Wisconsin protests: updates and discussion

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Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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Jun 6 2012 08:02

Amazing. Walker won by a bigger margin than in 2010. My Facebook is exploding about articles about voter fraud, but I'm not sure I buy it.

The Lt. Governor also won her recall election.

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Jun 6 2012 14:54

So, bit of analysis from the anarchos, please!

Obviously, it's all bullshit, what's needed is not any politician but an increase in the confidence and combatitivity of the class in Wisconsin. However, how do we think Walkers recall victory will play out? Will he come after workers even harder? Is there any sense that workers (and maybe certain sections of the mainstream unions) will be more willing to play outside of the bounds of labor law? Has the IWW in the state issued any sort of statement?

what ever
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Jun 6 2012 16:19

MKE might be the place to be tonight, especially if we're trying to get away from the everyone-go-to-the-capitol-and-walk-in-circles game. There will be an anti-capitalist contingent that could be pretty big if people came from around the state to it, and such a sizable contingent might create some multipolarity in the discourse against austerity in Wisconsin (which only a small section of the people angry consider to be the thing anyway).

syndicalist
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Jun 6 2012 16:44

It will be "interesting" to see what, if any, additional "right-to-work" (for less) and anti-worker/anti-union stuff starts cming down the line in a coordinated way across the country.

BTW, I thought I heard on the radio that the Dems have a majority in the WI Senate. Not to endorse the Dems or reformism or the like, but might that slow down or water down any additional stuff Walker might want to pull?

TitusMoans
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Jun 6 2012 18:07

On the OWS forum, just a short while ago, I read that Democrats succeeded in winning the Wisconsin Senate. If the narrow victory holds up, it is more symbolic than practical.

Elections in November, gerrymandered for GOP benefit, may tell if Walker truly has the support of Wisconsin voters or if they simply believed Barrett was not the right man to lead the state.

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Jun 6 2012 20:23

http://lbo-news.com/2012/06/06/walkers-victory-un-sugar-coated/?utm_campaign=X&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter

Decent article echoing union criticisms that have been made on here many times.

what ever
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Jun 6 2012 20:36

Apparently Tom Barret was slapped in the face by someone in the crowd of his supporters, for dropping out of the race before all the ballots had been counted last night. The man has a habit of getting hit in the face. Two years ago he was hit in the face with a tire iron, while trying to intervene on a domestic dispute outside of the Wisconsin State Fair.

what ever
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Jun 6 2012 20:42

Apparently Tom Barret was slapped in the face by someone in the crowd of his supporters, for dropping out of the race before all the ballots had been counted last night. The man has a habit of getting hit in the face. Two years ago he was hit in the face with a tire iron, while trying to intervene on a domestic dispute outside of the Wisconsin State Fair.

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Jun 6 2012 22:46

Yeah I heard he was booed when he said he talked to Walker when he conceding the race.

what ever
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Jun 7 2012 06:08

This happened in Milwaukee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=626zgMzyuwY

Something will probably be written about it more, but it was, however silly and weak at times, the most wild occupy/anti-walker/anti-austerity event that has happened since the shit started. Two Hundred people actively snaking around the city, routing and wrestling police, hating the police, feeling far more fierce and common than a long long ass time. Maybe thirty people doing the black bloc, and another fifty just as if not more confrontational than the bloc, but not blocked up.

What happened in Madison?

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Jun 7 2012 13:51
Juan Conatz wrote:
Amazing. Walker won by a bigger margin than in 2010. My Facebook is exploding about articles about voter fraud, but I'm not sure I buy it.

As a rule, FB is full of shit. It's just online groupthink. One of my coms joked last week that if the stuff they saw on FB had any bearing, no-one in Ireland was going to vote YES in the Fiscal Compact referendum. FB said 100% NO. The newspaper polls said 60/40 to the YES. The newspapers were right.

