Occupy Brisbane – a new strategy?

Robert Burns in the Domain, Brisbane

And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

— Robert Burns

I wish to address the tactical questions that others have raised (at this meeting of Occupy – a view from the Left) and then pose a new strategic direction for Occupy Brisbane.

New Consciousness
There has been a change of consciousness around the world. It is based on the failure of neo-lilberalism. There has been little if any trickle down effect and people are hurting in the current financial crisis. However the that change of consciousness does not reach to a critique of capitalism itself than the exploitation of workers through extraction of profit from our labour power.

The new consciousness is expressed in terms of corporate greed.

Some tactical questions

Why didn’t OccupyBris go to Centenary Place “The Domain” in Brisbane? Why did it leave the city? This question was addressed in a five hour debate in King George Square two Fridays ago. Consensus politics was the means whereby we decided where to go after our fourth eviction from parks around the city. The proponents of consensus politics were unable to deliver  the democratic method that has come to us from Wall Street occupation. It was left to a Leninist to deliver the consensus that we should move out of the city to Musgrave park under the umbrella of indigenous residents of that park in West End.

This situation is unfolding everywhere in the Occupy movement. In London the occupy people sought sanctuary from the church (St Paul’s) rather than confront the repression. When are our leaders on the left going to realise that if we pin our fate to the church we will have ‘sold our souls’? How many times have we heard in preparation for a demonstrations ‘we have to get the churches involved’. or more recently ‘we have to involve the Islamic community’? St Paul’s London is right next door to the stock exchange so there is some justification for going there.

The occupation at St Paul’s in London was fortuitous.  The police drove OccupyLondon there. Then the canon invited them to stay and OccupyLondon accepted.

The St Paul’s (OccupyLondon) option became the St Stephens (OccupyBris) – St Stephens (in Elizabeth St) got the next biggest vote at the GA (Friday 4 November) after Musgrave Park.

I would have preferred Centenary Place to St Stephens because of unique contradictions –

  1. The Domain was the site of Fred Patterson’s arrest for conspiracy while giving a speech in 1929. He was acquitted by jury after he claimed that police had lied about the words of his speech with his famous line  ‘Behold the Siamese twins of the Queensland police force . See Fred Paterson — The People’s Champion by Ross Fitzgerald.
  2. The ‘Domain’, as it was called in the 1960s & 1970s, is under the control simultaneously of the (a)Brisbane Greater Council (it was once under the control of the small Brisbane Council in the 1930s), (b) the Dept. of the Environment and (c) the Scottish Association (because of the statue to the poet,    Robbie Burns).
  3. The Domain has a history of assembly and camping out. In the 1960s and 1970s the Domain was the main place in Brisbane for speaking and the immediate forerunner of Speakers Corner in King George Square.

The main argument against St Stephens is that the church will merely evict OccupyBris for trespass and so once again the Catholic Church becomes the labor party at prayer (as in the days of the split in 1957). Activists were arrested in Cathedral grounds while demonstrating  for Lech Walesa’s Solidarity in Poland. The Catholic Archbishop has already evicted the community from St Mary’s South Brisbane.

Centenary Place (the Domain) is a heritage listed park that could accommodate OccupyBris.

The Domain has a history rich in assembly and political activism — it was the site of a public forum or speaker’s corner during the 1960s and 1970s when political activism was increasing and public speaking spaces were use to promote public awareness of both national and local issues. … From 1962 to the mid 1970s, Centenary Place was Brisbane’s designated people’s forum or speaker’s corner. Sunday afternoons became a regular event in Brisbane with hundreds of people turning up to hear speakers holding forth on all manner of issues including speakers campaigning for Aboriginal rights in the 1960s and 1970s.

Why was Musgrave Park the only remedy for Occupy Brisbane to Ald Quirk’s aggressive stance? Aboriginal elders did invite OccupyBris to the park. But the elders have their own problems with state and council authorities. So why should OccupyBrisbane give them even more problems?

St Stephens
St Stephens Cathedral


The Domain
'The Domain'

Of course Centenary Place’s location in the city makes it a far better option than Musgrave Park.

