My understanding is that a spoke lasts for one council, and is only empowered to convey the consensus of their working group (or the differing views if consensus cannot be reached) The spoke is supposed to rotate just like facilitators. I am also pretty sure that separate facilitators will be need both by the council and the individual groups to keep the consensus process moving. Although I am also suspicious of attempts to impose representatives on the process, I think that this is not like the CUNY situation that you described in that those acting as the spokes are not empowered to make decisions for their groups, and do not have any permanent position beyond one meeting of the council.
Please forgive me for being so long... i have already posted today...
but i think this should be addressed, and i have not made up my mind
at all, i respect the folks who are working on this structure to
address real problems.
But, I must speak from experience. I was part of the CUNY coalition
against the Budget Cuts many years ago when it was initially formed,
the first round of battles to save Open Admissions. We did fail to
maintain complete free access and open admissions. At that time, we
started off with huge open general meetings at Grad Center, inviting
labor, union, community, press, activists and of course all students
from CUNY as well high schools. This is how we set off the movement
that culminated in 40,000 students marching from City Hall to wall
street to "shut the city down" march 23--it was a strong COALITION.
The police used tear gas and attacked us when we tried to march
without a permit. After that event, the students changed the structure
of the Coalition, and decided to evict labor and community from the
assembly and to assign representatives--so to be better "organized."
The first policy decided by this organization of students was to take
over local student governments in all the respective campuses. Once we
entrenched student "representatives" from each of our 18 schools, the
Coalition ceased to exist. The movement never picked up again, until
Sept 17--the second time this city has seen a movement of that SIZE.
So right now i see the same attempt at bureacratization and i am
concerned. I can be dead wrong, and please forgive me, i only make a
caution from my limited hindsight onto what was a defeat of CUNY
students from maintaining Open Admissions. There is a danger in
assigning people because it simply allows someone to do the job for
you--and when you think someone will do that job, you each of you, as
an activist, is no longer responsible. This can quickly crush a
movement that is open to public, free, messy and fluid and democratic
meaning allowing everyone to walk in make decisions.
In this proposal, it is claiming that a "spoke" can be recalled any
time, i doubt anyone will have to courage to publicly call out a
spoke--it represses opposition because, one has to make a polemic and
attack another in public--expose the spoke as "not adequate" for the
job, are we getting into hiring and firing? This creates turmoil. Lets
assume no one has the courage to do that because we are kind to each
other, why should a person chosen to speak by the whole group, be
recalled by one individual. Why should the same one person be speaking
and every one sitting BEHIND them? If this isn't hierarchy i don't
know what is... i think because each working group should have
multiple and different views on issues, how should the burden of those
varying points be dumped into the responsibility of one spokesperson?
(At least they should propose two spokes per group, preferably a male
and female perhaps, or one position and its opposite) These two spokes
should further be rotated every week--so the same person is not
"speaking for" the working group. IS this structure creating full time
jobs for one "spoke" i guess how does a group choose the spoke,
through a series of interviews everyone--politicians are often the
ones with big egos who everyone chooses....some people are part of
several working groups as well. Rotation of the two spokes may
encourage folks on the margins to enter the core and participate, but
this is not addressed in this proposal==rotational leadership. Having
one "spoke" representative and everyone sitting behind them is
condescending. drawbacks of rotation is that there could be lack of
I have visited the weekly coordinating meetings and everyone sat in a
circle, there were many folks from various groups, down to earth,
everyone introduced themselves..I mean its hard enough that working
people can make it the GA and their working group meetings as well as
the coordinating meeting. Hard working members of groups will make
sure they attend weekly coordinating meetings--but also anyone can go,
speak or stay quiet, report back to their working group. Having this
spokes council every two days, will most certainly displace the GA cut
it down to half--and what if there is an important decision to be made
like supporting a general strike, we will have to wait a day....The
spokes council is also akin to having a coordinating meeting of
working groups every two days, now can ONE spoke make it every two
days? This is a full time job, and creates an unequal division of
The coordinating meetings between working groups, in my opinion, are
fluid and interesting, The structure of relegating spokes is a heavy
one --it is pure fantasy that a spoke supposedly has no power--to
speak is to have power--to not be able to speak and just sit behind
one person is also disempowering and suppression of difference within
working groups.... folks disagree because they want to point out
conflicts contradictions, bring another side to the equation, this is
good for a debate... minority views are a requirement for good
organizing, that is how folks change their views, by addressing each
others' differences and coming to understanding of opposition. We can
agree on one thing, but disagree on another, there is fluidity... If
there is a topic at hand, someone sitting behind may have an important
solution or contribution to make--yes a spontaneous out of the blue
brilliant epiphany--but a spokes council will ensure that it will not
be heard. until the next meeting, or forgotten. Conversations are
"speaking" develop in real time not in some structured time --if
anything we should focus more on facilitating further debates allow
more voices to speak and enter--not ratification of one speaker.
On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM, Jackie DiSalvo <email@example.com
> I love the GA, but I dont know how many you have attended. I brought my
> womens group last Friday, and after sitting through a 40 + minute
> discussion on what to pay to rent a truck, they were turned off and left
> saying they, very active women, could never afford to function that way. Not
> many of our hard working Labor Group members attend GAs as they are now. The
> analysis by the Spanish occupiers of why their GA, which was great in the
> early stages, eventually failed points to the same problems we have tried to
> address. They said boredom, disempowerment and dilemmas rising from the
> consensus method caused people to leave (see Doug Singsens post Thursday
> 9:40). I think the new structure will make the GAs more participatory when
> it comes to important decisions.
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Behalf Of rob hollander
> Sent: Friday, October 28, 2011 12:24 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [september17discuss] Structure Proposal GA Tonight
> The beauty of a GA is that anyone can speak. It affords an admittedly
> limited but yet fully equal enfranchisement and empowerment. So far, OWS,
> using a GA, has been successful, I venture to say, way beyond anyone's
> imagination. You are about to fix something that has empirically worked. If
> it is dysfunctional, do not assume that's a problem. Study OWS's success
> first before assuming it needs repair.
> The purpose of a structure is to make decisions. That's assuming that OWS is
> an organization. Well, in August, it was: an organization designed to create
> a social movement.
> It succeeded: OWS is now a social movement, not an organization. Social
> movements don't make decisions.
> Organizations within a social movement make decisions for themselves. That's
> what OWS should allow to flourish. But to imagine that some structure should
> call itself OWS and make decisions for OWS is, well, to coopt the movement.
> This structure is a coopting of a social movement.
> I find great wisdom in the GA. I find this spokes structure at best
> counterproductive, at worst, divisive, disempowering and a threat to the
> local effort.
> Once a structure makes decisions easy, there will be too many decisions and
> many will be mistakes. Where OWS needs such quick practical decisions like
> financing, OWS ought to set up structure for those, but only for those.
> On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM, Jon Good <firstname.lastname@example.org
> This is SUCH a better proposal than the one initially brought to the GA last
> On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 11:06 AM, Marisa Holmes <email@example.com
> Hi everyone!
> I'm in the structure working group.
> For the last 3-4 weeks we've been meeting to discuss
> the coordination and communication problems in OWS.
> The result is the following proposal:
> Tonight, we will be presenting at the GA.
> Please come.
> We need this.
> In solidarity,
> Rob Hollander
> Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development
> 622 E 11, #10
> NYC, 10009