Whither Occupy Wall Street?
by Stephen Lendman
It’s second anniversary arrived. Observers ask what happened to what emerged in New York’s Zucotti Park. It’s located in Wall Street’s financial district.
On September 17, 2011, OWS began. Activists said:
“The one thing we all have in common is: “We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
Saying “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 – 1977) said it her way.
Today, we’re all sick and tired of corrupted officials letting Wall Street crooks steal public wealth. They’re doing it at the expense of millions. They’re ripped off to enrich them lavishly.
OWS activists compared themselves to Arab Spring uprising participants. It’s “our Tahrir moment,” they said. They want “profits over and above all else” ended. Political Washington collusion permits it.
“On the 17th of September,” they said, “we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”
“Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America.”
“We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.”
OWS lit a spark. It spread nationwide. Hundreds of cities and communities began their own initiatives. It was an idea whose time had come.
Obama lied saying “(w)e are on their side.” He covertly conspired against them. He believes capital has a divine right. He’s Wall Street’s man in Washington. Monied interests own him. Whatever they want they get.
Department of Defense training manuals call protests “low-level terrorism.” An FBI memo says peace protesters are “terrorists.” FBI and Homeland Security operatives coordinated OWS crackdowns.
Throughout his tenure, Obama’s done more to destroy human rights, civil liberties, and other fundamental freedoms than Bush II.
OWS Operational Guide instructions told activists:
“Saturday’s occupation begins at noon in Bowling Green Park….See you at the bull….The first people’s assembly will start at 3pm at One Chase Manhattan Plaza and continue until our one demand is agreed by all.”
Suggested ideas included:
- revoking corporate personhood;
- reinstating Glass-Steagall, decoupling commercial from investment banks and insurers, among other provisions to curb speculation;
- imposing a Tobin tax on large financial transactions;
- making corporations and rich Americans pay their fair share;
- demanding Obama establish an “American Democracy Reform Commission;” at issue is ending “monied corruption in Washington;” get it out of politics;
- creating a commission to assure too-big-to-fail banks don’t exist;
- perhaps an “END THE MONIED CORRUPTION OF AMERICA MANIFESTO;”
- an equitable level playing field.
Most important is returning money power to public hands. It’s where it belongs. It’s the antidote to corrupted, dysfunctional privatized banking.
It’s how to turn austerity into prosperity. It can be done without onerous taxes.
It’s how to end speculation, booms, busts, inflation, deflation, instability, crises, recessions, depressions, deprivation and despair.
It’s an idea whose time has come. It’s a practical, proven approach. It works wherever it’s been tried.
Media scoundrels are dismissive. At first they stayed silent. They gave OWS short shrift. It was too widespread to ignore.
Cops practice their stock and trade. They’re enforcers for crime bosses. They came out in force. Constitutionally protected speech was targeted. OWS activists were criminalized.
Cops beat up on them relentlessly. They were pepper sprayed, maced, thrown to the ground, beaten, handcuffed, dragged off, and locked up.
Washington colluded with state and local authorities. Journalists reporting responsibly were targeted. What happened to the spirit of late summer 2011? How did what bloomed fade? Or did it?
On August 5, Occupy Portland headlined “2013 Summer Capacity-Building Conference.” On August 16 and 17, it was held. Conference Coordinator information said:
“Twenty-three months ago Occupy Wall Street began and it left a lasting mark in the public social and political discourse.”
“It brought together previously disparate special interest groups under one unified umbrella of the 99 Percent, while also respecting the diversity and freedom within the worldwide ‘leaderless’ movement.”
“The legacies of Occupy Portland are today found in many parts of Portland and beyond, in many different names, shapes, and forms. Several new community-based ventures were founded and many activist groups have matured into more established organizations.”
“Authentic friendship, families, and communities were born. Between 2011 and 2013, a number of new state and municipal laws have been enacted in response to the Occupy message, to better protect the 99 Percenters.”
“The movement united people in a way no other organizations have ever done before. Yet, at the same time, it appears to outsiders as if ‘Occupy was long dead.’ “
“The salient reality is, that we do now live firmly in ‘the Post-Occupy era.’ The original tactic – of ‘Occupying’ – and the global meme it generated – is no longer relevant, effective, or potent.”
“Like everything else, tactics and strategies must evolve, adapt, and change according to the needs and realities of the time.”
“Yet, we as a movement have not quite come to terms with this and asked ourselves this question or explored our futures with open hearts and honest engagement.”
“This conference (was) organized with hopes that we reconnect with one another in the spirit of collaboration that once united the Occupy movement, and rediscover the energy that brought Occupy into existence two years ago; and explore ways to transform that energy in a way that would move us all forward into a new season of more effective organizing and mobilization that makes a true difference in our communities.”
Doing so’s an ongoing initiative. Original activities are a shadow of their former selves. OWS is at a crossroads. On its first anniversary, Mother Jones headlined “Occupy Wall Street – Where Are They Now?”
A year ago participants displayed pioneering activism. They were “alternatively principled and unrealistic, brave and foolhardy, idealistic and naive.”
“They may or may or may not have changed the world, but it certainly changed those who took part in it.”
