Content with tag occupy .

Outline of 20 years ups and downs of grassroots activism in the UK

In my expirence the flowering of the indymedia networks followed by the first years of climatecamp were the high points of activist culture. The end of climate camp was the low point of activist culture, after this the drift to NGO and fashion was wide and dissipating.

Occupy was a break in activist culture, it was the first mass “internet first” on the ground manifestation that happened disconnected to the past of activism because of the use of #dotcons tools as prime organising space. The old couture has been discredited by the failings of climate camp, the new dotcon tools had been celebrated and used well by Ukuncut etal. Were Ukuncut was a reboot of old climate camp crew, Occupy was a project of the #failbook generation in all its wide reflective madness.

Were are we now? The old left is rebooting with a broken mix of the blairite right and the Stalinist/toxic left both pulling at the radical liberal centre. Alt media content is being rebooted but the network it needs to build, to stop its drift to NGO burn out is missing. The right is ideologically bankrupt and visibly grasping, but stronger than ever.

In activism currently we are full of the biter taste of occupy and NGO worshipping of dotcoms and careerism. The working of the 21st century is potentially different to the workings of the 20th century the are groups, networks and individuals that embody this and a larger group/individuals who fight for the past century working practices.

The “certainties of the 20th century” are grasped in our frail and trembling hands, the first stage of a “network” reboot is to let go of these “certainties” one constructive path to this is to fill in the gaping activist memory hole by looking at what works and what dose not. The lost and flailing progressive alt needs foundations bridging this gap to build on.

The IS NO SHORT TERMISM HERE but the is speed and nimbleness, plenty of fun, creative motivated building to be done. Many of the foundation problems can be built in parallel as a “network” so it can happen faster than most can imagine.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”




Am currently working on two projects to take steps to medate the issues I ouline here:

Open Media  Network (OMN)

The Witches Cauldron - open activist archive


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Never heard of Spellchecker? Get someone else to look over your writing if you struggle with grammar etc. Readers will take these things more seriously - and more importantly, understand what you are trying to say more clearly - if it is better presented.
Posted on 27/12/16 18:18.

The poverty of the alternative

Was looking at this site/project here is a reaction:

The tools we use for activism are dominated by top down vertical thinking - the horizontal tools are left at the bottom of the tool box when we reach for a digital front for our grassroots campaigning. Our organising mirrors this right-wing reality – most activism is organized by invisible/opaque affinity groups. The words (wind) are often hippy peace and love or dusty revolution - the reality is far blunter, just open your eyes and look, the isn't much of an alternative. This obvious realization is surprising as we actually have the most open and radical time to move in/ to create real alternatives. The tool box for horizontalism is overflowing with tools, the organizing process are a bit more complex.

To answer briefly two replays to this, for those who say “we just need to love each other”

For those who think dialogue alone will solve this issue

Q. What works and what dose not work?

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A brief history of activism

This is a DRAFT

#Occupy has become bureaucratised and continues as e-mail lists and side projects, not very active.

#ukuncut has become institutionalised. Still active - presser protests in conjunction with NGO's

#climatecamp The anarcho' s left and most of the rest got jobs in NGO's a few continue in other campaigns. It has run its course, the influx of liberals had watered it down till its DNA failed. The healthy ones went onto Ukuncut. Fuckup, not conspiracy sadly. A spattering of global projects remain.

(google trends not accurate)

#submedia still banging the radical drum

#Indymedia failed from the opposite resion the activists excluded other groups in till the weren't a healthy mix left. Then the group dwindled by exclusion and inbreeding till its DNA was two narrow to evolve when it needed to change with the growth of personal publishing. It was replaced by blogs then corporate social networks. Still exists.

The are still some active IMC's would be intresting to look at why some are still working?

#undercurrents burned out of funding then failed to re-new with the fund-raising charity side not feeding into the active political production side. The charity/NGO side then shrank and dispersed. Still exists

(google trends not accurate)

#schnews had some lean times but seem to have survived in the radical project Though clearly fading on this graph of web searches


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The first thing to say is that, as a director of visionOntv, I can reassure people who work with us that these are NOT in any sense the views of visionOntv collectively, and that I personally have serious issues with them.

