October 5, 2011.
I'd say 50,000 marchers, and that's not counting the other march, the one covered by the New York Times. No better proof that the USA has become another colony of Global Capital than the Times covering a story the way it does for banana republics like France: get it straight from friendly Government sources. In this case the source was some American union honcho straight from "helping" "organize" those hapless Tunisians, no doubt with the usual backing from USAID or some other front.
The other march, the one I didn't attend, must have held most of the union honchos as well, because there were precious few at the march I went to, the un-virtual one. Sure, there were quite a few union members, but I wouldn't have known it if I didn't know many of them already, most of my friends turned up as individuals with their own hand-made signs. The one exception was the PSC, the Potemkin union of the City University of New York, which sent a number of individuals spread out through the crowd, each bearing the curious, mass-produced placard, "PSC SUPPORTS YOU!" Supports whom? And how? That's like bringing a virtual gun to a real gunfight.
There were also very few amateur radicals, the type for whom the justness of any action is measured by the degree of physical or verbal violence they'd like to see from The Mahsses. They, too, must have been at the Virtual March, whining that "their" movement had been "coopted" by the organizers - meaning, I suppose, by the New York Times. Or the unions. Or the CIA - who cares?
As mahsses go this one was a big disappointment, nary a grungy hippie or burly construction worker, or even a frothing anarchist in sight. (Nary was there, but he left early; Harry had to work late; Ari went to High Holy Day services.) In fact, it was the hippest, best-dressed demo I've ever been to - there was even someone sporting a slogan by Jenyy Holzer. Didn't Mao say you have to swim among the People like a fish in the sea? I was the one in the dark-blue Pal Zilleri tastefully offset by a lapel pin from the Austrian Communist Party. Sometimes the fish wear Manolos.
The demo was a lot like a hot club opening, with the cops the designated bouncers - I had to check a group of snookies trying to push ahead of the crowd. The number of marchers is usually determined by multiplying square footage covered by the estimated number of marchers who occupy a square foot in real space, but in this case we were so tightly packed behind the barricades that I'd say 50,000 marchers is an understatement. By that same calculation there must have been 100,000 Tony Baloneys at that march, because the streets beyond the barricades were occupied by preening whiteshirts, the upper brass of New York's fine-assed: No fashion statements there. (The line cops were fine, most of them don't like this either, they know the fuck-up in the police department comes from the top down, it messes up their job as well as ours.)
Henri Lefebvre was right. The real, the Unvirtual New York has been for years the site for savage attempts at monopolizing space. Surely the marchers must have wondered how the same city that keeps them off the street when it's a question of exercising their constitutional rights, will gladly invite them to trample all over the place for a Black Eyed Peas performance, or some artsy Creative Time event. Surely, there was a reason my friend Kathryn was marching - she lives in an old townhouse in the Village, worth upwards of ten million dollars. When Bloomberg and the New York Times complain that the occupiers are bad for business, I think she know exactly what that means: bad for their business, the business of tearing down her townhouse and her neighborhood and anything that stands in the way of global finance capital. Because Bloomberg and the Times don't represent "the" rich, they represent those for whom nothing is ever enough. This, as much as anything else, was the issue we were marching for. Plus, Brooklyn got all the media last week, with those arrests. Brooklyn is soo way overrated.
Also right, Michel de Certeau. Far from being "disorganized," the encampment at Zuccotti Park turned out, when I finally reached it in the slowly moving crowd, to be a conscious attempt to "take back the word," I was reminded of the Winter of '67-68 in Paris, when the streets were taken over by party-goers and hanging gradually shifted to political discussions off-the-cuff - as talking and thinking about politics became hip. Beware, when revolution becomes hip. That's what happened in the years leading up to the French Revolution. It's what happened in '68.
Yesterday, though, two strategies conflicted, or rather two organizational systems so thoroughly at odds that one wonders if anything can ever bring them together. The first system, that of the Wall Street occupation, wants to create a space - a real, a physical space, and that's important - in which all kinds of things may happen, and strategy may come from the bottom up. The other system, that of the unions and the Democrats, organizations has never admitted any kind of bottom-up initiative, and doesn't ever intend to. Its strategy parallels the strategy of the "inheritor party," beloved of Marxists in the nineteen-twenties. "You see," the German Communists would say as Hitler rose to power, "the movement of the Mahsses to our side is unavoidable, a Law of History, we only need to position the Party properly to pick the fruit of anger when it's ripe." It seems that everyone "supports" the Occupation now: the Democrats, the unions, Obama, even George Soros, who knows a good investment when he sees one. In fact they're not supporting it at all, they merely ride it like the fly that sits on top of the horse in the old Aesop fable, and fantasizes it's the driver. The crunch will come when the Democrats and unions try to rein in and discipline "their" marchers, and it's not going to work. Here in New York we know a fake, be it a fake Louis Vuiton or a fake leadership. The liberation of the Professional Class will be the task of the Professional Class alone.
Just got back from Zucotti Park. A few impressions. By now you all know that Mike ("Deer in the Headlights") Bloomberg chickened down. Mike is in bed with the real-estate industry - literally: his partner owns shares in Zuccotti. Wish I were a fly on the wall tonight...
1) Not a large number, maybe 20,000 at most, probably closer to ten, but choice. Supposedly 11 City Council Members (I only saw one, perhaps the others endorsed without actually showing.) Barbara Bowen, head of the PSC (City University of New York's Union), a number of other union folks. Russell Simmons - the guy with all the cameras around him.
2) A few interesting conversations; one with a Wall Street lawyer who's totally behind the occupation. He claims he actually read Kapital...Book III! Surprisingly, he was interviewed, probably by mistake. Get me rewrite!
3)Generally, the best way to be ignored by the throngs of newshacks was to wear a jacket or a nice dress. A very stylishly dressed woman (even for New York) was holding up a hand-made sign stating that she is employed, that she's middle-class, and that she totally supports the occupation. She looked so lonely I felt like offering her a drink.
4) Conversely, the most dangerous place to be was between a "radical" and the press. One particularly foolish young provo almost half my size tried to shove me out of the way while shouting: "Sir, get out of the way, we have a march to go to." Save the testosterone for the cops, kid, it's safer. Or for your online fantasies. Ditto.
5) As I was leaving a nice Tactical Unit policeman was asking folks to clear the sidewalk. "Thanks for asking politely," I told him with a big smile. He froze, the time to wonder if I was playing games with his head. I gave him an even bigger smile to tell him I was - it was like twiddling a ping-pong ball.
10/6/2011; last updated 10/14.