First Published on Mute ( on 24th May 2006. Occupy Theory is re-publishing this essay for its relevance in helping to think about Post-Sandy reconstruction and organizing efforts.
The relief effort in New Orleans has had far graver implications for the city’s inhabitants than the physical devastation of hurricane Katrina – it represents one of the ‘largest and swiftest urban enclosures’ in US history. Far from returning things to normal, Bush’s neoliberal administration is using the disaster as an opportunity to evict its black working class residents, hand land over to big business and drive down wages – argues George Caffentzis

Dedicated to Megan Perry,who died in New Orleans while in struggle against the New Enclosures[1]
When Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans on 28 August 2005, the levees broke and a large part of the city was flooded. Hundreds of New Orleanians drowned and hundreds of thousands fled the city. Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in US history, but what made it so disastrous was the governmental response to it. Inevitably, this response became a prism to critically analyse the politics of the Bush Administration. The main motives that have emerged to explain its complicity in the disaster are racism and hostility to ecological considerations. The critics agree that if New Orleans was not a majority black city, then the Bush administration’s assistance would have been swifter and more generous and that Bush’s pro-corporate agenda impeded efforts to preserve the Mississippi Delta wetlands that could have blunted the impact of the storm.
These analyses of the causes of the New Orleans disaster in the Bush Administration’s ‘right-wing’ ideology are sound, but they do not get at the stark meaning of Katrina on New Orleans in class terms. Below I claim that capital will have to stop or ameliorate natural disasters such as Katrina (whose aggravation by capitalist development makes the distinction between natural and man-made disasters moot) unless it can use them to accumulate!

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Read more: Acts of God and Enclosures in New Orleans

Strike Debt and the Occupy Student Debt Campaign declare our solidarity with the students currently occupying the clock tower at Cooper Union, and with all those who demand free education for the 99% rather than a lifetime of indebtedness to the 1%. At night, the occupied clocktower glows red-- a beacon of rage and hope that radiates across the city like an ancient pharos.

Most immediately, the occupiers are protesting the decision made by the unaccountable Board of Trustees to introduce tuition for graduate studies -- a first step in eroding the historic mission of the institution to provide education "free as air and water," in the words of the school's founder.

We support the occupier’s demands:

1. Cooper Union maintains its commitment to free education
2. Cooper Union immediately implements increased financial transparency
3. That President Bharucha step down.

But the occupiers define their strike within an far broader sequence of struggles on the part of students around the city, the country, and the world against tuition-hikes, austerity, privatization, and predatory debt.

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Read more: The Clock Strikes Red: Strike Debt /Occupy Student Debt Campaign Declaration of Solidarity with...

November 6th, 2012

Today, we are told, we should go out and participate in the so-called political process: stand up and be counted, let our voices be heard, pick the man who supposedly best represents our interests. That is fine. We are not for or against it. We are agnostic. In truth, we are living and dying in another universe altogether--we are aliens from the future who recognize the perils and the promises of our latest disaster.

Ten days ago, the climate went on strike against Wall Street--and we all got flooded. The tide surged and the lights went out. Our friends and families, our neighbors and communities, our networks and allies were under water and in the dark. Our lives are at stake. We could not wait for the State. We had to step in.

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Read more: Election-Day Report : The People's Emergency

October 29, 2012, 8:30 PM

The city has been shut down. Bridges and subways and airports are closed. There is no school, no shopping, no business as usual. The stock exchange is shuttered. The circuits of capital are disrupted indefinitely. A state of emergency--but not the sort we had hoped for on May Day.

This is not a General Strike but a Climate Strike.












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Read more: Climate Strike: All Storms Lead to Wall Street

Capitalism is killing us, killing the planet, and killing itself. We, the living, must work to facilitate the selfinduced death of capitalism while surviving and thriving together. A new commonwealth of life and care is on the horizon; it was glimpsed in Zuccotti park, and in peoples’ movements across the globe.

Our first step is to ask: how do you live? What do you do when the basis of your life is taken away? The water you drink, the soil you farm, the air you breathe, the rivers you fish, the atmosphere you inhabit — imagine it plundered and destroyed by an imperial tyrant operating with impunity. For most people in the world — especially in the Global South — this colonization and decimation of life is not so difficult to imagine. It has been happening in real time for centuries and the deathdealing tyrant has a name: Wall Street.

OWS has been privileged to launch our attacks directly at the doorstep of capitalism, at the heart of the empire. Storming the financial district, confronting its troops in the NYPD, we map sites of injustice with our bodies, voices, our affirmation of the commons. We connect the dots between the crime scene of Wall Street and the melting of glaciers, the rising of seas, the spreading of deserts, the clearing of forests, the poisoning of water, the failing of crops, the displacement of people.