Let's go through the article. The fact that is called a draft is irrelevant for taking it seriously, as it is in the public domain, and already has several people riled up.

1. "#Occupy has become bureaucratised" - Evidence? You simply cannot make a judgement like that without evidence. "not very active"?. There's a limit to the amount of time you can camp in a public square, The "side projects" dismissed by this author were a positive move after the big occupations, to take the struggle home, into the community and workplace. The BBC feature the London squatted social centre movement last week, much more positively than here. For my part, I featured a programme by the Occupy News Network o our globalviews channel only last week.

2. "#UKUncut has become institutionalised". Laughably, the "evidence" referenced here is to another article by Hamish Campbell, with a similar lack of evidence inside it. Really, these are serious accusations, and need backing up to be made at all.

3. "#climatecamp The anarcho' s left and most of the rest got jobs in NGO's a few continue in other campaigns. It has run its course, the influx of liberals had watered it down till its DNA failed. The healthy ones went onto Ukuncut. Fuckup, not conspiracy sadly." Again this is a highly subjective opiion, with a lot of pure conjecture ("the rest got jobs in NGOs"?) and no evidence. By a more reasonable assessment, the specific mode of protest of climate camp had run its course after 5 years, but similar types of direct action and squatter camps continue to have a big impact today.

4. #indymedia "dwindled by exclusion and inbreeding" - an unnecessarily abusive and very one-sided description. As a founder of oxford imc I can testify to the very wide range of politics within the group. Imcs such as Nottingham were very postiive in their outreach to non-activist parts of the community. My personal preference was for more of an aggregator site (the Open Media Network anyone?), and in fact members of uk imc set up to be precisely that. The environmental change wrought by corporate social media has negatively impacted on many parts of the open web, not just indymedia. But in its day, indymedia was a beacon project for open media, and should not be described as a "fuck up".

5. Re Undercurrents, Paul from there has aswered this "critique" in detail, and I agree with everything he says. According to the author of this absurd blogpost, Undercurrents has failed to do the "political production side" - successfully and uniquely filming inside an Israeli prison anyone?

6. #Schnews - fortunately for Hamish the Schnews guys are some of the loveliest people you could ever meet. If I were them I would clock him for describing them as "clearly fading".

Projects and people transfrom and move on, often in positive and creative ways. Let's hope that the exciting and ever-changing history of these movements is written by someone with more understanding and accuracy.
Posted on 02/04/13 16:44.
Some clarifications:

Just to keep you in the loop - I was on the first demo that created the UK occupy movement and made 3 video reports about it. I am and have been reading the organising e-mail list for occupy - very insightful of the health and scale of the UK occupy movement. I originally joined and engaged with the occupy mumble (talk network) though I ended up wished I hadn't - think you might have been in on that meeting with the lynching?

We did some good work inside the movement but that was all by personal connection - the needs to be a good right up on activist "process". Yes the are some spin off and legacy - but I think the google trends is a pretty good view of the health of this ones all powerful movement.

Did you not see UK occupy rip itself apart?

#ukcuncut am being a bit sharp on them, but read my original post from 5/31/11 I stand by this as a prediction of what happened after this was posted. They are one of the few groups that are still relevant - am curious to see how they change and mutate. I think, my statement presser groups for NGO's will likely be seen to be true - but open for good surprises as they are a creative lot.

#climatecamp NGO side I could name names on this one but I don't think that would be helpful (: Anarchist side... many burned out at Heathrow and the role declined - the is some write ups about this but no idea where to find it - could name names here too but not helpful. I think the is a very useful thing to learn about the balancing of liberals and anarchist here - so will write more on this.

#indymedia - rich I think you forget that I was at the meetings so I think this isn't an abusive view because it was like that at the time. The 5 year too late bethemedia aggregate was ripped apart by the taking of the indymedia domain? Am sorry but indymedia outcome was well abusive and needs to be written up warts and all. The public email list archives should still be available if you want to check this. Fuckup bit is answer to a question on infiltrators and agent provocateurs - conspiracy or fuckup - I came down on the fuckup side though would be interesting to have a proper history here. Am still on the global, UK and Oxford organising lists – have a look at the archives to judge the health of the project.


