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Proposed Central Principles for Occupy

At the core of the Occupy movement are a handful of deeply radical principles.  These are important factors in understanding why the movement has been both contagious and powerful.  Currently Occupy St. Louis is a bureaucratic nightmare, but in October it was so beautiful.  Engaging these principles is paramount to rediscovering our power, whether that be in winter or spring.  Please read, respond, discuss, and share.

Occupy Central Principles

We hold ourselves and each other to the following principles as best we can.

-We are the 99%- This society, government, and economy has nothing to offer us.  We are the bottom 99% and this is our movement.

-We are a Movement- We stand with Occupiers around the world.  We are not building an organization, but participating in a movement.  Our efforts are best spent expanding, defending, and deepening our movement.

This is not a Protest– We take what we want, we do not ask permission. We do not negotiate with those in power or make demands of them.  Our power comes from each other.

We are Non-Political– Politics has nothing to offer us.  This is about the Top vs. Bottom, not the Left vs. Right.  We pander to no one.

Occupy Everything– We actively spread the principles of our Occupation to all sectors of society, including work, school, prison, our place of living, family, community, personal relationships.  We stand with those outside of our occupation who do the same.

Horizontalism– As individuals we treat each other equally and with respect.  We are egalitarian and do not tolerate oppression, internally or externally.  Everyone is here as an individual.  We have no leaders.  Representatives (paid or otherwise) of organizations, be they the police, unions, politicians, media, administration, businesses, NGO’s, etc. are not here as individuals, their agenda is not ours.

Solidarity– We stand with each other and with other Occupiers the world over.  Our movement is diverse and often complicated but we choose to figure out our differences together.

Autonomy– We are all individuals making our own decisions.

Consensus– We strive to reach consensus for internal policies and official statements.

Zero Bureaucracy– Groups created for specific tasks are to be dissolved after they are completed.  As individuals we are all responsible for thinking, planning, and acting.  We are all organizers, facilitators, publishers, and educators.


10 thoughts on “Proposed Central Principles for Occupy

  1. Love.

    Posted by Anonymous | December 15, 2011, 4:33 pm
  2. I like your Proposed Central Principles very much. I know some others who will also like them.

    One thing I would change, from “This is not a protest”: How about–“our power arises first within each of us, and then from our collective power” Delete “We take what we want”….um, do you see how that is a page from The Book of The 1%? It is enough to say “we do not ask permission”–with which I wholeheartedly agree. Why ask permission from those who forfeit the privilege of leadership by their abuse of power and resources, and their greedy self-aggrandizement?

    Still, I know others yet, who will read in them a degree of autonomy (anarchy), egalitarianism and inclusiveness that they will fight hard against…the same people who are already fighting against these things within Occupy, and tearing it apart.

    I’d venture to guess that most Occupiers don’t understand how radical Occupy is at the core; they are just looking for a way to ‘fix’ capitalism and democracy without substantive changes. For me, ending corporate personhood is not all that substantive a change when it’s capitalism itself that is the problem. And the current centralized political structure cannot be used to help the people because government on such a mass scale simply does not work for humans.

    In any event, there’s my 2cts. I’m glad you did this, and much agree if not totally, with your words. I hope this gets a serious look from all Occupiers. I hope you will consider the modifications I’ve suggested.


    Posted by Hari Bluesword | December 16, 2011, 4:56 am
    • When did this movement become a non-political movement? I believe that this country was a democratic experiment put into motion by our founding fathers and it was designed to give the masses the ability to unite and use the current system according to our own collective will. We need to start voting out our current Representatives and Senators so that we the people can gain control of Congress once again. But this country is so divided with different ideologies that it can be hard to find one common ground on which to start from. Ideas about this?

      Posted by ken | December 20, 2011, 4:19 pm
      • Ken, I feel like that’s all a little bit of a myth when we look at how the ideals of America have played out in reality. The founding fathers– beyond their professed ideals of freedom and democracy –were slave owners, indian killers and oppressors of the poor. “We the People,” is relative to whomever upholds the status quo. IT wasn’t so long ago that people of color weren’t The People (which is debatable even today. and that status still exists for illegal immigrants today).

