"Understanding the Basics of 21st-Century Democracy, Autocracy, and Capitalism." - by Prof. Richard D. Wolff:
Which ends with ... "If we define capitalism in terms of the employer-employee internal structure of its enterprises - what Marx termed their “social relations of production”, most socialisms to date have not yet accomplished transitions beyond capitalism. To do that .. they would have to change the prevalent internal organization of their enterprises to democratic worker cooperatives.Indeed that's now become the task for 21st-century socialism."
per aspera ad astra ...
Has "Occupy Wall Street Won The Future"?! (by Helaine Olen) - Not Yet!! The Struggle is NOT over!!!
But "the future is ours, and it's infinite ..."
In the immediate aftermath of Occupy Wall Street, pundits on both the left and the right pronounced it a failure. The thousands of people in attendance were angry at Wall Street, but they couldn’t say what, exactly, they wanted the government to do about it. There was no leadership and no list of demands.
But this week, the 10th anniversary of the start of the protest, we can dismiss these critiques as in-the-moment hot takes that did not account for how Occupy Wall Street would resonate over the following decade. The two-month protest ultimately altered what is expected from politics and politicians and what is demanded from our government in times of needIn the immediate aftermath of Occupy Wall Street, pundits on both the left and the right pronounced it a failure. The thousands of people in attendance were angry at Wall Street, but they couldn’t say what, exactly, they wanted the government to do about it. There was no leadership and no list of demands.
But this week, the 10th anniversary of the start of the protest, we can dismiss these critiques as in-the-moment hot takes that did not account for how Occupy Wall Street would resonate over the following decade. The two-month protest ultimately altered what is expected from politics and politicians and what is demanded from our government in times of need.
No small amount of the credit for Occupy’s reach and resonance needs to go to movement’s slogan, usually attributed to the late activist and anthropologist David Graeber: “We are the 99 percent.” The phrase combined pithiness with descriptiveness. The line was able to burst past many of the usual class divides in American life because (sometimes rare for the left) it unified instead of divided. “It made space for people,” says documentary filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor, who took part in the protest. “The 99 percent was inclusive and it was welcoming.”
Prior to Occupy, many people — even politically engaged people — didn’t seem to realize the extent to which the wealthiest Americans accrued almost all the financial gains of the past several decades. Yes, there was anger — lots of it — regarding Wall Street players whose actions had led to both the housing crash and the Great Recession. But in our self-help society, we often blamed ourselves — and each other — for the all-too-many personal financial failures and crack-ups. A reminder: The first political response to the housing crash and the resulting government bailout of banks and some homeowners was the hyper-conservative tea party. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage?” CNBC anchor Rick Santelli sneered on television in 2009, igniting a right-wing movement.
It was Occupy that popularized the notion that something more systemic must be at fault than millions of bad individual financial decisions. What Occupy made clear to the general public was not just how common indebtedness in American society is, but also how much of it was acquired in an effort to get ahead. Occupy made common cause between those with housing debt, medical debt and student loan debt.
And that energy didn’t dissipate after the police moved in and removed the Occupy protesters from Zuccotti Park in November 2011. Many participants stayed active in movements for social change. People on the ground at Occupy Wall Street went on to play a role in Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement. The group now known as the Debt Collective brought attention to medical debt and helped seed the current push for student debt forgiveness.
All that makes it more than a trifle ironic that Occupy’s greatest failure is in the area it initially focused on. Occupy Wall Street contributed to the climate in which, say, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) could wear a dress with the words “Tax the Rich” emblazoned on it to a $35,000-a-ticket gala. But expressing the sentiment can’t actually make it happen. American politics remains captured by wealthy and corporate special interests, and they are now mounting what looks increasingly like a successful campaign to kibosh tax increases that could make a significant dent in their financial position.
In fact, Wall Street and the wealthy are doing better now than ever before. The stock market is in record territory, a bonanza for the 1 percent, who own the largest share of equities. The impact of the pandemic saw even further gains; according to one study, American billionaires increased their overall worth by 55 percent between March 2020 and April 2021.
But social movements are not discrete events. Their impact plays out over time. By bringing the topic of wealth and income inequality into the mainstream, Occupy can reasonably claim credit for everything from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s credible campaigns for president to the public’s embrace of the Fight for $15 movement. It shifted the conversation, the way we think about success and failure in American life, and how we should think about helping people who need financial assistance from the government. If that’s not a political win, I don’t know what is.
THIS ^ IS THE ENTIRE WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE & IT'S SHARED HERE UNDER "FAIR USE".
et fiat lux...
WA Post "Occupy Won the Future"
Yes it did. And, the future is ours, and it's infinite....
It just feels right to put this here lol. These kinds of comments were all over this forum in 2011 and 2012. Thanks Usuk1 for providing us the agon with which and to whom we were able to put down our arguments for a fairer and more just economic system and society.
