The Future of the #Occupy Movement: Solidarity and Escalation

The Future of the #Occupy Movement: Solidarity and Escalation


We are living at the vital juncture, cusp, of a brave new dawn in
human evolution, in every realm of life, certainly the social,
economic, political, as well as transpersonal realms. Mark Engler
covers some meaningful points germane to making the current movement
viable for a healthier society.

So much of and so many of our concerns are, in objective analysis,
all too often reactionary, thus perpetuating an “us and them”
bifurcation of society. This is due too often to only a partial
ideological continuity, our not going beyond the comfort zones of our
affinities to explore further, without any further calamities carrying
us toward more fulfilling solutions and principles which may harbinge a
healthier society.

Without responsible maturation, dogma, with all its barking
propensity, will be all that remains as the economy collapses,
resources become scarce, and moral retardation ensues, lest we mature
past selfishness and petty sectarian psycho-social cannibalism so
poopular today.

Can Spirituality, Social Justice, and Economic and Political Democracy

find synergy and synthesis in a fair and equitable manner?

Find out how!

Human society is at a vital new juncture:

the decrepit skeleton of things tried and
proven false is rapidly being rent asunder.
Today we are on the precipice of a glorious
new dawn in human evolution. Embrace this
crimson dawn of the glorious new day.

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 02:38 PM PDT

Mark Engler – October 21, 2011

A month after
it began with a few hundred people marching on Wall Street, the #Occupy
movement has grown to include tens of thousands of participants
throughout the country and has captured headlines
around the world.
If it has not yet succeeded beyond its wildest dreams, that’s only
because its participants have dreamed big: imagining a sustained
popular uprising that could force fundamental changes in our political
and economic system—ones that could end corporate dominance and promote
real democracy.

The movement
can, in fact, propel significant changes. But #OccupyWallStreet and its
allied occupations still have a ways to go before realizing their
potential. The two issues most pressing as they chart their next steps:
solidarity and escalation.

“Co-optation” or Flattery?

Despite great
success in capturing the public eye, the actual number of people camped
out at the various occupations around the country remains relatively
small. While there are several hundred people camping in hubs such as
New York City and Los Angeles, overnight participants in smaller cities
number in the dozens. What bolsters the power of these encampments is
that they are representative of a much wider discontent. Far greater
numbers of sympathizers turn out for mass meetings, marches, and
online shows of support.
And, importantly, more established political bodies—unions, advocacy
organizations, and community groups representing large
constituencies—have offered endorsements of the growing #Occupy effort.

As more have
signed on, some activists have been wary of outside expressions of
support. Particularly as Democratic Party officials (including
President Obama and Vice President Biden)

have said positive things about the movement, some have voiced concerns about “cooptation.” They have argued
that outside liberals, “while pretending to advance the goals of the
Occupy Movement,” could instead “undermine it from within.”

How big of a danger “cooptation” actually represents is a matter of dispute. In a recent interview, Chris Maisano
asked veteran social movement theorist Frances Fox Piven about this
issue. (Piven is author, among many other books, of the landmark
Poor People’s Movements and has considered the

issue of cooptation at length in her work.) I believe she struck the right tone in her response:

[As] recent comments by even the president and vice-president have
showed, a lot of the more institutionalized forces on the left like the
unions and MoveOn and the Van Jones American Dream Movement are trying
to latch on to the protests and turn them into what some people have
called a liberal version of the Tea Party. How do you think their
involvement will effect the movement? How should the activists at the
core of the movement relate to them?

They should be friendly. They should ask them to do things; they should
give them assignments. And not adopt the insignia of these groups as
their own. In other words they should maintain considerable autonomy,
but nevertheless they should treat these groups as allies, as they
treated the unions as allies. But they shouldn’t ever let unions tell
them what to do, they shouldn’t let Van Jones tell them what to do.
Partly because they seem to know better, really.

So I don’t think that’s their biggest problem, how to deal with their erstwhile supporters.

danger of cooptation should be put in context. There have been some
clearly opportunistic instances of Democrats trying to capitalize on
the movement, such as the none-too-radical Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee attempting to
build its mailing list
through a “I Stand with #OccupyWallStreet” petition. But is it really
possible that the Democratic Party would somehow swoop in and “take
control” of the #Occupy movement? It doesn’t seem like even a remote

Moreover, Peter Drier has made the important point
that, when it comes to social change, imitation is the sincerest form
of flattery. The fact that mainstream figures attempt to co-opt and
advance watered-down versions of movement demands (as they did with
once-impossibly-radical calls for “a progressive income tax, the
eight-hour day, the direct election of Senators, old age insurance, and
voting rights for African Americans”) is not a defeat, but a sign of
victory. Of course, if activists use this as an excuse to call it a
day, that is a problem. But if we treat it as an occasion to push for
even greater changes, it is a very positive thing.

Joining Forces, Gaining Power

One problem
with the rhetoric of “cooptation” is that it casts the need to expand
the movement’s reach in a negative light. It leads figures such as
Chris Hedges, in a
more-radical-than-thou cri de coeur,
to adopt right-wing talking points denouncing allies as “union bosses,”
rather than to approach coalition-building in a constructive manner.
This is unfortunate. For, while cooptation is something to be avoided,
a much more pressing and ongoing need for the #Occupy movement is
fostering solidarity.

#OccupyWallStreet ever existed, there were lots of people working to
fight banks, reverse foreclosures, and challenge corporate power. The
problem was that their efforts were isolated and almost universally
ignored by the media. The #Occupy movement has created a great
opportunity for many of these campaigns to see themselves as part of a
unified fight and to receive an added jolt of energy. In return, the
more groups that sign on and see themselves as part of the #Occupy
effort, the more that movement is able to sustain its status as a
growing and dynamic force. It gains greater numbers of participants,
more diversity, and heightened credibility.

Many actions
that different local occupations have embraced have grown out of
solidarity with groups that were already organizing to advance the
interests of the 99 percent. As just one of many examples, #OccupyLA
joined up with an anti-foreclosure action against several banks and
successfully compelled the reversal of at least one foreclosure
decision. This
action—wonderfully militant and effective—did not emerge out of the occupation itself. Instead,

it had already been organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
(ACCE), an LA community organization. But the fact that the #Occupy
movement joined in solidarity was a great boon to all involved. It
added a ton of energy to ACCE’s direct action. And, for the #Occupy
folks, the positive media attention created by the action generated
greater excitement about the City Hall encampment and helped bring a
wider range of people to the occupation’s assemblies.

Piven argued that cooptation is not the #Occupy movement’s biggest
problem her interviewer replied, “What do you think their biggest
problem is?”

Piven gave a
prescient answer: “Spreading the movement. Thinking of second, third,
fourth, fifth phases. Other forms of disruptive protest that are
punchier than occupying a square.”

She is right.
If the #Occupy movement is to remain in the media spotlight and
continue gaining momentum, it must escalate. That could involve
many steps, including occupying banks,

continuing to use direct action against foreclosures, and embracing further international days of action.

Solidarity will be an important part of all of these.

Within the
call of “We Are the 99 Percent” is the idea that, while no one can take
over the movement—no single individual or group can declare it over or
announce that its ambitions have been satisfied—the coalition of those
invited to take part is vast. The movement draws power from its reach.
And that is no small part of its brilliance.

This article and more, regularly updated, can be found here:

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