as the Eurasian Times: There seems to be deliberate attempt from the Democrats to take the message. I am noticing not only the Occupy the Polls campaign, but increasing claims that Occupy Wall Street is about supporting Barack Obama. Notice that Adbusters definitely was not aiming for that.

I have seen statements like this: “P.O.T.U.S. Asked For A Little Help With His Message,Republican Congress , We Can’t Hear YOU !!” In fact, someone I have missed from my perch inside my red batcave in East Asia, that House Democrats had endorsed Occupy Wall Street. I suppose I should have suspected as much as soon as we saw Michael Moore there.

Anarchists have been trying to kick-up of the steam. Crimethinc’s “Open Letter to Occupiers” has really kicked a bit of interest as well. As a writer for Jacobin has pointed out many within the Occupy Wall Street are worried about the anarchists:

It’s become even more apparent in the streets. When I was at Occupy DC over the weekend, a guy who I would guess circles his A’s complained about being pushed from the street into the police-protected march by another occupier. I’ve seen the same thing happen in New York, and I’m willing to bet it’s happened elsewhere. There have been rumors out of Chicago that some occupiers have printed out flyers with the names and pictures of “known anarchists,” and certain committee members at Wall Street have grumbled about rooting out autonomous actors.

He then goes go on to attack Jodi Dean for something she said, which I actually remotely worry about myself:

First, Ron Paul supporters. To the extent that Occupy Wall Street remains open to and for multiple political persuasions, it is not a left movement at all. There is a difference between left and libertarian. The easiest rough initial cut is between those who begin with an emphasis on equality and those who begin with an emphasis on freedom; another crude cut would distinguish between those who begin from an emphasis on individualism and those who begin from an emphasis on collectivity, solidarity, and a commons. I am not saying that there are not ways to reconcile equality and freedom and individuality and collectivity. I am saying that they are different starting points and that these points influence the kinds of politics that end up being supported. As I understand it, Ron Paul supports an odd notion of free markets; he thinks that individuals make better decisions than groups and that a social safety net damages freedom. If there is space for this view in Occupy Wall Street, then that’s not my revolution. In fact, it seems like a version of the one that hijacked the country in the 70s.

Second, the language of occupying occupy wall street that I am using suggests that any attempt to hegemonize the space will be a problem for the ‘movement.’ That is, to remain the movement it is (18 days in), it has to resist any and all efforts to channel the message. But that then implies not that the priority is a contestation among people to forge a way ahead but instead that openness and indeterminacy are themselves the goal, that which is to be protected. If that’s the case, then there is something wrong, a kind of built in (self-deceiving?) confusion: the goal is just to keep the occupation going, not to use the occupation to overthrow capitalism or bring down the banks, or redistribute wealth at all. In fact, it’s probably wrong for me to call this confused or self-deceiving: it’s explicit in a number of different statements about democracy and discussion and raising questions. This language is a language of process rather than ends. Or, the process is the end. To the extent that this is the goal, rather than a means of overthrowing capitalism and working toward putting in place a communist solution, then that’s not my revolution.

But, third, neither one or two are given. They are elements in the battle, issues and sites to be fought over and won. Lenin emphasizes finding and using opportunities, compromising when necessary, all with eye to (now my language, via Alvaro Garcia Linera and Bruno Bosteels) the communist horizon. With respect to Occupy Wall Street, it seems to me that the keeping the building phase alive is crucial while at the same time pushing for the exclusion of some views–no Ron Paul, no compromise with and support of the Democratic Party, no narrowing to a focus on campaign finance or corporate personhood. So, keeping alive, supporting, and growing is crucial, and this needs to be combined with work to hone the message.

I am not a fan of Leninist vanguardism, but have to admit: It currently appears Dean was right about this movement will be fought for. Of course, there are those who think we– all should let them be :

With this openly shared message in mind, is important to push back against the rhetoric of “disorganization,” or “a movement without a message” coming from left, right, and center. Occupy Wall Street is practicing an ethic of radical democracy: every voice counts and every action is meaningful. Eschewing hierarchies of charismatic leadership, narrow messaging, or sound bites, the movement makes room for multiples, and asks that disagreements make room for one another. The thousands of voices, bodies, minds, and hearts on Wall St. everyday do not have to agree in any constricted sense in order to be effective. Indeed, space for multiple voices and multiple concerns defines the movement. It is stronger in its multiplicity.
The process of “occupation” (hundreds of people camped permanently in Zuccotti park) is modeled explicitly on the occupation of Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Zuccotti Park has been renamed Liberty Park. The movement is overtly international in its influences and scope, and routinely invokes similar occupations of public space not only in Egypt, but also in Spain, Greece, Senegal, and elsewhere, where citizens have also been demanding less precarious lives: affordable education, food, shelter, and health care; the right to a fairly-remunerated livelihood.

Yet, the blogger at Social Text doesn’t seem to get the warning. Even Former Tea Partiers warn of the dangers of co-option:

1- The media will initially and purposely avoid covering your dissenting movement to cause confusion about what your movement is about within mainstream audiences. It might feel like this is to enrage you and make you appear unreasonable. Perhaps you will feel even invisible.

2- While the obsfuscation is happening, stooges will infiltrate and give superficial support, focus and financial backing to the targetted movement. In the tea party movement’s case, it was the religious Republicans and Koch Brothers. In this case, it’s many unions that cozy up to the Democratic Party (the organizations as quasi-human entities, not the members themselves) and Ultra Rich liberals who pretend to care, but frankly do not serve liberators and freedom seekers but rather the interests of some union leaders and the Democratic Party. Democrat, Republican, these parties are all part of the same corporate ruling system. Case in point: http://www.debates.org/

3-The media will cover the movement only after this infiltration succeeds. Once the infiltration is completed the MSM will manufacture public media antipathy towards the movement by using selective focus on the movement’s most repulsive elements or infiltrators on the corporate Conservative media side, while the corporate Liberal media will create a more sympathetic tragic hero image — this is the flip side of the tea party, but same media manipulation tactics. I go into greater detail on this tactic: http://vaslittlecrow.com/blog/2011/09/08/how-the-media-and-ideological-groups-manipulate-your-beliefs/

4- Someone in the Democratic Party will feign sympathy for the movement and falsely “non-partisan” entities provide tons of funding and unwanted organization, just as was done with the tea party movement by Republicans. Once people assume that the pro-corporate government operatives are their friends, they will hijack the movement and the threat of your movement will be neutralized.

It’s eerie that pretty much everyone sees the threat as it is happening. Some say this is a vindication of Hardt and Negri. I see it as a crucial moment that hinges on what exactly people want. It ‘s clear there are grievances and even Business Insider admits they are legitimate.

Meanwhile, the Square itself is being emptied “temporarily.” We sure do live in interesting times.

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