Actually, 10 years later even the Washington Post admits Occupy Won the Future!
Can't read the article because of the paywall and yes, it's an opinion piece but hey it's in the Washington Post and yes, Occupy did win the future. And, there is still more future to come.
Why "David Graeber’s Archive Should Continue to Uphold the Ideas He Championed in Life"
"His work should continue to encourage cooperation." + TY very much for your heartening link, bw.
et per ardua ad astra ...
David Graeber, RIP, who came up with the term "We are the 99 Percent" wrote the book on debt and jubilees, "Debt: the First 5000 Years."
Throughout history governments have shown benevolence to their people when their debts became so high (inevitably this always happens over time) that the regular folks could no longer function and live decent lives, by giving them jubilees, forgiving them of said debt.
They could do this then and could do this now because money is a human creation. It's not something that can't be controlled though we're made to think that is the case.
How money and economic systems are handled is a choice!
I myself, am waiting for Joe Biden to provide the student debt jubilee that he promised in his campaign. I'd like to see it all forgiven but he did promise to forgive at least $10,000 per student. Waiting....
And then catch up with Moses and declare debt Jubilees.
"OWS made me a Socialist"
"My decision to visit Occupy ten years ago changed the course of my life. It was an entrance into the Left — I’d never been presented with a door before, if I even knew it existed. The same is true of thousands of others. We don’t talk about it much — because Occupy was so messy, so embarrassing, even as it could not have been otherwise given how little experience many of us had in building a movement — but it is true."
Author, Alex N. Press speaks a real truth there.
The truth is, for many Americans Occupy was their first experience even hearing people talk about leftist ideas. It gave many who craved kindred spirits the opportunity to finally open up about how they really felt about an economic system that left them in the dust long ago.
10 years on, we are still fighting, but remember, in the span of human history, 10 years is nothing, and what Occupy did really was quite something especially in a country as conservative as America.
Robert Reich, great friend of the Occupy movement on "Occupy Wall Street, What did we Learn?" See video in his tweet below:
In 2011, the world was wracked by calamity. But by the standards of 2021, it appears a simple time. There was no pandemic. The authoritarian right was far less powerful. And climate catastrophe was less palpably present.
Occupy was the writing on the wall — or rather, on a cardboard sign — that democracy was in profound crisis. It was not the protesters who failed, but the political elites who ignored Occupy’s prescient warnings.
While Democrats worked to stymie and denigrate the populist politics of the left, a right-wing insurgency exploded on the scene, backed by deep-pocketed donors and cable-news promoters. Launched in 2009, the Tea Party merged populist rage with racist resentment, blaming the economic meltdown on “Big Government” and Black mortgage holders, the latter being the very people who had been most harmed by the recession. This reactionary movement succeeded spectacularly, capturing the Republican Party and, with the election of Donald Trump, the presidency.
What we desperately need now is a powerful progressive alternative to the Trumpian right — one that taps into deep dissatisfaction with the status quo but channels it into a popular struggle to create a more caring, more equal society. In Occupy Wall Street, people found the class cleavage — and the willingness to name culprits at the top — that Obama had shied away from. But in response, as Michelle Crentsil noted, the Democratic Party “got scared,” treating the politics of “the 99 percent versus the one percent” with disdain. Sunrise’s Weber has seen this process up close, with figures like Nancy Pelosi dismissing the Green New Deal as “the green dream or whatever.” In the absence of a progressive answer to Trump, Weber fears that “right-wing authoritarianism will win and that what we experienced over the last four years with Trump will pale in comparison.”
Maria Svart shares these concerns: “It’s more important than ever that we build a larger, more organized, more engaged multiracial working-class mass left with millions of people — as soon as possible.”
Ten years later, this is something we can learn from Occupy. At the core of the protest, there was a deep optimism and an openness to welcoming all people. Despite being revolutionary in orientation, Occupy wasn’t more radical than thou. Svart put it this way: “Ordinary people — not just the ‘organized political people,’ but random people — could go down to their local encampment and could see that they could do something.”
The whole point of the phrase “We are the 99 percent!” was its capaciousness. It functioned as an invitation. The curious didn’t have to pass a political litmus test; they could show up and ask questions. If they stayed long enough, they’d see how their hardships aligned with the hardships of others.
Of course, as countless critics have noted, Occupy’s demography never reflected the country’s diversity (though it is important not to erase all the people of color who participated and played key roles). Movements since have thankfully focused on some of the issues where Occupy fell short, particularly in regard to race and gender. But movement veteran Stamp, for one, also wondered if we have perhaps overcorrected. “We’re so siloed,” Stamp said. “And I think that our orientation is not toward the masses.” Chloe Cockburn, who was active in multiple Occupy working groups and has long worked on criminal-punishment reform, noted that as the left has become more prominent, it runs the risk of becoming more exclusive — a clubhouse for those who already have the right analysis and vocabulary instead of a popular vehicle that can “unleash our full power.”