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Read more: Beyond Climate, Beyond Capitalism - Politics of the Living

People are not helpless against the storm. While the winds howl, the thunder rages, and the waters rise, people can find shelter when they act together in the face of collapsing economies and ecological crises. Shelter can take the form of robust mutual aid networks and solidarity economies by which people empower and support one another to sustain
themselves outside the constraints of the capitalist system.

Those within the community can share their knowledge and talents, letting people know what they are willing and able to do, and what sorts of non-market goods and services they are willing to accept in exchange. Plumbing and repairs in a home reclaimed from a bank or a building liberated from a landlord; gleaning and sharing unsellable goods cast off stores and markets. Learning to grow and distribute our own food as we traffic between the urban and the rural through community gardens, nieghborhood potlucks, Occupy Farms. Legal and tactical skill-shares among those being hunted down by the debt-collectors and Repo Men. Forming industrial co-ops in which managerial decisions are made by workers in their own collective interest rather than for the profit of a Boss. Medical care provided to those who have put their body on the line in a protest or encampment. Self-generated energy-systems for those who want to opt out of the fossil-fuel economy that is destroying the very basis of life on earth.

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Read more: Mutual Aid in the Face of the Storm

We’ve all been there--in that room, around that table, on that direct action--when some aspect of our differences threatens our ability to work (indeed our very presence) in the movement. The issue of how our processes, strategies and theories impact or are impacted by our differences sets the stage for fear, anger, guilt, confusion and hurt. All too often the work stops. Despite our many commonalities and what’s at stake, activists run into the destructive potential of difference early and often. But, difference should be anticipated, even welcomed. Moments of difference and potential conflict offer possibility to create deeper, more meaningful bonds. The key is to develop and implement strategies of engagement for ourselves and each other to prepare for when such moments of difference arise.

Few would argue that race is not one of the most complex issues that we deal with--constantly and with varying levels of success. When it comes up varies, but the answer to the question, “Will it come up?” remains the same: “Yes”. Our experience now teaches us to expect it. Our experience should also teach us that it is what we make of that moment that will determine whether the gathered bedfellows will become estranged or made stronger. The latter is possible only if the history of race in America. Whether we are bound by gender, sexual expression, disability, income inequality, language,
homelessness or injustice, our work falls victim to our inability to deal effectively with the inevitable race moment. Here are a few suggestions on how we can begin to transform potentially destructive race moments into opportunities to move toward to our political objectives:

(1) Recognize that the race moment is inevitable and it is important to do as much work to prepare for the race moment before it arises. The success of the movement depends on all of us working on our individual gaps and blinders.

(2) Develop a strategy for engaging the trauma of slavery, racism and difference discrimination before the race moment arises.

(3) When the race moment arises remember to have compassion for errors and missteps of those who you trust in other contexts.

(4) The notion that one should be free from error, discomfort or confusion when their approach to difference is at issue is oftentimes a manifestation of privilege.

(5) Recognize that all your work will probably not make the issue of race less uncomfortable. Remember that comfort is rarely, if ever, useful in progressive social change movements.

(6) The race issue cannot be understood, much less transformed/transformative, without meaningful engagement with the history of slavery in America.

(7) Commit to learning more about the relationship between slavery and the modern manifestations of race and difference than you do today. Make the same commitment tomorrow.

(8) Our various identities are an integral part of the movement, but identity politics can be distracting. For example, a common cause of the disutility of identity politics is that ways in which structures of oppression, like capitalism, can exploit and distort identity.

(9) The perception of scarcity of resources available to improve inequities along with our inability to deal successfully with difference has contributed to a sense that there is a pyramid of oppression.

(10) Develop a race moment reading list. A few highlights from my list are: John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans; Audrey Lorde, Sister Outsider; James Baldwin, Price of the Ticket; Angela Y. Davis, Race, Women and Class; Edward Said, Orientalism; Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body; Elizabeth Spellman, Inessential Woman; Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Our Word is Our Weapon; Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe.

Additionally, beware of the following myths which frequently underlie and surface during a race moment:

(1) Antiracism work is the work of people of color.

(2) Imposing, evoking or experiencing white guilt is a necessary component of anti-racism work.

(3) People of color, LGBTQA, feminists etc., have sufficiently addressed issues of intra-group difference and oppression such as colorism, class, disability, gender inequities and homophobia.

(4) Regardless of the work at hand or the urgency of the work, processing our difference always takes priority.

(5) Race is at the top of the pyramid of oppression because slavery was only about race and racism.

On a final note, when the race moment arises expect the fear because of the unattended trauma that remains, but also have compassion for yourself and others who--despite the potential race-based angst in those moments--continue to come to the table, the rooms, the front line, the direct action in solidarity, commonality and difference to fight for transformative justice. Our commitment to thriving in those moments help us to move closer to realizing the potential of a diverse movement.

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