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Jun 7 2012 17:59

So the spin on the recall election coming from the unions/liberals/Democrats is that Walker outspent Barrett 7-to-1 and that, hey, at least the Democrats won 1 of the 4/5 recall elections that day. I think they took control of either the state house or senate. Also, there is some anger from liberals because the Democratic National Committee put zero to little resources in WI and Obama/Biden didn't come out to support Barrett. Obama says that Barrett never asked him to come out.

Some accusations of voter fraud are also being made, but most of it is really vague. What isn't vague is, while probably ethically objectionable, I'm not sure actually illegal and in any case, Barrett lost by a wide enough margin that to blame it on fraud is ridiculous. The level of fraud needed for a margin that big just couldn't be done unnoticed unless in a third world dictatorship.

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Jun 7 2012 22:24

Milwaukee was pretty fuckin rad. It was a pretty refreshing adventure, as Wisconsin has been quite lame lately.

A friend in Madison told me it was non-confrontational there as usual. Damnit Madison.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=626zgMzyuwY&feature=player_embedded

An account from someone else there (not me):

"Yesterday, people took to the streets during a march. Police tried to get them out of the street, and the crowd refused to obey, overflowing the police lines and pushing against police and police horses to continue moving. When police tried to arrest a number of individuals, others in the crowd dearrested them (pulling them to safety). One of the police officers that was swinging their baton had it pulled away by someone in the crowd, who hit the cop then threw it at another cop. The cops tried a bunch of times to kettle and intimidate the crowd, and failed every time."

Police Report:

"Five people were arrested; one for obstructing/resisting an officer, four for disorderly conduct. Video of the incidents show protesters refusing police orders to get out of the street and onto the sidewalks to let traffic pass and to keep members of the group from being struck by passing vehicles. A bottle containing a liquid was thrown at an officer and it struck him, but the officer was not injured. Protesters can be seen in video clips trying to grab the reins of the police horses as Mounted Officers tried to push the people back onto the sidewalk."

what ever
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Jun 8 2012 15:23

Taken from @news:

Electoral Politics Recalled: An Evening of Wildness Snakes Through Downtown Milwaukee

Four arrests Wednesday evening. A “keep it in the streets” protest in downtown Milwaukee followed the re-election of Governor Scott Walker, and scheduled to respond to the victory of either politician. At this time, four have been released and cited with disorderly conduct and one more recently released back into our arms a day later than the rest. The five that were arrested were almost arbitrarily chosen for their close proximity to the blind and fevered panic of the police. The police, despite their smirks, had far less control over the situation than they want to say. At moments they had to put their hands on their guns just to convince themselves of who was in control. Shit was out of control.

After a year and a half being wasted on a recall election, after all of the energy put into the Capitol occupation and state-wide strikes was funneled into useless electoral politics, there is now room to breathe and begin again. This newfound freedom to act was seen in the streets of Milwaukee with surprising clarity. What started as a gathering of talking heads quickly escalated into a push and shove match with police, whose aim was to corner and stop any unpermitted march from taking place. Within seconds of the march, protesters took to the streets as dozens of cops in riot gear attempted to contain them. The crowd was unwilling to be pushed aside, and worked together to shove back and wind around the horses, motorcycles, and beefy baton-wielding helmets.

The black bloc, though dormant in Milwaukee for years, seemingly reappeared (some in all black, some with red bandannas, and some other groups and individuals who wore some form of the mask) and it both engaged in confrontation and helped to defend individuals in the crowd, while others that weren't bloc'd up joined in and initiated their own actions. Its very presence declared non-violence an impossibility.

Police tried to stop the crowds, but failed again and again to contain its excesses. People pushed against police lines and horses and pulled their friends to safety as cops attempted to arrest them. One startled cop had some unknown liquid thrown at his face during the first attempted kettle. At another moment of police provocation a member of the crowd wrested a baton from the grip of a cavalry officer, hit him, and threw the baton at another, then jumped into the cloak of the crowd. It was unruly, disobedient, and willing to shove, at least 150 deep.