Will we develop sufficient strategic wherewithal to navigate the multiple unfolding crises we face? Can we build popular movements robust enough not only to shift the direction of the Democratic Party but to redistribute power and wealth in our society? Can we foster the solidarity required to overcome the politics of divide-and-conquer and redress all forms of racism? Will we be able to mitigate the climate crisis and ensure a livable planet? Can we muster the political will and the strength to show that, actually, there is an alternative to capitalism and the profound injustice we have inherited?
When future historians look back on the movements catalyzed by Occupy, those are likely to be some of the questions and criteria used to assess their impact. But today we should remember: Occupiers were just regular people — young and old, students and teachers, unemployed and overworked, insecure and indebted. They were not some special category of human being who have a duty to save the world, yet they took the risk of trying to bring about something new. They were the 99 percent, which means they were, and are, us. The question of whether Occupy will succeed or fail is ultimately a question we must ask of ourselves.
Astra Taylor is a co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors. Her books include Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone and Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions.
Jonathan Smucker has worked for 25 years as a political organizer, campaigner, and strategist. He is the co-founder of Lancaster Stands Up, Pennsylvania Stands Up, and Beyond the Choir, and the author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals.
THIS^IS THE ENTIRE "NY MAG 'INTELLIGENCER' ARTICLE - SHARED HERE UNDER 'FAIR USE' !
Guido Girgenti was 19 years old and a sophomore at Occidental College when he joined Occupy Los Angeles and helped organize the Occupy Colleges network. In the decade since, Girgenti helped co-found the Sunrise Movement and is now the media director for Justice Democrats, an organization that recruits and supports progressive insurgents running for Congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman. “People forget how deeply anarchist and deeply, in my opinion, dysfunctional Occupy was internally,” he told us. “In retrospect, so much of Occupy felt like the last spasms of a Left that had been totally marginalized from mainstream politics.”
Girgenti sees Occupy as a “bridge” between the late-20th-century left, which was small, fragmented, and ineffectual, and a 21st-century left that aims to build a majoritarian, multiracial, class-conscious movement that operates both inside and outside the political system to materially improve people’s lives.
The writer Adriana Camarena described Occupy San Francisco as “a teeter-tottering training ground for the uninitiated activist.” The same was true across the country. When the tents were gone, people tried to apply what they had learned to a variety of new efforts — and they were determined not to repeat Occupy’s mistakes. “A lot of us really took inspiration from what Occupy did to breathe life back into movements in 21st-century America,” Weber reflected, while adding that he and his collaborators “wanted to make an explicit rejection of” Occupy’s extreme decentralization. After encampments across the country were cleared, many veterans of Occupy were ready to contest for real power.
Occupy sprouted scores of offshoots. There was no clear guidebook, after all, for revitalizing a decimated and demoralized left. After the evictions, some people tried, and failed, to establish new camps (an ambition that mistook the tactic of occupation for a political goal). Less literal efforts to sustain the Occupy spirit were more successful. Occupiers went on to prevent foreclosures, ally with the homeless, agitate on campuses and in workplaces, and start cooperative businesses. They won enormous goodwill in New York — even praise from the Department of Homeland Security — for mobilizing an astonishing 60,000 volunteers to help with relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the city in 2012.
They also kept up the focus on finance. A group called Occupy the SEC garnered headlines and helped shape policy by penning a 325-page letter of criticisms and recommendations pertaining to arcane financial-sector regulations known as the Volcker Rule. Astra (recruited, once again, by David Graeber) joined a working group focused on debt that eventually developed into a lasting organization, the Debt Collective, that has moved the call for debt cancellation from the margins to the political mainstream. Through different tactics, including a student-debt strike, they pushed all the leading 2020 Democratic presidential-primary candidates to campaign on varying degrees of student-loan cancellation. As a result of their work, the Biden administration has eliminated nearly $10 billion of student debt in 2021 alone.
In the wake of Occupy, a social-movement revival swept the United States, with record-breaking numbers of people taking to the streets against racism and police violence, Trump’s Muslim ban, patriarchy, the gun lobby, and more. Nelini Stamp, a Zuccotti regular who now serves as director of strategy and partnerships for the Working Families Party, has been at the forefront of many of these uprisings, and she believes Occupy was pivotal. “The ruling class taught us that our democracy was broken so that we do not get involved and we do not try to fix it,” Stamp reflected. In Stamp’s view, Occupy challenged this complacency while also changing how people protested, connecting local actions to larger movements by normalizing the use of livestreams and social media.