        They might of claimed to have represented us and even believed it, but really they upheld systems of exploitation and oppression (capitalism and the state) that are used to keep us in our place. To keep believing the myth means that we will get nowhere. It’s doesn’t seem much different now.

        It’s impossible for any power to represent all of us, let alone one person. We are complex and instead of creating postions that wield power over others, why not relate on a more equal footing?

        Posted by anon | December 20, 2011, 10:00 pm
    • I like what you’re saying.

      Posted by Anonymous | December 20, 2011, 4:24 pm
  3. I’m glad this was written. It seems like if there are to be agreed upon guidelines, the only way it doesn’t devolve into the bureaucratic shit-storm it has is if they’re loose ones like these. Ones that encourage autonomy (in ideas, propaganda, outreach and action – occupystl seemed to agree about three of the four categories, and all but agree on the last one) and people to self-initiate, but also encourage affinity and internal solidarity. So even if we don’t agree 100% we’re not immediately denouncing each other as liberals or police provocateurs.

    One of the biggest successes of the oakland commune seems to be that the idea of GA’s being places to announce actions, read statements or talk about ideas and *being a place with very little decision making ability* helped people to self-initiate and have more autonomous ideas and actions.

    I wonder if under “autonomy”, or “consensus” could read something like, “We err on the side of trusting one another, especially over the word of those who would outright crush us or kill us slowly with a soft hand. We accept the ‘support’ of no one who in words tells us they have our back and then makes back room deals to evict us or physically does so themselves.” And (way less refined), perhaps in a new category: “General Assemblies’ main focus will be to facilitate the announcement, discussion and brief planning of activities, as well as discussing relevent ideas in general. Only if you feel the group is at risk of becoming something you would no longer participate in should you attempt to draft policies against something, and that should only happen after dialogue has failed. Also, if the group has continually voted a certain way on a topic, please respect that and stop re-introducing the idea.”

    All the points in the original statement are so concise, so I wonder how this last one about GA’s fits in? I just feel like that’s been one of the most exciting experiments and as it currently stands one of the biggest failures. It would be nice if it could be concisely addressed.

    ps: This might be the best explanation of anti-politics I have ever heard: “We are Non-Political- Politics has nothing to offer us. This is about the Top vs. Bottom, not the Left vs. Right. “

    Posted by Aedammair | December 16, 2011, 9:52 am
  4. 2 things

    1. Is anyone reading this an admin in the Occupy Facebook? If so I thought it would be a good idea to post a link to these principles.

    2. I wonder what peoples thoughts are on the 99% principle. here are some of my (very) quick thoughts. Its a simple and inaccurate explanation of class society, yet it doesn’t have the baggage other slogans do… like working class, proletariat, exploited and so on. also the slogan lends itself to deepening its meaning, such as pointing out that some of the 99% work to maintain class society (cops), or that we are the bottom 99% who no longer wish to be such. it is inclusive and demonstrates our potential power. it seems to resonate with people.

    recently in slingshot mag an article had this to say on the subject…
    “The “99%” slogan may not be a very precise “class analysis,” but it’s a close enough approximation for starters, an excellent meme to cut through a lot of traditional sociological jargon and make the point that the vast majority of people are subordinate to a system run by and for a tiny ruling elite. And it rightly puts the focus on the economic institutions rather than on the politicians who are merely their lackeys.”

    anyway id like to hear thoughts on this phrase.

    Posted by Anonymous | December 16, 2011, 11:34 am
  5. I like these principles and I’m excited that they were compiled and put out in this way. Thanks.

    A couple thoughts I had about the principles and some possible additions:

    1. I think the 99% idea has some real problems and needs to be challenged. I like the idea posted above that maybe it’s good enough for starters, but I think if we’re putting together a list of principles, I’d like it to contain a stronger critique or challenge to this concept. Below is a excerpt of a detailed critique of the 99% concept some comrades put together and can be found, in its entirety at http://libcom.org/news/99-problems-03112011

    2. I think an entire principle needs to be devoted to clearly stating the fact that the police are not welcome at our occupations (they can’t come in). This is a success that came out of Occupy Oakland. From the beginning they had a rule that cops were not allowed in and this made all the difference is making their occupation one that remained autonomous and conflictual.