#Schnews I changed that a bit to clarified what I mean that this is what the graph shows as it clearly dose. It was a surprise for me to see this but after going over in my head my communication with some of the schnews crew over the last 5 years I feel the graph is probably accurate. If you don’t think this is so you could ask them?

On the subject see this post
Posted on 02/04/13 19:27 in reply to Richard Hering.
On #Occupy, my point was that its activists have disappeared into other related, often local, struggles, which would not necessarily appear on the #Occupy mailing list, which was specific to the Occupation time and place. My point was that you have nowhere proved, or even introduced any evidence of, "bureaucratisation". This term has a very specific meaning, and is a heavy charge to levy. If it used loosely to generally abuse people, then one person's bureaucracy might well be another person's "being organised" or "administering". Yes, I was in the meeting you refer to, as an active participant, and it was i no sensee evidence of bureaucracy. I enjoyed the meeting, which was about the crediting of Occupy events, ad how Occupy relates to other groups, an issue for which both sides have fair points. I liked very much the way it was held in the open, not at all as bureaucrats like to behave.

"Did you not see UK occupy rip itself apart?" No, nor did anyone else I know. Remarkable, bearig in mind how much that kind of activism puts people under strain.

#UKUncut "They are one of the few groups that are still relevant - am curious to see how they change and mutate. I think, my statement presser groups for NGO's will likely be seen to be true - but open for good surprises as they are a creative lot."

This really is the most extraordinary arrogance. Well, Hamish, I will advise all my activist friends to earnestly seek your lofty advice on whether they are relevant or not!

#climatecamp did not stop because of the balance of anarchists and liberals, but because you can't go pouring resources into the same national event every year without it growing smaller and stultifying. There are other contextual reasons like a double dip recession. Nor was it a failure, but did a huge amount to put global warming issues up front, and prove that non-hierarchical structures can work on a larger scale, and made people feel that direct action could be done by them.

#indymedia I have a very thorough knowledge of the history of indymedia, and no one is happy about the way that UK indymedia fell apart, But when I say I would have preferred an aggregated site of partnerships, I'm also aware that indymedia was maybe what it was, had its very glorious time, and by the time people were fighting, had had its day. So it may have been time to build something else. Facebook would still have existed.

#Schnews "I feel the graph is probably accurate. If you don’t think this is so you could ask them?" No, I won't, and I don't dispute the graph (in this case). The reason I won't ask them is that I have no interest in dissing other peoples' projects. I would say that, after twenty years, it's remarkable they still exist at all, and I take my hat off to them (I really have one!) for being so active for so long, and so funny with it.

In general, what is it exactly that you hope to gain from these highly partial and dubious histories? On second thoughts, maybe I don't want to know the answer to that!
Posted on 03/04/13 00:48.

How I learned to stop panicking and love disorder

At protest camps after a time its inevitable that things fall apart. At St Paul's (Occupy 2011) today we had the health and safety rep shouting and waving petrol cans around while unscrewing the top in the middle of a crush of tents. “We must shut this down now.” He had a point, but this was a person at the end of his tether.

London occupation has reached the stage were those who have taken responsibility are starting to burn out, this happens with all protest camps, the danger is these key people can be the kindling that burns the camp to the ground. How do we put fire brakes into our organiseing structures?


Sometimes we need to open up spaces. By stepping aside, we open the space for someone to come in to fill it. If we believe in self-organisation then this moment of disorder is a healthy part of OUR society.  

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Rainbow "talks" to occupy movement in the US (bad sound)

Long video (bad sound) worth listening to if you are interested in social movements complementing each other rather than competing and fighting with each other - Rainbow "talks" to occupy movement in the US .

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Thoughts on alt-organising from 2007

Alt-grouping and sustainability

This isn’t a statement of truth more a way to help look at a recurring problem, and to help active participants to mediate the problem to a better outcome.

It is to do with the sort of people who get involved at each stage of an alt-project's development. This is of course a generalization as people do fall into more than one grouping and shift between groupings during the project. Written from 10 years of direct practical experiences of the many different alt-groups that share the same dynamics.