The Sunrise Movement, which helped transform climate politics by mobilizing around the demand for a Green New Deal, was profoundly influenced by Occupy. “After Occupy I became obsessed with the idea and power of social movements, and with figuring out how we could do a similar thing — spark a similar sort of moral crisis on the issue of climate change, which we thought, similar to the financial crisis, was a sleeping giant,” Weber told us. “In the planning for and creation of Sunrise, we drew a lot from both Occupy’s successes and failures.” Where Occupy had no long-term plan, Sunrise aimed to “create Occupy-style trigger moments” — such as their sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office just days after the 2018 midterm election, which was joined by Congresswoman-elect Ocasio-Cortez — while recruiting people into a multiphase, multiyear strategy.
The rise of the Democratic Socialists of America is another example of how Occupy changed the left. “We absorbed a lot of energy coming out of Occupy,” Maria Svart, national director of DSA, told us. DSA has dramatically expanded in recent years, now boasting over 95,000 dues-paying members (including both of us) and 300 chapters across the country. “Members are themselves empowered to choose the campaigns to develop,” Svart said, “and they’re talking about the class struggle, and they’re knocking on their neighbors’ doors, and they’re talking to their coworkers.”
In contrast to Occupy, electoral engagement is a big part of the equation for DSA, Sunrise, and others. What had seemed like a chasm between protest movements and electoral campaigns appears to have vanished. “Occupy set the ground for people to electoralize social movements without co-opting them,” Stamp told us. Many Occupiers were hypervigilant about preventing politicians from stealing the movement’s thunder, reserving special ire for Democrats who were seen as invoking progressive talking points while selling out to corporate interests. But since then many Occupy participants have been part of insurgent electoral campaigns to challenge the Democratic Party’s old-guard leadership and upend its status quo.
Occupy’s legacy was most visible in Bernie Sanders’s two presidential runs — which in turn inspired more insurgents, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the Squad, to seek office. Sanders may have been shouting Occupy’s talking points since before most Occupiers were born, but the movement of the 99 percent created conditions for his campaign to catch fire, shifting the balance of power in the Democratic Party to the point that Sanders is now one of the chief players in ongoing negotiations over Biden’s legislative agenda.
This July, Sandy Nurse, a prominent member of Zuccotti Park’s Direct Action working group, won her primary campaign to represent Brooklyn’s 37th District in City Hall (which, in a heavily Democratic district, means she’s the presumed victor). She knows that just having good elected officials in office is not enough. Social movements create the “wind that pushes us forward,” she told us, meaning the inside and outside have to work in tandem. She also credits Occupy, with its focus on money in politics, with helping popularize the idea of financing campaigns with small-dollar donations. Toward the end of her race Nurse says she was asking people for $20, and while it was a lot more work than getting one fat check from the real-estate lobby, that’s the price of independence and public trust.
With the threat of racist, authoritarian, minority rule hanging over us, the left has to work on all fronts. As WFP’s Stamp put it, we can’t afford to cede terrain, electoral or otherwise. “My viewpoint has changed since Occupy,” she said. “I’m here about building power.”
CONTINUED BELOW #3
Zuccotti Park quickly became a veritable tent city, with a food station, a sanitation crew, a well-stocked library, multiple newspapers, upward of 100 working groups, and an incessant drum circle that quickly grew notorious. Young people, old people, crusty punks, college students, and tourists mingled, ringed by a perimeter of cops. Simple cardboard signs scrawled in marker — “The World Has Enough for Everyone’s NEED But Not for Everyone’s GREED”; “Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit”; “I Lost My Job But I Found an Occupation” — came to be hallmarks of the protest, while some attendees dressed up in outlandish costumes to make a political point, donning Guy Fawkes masks (associated with the online hacktivist subculture Anonymous) or strolling about with their mouths muzzled by dollar bills.
Occupy got a boost from wanton police violence. The mainstream media began to take serious notice a week into the protests, thanks to a viral video of two young women being pepper-sprayed at close range by an NYPD deputy inspector named Anthony Bologna. Then police arrested over 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, and sympathy for the protesters only increased when JPMorgan Chase announced that it had donated an “unprecedented” $4.6 million to the NYPD “to strengthen security in the Big Apple.” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly wrote to JPMorgan chairman Jamie Dimon expressing his “profound gratitude.”
Popular opinion was on our side, as evidenced in not only polls but the mountains of pizzas, clothes and blankets, and cash donations that flowed in from far-flung sympathizers. “We had just lived through one of the most insane highway robberies of everyday people, through collusion by bankers and the one percent and our government,” as Weber put it. “It was the right thing to be screaming about.” The encampment was a giant middle finger on Wall Street’s doorstep, and that defiance touched a nerve.