Centenary Place has strong association with the Scottish community as evidenced by their selection of the park to house the statue commissioned of Scottish bard, Robert Burns and by their use of the park to hold events such as the Burns Night.

Occupying the Domain is consistent with the original notion of Occupy i.e confronting real power where it lies.

Quirk may not even be around after the council elections.

A new strategy
Perhaps camping in  tents is not possible at this time. Repression against the tent is at its peak at the moment however there is acknowledgement that freedom of assembly under the Public Assembly Act of 1992 is established in Queensland (at least).

We could assemble and speak as ‘politics in the park’ and move away from the social aspect of living together. I am advocating a tactical withdrawal into our share houses, onto our couches, back to the domestic and social arena from whence we came. This is only partial and temporary. How it is actually achieved must be decided by the general assembly. My proposal is to abandon the social space in favour of a more poltical presence.

This would not work if it means taking down the tents … it would only work if we are able to politicise what is already a significant social movement locally (belied by our small numbers) and world wide.

What I have in mind is a kind of political tent embassy for occupybris in the heart of power — in the city, in workplaces, in schools and universities and most importantly in public spaces like parks and gardens, this is where we conduct our praxis.

There is a risk in this because Occupy is a social movement that has depended on the tent style occupation where the tent is effectively a dwelling. I do not wish to throw out the tent merely fill it with new purpose – for building organisation rather than making up for sleep deprivation.

Occupy is not what I call a political movement, not yet anyway. It lacks a political declaration – I know New York has produced one — but Occupy Brisbane has not (at the time of writing).

Occupy Brisbane could carry its occupation in as many places as possible, by assembly and political organisation in parks near centres of real power, not in misguided attempts to reform parliament. 

So I am not talking about the parliament which has been the focus of recent social movements (against war, in favour of the environment, or in favour of industrial reforms) here I am talking about where real capitalist decisions are made, in the city, the new engine of capitalism, in the workplace, at the desks, in the call centres, at the shop counter and on the production line.

This is a more political option and may result in the movement waning because the overall consciousness of Occupy Brisbane may be founded more in the social life of the tent occupation than in political critique of capitalism.

In a way Occupy Brisbane has already started this process by having ‘Free Uni’ with topics organized and discussed.

We need to extend this into all aspects of critique and action — we dare to struggle, we dare to win.

Ian Curr
17 November 2011

3 thoughts on “Occupy Brisbane – a new strategy?

  1. The Occupy movement has now experimented with a variety of tactics beyond the encampment of public plazas—the physical occupations of homes at risk of eviction and foreclosure, a general strike, support for picketing workers, student walk-outs and marches against police brutality. Taken together, these point the way towards a strategic vision for the movement to clarify its aims, widen its base of support, and build leadership among students, workers and communities hardest hit by the capitalist economic crisis. Read more @ http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/occupy-class-struggle-foreclosure.html

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  2. All Occupy supporters please note that Brisbane City Council intends to provide internet free in the following parks in Brisbane by mid 2012.

    This will help politics in the park as suggested in my new strategy for Occupy in the article above because it will enable Free Uni and streaming of educational and politics films etc.

    The download limits at:
    New Farm is 60Mb per session per user
    City Botanic Gardens is 50Mb per day per user

    Council plans to roll out WiFi in the following public areas by mid
    2012:

    Rocks Riverside Park
    Orleigh Park, West End
    Post Office Square
    Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens
    The Lake Parklands, Forest Lake
    Carindale Recreation Reserve
    Booker Place Park, Bellbowrie
    7th Brigade Park, Chermside
    Einbunpin Lagoon, Sandgate
    Guyatt Park, St Lucia
    Calamvale District Park
    Gregory Park, Milton
    King George Square
    Oriel Park, Hamilton
    D.M. Henderson Park, Macgregor
    Kalinga Park, Wooloowin
    Glindemann Park, Holland Park
    Teralba Park, Everton Park
    Hidden World Park, Fitzgibbon
    Jacob’s Ladder, Spring Hill

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