Occupy Wall Street, two years on …


(poster from the Brooklyn Artist's Alliance)

Anniversaries are always problematic.  While celebratory, they lend themselves to nostalgia, nostalgia for past feats, glories, passions, which may mask present poverty and paralyse action in the present.  They also lend themselves to accountings of past successes and failures that often sin in exaggerated evaluations, positively or negatively.

This month marks the second birth date of Occupy Wall Street in New York City and the throughout the united states.  Its critics, both on the right and the left, repeat the tired refrains of a movement incapable of giving programmatic and organisational form to itself, and therefore condemned to impotence and disappearance.

Those who praise it, speak of Occupy as having “taught millions the language of autonomy, horizontalism and direct democracy.” (Roarmag)  As a “symptom of the crisis of representation”, of capitalism, its “anarchist and horizontalist principles” found a resonance well beyond its original activist organisers. (Roarmag)  But this is both to say too much and too little.  Autonomous and horizontal forms of organisation are at least as old as the left and of democratic movements more generally.  And Occupy was and is part of a much larger global movement which both preceded it and continues, employing the very same methods of direct democracy.

To talk here of a method is itself already questionable, because more than a means, the self-organisation and self-management of the occupation of city squares should rather be seen as an end.  That is, what Occupy created was not an instrument of revolution, but a revolution, understood as the creating of communities which both contest and escape the reign of the State and capital.  And though the occupation of squares was ephemeral, it served to change the understanding of many of the power of capitalism and thereby politicised all manner of people who would perhaps otherwise never have thrown themselves into politics.  As a consequence, the fabric of anti-capitalist movements and struggles has gained in density and extension.

To state that the “movement has long since subsided” (Roarmag) is to ignore the continuing effects of Occupy and its numerous metamorphoses (e.g. Strike Debt, The Occupy Money Cooperative, Occupy Sandy, etc.) as well as to do an injustice to those who continue to struggle to create other possible ways of life opposed to capitalism. (the guardian, 17/09/2013)  More profoundly still, it is to fail to discern that revolution lies less in mass rebellion, than in a growing lucidity in thoughts and deeds among those who refuse to allow their lives to be reduced futile labour and domesticated consumption.


From Occupy Wall Street (16/09/2013) …

#S17: Our One Demand Is To End Capitalism

On September 17, 2013, the second anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Movement, tens of thousands will come together across the country and the world to honor the most important and influential social movement in generations. As we exchange stories about the past and ideas for the future, we will be opposing a number of the 1%’s toxic attempts to siphon even more of our money and power away from us. The Trans Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement, the undue influence of money in politics, and the lack of accountability in the global financial sector will be just a few of our targets. But, as we attack these symptoms it is necessary that we remember the disease: capitalism.

Without capitalism, there could be no undue influence of money in politics. Without capitalism, trade would be truly free. Without capitalism, the financial sector would be an embarrassing relic of the past, a warning to future generations. Without capitalism, there can be no neoliberalism.

Anticapitalism is the true big tent. Whether or not you think the reforms proposed and enacted by various Occupy-related groups (like Strike Debt, Occupy Sandy and the Occupy Card) will fix the systemic problems of capitalism, they are campaigns worth supporting. They provide temporary relief to people who need the most and allow us to experiment with alternatives. This is a good thing. But we can't let a good treatment distract us from a cure. Without addressing the underlying cause of capitalism, these problems will only get worse.

Globalization will continue to send jobs overseas. Technology will continue to automate human labor and obsolete the professions of millions of workers who will have no choice but to adapt. But for those who can't adapt to the new economy, the sentence under capitalism is death. This is because capitalism denies the necessities for human survival (like food, housing, and health care) to those unable to sell themselves to corporations. Even in times of plenty when you'd think we'd have to work less and less.

The end of capitalism means the beginning of your new life – a life where your home cannot be taken from you by force to maintain the bottom-line of a multi-billion dollar company that pays less in taxes than you; a life where you own your future; a life where politics represents you. The end of capitalism means the life you’ve always wanted but never thought you could have. The end of capitalism means freedom.

The 1% owned the mainstream American political system long before the Supreme Court upheld Citizens United. The 1% oppressed the global 99% long before “free trade” agreements became the norm. The 1% used the financial sector to swindle the people long before Dodd-Frank was repealed, long before the Federal Reserve.

As we come together on #S17 it is important that as we oppose the institutions that capitalism has created to oppress us, that we oppose capitalism as well. If we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the symptoms of our disease we will never find our way to the cure. The cure, as we knew and demonstrated two years ago, is revolution.

Two years after Occupy Wall Street was founded we are still here, and so are our problems. On September 17th, and every day – take the street, take your jobs, take back your money, take back your power. Organize.


It should also be remembered on this anniversary that the occupation of city squares in the united states came to an end because the State through its instruments repression brought them to an end.  As the movement grew and spread, so did police surveillance, intimidation and violence.  (For the FBI’s role in this, see the guardian, 29/12/2012).  The following is an eloquent video testimony of the state of exception that reigns in the united states and elsewhere …

10 Arrests in 87 Minutes: The Anatomy of the NYPD’s Protest Dispersal Process

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Occupy movement, two video activists, have released a 10 minute short film providing perhaps the most detailed civilian account to date of the NYPD’s process of crowd dispersion during mass mobilizations. The video, shot on September 17th, 2012, during Occupy Wall Street’s first anniversary celebration action, details 10 arrests that took place over the span of 87 minutes. While at first glance many of the individual arrests appear to be arbitrary, careful analysis from the videographers illustrates a larger picture wherein the NYPD’s actions are calculated and designed to derail the protestors ability to effectively assemble.

This video is a powerful resource for activists of all stripes in New York City. Please watch it, share it, carefully examine the NYPD’s process in it, and use it to inoculate yourself from their coordinated attempts to stifle your first amendment protections.

“On the eve of the second anniversary of OWS it bears remembering that the occupations didn’t simply fizzle and dissipate,” says Paul Sullivan, who videotaped the police response, “this video, shot last year on the morning of the first anniversary, not only reminds us of how difficult it is to protest when the NYPD is determined to shut you down, but also how the NYPD continues to suppress civil liberties in order to stamp out the movement.”

(From The Sparrow Project)


For further reflections on Occupy, see Interoccupy and Truthout.

This entry was posted in Commentary, News blog and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.