It also unsettled the Establishment that was supposed to hold the powerful accountable: the press. The journalists who flocked to Zuccotti often reported in bad faith, mocking protesters for using cellphones and computers (products of capitalism) and marveling at seemingly strange rituals, including the human microphone (since traditional amplification was illegal, the crowd had to repeat what speakers said so that everyone could hear) and “sparkle fingers” (hand movements to silently signal agreement or disapproval during discussions).
Actually, the encampment’s eccentric aspects were part of its appeal — and its power. “It looks like a pirate ship wrecked in the Financial District and set up a civilization,” a friend who lived a few blocks away said at the time. Befuddled pundits criticized the movement for its lack of clearly enumerated demands. But in fact it was the mandarins in the press who displayed a startling naïvete about how politics work, not the motley and mostly inexperienced group that gathered at Zuccotti Park. Social change, sadly, is not as simple as citizens respectfully presenting well-conceived proposals to the people in charge.
As it turned out, the lack of demands became one of Occupy’s greatest assets, enabling a wide range of people to see themselves in the same struggle. Popularizing a broad critique of inequality was far more important, politically, than writing out detailed policy prescriptions. And the overwhelming spectacle belied an underlying seriousness about the movement’s strategic approach. While Occupy’s anarchistic tendency was highly visible, many Occupiers advocated for collective discipline, coalition-building, and strategic engagement with the broader political system — as a disruptive protest movement applying pressure from the outside, to be sure.
Underlying heated debates about structure, leadership, and strategy was the question of power, something Occupy was deeply ambivalent about. Tensions were palpable from the start. On that first afternoon in Zuccotti, someone pointed out that any demands needed to be backed up by some kind of leverage; power would be required to get results. Occupy’s emphasis on direct democracy, however, prioritized means over ends, process over outcomes. Though it was far from evident at the time, Occupy would be the apotheosis of the horizontalist ethos.
The limits of that ethos, however, were evident to many of the movement’s dedicated participants. Michelle Crentsil, who was part of the People of Color working group, recalls a “clash of cultures” at Occupy. “The people who put together the [POC] working group, including myself, had come from organizing traditions where we don’t balk at structure and leadership,” she told us. “We like leaders. We think there are leaders and people can develop and be good leaders.”
Crentsil noted the disjunction between Occupy’s stated ideals and the reality. “There were leaders: they’re standing up in the middle of the park and telling us what we’re going to do next,” she said. “I think it’s better to be explicit about it, because then you can hold people accountable.” In this sense, the People of Color working group foreshadowed the common refrain within the Black Lives Matter movement that it was not leaderless but leaderful.
Instead of spontaneously spawning local assemblies across the country, as some of Occupy’s original planners predicted, the uprising helped usher a new kind of left into being.
CONTINUED BELOW #2:
"Occupy Wall Street Changed Everything Ten years later, the legacy of Zuccotti Park has never been clearer." by Astra Taylor and Jonathan Smucker:
On August 10, 2011, the late David Graeber sent Astra an email that read, in part: “by the way, you should join us in our general assemblies leading up to the Wall Street actions. We have a genuine horizontal structure up and running and it’s really fun (for geeks like me anyway).” Graeber, an anthropologist by trade, was part of a loose group of a few dozen people meeting regularly that summer in response to a call, issued by a Canadian countercultural magazine called Adbusters, for 20,000 demonstrators to descend on Wall Street on September 17. (The date was rather arbitrary: It was the birthday of the mother of one of the magazine’s editors.) The announcement instructed people to bring tents and stay “for a few months.”
Astra never joined those early assemblies, but she showed up on the first day of what was billed as Occupy Wall Street. A few hundred protesters marched on Manhattan’s Financial District. With much of the area under police lockdown, they moved north from the iconic Charging Bull statue to Zuccotti Park, a sloping square with granite benches and planters. It was small and tucked away yet highly visible, its east side facing Broadway. Occupiers slept in the open air those first few days, marching every morning and evening, timed to the trading floor bell and rush-hour traffic. Bankers passing by would shout at us to “get a job,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that their industry was responsible for the mass unemployment that helped spark the protest in the first place.
“I thought the most likely scenario is that we’d all get beat up and put in jail,” Graeber confessed in a later interview. The planners surprised themselves by making it through the first night. Within a few weeks this gang of anarchists, students, activists, and online rabble-rousers — Graeber’s “geeks” — had captured the attention of the world, armed only with tents, cardboard signs, and an obstinate demand to be seen and heard.