    3. I agree with the comment above about the GA’s and that this needs to be incorporated into the principles. I think the way the GA model has gone is one of the main challenges we’re facing.

    4. In the Solidarity section, I think we should add “We stand in solidarity with all striking workers and students and others fighting battles against our common enemies. We are stronger when we support other people who are fighting as well.”


    To accept the thesis that banks, the circulation of money, or “the rich” are the problem only accepts a halfway-critique of capitalism (remember, the National Socialists are anti-capitalist as well; the German Marxist August Bebel famously referred to antisemitism as “the socialism of fools”). Banks and “bankers” are an easy target because they stand as the visible monetary centers, but this analysis completely ignores the primary functions of capitalism: the production of commodities, the exploitation of human labor, and the extraction of surplus value. Capitalism is not a conspiracy.

    And thus the sinister overtones of the 99% vs. 1% logic emerges; it becomes clear that historically, national bodies (Germany, for instance) have mobilized popular antagonism against constructed sociological minorities to strengthen their own positions. Needless to say, a political analysis based solely on this construction is deeply troubling in it’s implications.

    Positively, we want to participate in an articulate, complex and multi-faceted struggle, one that does not fall into the traps of populist rhetoric for lowest-common-denominator sake. The simplification of the class struggle to asinine statistics and percentages completely steamrollers all the different complexities and forces at play, and ignores the subtle interplay of power that exists everywhere and between us all. We agree that the problems of environmental devastation, poverty, racism, militarization, patriarchy, education cuts, and austerity are serious ones, but we reject the idea that these misfortunes are thrust upon us from above, that we are somehow pure or that we have no part in perpetuating these things among ourselves; denying our own agency would be shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. Hopefully, armed with solid critique, we can get past the consideration of who is or isn’t “part of the 99%” and begin to consider our relationships to one another in more personal and specific terms.

    Posted by Anonymous | December 19, 2011, 9:23 pm
  6. You said a whole lot of nothing. You simply said your a movement full of the bottom feeders with no objectives. Tells me your objectives is to be supportive squatters. And simply taking what you want is called theft

    Posted by Anonymous | December 20, 2011, 11:03 pm
  7. From a labor movement perspective, negotiations may sometimes be necessary to progress strategically. For example, Occupy Scranton met with the Sheriff to resolve his concerns regarding the ability to see inside tents on Courthouse property. Tomorrow we find out if the County will allow us to have a series of canopy tents with clear plastic sides, but it is much more likely than if we did not meet with the Sheriff. Now, our encampment is likely to last much longer, possibly until New Years Eve when First Night celebrations occur in the square where we are located and hundreds of people come to count down to midnight. That will be a great outreach opportunity and movement building time that would not have been possible without a negotiation.

    So, I would take out the “no negotiating” part.

    Posted by Alexander Lotorto | December 21, 2011, 6:29 pm

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General Occupy STL Links

Thoughtful Perspectives on other North American #Occupy Movements

Albany, NY: Ben Brucato
Atlanta: ATL IMC / Little Advances
Baltimore: bmorewomentrans
Bloomington, IN: Rififi
Boston: Boston Indymedia
Carbondale: Occupy SIUC
Chicago: selfactivity
Chapel Hill: triANARCHY
Davis, CA: Bicycle Barricade
Denver: Ignite!
Detroit: Third Coast Conspiracy
Gulf Coast: The Raging Pelican
Iowa City: Smooth Spaces
Los Angeles: UnpermittedLA
Miami: Autonomy & Solidarity
New York City: Malcolm Harris
Oakland: Bay of Rage / Hyphy
Philadelphia: radoccupyphilly
Phoenix: Fires never extinguished
Portland, OR: Grey Coast @ News
Richmond, VA: The Wingnut
Seattle: Puget Sound Anarchists
St. Louis: STL FTP
Toronto: ...To the Roots of Capital
Vancouver: Van. Media Co-op
Washington DC: BroadSnark

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