After twelve or so blocks of low-intensity conflict, protestors made it to Zeidler Park, the planned to be space of occupation. At this point the PA once again became an instrument of boredom as the crowd was talked at by people that wanted to give speeches instead of dance, or eat, or fight. Attention was then shifted to supporting those arrested, and a small crowd moved to the local police station to await their release. No occupation happened, but for now that is ok. All in all, the event was a short but inspiring leap away from the silly matter of a recall election.

When asked about the protest, police chief Flynn was quoted saying that it was MPD’s job to “babysit” the crowd while they “pretend to be relevant protestors”. We couldn’t disagree more. It is only now that the police have been identified as a thing to be fought, and the recognition that democracy will always fail to appease its audience that Wisconsin joins relevant contemporary struggle. Last year at the Capitol there was some confusion as to whether or not the police could be considered a part of the working class and it is very nice to see this question can put to rest. There is nothing more salient to present-day politics than an antagonism towards police.

Meanwhile, the media acted with calculation, minimizing and simplifying events, as they are expected to, creating a safe distance from any possible intensity. To them, it was simply a protest, it was “40”, it was “several”. It marched roughly half the actual distance down the forgettable avenue of Plankinton, when the wildness really cut through Water Street, the center of downtown. We blocked traffic “briefly” (ahem, forty god minutes at least). Their tendencies are to be non-descriptive, to imply that those that got arrested deserved it, and to minimize the actual event as much as possible, acknowledging it only so as to explain it away.

Similarly, the Left attempts to erase the excitement and power we experienced at the march. They talk about a peaceful, nonviolent protest where police officers unjustly arrested individuals to stifle free speech. From their press releases to the photos they post, the shining activists of the 99% were all but crushed, helpless victims.

The truth is that the march wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been as unruly and forceful as it had been, and there would have been many more arrests and injuries at the hands of the police. There was anger, and there was power.

To the rest of the world that is fighting and making 2012 the year that the world ends: Don’t wait for us, we’ll catch up!

We were not the 99%. We were 150, and we were angry.

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Jun 8 2012 15:56

Cant watch the video. Says its "private".

what ever
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Jun 9 2012 00:44

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2nB8KjxoVQ

This should work better.

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Jun 13 2012 16:03

Looks like the 'money is speech' decision by the SCOTUS combined with endless populist sloganeering and 're-branding' of attacks on workers as attacks on 'parasites' is working to give the organized right a new lease on life. Walker's victory gave legitimacy to his policies and methods of governing, as seen by his new public relationship with Romney. Public sector workers as parasitic, greedy thugs is now a legitimate and repeated mantra- looks like we'll get to see the Democrats repeat their weak decades long opposition to Taft-Hartley (repealing it was dropped from their party program not too long ago) and play the 'only friends of labor' against states enacting more and more restrictive and draconian labor laws. Hell, they've wanted to do all this since Nixon had the AFL-CIO political director at the top of his 'List'. You'd think they'd be thankful for the unions introducing Political Action Committee's (now Super-PACs) into American electoral politics smile

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Jun 17 2012 15:38

Well, liberal activists in this state have lost a lot of faith in the election system, that's one thing thats become obvious in the past 10 days since the election. If it'll amount to much is yet to be seen.

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Jun 23 2012 19:02

http://coreyrobin.com/2012/06/20/what-might-have-been-one-report-from-madison-wisconsin/

Quote:
I’m a member of the Teaching Assistants’ Association. I was heavily involved during the actual occupation of the Capitol, and then gradually less so after we were kicked out. I was at the meeting of the Wisconsin South-Central Federation of Labor when it voted to endorse a general strike if the bill went through. It should be noted that the final version of the bill involved endorsing an “international” general strike, whatever the hell that would be.

Although, to be fair, since the leadership knew they didn’t have a strike fund or any advance work with any unions, they were only endorsing a strike in principle, I still thought I was on the set of a movie. Since, you know, the last general strike in the United States was in Minneapolis in 1934. I talked to a still-wet-behind-the-ears paid organizer for SCFL, and he told me that, indeed, there was serious talk about a general strike.

