Q&A With Mike Andrews, Occupy Organizer: What Happens After May 1?

05/09/2012 4:00 AM |

The L: Do you think you guys will get involved in the election?
MA: My personal opinion is that in OWS it’s thought of a bit too simplistically. It’s thought of we can take one of two positions—we can endorse President Obama, which of course we will not do, not that that is a position anyone advocates, or we can say nothing about it. We can completely ignore it. I don’t think those are our only two options. I think it would be a perfect opportunity to launch a long-term campaign that exposes the inadequacy of representative democracy, how fundamentally corrupt it is, especially in the United States.

For me, the presidential election every four years is an incredibly depressing exercise. It’s just a charade and a farce, and I think it would be foolish for Occupy Wall Street to say nothing about it, because it’s going to be what everyone’s paying attention to. I think it would be a real opportunity to advance one of our principles is that voting is not how fundamental, radical change happens anymore.

The L: Say someone’s grandmother in Ohio was to turn on the TV and see there was a May Day protest with Occupy Wall Street. What would you want that person to take away from that experience?

MA: Well, I would want that person, old lady in the Midwest, what would I want her to come away with? A sense that there is still pervasive outrage about our fucked up economic system. And a sense that there are people organizing on mass scale with long-term objectives to combat that fucked up economic system. And, I mean, historically May Day is a day where the workers withdraw their cooperation from the circulation of capital and demonstrate that the circulation of capital depends on them. In conditions—neoliberal capitalism is very different than industrial, Keynesian capitalism that came before it, where it was easier for workers to really disrupt the circulation of capital, it’s much harder these days. But I guess I would like someone watching on May Day to get the sense that the system doesn’t run without your cooperation. I mean, maybe if this person’s retired that’s not true. But in general, the system does not run without our cooperation and that there are ways to collectively withdraw our cooperation and think about other ways of organizing.

The L: I asked you earlier about your proudest moments of Occupy, so now I’ll ask the opposite. When have you been most disappointed?
MA: I remember most of my moments where I feel ashamed where it feels like Occupy Wall Street has gone from something that was explosive and new at the beginning to something that’s become a settled habit, where we’ve sort of abandoned our principles of always pushing the boundaries and rethinking and remaking how to do politics, horizontal politics, and instead we fall into a couple of patterns. I was in a meeting once where there were 15 of us and people insisted on using the people’s mic. And it was like, we were all close enough to hear what people were saying. [laughter] It was comical. It was laughable. Yeah.

I think we have really suffered from not having a central space where we can meet and organize. Zuccotti Park served that purpose for a while. I don’t think we should reestablish an occupation where people sleep. I don’t think we have the capacity to deal with that, and the police will never allow it.

Having a place, be it an outdoor park, an office space, somewhere, which is kind of like the hub of the movement, where people can come and know they’ll run into someone they know, a place to have meetings. I think that’s really, really important. People have been looking into having that and haven’t been having success. I think we’ve suffered from not having that. We’re incredibly fragmented right now. May Day has been, in a way, a way to bring us back together a bit, because it is one day where all hands are going to be on deck. But after May Day we won’t really have a forum for bringing everyone together, any kind of project that we’re all working on. But good people, people I trust, are working on providing the general assembly, and making it about that it has nothing to do with decisions about money, which is what killed us. Because we have our little meetings and our working groups every week, but we need to come back and be in the same space as people we’re supposed to be in the same movement with. When we don’t have that it just feels like you have 80 working groups doing different things, showing up to do a ra-ra day of action once in a while.