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Occupy Your Victories: Occupy Wall Street’s First Anniversary

We can make history, and we have, and we will, but only when we keep our eyes on the prize, pitch a big tent, and don’t stop until we get there.

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Their spirit and their creative new approach inspired activists around the country and helped generate a movement. Sixty-six nuclear power plants were cancelled in the wake of Clamshell. Keep in mind as well that the Clamshell Alliance and many of the antinuclear groups that followed developed non-hierarchical, direct-democracy methods of organizing since used by activists and movements throughout the U.S. and beyond, including Occupy Wall Street, whose consensus-based general assemblies owed a lot to a bunch of hippies no one remembers.

Bill Moyers met with Clamshell Alliance members in 1978, when he thought they were beginning to be victorious in inspiring a national movement and they thought they were failing. What he said is still worth quoting:

“That Friday night, I expected to meet a spirited, upbeat group that was proud of its accomplishments. I was shocked when the Clamshell activists arrived with heads bowed, dispirited, and depressed, saying their efforts had been in vain. The Clamshell experience of discouragement and collapse is far from unusual. Within a few years after achieving the goals of ‘take-off,’ every major social movement of the past 20 years has undergone a significant collapse, in which activists believed that their movements had failed, the powerful institutions were too powerful, and their own efforts were futile. This has happened even when movements were actually progressing reasonably well along the normal path taken by past successful movements!”

With Occupy, remarkable things have already happened, and more remarkable systemic change could be ahead. Don’t forget that this was a movement that spread to thousands of cities, towns, and even rural outposts across the country and overseas, from Occupy Tucson to Occupy Bangor. Remember that many of the effects of what has already happened are incalculable, and more of what is being accomplished will only be clear further down the road.

Go out into the streets and celebrate the one-year anniversary and start dreaming and planning for 2021, when we could -- if we are steadfast, if we are inclusive, if we keep our eyes on the prize, if we define that prize and recognize progress toward it and remember where we started -- be celebrating something much bigger. It’s a long road to travel, but we can get there from here.

Rebecca Solnit was an antinuclear activist in the 1980s and 1990s, as her 1994 book  Savage Dreams  recounts. The author of  A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster , she is currently speaking about disaster, civil society, and utopia in programs with the  Free University of New York , the San Francisco Public Library’s  One City One Book program , and  Cal Humanities .

 
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