Ben Webster

works in the education sector in Philadelphia.

Notes of a Library Worker

Notes of a Library Worker

When I tell peo­ple that I work at a library, a com­mon respon­se is to ask whether I sit around read­ing books on the job all day. Although asked jok­ing­ly, the stereo­type con­tains a ker­nel of truth and points to a real site of con­flict.

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

May Day was a gam­ble for Occu­py Wall Street, and a nec­es­sary one. Instead of herald­ing a nation­al renewal, spring­time has found Occu­py short of ideas and run­ning on vapors. Life after the encamp­ments has not led to a gen­er­al­iza­tion of occu­pa­tions, and the prospect of reestab­lish­ing them in their ini­tial form is remote. The 1st of May was log­i­cal tim­ing for a revival – or at the very least, a life­line, a con­fir­ma­tion of vital­i­ty, an open door. Bol­stered by the call for an expand­ed gen­er­al strike, May Day 2012 smelled of hope, but also des­per­a­tion. Our sense at the out­set was that fail­ure in the streets – whether the result of low turnout, police out-maneu­ver­ing, or flat rep­e­ti­tion of ges­ture – would radi­ate far beyond New York, effec­tive­ly bring­ing the move­ment to an impasse. Although our fears ulti­mate­ly proved unwar­rant­ed, there was lit­tle in our expe­ri­ence of May Day that augured an esca­la­tion of strug­gle; no spark to set the sum­mer ablaze.

The General Strike: An Incomplete Bibliography for Ambivalent Occupiers

The General Strike: An Incomplete Bibliography for Ambivalent Occupiers

Occu­py Oakland’s call for a day-long gen­er­al strike on Novem­ber 2 has revived inter­est in the tac­tic, calls for which were also heard over the win­ter in Madis­on, Wis­con­sin. Yet the gen­er­al strike is prac­ti­cal­ly unknown today in the Unit­ed States, func­tion­ing more as a rhetor­i­cal index of mil­i­tan­cy than a seri­ous pro­pos­al for uni­fied action. In sol­i­dar­i­ty with this movement’s pro­found rup­ture in polit­i­cal lan­guage, we’ve select­ed a few impor­tant moments in the his­to­ry of the con­cept to illus­trate its poten­tial direc­tions.

Who Threw the Can of Green Paint? The First Two Weeks of Occupy Philadelphia

Who Threw the Can of Green Paint? The First Two Weeks of Occupy Philadelphia

On the morn­ing of Octo­ber 14, one week into Occu­py Philadelphia’s encamp­ment beside City Hall, some­one emp­tied the con­tents of a paint can on the building’s south­west­ern entrance. This inci­dent sug­gests the ambi­gu­i­ty and con­tra­dic­tion in the polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion of Occu­py Philadel­phia. What con­sti­tutes mean­ing­ful action – a spec­tac­u­lar act of van­dal­ism, the peace­ful occu­pa­tion of pub­lic prop­er­ty, or direct action on the hori­zon more con­fronta­tion­al and rad­i­cal? There has been no short­age of activ­i­ty – dai­ly march­es strike out to the usu­al tar­gets – but as of yet no dra­mat­ic con­fronta­tions like those of Occu­py Wall Street have occurred.