An estimated 900 sister occupations sprang up across the United States and around the globe, some of which would outlast the original encampment by weeks or even months. Millions of people immediately recognized themselves as part of Occupy’s “99 percent,” the supermajority of working and indebted people exploited by the wealthy and powerful “one percent” — rhetoric so intuitively powerful that it has since become embedded in the popular imagination. Overnight, the protest forced a long-overdue national conversation about inequality, capitalism, and class, one that political elites had studiously avoided despite overseeing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
By the time billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent police two months later, on November 15, to expel sleeping protesters under the pretext of “cleaning” the park, Occupy had burst into mainstream political awareness. But its legacy was immediately cast in doubt. What, after all, had we accomplished? While Occupy had channeled the frustrations of people from all walks of life, its methods were derided as chaotic, amateurish, naïve. Prominent liberal institutions found the gathering uncouth. “Count us as deeply skeptical,” opined 'The New Republic'.
The night we were ousted from Zuccotti, Occupy’s public-relations working group sent out a press release, drafted by Jonathan, that ended with the slogan, “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come” (a play on Victor Hugo’s “Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come”). But as we stood by helplessly as the encampment was literally shoveled into garbage trucks, we couldn’t be sure this strange experiment would wind up meaning anything at all.
Ten years later, the significance of Occupy Wall Street is undeniable. Occupy inaugurated a new era of defiant protest and was an early expression of the populist wave that continues to surge across the American political scene. It helped revitalize a moribund left, ushering in a social-movement renaissance across a range of issues, including racial justice, climate change, debt cancellation, and organized labor. And Occupy offered a crash course in collective action for a generation of organizers now in ascendance. Surprisingly, an uprising deeply suspicious of structure and power imparted critical lessons about the importance of building institutions and cultivating strategic discipline. Imbued with an explicitly anarchist spirit, the movement was hostile to electoral politics, and yet its most concrete legacy is the insurgent energy it unleashed to transform the Democratic Party, pushing it to be more responsive to ordinary people.
Occupy was ever contradictory, and in hindsight, it’s clear the movement’s greatest strengths were also its weaknesses. Its ideological openness attracted a diverse array of people and viewpoints, but also led to incoherence and conflict. The lack of centralization fostered autonomy and creativity, but also engendered tactical confusion. The camp in some respects represented (or “prefigured,” in movement parlance) the utopian world Occupy wanted to build, but that very utopia became a liability when the camp manifested all the real world’s myriad problems. The true legacy of Occupy will be the extent to which organizers in the future can navigate those contradictions. The stakes, now as then, couldn’t be higher: to democratically reshape society and ward off a looming authoritarian threat.
Today, Occupy’s insights about extreme inequality and political corruption sound commonplace. At the time, they were a revelation. Occupy cut through the stifling ideological fog that had governed economic policy-making since the Reagan era by acknowledging reality: The system is rigged. Though labor productivity up to that point had long been rising, most Americans’ wages had remained stagnant for decades as the cost of living skyrocketed and vital social services were slashed. This was not the result of “natural processes,” but of government interventions that structured the economy to benefit the people at the top.
Nearly three years into the Great Recession, Occupy was arguably late to the game. But by 2011 the public was primed for revolt. Wall Street greed had evaporated trillions of dollars of wealth overnight and caused millions of families to lose their homes, savings, and jobs — with Black and Latino families losing more than half their collective wealth. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, purveyor of “hope and change,” left millions of underwater homeowners in the lurch and refused to hold bankers accountable, instead tasking men like Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers with fixing a crisis that, as negligent government regulators of both Republican and Democratic administrations past, they had helped cause.
There was simply no political outlet at that time for those appalled by the bipartisan consensus surrounding issues related to finance and the market economy. This was the backdrop that informed the radical outlook of the original Occupiers. Upon arriving at Zuccotti Park, participants were encouraged to form small assemblies to discuss why they had come and what, if anything, they wanted the movement to achieve. “It was kind of nice to be at a protest and, instead of marching and shouting, to be talking about ideas,” Astra wrote in a message to friends encouraging them to join. “It felt like the script had changed.”
At the end of the first day, the decision was made to demand nothing — on the grounds that demands of the state only legitimized a corrupt system, one in which our ostensible representatives do the bidding of deep-pocketed donors and call it “democracy.” The movement’s adoption of open assemblies was a reaction against the existing order and an homage to dissenters in other countries who had created similar forums. Participants deliberated and made decisions directly, using a system of “modified consensus,” meaning proposals had to reach a threshold of 90 percent unanimity to pass.
The assemblies proved untenable for many reasons (for example, people could contribute to decisions they had no obligation or intention to help follow through on). But many found the experience moving and transformative. “The direct democracy aspect of [Occupy’s] structure in the very beginning was really exciting for me,” recalled Evan Weber, then a Wesleyan undergraduate and a future co-founder of the Sunrise Movement. “As things went on, the complete consensus for groups of thousands just became extremely impractical. But at the beginning, being able to really feel like everyone there had value and that we were making decisions that we were all bought into was pretty exhilarating.”