Amir Husain’s a true believer. He left a Manhattan corporate law firm. He did so to become activist. “I felt I was making too much money,” he said. “And I didn’t feel happy.”
He became a leading OWS figure. His spirit influenced others.
“What people don’t understand on the outside is that this is a popular uprising in the making,” he said. “There is absolutely no question about it.”
After police harassment, arrests, and civil charges, Husain gave up on encampments. He began looking for new ways to reinvent America.
Millions nationwide are debt entrapped. He’s involved in what he calls a “debt resistance” movement. He once earned $70,000 bonuses. He’s now in debt himself.
Last November, he and likeminded activists launched a “people’s bailout” initiative. It’s called “Strike Debt.” They’re raising money to buy up consumer debt. They’re doing it for cents on the dollar. They want it abolished.
“You are not a loan,” they say.
“Strike Debt is a nationwide movement of debt resistors fighting for economic justice and democratic freedom.”
“Debt is a tie that binds the 99%. With stagnant wages, systemic unemployment, and public service cuts, we are forced to go into debt for the basic things in life – and thus surrender our futures to the banks.”
“Debt is major source of profit and power for Wall Street that works to keep us isolated, ashamed, and afraid.”
“Using direct action, research, education, and the arts, we are coming together to challenge this illegitimate system while imagining and creating alternatives.”
“We want an economy in which our debts are to our friends, families, and communities – and not to the 1%.”
On January 6, “Principles of Solidarity” were adopted. It was done by consensus. They state:
“Strike Debt’s an OWS offshoot. It’s a debt resisters movement. It’s building national consensus. It believe “most individual debt is illegitimate and unjust.”
“Most of us fall into debt because we are increasingly deprived of the means to acquire the basic necessities of life: education, health care, and housing.” “
“Because we are forced to go into debt simply in order to live, we think it is right and moral to resist it.”
“We also oppose debt because it is an instrument of exploitation and political domination. Debt is used to discipline us, deepen existing inequalities, and reinforce gendered, racial, and other social hierarchies.”
“Every Strike Debt action is designed to weaken the institutions that seek to divide us and benefit from our division.”
“As an alternative to this predatory system, Strike Debt advocates a just and sustainable economy, based on common goods, mutual aid, and public affluence.”
“Strike Debt respects many of the principles that were adopted by Occupy participants from other non-hierarchical movements.”
“These include: political autonomy; direct democracy; direct action; a culture of solidarity, creative openness, and commitment to anti-oppressive conduct and language.”
“We struggle for a world without ableism, homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, and all forms of oppression. Strike Debt holds that we are all debtors, whether or not we have personal loan agreements.”
“Through the manipulation of sovereign and municipal debt, the costs of speculator-driven crises are passed on to all of us.”
“Though different kinds of debt can affect the same household, they are all interconnected, and so all household debtors have a common interest in resisting.”
“Strike Debt engages in public education about the debt-system to counteract the self-serving myth that finance is too complicated for laypersons to understand.”
“In particular, it urges direct action as a way of stopping the damage caused by the creditor class and their enablers among elected government officials. Direct action empowers those who participate in challenging the debt-system.”
“Strike Debt holds that we owe the financial institutions nothing, whereas, to our communities, families, and friends we owe everything.”
“In pursuing a long-term strategy for national organizing around this principle, we pledge international solidarity with the growing global movement against debt and austerity.”
A Final Comment
Occupy Wall Street’s signature headline still resonates. “The only solution is world revolution,” it says. OWS is still around. It’s at a crossroads. It’s a shadow of it former self.
Hopefully post-OWS initiatives have promise. Perhaps Strike Debt is one. Bitcoin may be another. It’s an online cryptocurrency. It’s independent of central authority.
Virtual money excludes banker control. Germany’s finance ministry formally recognized it. It did so as a “unit of account.” It acknowledged digital money’s usefulness. It’s a hopeful sign.
It’s exchanged for goods and services. It does so like fiat currencies. It’s created by computers. Bankers have no say. Transactions occur by transferring a unique Bitcoin network number. It’s from one electronic “wallet” to another. It’s via computer or phone.
Bitcoin’s in its early developmental stage. Hopefully it’ll grow and spread. It’ll be challenged like OWS. Promising independent initiatives are targeted for elimination.
William Douglas once said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Change requires longterm struggles.
Investigative journalist IF Stone (1907 – 1988) crusaded for justice. He knew the risks. He took them. He inspired others to do so. Great struggles are won incrementally. He once said:
“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins….”
Community organizer Saul Alinsky (1909 – 1972) wrote “Rules for Radicals.” Rule one is: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
Rule eight is: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Alinsky said power’s derived from two main sources – money and people.
Organized people can beat organized money, he stressed. It’s from the grassroots. It’s never top down. Successful initiatives for change require sustained commitment.
Authority can be challenged and beaten. It happened before. It happened in America. Slavery ended. Civil and labor rights were won. They’re lost because energy waned.
Popular struggles never end. Ordinary people have power. They have more than they think. Key is using it. Disruptive social initiatives work. They did before. They can again.
The mother of all struggles requires totally transforming America. It’s too late for cosmetic changes. Tinkering around the edges won’t work.
A second American revolution’s needed. A popular one this time. It’s the only chance for real change.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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