Friday, August 10, 2012

"No one wants to be the coroner of Occupy" Or do they?

Wishful thinking: that OWS is dormant due only to US government repression?  It fails to acknowledge the ultimately spontaneous character of the organizations, and the fact that we remain in a period of rout for the US labor movement.

Still, there is always an unseemly rush by left-liberal publicists to be the first to proclaim a movement, struggle, trend, or war dead.  This police mentality about the curve of spontaneous struggle is ultimately only demoralizing, and does not invite real discussion.


....The principal reason that Occupy has stalled in most areas was simply the tremendous repression of the movement coordinated at the highest levels of the U.S. government and executed by state and local authorities – the sweeping of the occupiers from the parks, the enormous number of arrests, the violent physical attacks with truncheons, tear gas, and in some instances the firing of rubber bullets. When the Occupiers had been driven from the public spaces, the police occupied them. Behind all of this was a massive surveillance of the Occupy movement accompanied by schemes and plots created by police and agents provocateurs to entrap Occupy activists and then charge them with terrorism. Mostly Occupy failed to achieve all that it might have because it was violently strangled in the cradle by the police.

No one wants to be the coroner of Occupy charged with pronouncing it dead, but at the moment its vital signs are weak. The movement has lost its power to attract and to mobilize the tens of thousands that it did less than a year ago. Its vitality and creativity appear to have ebbed, its numbers seem to be shrinking, and consequently it has ceased to be so prominent in the press. In many areas, where Occupy once stood out as the symbol of opposition to the system or the establishment as a whole in all of its manifestations, it has now been reduced to working in a number of single issue campaigns, frequently in anti-gentrification movements of the working class and the poor of the center city.

As we write, at the end of July 2012, it seems unlikely that Occupy will be revived, though it might be. The question then becomes, what do we believe can be saved from the Occupy experience? First, we can save the lessons that we have attempted to draw out here, recognizing the great strengths of Occupy as one of those rare and beautiful social movements that rises up to challenge the system as a whole, but that in this case, unfortunately, was smothered in the cradle by state repression before it could mature enough to address the challenges it faced. Second, we can attempt to save the cadres created by Occupy, the men and women, young and old, who rallied to Occupy, saw the light, recognizing that the problem was the system of capitalism, becoming activists, and being transformed by the experience. We know that there will be other mass movements from below against this system, and we know that we will need more socialists to help provide leadership to the movement.

Dan La Botz is a Cincinnati-based teacher, writer and activist. He is a member of Solidarity's National Committee.

Robert Brenner is the author of The Boom & the Bubble (2002), The Economics of Global Turbulence (2006), Property & Progress (2009), and an editor of Against the Current. He is also the director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA.

Joel Jordan was a leader of United Teachers Los Angeles for several decades, where he built successful rank-and-file efforts to win the union to an orientation of community partnerships to preserve and improve public education. He was active in the campaign for the Millionaire's Tax.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen any sign of the Occupy dying out. Its going to be around for a long time.