When things actually hit the fan, of course, it was only the directly-affected public-sector unions that had any real strike talk. In my own, undoubtedly the most radical, there was a hard core of activists who had been working around the clock on the occupation who favored going on strike. I was willing to be one of them, but it became pretty clear that we had no chance in hell of winning a strike vote. The primary problem was not our ”fat-cat” union bureaucrats (our officers actually don’t draw a union salary) but the bulk of our membership. Even among the people who showed up to our large and contentious general membership meetings there were many who strongly opposed our “teachouts,” in which we didn’t teach our classes on campus but sometimes made alternative arrangements to teach near the State Capitol. I imagine that among the much larger number who didn’t come to the meetings and didn’t participate in the teachouts, such opposition was even greater. Certainly, those members would never have voted for a formal walkout.

Even some of our progressive faculty were getting antsy about the continued teachouts, and, of course, there was a considerable public backlash against the wildcat sickouts that many teachers participated in, most notably members of MTI, the Madison teachers union.

Without knowing all the decision-making details within the big public-sector unions, I am still confident that there is no way that a grassroots groundswell for a strike was squelched by union bureaucrats and Democratic politicians. They might have tried (and likely failed) to squelch such a surge had it existed, but it was clear to the vast majority of those involved that we had already done pretty much all we could do and that there was not going to be any strike, let alone the fabled general strike, the chimera of the left.

It might be interesting to imagine what would have happened had there been some organized campaign to stop doing any other activism and start preparing for a mass public-sector strike. For those who think the recall was an overreach, you shouldn’t try to imagine what the backlash would have been against that.

Update (6/21, 8:30 am)

One commenter reminds us that the last general strike in the United States was in Oakland in 1946, not Minneapolis in 1934.

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Jun 23 2012 20:07

Here's a response a wrote to that comment

Quote:
Thanks for posting this. I was actually in Madison, WI from March to June (while also traveling into town a couple times in February) , during which part of the time I was a stipended organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Because the IWW included a number of 'dual carders' that were also in some of the public sector unions and we, as a organization were pretty loud about the pro-strike talk, I have some things to say about this.

I generally agree with the thrust of the comment: that the entirety of blame on the failure of a strike happening shouldn't be placed at the Democrats/bureaucrats/leadership, etc. That's doesn't give you the complete picture. It's more of a cookie cutter analysis. For liberals and socialists its along the lines of "the formal leadership is bad leadership and didn't fight for a general strike or fought against it therefore we need to replace the formal leadership with people we like!" For anarchists its like "formal leadership is bad and therefore it is natural that they fought against the general strike idea".

The centering of this critique of leadership has more to do with the easy way in which it fits into people's political perspective, but still looks at the participants as a faceless mass with none of their own subjectivity. These two ways of looking at Wisconsin erase the experiences, attitudes, opinions, reactions and organizing of a countless number of people.

That's not to say that the AFL-CIO or Democrats didn't fight against the idea of a general strike. At a state level AFL-CIO I was told by one of the attendees that one of the international people stated "if you don't have 75% of your workplace on board, we're not even going to talk about a strike". Obviously, this was a way of shutting down any talk of it by making the issue into one of negotiation and fighting, similar to the relationship between workers and bosses. The numerous speeches which pushed the line of coming to protests and going home also contributed, it its own way of fighting against people doing anything 'too crazy'. The formative meetings of the AFL-CIO's 'We Are Wisconsin' group happened largely during when most people were working, was probably not promoted to its members and was more of a big meeting of staffers, paid organizers and people in official positions in various unions and nonprofits. Anything like that in the context of tens of thousands of rank and file workers marching in the street, in my mind, was undoubtadly done with the intention of excluding those people from the 'What are we going to do?' question. A question that was a a strong minority undercurrent fro February until mid March. (See a paid organizer for an AFL-CIO unions perspective: http://uhavenothin2losebuturchains.tumblr.com/post/18400931279/why-m1gs-lessons-from-wisconsin)

Anyway, on to specifics of the comment.