First to look at the terms used:

Getting things done people

Are more interested in things happening than the process, though their process, as far as it goes, tends to be good otherwise they wouldn’t “get things done”.

Working people

Are the unsung heroes who do much of the work but receive little recognition. They are the “sustaining” core of any alt/project.


I am using the term in the positive sense to mean those who create and can work in structures. They solidify the project and thus sustain it, but when caught up with the “theorists” (who they are attracted to) and the “life stylist” groupings, they can institutionalize the dysfunctions as much as the original function.


Are a troubled “category” in alt-projects. The “consensus decision making process” tends to marginalize them as nobody has a “larger say” than anybody else. So their input, whether good or bad, tends to be submerged into “lifestyles”. Theorists who have come through any of the first 3 categories should defiantly be listened to with positive (but critical) ear. However this rarely happens as, as with the sort of “critical input” you are reading now, they have a tendency to come across as unfriendly to the majority of the project at stage 7 (the gathering) when these voices are most needed.

Life stylists

Grow out of the “hangers on” and are drawn to any open successful alt-project. At their best they “metamorphose” into one of the other categories and sustain the project. A sustainable alt-project has a clear and open way of facilitating this transformation. (or on the other side/more regularly is a functional closed project which also helps to keep the lifestyle drain to a minimum)

Project time line

1) “Getting it done” sort of people with inner drive start a project.

2) Soon mixed with “working people” and the few “bureaucrats”.

3) “Getting it done” people start to specialize into parallel projects. The weight of the project starts to fall onto the “working people” and increasingly the “bureaucrats”. We start to see “theorists” coming out of the first 3 categories and coming in from outside. “Hangers on” start to gather and a pronounced “lifestyle” side to the project begins to emerge.

4) The “getting it done” people start to burn out or move completely onto other projects. The “bureaucrats” start to be central to sustaining the project supported by the “working people’. The “lifestylists” start to form into groups around the “theorists”, and the "working people" are drawn into these groups.

5) The project is at its height but also starting to decay. Hopefully it can stay at this plateau for a period. The core project is the bureaucrats supported by the “working people” who are not fully caught up in “lifestyle” groupings. The lifestyle groups hopefully give as much energy as they take, but they are starting to exclude new “working” and “getting it done” people until the project starts to become dysfunctional.

6) The few remaining “getting it done” people with the longstanding “bureaucrats” and “working people” start to react against the decay, which sparks a debate amongst the “theorists” and “lifestylists” which generally paralyses any affective action to rejuvenate the project. The “bureaucrats” and “getting it done” people, alongside the majority of groups, call for a gathering to attempt to rejuvenate the project.

7) The gathering suffers from “the tyranny of structurelessness”, leading to a renewal of good will, but the consensus of the gathering exclude the “getting it done” and long term “bureaucrats” as they feel they cannot impose their view on the group. The consensus is created by the “life stylists” and “theorists” who have no or little experience of “getting things done”. Thus generally achieves little and refuse to even see the root causes of the project decay.

This process repeats itself with more or less success for a time depending on the particular nature of the project. For only practical action will keep the “bureaucrats”, “working people” and the now distant “getting it done people” engaged.

One of the parallel projects started by the “getting it done” people then draws the “working people” and “bureaucrats” that haven’t burned out into a new cycle. The burn-outs return to mainstream organizing/life.

This has been an attempt to give people a glimpse into the churning activist world, and help them make informed decisions on how sustainable to get involved – I hope it helps in small ways.

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#occupy - mind the gap

#occupy its important to be aware of the difference between social work and social change, the small visible over lap shouldn't hide the gap.

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The Trials of the 1% @occupiedjustice

To embed this: 
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War: Inquiry into Tony Blair and the British government’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq

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Programming social change

The future of the radical web is between a standards based approach and a make it up from scratch based approach. And the make it up from scratch based approach is by far the strongest path in activist programming.

A standards based approach would be something like this

A make it up your self based approach would be like this

Obviously if we are building a sustainable alternative a standards based approach is more helpful. This is one of the resions why activist based tech projects are largely hopeless at achieving social change.

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