One of the first lessons Occupy imparted was that improbable things were possible. As dusk fell on the first day, Astra slipped away, convinced the cops would soon disperse the crowd. She had spent years being shunted into the “Free Speech zones” that defined protest against the War on Terror during the George W. Bush era. But the people gathered in the park — most of them in their early 20s; some were teenagers — were thinking of the Arab Spring and the European “indignados,” the rebels in Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, and Greece who held public space for weeks on end. The young occupiers had also watched in awe that spring as demonstrators took over Wisconsin’s Capitol for days. Why couldn’t they set up a camp in a park and make their voices heard too?
In his book Thank You, Anarchy, Nathan Schneider, one of the movement’s most eloquent participant-chroniclers, writes that people “came for a protest and arrived at a school.” People from all over the country descended on the park in those first weeks; at one point, Weber led two school buses full of fellow Wesleyan students to Zuccotti. Jonathan made his way from Providence, Rhode Island, and got to work training occupiers to talk to reporters in ad hoc workshops in a corner of the park.
We must reward productive activity, in other words, income earned through work. And, we must tax non-productive economic activity, such as earnings on stocks, rental income and inheritance.
That is how you reduce inequality and make for a happier society like those in Iceland, Norway, and Denmark.
Happy birthday Occupy Wall Street and st.org!
This website ranks # 36,858 in the U.S. and # 134,948 in the world, a remarkable accomplishment, especially if you consider that there are 1.8 billion active websites in the world.
For Occupy's original website to rank that high shows that the ideas created by this movement still have relevance. People are still visiting this website.
The Chinese will still have the factories and infrastructure, "when trans-Pacific trade grinds to a halt." The real failure will occur when Wall St crashes again ... maybe for the last time. Of course capitalist morons will never figure out that money is not wealth!
Many thanks to Micah White for maintaining it and JART for creating it.
The legacy of Occupy has never been clearer.
"Occupy Wall Street Changed Everything Ten years later, the legacy of Zuccotti Park has never been clearer."
"Ten years later, the significance of Occupy Wall Street is undeniable. Occupy inaugurated a new era of defiant protest and was an early expression of the populist wave that continues to surge across the American political scene. It helped revitalize a moribund left, ushering in a social-movement renaissance across a range of issues, including racial justice, climate change, debt cancellation, and organized labor. And Occupy offered a crash course in collective action for a generation of organizers now in ascendance. Surprisingly, an uprising deeply suspicious of structure and power imparted critical lessons about the importance of building institutions and cultivating strategic discipline. Imbued with an explicitly anarchist spirit, the movement was hostile to electoral politics, and yet its most concrete legacy is the insurgent energy it unleashed to transform the Democratic Party, pushing it to be more responsive to ordinary people."
Yep, Bernie Sanders' presidential run a mere 5 years after Occupy. He nearly won. He really won!
There is an unfortunate paywall on that New Yorker article but if you are patient enough to scroll through the small window they give, you can read it.
Paywalls, where only the wealthy get to read the news, hence why we post here.
For #S17 note how OWS inspired many, incl.Occupy London, from whom:
& NB: https://twitter.com/Adbusters/status/1438716472671363078
Also see this ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0NDF5DelH8
et fiat lux!
So "10 years after Occupy and the Arab Spring, what have we learned? ... (Is) Our world ripe for revolution"? by Nathan Schneider:
note that .. "it was not only the Arabs who took action that year. In the United States, starting on Feb. 14, protesters occupied the Wisconsin state capitol building in Madison, opposing an anti-union bill that Gov. Scott Walker was poised to sign.The mobilization went far beyond the scripted rallies that the unions can usually muster. State government workers and their allies interrupted the business of government, & the Egyptians called in pizza orders for the protesters in Madison. Gov. Walker was no decades-long dictator; the protesters’ demands were not the same, but the story that activated them was.
"Then in Greece starting on May 5, long-simmering protests over economic hardship exploded into riots, occupations and strikes.In Spain, a one-day protest in Madrid planned for May 15 became a weeks-long occupation. There, again, the regime was not a particular autocrat so much as the economic hardship & government budget cuts following the 2008 global financial crisis - which had begun with the bursting of the U.S. housing market. But still a cry rang out, and people took the squares.
"The spirit of 2011 would find its next expression in the United States. The Financial Meltdown had been three years earlier, spraying its concoction of eviction, foreclosure and job loss across the country. There had been a right-wing 'Tea Party' movement, most noticeable among older Americans but the generation hit hardest, the young people entering the economy during a downturn had so far been quiet. Too quiet? In fact, they had been hearing the story, and some of them were quietly preparing."
Tho' of course ... I do NOT agree with the - "How OWS shaped a decade of dramatic protests and why it has run its course" subheading!
respice, adspice, prospice ...