I think there is some confusion on the part about SCFL passing a resolution (called a 'bill' by the comment's author). I don't remember the resolution including anything about an 'international' general strike. I checked the language of the resolution (see here: http://libcom.org/library/wisconsin-south-central-federation-labors-general-strike-packet) and didn't see anything about that.

You mention 'public backlash' against the MTI sickouts. What do you mean by this? I know, nationally, Fox News picked up on the story and there were right-wing groups that were trying to expose teachers who called in sick, but that's inevitable, and not sure what I would call 'public backlash'. They got a lot of support in Madison (probably supermajority) and their actions coincided with student walkouts in places I'd never imagine (like Platteville).

Overall, I agree with what you are saying: any strike/general strike would not have come through formal union structures because people weren't at that point where they could win a majority and that blaming Democrats/union bureaucrats as the sole reason strikes didn't happen is not an opinion based on what happened.

But I do not share your pessimism of whether strikes could have happened. I think they could have, but wouldn't have looked like:

A) Campaign for strike votes
B) Hold vote
C) Repeat in numerous workplaces, locals and unions.
D) Announce strike.
E) Strike.

I think that's what a lot of people, including pro-strike militants, expected the process to look like. That's understandable. As was pointed out, the last official general strike in the U.S. (although it was called a 'work holiday') was Oakland in 1946. There wasn't a reference point to really look to.

In retrospect, pro-strike militants using a mixture of formal union structures and outside the union tactics concentrating on one workplace or job classification to go out and be supported by mass pickets/flying squads who then targeted additional places to spread strikes would have most likely been the most realistic chance for a strike. That could have happened, and for a short time, it felt that way. Even 40%-50% of a decent sized public sector workplace walking out would have received an enormous amount of support and getting a mass picket together would have been practically effortless. The anger that was there in the city and you could feel (which expressed itself in such things as the forceable second occupation of the capitol) could have translated into other places walking out. Such a thing would also change the question from 'Are you for striking and all that may mean?' into 'Are you going to cross this picket line and betray your co-workers?' in a way that make the issue about how you relate to people in your everyday life and not how you relate to AFL-CIO talking heads or politicians.

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Sep 15 2012 19:49

The courts have now overturned this law. Walker is going to appeal:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/09/14/161175928/court-strikes-down-wis-collective-bargaining-law-championed-by-gov-walker?sc=17&f=1001

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Jan 26 2015 03:02

Oh boy. Reading through this thread brings up a lot of memories. Thought I'd post an update.

In reference to Steven's last post, the unions tried through the courts to get the Act defeated, but, in the end, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld it.

As is known, Walker won the recall election. He also won relection in November 2014, beating his Democratic opponent 52% to 46%. Like in the recall election, the Democrats downplayed some of the most polarizing issues, such as collective bargaining and austerity, in favor of middle of the road nonsense about job creation and such. Walker is now considering running for President in 2016.

There have been a couple of books written about the 'Wisconsin Uprising' in the last couple years. One of them, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street by John Nichols, is particularly bad. I couldn't even make it through the whole thing because the author spends so much time tying the protesters to the Founding Fathers. Here's some of the books that have come out so far. I've included the publisher and a link to a description of the book, if available.

-Wisconsin Uprising: labor fights back by Michael D. Yates (Published by Monthly Review)

-It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest edited by Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle (Published by Verso Books)

-We Are Wisconsin - The Wisconsin uprising in the words of the activists, writers, and everyday Wisconsinites who made it happen edited by Erica Sagrans (Published by Tasora Books)

-A Whole Which Is Greater: Why the Wisconsin Uprising Failed edited by Paul Gilk and David Kast (Published by Wipf & Stock Pub)

-More than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley (Published by University of Wisconsin Press)

-Cut from Plain Cloth: The 2011 Wisconsin Workers Protests by Dennis Weidemann (Published by Manitenahk Books)

-A View from the Interior: Policing the Protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol by Susan Riseling (Published by Mavenmark Books)

There was also a book or zine that was supposedly created by the Madison Infoshop, but I've never seen it.

