How the Occupy Wall Street Protesters Can Defeat the Corporate Elite
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The occupation of Wall Street is now in its third week. Thousands of people have worked and fought for it, have given it their time, their bodies, their ideas, their blood. People have used their bodies as shields, sent letters of solidarity, marched, slept out, donated, tweeted, and more. There are still thousands more who have not been with us, whether because of geographical reasons or because they are busy struggling elsewhere.
I have been involved, in some way, with the occupation on Wall Street since the first planning meeting a number of months ago, and I have been out there almost every day since the occupation actually began, though mostly keeping quiet and working on the sidelines, often critically. I have participated in assemblies and working groups, done outreach to community organizations, pushed demands, been to dozens of meetings, gone hoarse from chanting about the banks, been bruised by metal police batons while marching for Troy Davis, and had about a million incredible conversations, at the occupation at Liberty Plaza itself, in other political contexts around New York, and even in jail with the 87 friends I made during the mass arrests of September 24. I am not an authority, and others have struggled and sacrificed much more than I, but I have learned a lot; enough, I think, to begin sharing some of it.
The struggle is still very much underway. Those of us who can, who have that privilege, should be out in the streets, so now might not be the time for the most thorough analysis. It is, however, important for occupiers to be writing in our own words; to reach out to the many around the world who want to be a part of this in some way, to offer our own analyses (infinitely more powerful than those provided by pundits from far away), and to counter the media blackout we are experiencing.
Though the press is now somewhat intrigued by us, and alarmed by police brutality, it still has very little to say about the actual content and processes of this occupation: The spontaneous working groups that emerge to deal with any issue that comes up, the remarkable de-centralization, the actions we have carried out in solidarity with labor struggles around the city, the public education taking place at the occupation, or the incredible display of direct democracy practiced in the camp.
Maybe it's because they don't care, or maybe it's because we are a threat to their sponsors (and we are). But, honestly, maybe it is because we speak a new language, one we have to translate for them.
What We Have Already Won
I have to admit, I was skeptical. I saw too many young white college kids and not enough grassroots organizers from New York, not enough of those communities hardest hit by neoliberalism and austerity. I was pushed away by some of the cultural norms being adopted and found myself at odds with the lack of demands, not to mention the sometimes overemphasis on process. Having helped organize Bloombergville (a two-week occupation against the budget cuts in NYC) only a few months earlier, I found it hard to believe this would be significantly larger or be able to mobilize the kind of mass support it needed in order to make an impact. I didn't see how this would aid in the overarching aim of building a movement, beyond a single uprising. But I was wrong about some of those assumptions, and -- though we are still far from being a huge, unified movement with clear goals, led by the most oppressed layers of society, with the capacity for long-term struggle -- things have steadily improved.