Editor Kate Khatib Reflects on We Are Many, our new Occupy book (#WeAreMany #Occupy)
I remember sitting in Minneapolis last November chatting with a dear friend, talking about upcoming book projects, and him asking: So who do you have doing an AK Press book on Occupy? It was a good question. I thought about it, weighed the options, talked to authors, activists, and organizers, and came to the conclusion that, in fact, it somehow made sense for me to do the AK Press book on Occupy. It was a moment of insanity, and I’m not sure why no one talked me out of it. See, I don’t have a lot of free time, and my AK workload on top of my Red Emma’s workload and my organizing commitments means that I already don’t get enough sleep, am always behind on everything, and am constantly on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. Why I thought that taking on the project of pulling together a book on Occupy, written by (very busy) activists, was something I had the time to do, I don’t know. How I thought that I’d be able to get it done in nine months – in time for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on September 17 – I really don’t know. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in my quest; I was fortunate to be able to draft two of my very favorite people (who are also far too busy all of the time) as co-editors: Baltimore-based global justice organizer Mike McGuire, and nomadic author and activist Margaret Killjoy. And, thanks to the amazing work of my co-editors, to the dedication of our group of contributors, and to the faith placed in this project by the AK Press collective, nine months later, We Are Many: Critical Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation is born. The printer assures me copies will arrive in Minneapolis and New York for our launch events this weekend – and you can order a copy here from AK Press (or Amazon, or Powells, or your local indy bookstore).
When we named this project back in January, we chose We Are Many because it was a nice blend of old and new. We liked the referents it implied, but it was a phrase that hadn’t been taken up and over-used yet by the movement. (Our first choice was 99 to 1, but someone else managed to announce a book with the same name before we did, sending us back to the drawing board, and searching for something that wouldn’t have the same results!) As the project grew (and grew, and grew), to encompass the contributions of over fifty authors and even more artists and photographers, we started to joke about the name: We Are (Too) Many. But once we’d made our final selections, staring at all of the contributions written down on index cards and arranged in various configurations on my floor as we tried to set the final order, we started to realize exactly how apt that title is.
We Are Many is a multiplicity. It doesn’t seek to present a single party line, doesn’t pretend to have solved all of the problems, or resolved all of the conflicts. It presents multiple perspectives on the same question, sometimes contradictory ones, sometimes just different ones. It’s a hodge podge of ideas, perspectives, tactics, contexts, and ideologies. Just like the movement it seeks to reflect. For me, reading this book from cover to cover is sort of like the feeling I have attending a General Assembly: confusing, chaotic, overwhelming, fascinating, frustrating, exhilarating, and very, very real.
We are many: we speak as individuals. We are many: we speak as one. I don’t know that I really considered the double nature of the phrase when we originally chose that title so many months ago, but as we’ve pulled the project together over the last eight weeks, it has really come to signify the way that I think not just about this project, but about Occupy itself, and really about contemporary social movements as a whole.
Let me be clear: We Are Many is only a start. It’s the beginning of a much larger, and sorely needed, conversation about movement strategy: about what works, and when, and why; about respect for each other’s opinions; about understanding difference; about the need for revolutionary zeal; about new ideas that we have pioneered this past year; about the new things we’ll do in the next. Those conversations are happening all around us. This book captures only a few of them, a representative sample of a much, much larger multiplicity of perspectives. It’s up to you – all of you, or perhaps all of us – to carry that conversation on. To take this book as a jumping off point, as an invitation into the conversation, as a challenge to keep the discussion and the debate going as we look towards the second year of this still-nascent, ever-changing social explosion that we’ve come to think of as Occupy.
I almost forgot! Check out this amazing list of contributors. There are so many people in this book who have inspired me with their words and their actions, not just this past year, but for many years. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to edit their essays for this project:
Michael Andrews, Michael Belt, Nadine Bloch, Rose Bookbinder, Mark Bray, Emily Brissette, George Caffentzis, George Ciccariello-Maher, Annie Cockrell, Joshua Clover, Andy Cornell, Molly Crabapple, CrimethInc., CROATOAN, Paul Dalton, Chris Dixon, John Duda, Brendan M. Dunn, Lisa Fithian, Gabriella, David Graeber, Ryan Harvey, Rachel Herzing, Gabriel Hetland, Marisa Holmes, Mike King, Koala Largess, Yvonne Yen Liu, Josh MacPhee, Manissa M. Maharawal, Yotam Marom, Cindy Milstein, Occupy Research, Joel Olson, Isaac Ontiveros, Morrigan Phillips, Frances Fox Piven, Vijay Prashad, Michael Premo, Max Rameau, RANT, Research & Destroy, Nathan Schneider, Jonathan Matthew Smucker, Some Oakland Antagonists, Lester Spence, Janaina Stronzake, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Team Colors Collective, Janelle Treibitz, Unwoman, Immanuel Wallerstein, Sophie Whittemore, Kristian Williams, and Jaime Omar Yassin.
I hope you’ll all check out the book, and that you’ll find something in it to appreciate. I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come …