During the summer of 2012, Grace Parker, db and I talked about trying to get a book together of our writings, interviews and accounts of the Wisconsin protests, but unfortunately, we never could make time for it and it didn't get further than an idea and a couple conversations.

As for the IWW in WI, things looked bright, but unfortunately, it doesn't look like we took advantage of it. There was basically a split in the Madison GMB. I wasn't there when this happened, but it seemed partially to be over tensions that built over whether new workplace organizing efforts were to be supported or whether participating in the (at that point) small protest movement was to be supported. Eventually, an Industrial Union Branch (IUB) focused on the Communications industry was formed to assist campaigns in that industry, particularly in one multi-city large workplace. Robbie Jenson and I went there, fueled on energy drinks, to do a graveyard shift, condensed Organizer Training 101. I believe they were having some successes growing the committee, but unfortunately got into a pretty heated conflict with the CWA, who came in at the urging of an ISO member1. The IWW committee there saw this as raiding or taking over an in-process campaign, something we've actually experienced multiple times over the years, including here in the Twin Cities. In any case, John O'Reilly and I wrote a Workers Power column that was indirectly about some of the organizer's in that campaign, called 'Shotgun organizing'.

That IUB is now defunct, and the campaign they were focused on, is as well, as far as I know. The GMB is still around. They publish a newsletter called Prairie Fire.

As for Milwaukee, I went there in Spring of 2012. The Branch Secretary of the MKE GMB picked me up and we went to a bar and talked about what was going on with them. The Milwaukee branch has long been pretty small, although recently, I've noticed a flurry of activity from them, including a solidarity picket from that ZSP-Amazon conflict that is posted elsewhere in the forums. The reason I came to town was to go to event by some French communization folks involved in the journal, Sic. We exchanged emails, and I had a set of interview questions for them, but they seemed to have had difficulty with how to respond to them, and never got anything from them. Which was unfortunate, since my trip was partially funded by Nate Hawthorne for the purpose of getting something written for Recomposition. I did however interview one of the people behind Burning Bookmobile, and published it on my blog here.

There were a couple of smaller groups in smaller areas around WI that popped up, joined the IWW and then sort of disappeared.

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Jan 26 2015 03:16

Couple more things.

As soon as I left WI for Minnesota, the latter had a budget issue due to disagreements between the Republicans and Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. This resulted in a state government shutdown for 2 weeks. I joked at the time, that wherever I went, the state government was having a crisis.

Although, in retrospect, the movement had been defeated in April of 2011, it wasn't until around July 2011, when I arrived in Minneapolis, that the defeat hit me. Maybe if you were involved in the antiwar movement right before the invasion of Iraq, you might understand. To see and be so heavily involved in a large mass movement that loses was a lot to take. I felt pretty down for a while, until Occupy popped up, which was unexpected, and exciting.

In many ways, Occupy improved on the #wiunion. Instead of atomized individuals or grouplets in a crowd of tens of thousands, Occupy forced people to talk to each other, and decide things, in an assembly. Unfortunately, it did so through an alienating, drawn out and horrid modified consensus fashion, which goes to show, each social movement makes improvements on the last, as well as inherits the poison from the past.

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Jan 29 2015 20:01

Juan I respectfully suggest you turn those two comments in a blog post with just like 1-2 sentence intro. I think more people would like to read them than will find them just as comments here.

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Jan 29 2015 20:52

Yes.

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Nov 28 2018 13:50

Walker was finally defeated in the elections earlier this month by Democratic Tony Evers. Although he has promised to repeal Act 10, the GOP still controls the State Assembly and State Senate and a slight majority of Wisconsinites in polls support keeping Act 10. So I doubt even the status quo of 2010 will be returned to.