For #S17 ... "How Occupy Wall Street spawned a decade of protest, politics, and ... social media"! by Sean Captain:
"Though brief and messy, the Occupy movement of 2011 helped recast the political story in the U.S. and fostered more-enduring movements to come."
Thanx bw - for all U did, all U do; things U said to make us think and indeed for this very link! Solidarity.x
et per aspera ad astra!
For #S17 by DG: "Our society is addicted to work. If there’s anything left and right both seem to agree on, it’s that jobs are good. Everyone should have a job. Work is our badge of moral citizenship. We seem to have convinced ourselves as a society that anyone who isn’t working harder than they would like to be working, at something they don’t enjoy, is a bad, unworthy person. As a result, work comes to absorb ever greater proportions of our energy and time.
"Much of this work is entirely pointless. Whole industries (think telemarketers, corporate law, private equity) whole lines of work (middle management, brand strategists, high-level hospital or school administrators, editors of in-house corporate magazines) exist primarily to convince us there is some reason for their existence. Useless work crowds out useful (think of teachers and administrators overwhelmed with paperwork); it’s also almost invariably better compensated. As we’ve seen in lockdown, the more obviously your work benefits other people, the less they pay you.
"The system makes no sense. It’s also destroying the planet. If we don’t break ourselves of this addiction quickly we will leave our children and grandchildren to face catastrophes on a scale which will make the current pandemic seem trivial." - from ...
https://www.bigissue.com/latest/environment/david-graeber-to-save-the-world-were-going-to-have-to-stop-working/ and also please consider these links:
https://www.dsausa.org/ + https://twitter.com/DemSocialists
fiat lux ...
For #S17: "David Graeber: After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep"! ...
"In an essay penned shortly before his death, David Graeber argued that post-pandemic, we can’t slip back into a reality where the way our society is organized — to serve every whim of a small handful of rich people while debasing and degrading the vast majority of us — is seen as sensible or reasonable."
12 months since David Graeber died & he's as relevant today as ever & will be so for decades to come.
respice; adspice; prospice ...
For #S17 and "Occupy Wall Street’s 10th Birthday . . . The Occupy Movement As The Universal Whistleblower"! by Jerry Ashton:
"It can be said with authority that Occupy and the attention it brought to society's ills was the ultimate “whistleblower” of its time. But first, you must understand the word, its derivation and history and importance to a democratic society.
"Most of us understand that a whistleblower is “someone who exposes information or activity within a private, public or government organization that is deemed illegal, illicit, unsafe, fraudulent or an abuse of taxpayer funds.”
"Simple enough, and certainly sounds like a good and welcome thing.
"Unless you are that private, public or governmental organization on whom that whistle is being blown, that is. Such as, within our government. Our political parties. Our corporations. Our institutions. Any dark corner of our society that prefers to remain unidentified. That’s when the retribution sets in – and to hell with the laws put in place to protect the citizen who dares to come forth with damning revelations.
"That, at its essence was Occupy Wall Street. It called to task systems that created inequities that are keeping us from realizing America's promise, those laws, actions, business and political practices that are committed to the status quo. Because that’s where the money is. Until America begins to choose people over profit, the Occupy movement in its many forms and spirit will continue to blow that whistle.
"The September 17 2011 event exposed its activists to the experience of being the target of a threatened establishments which put to work the mechanisms in place which are designed to threaten and oppress its critics. Illegal arrests and jailing, planting provocateurs, 24-7 surveillance, nighttime raids where the press is excluded, employing PR and mainstream media spin, slander, threats & worse."
respice et prospice ...
Occupy made $ and class consciousness a thing in America again.
"How Occupy Wall Street spawned a decade of protest, politics, and social media. Though brief and messy, the Occupy movement of 2011 helped recast the political story in the U.S. and fostered more-enduring movements to come."
"Occupy introduced a different kind of protest to the U.S., by creating space and time for anyone who wanted to discuss a plethora of grievances—most of them about money. While covering the movement, I heard talk about campaign finance, banking regulations, tax policy, student loan debt, bank bailouts, and the federal budget. The overriding theme: Regular people were getting screwed while an elite group—roughly the richest 1%—was making a killing.
This created a new political vocabulary by establishing “one percent” as a universal moniker for an elite class that runs the game. And it created a sense of common cause among the 99% who felt left behind. “Occupy [put] inequality in class back in the discussion,” says Doug Singsen, an art history professor and union activist who was on Occupy’s labor outreach committee in New York City. “There had been virtually no discussion of class in mainstream U.S. politics for, really, decades, which was also a time of rapidly increasing inequality.”
And, let's face it, 10 years is nothing in historical perspective. Occupy did quite a lot in this short span of a decade if you are willing to think long term. Patience is a virtue.