A movement is born. Across America and around the world occupations have spread. We witness the beauty and struggle of a new protagonist joining the fight against oppression and exploitation.
Crisis feeds conflict: the pillaging of communities galvanizes people from Greece and Chile, Bangladesh and China, the United States and Spain. A massive wave has been unleashed of impoverishment, unemployment, austerity, and stealing of resources by capital, governments, and the wealthy. We face loss of our jobs, homes, and way of living, with no avenue for contesting these problems within the institutions of power. Doors are being closed. Futures are being stolen.
The newly impoverished, students whose hopes have been dashed by a life debt and joblessness, veterans returned from hellish war to be discarded, workers facing speed-ups and cuts across the board, families displaced and attacked by anti-immigrant reaction, the sick without access, people forced out of their homes: we are the indignants. While economic restructuring creates new opportunities to pile wealth upon wealth and heap poverty on poverty, new protagonists come forth. The working class recomposes: they force changes on our lives, and we respond with new struggles, new demands, and new relationships – a new social protagonism.
Our struggles cannot be placed into a single demand, a set of reforms, or endorsement of elected officials to make changes for us. Our struggles are based on direct democracy, direct struggle, and the knowledge that that we need deep systemic change, however any particular individual understands that.
Right now our occupation movement spreads, and inspires the excitement and aspirations of a long quiet – but long angry – working class. Neither state repression nor the attempt to coopt or constrain our movement shows signs of holding us back. Our power and ability to capture imaginations is growing every second.
Still, our hot autumn faces challenges ahead; winter is coming. We must maintain the occupations and spread them, to provide shelter from attacks, and build space for more working people to join the movement. This must be our primary work. The struggle must push forward from Facebook to the streets, from the plazas to the neighborhoods. We are building a mass movement, organizing people to take action based on our collective shared interests. To do that, we have to take the occupation to the people in our neighborhoods, flyer, and debate. We need to learn to organize, argue for our movement and actions, and recruit people in our community to join this fight.
Even more, we must expand the “we” involved here and extend whose interest fits within “our collective shared interests.” The movement must spread from those saddled with debts, to those who were never given access to debt, from those who were turned into to workers, to those who never had any choice. We need the 99% percent to start taking up the struggles, interests, and makeup of our working class. The 99% movement must be an immigrant movement, and a movement by communities attacked by a racialized state repression and economic exploitation.
Isolation ends struggle. While we build our occupations, let us also look to go beyond them. As our work grows fruitful, and our movement strengthens, we will face the challenge of where to go next. Repetition of old and comforting formulas and reliance on pre-cut solutions will not help. We are a movement posing new questions, forcing all of us to grow, and to invent the tools we need. We must dare to ask questions that we can’t yet answer; we must balance our drive with the knowledge that unanswered and unasked questions remain.
We grow, or we shrink. In order to keep the space we’ve won we must expand and disarm those who want to brutalize and beat us into submission and poverty. This is not yet the harvest, we are not yet at our destination; but we can start planting seeds, make the road by walking.
Today we are a deep threat to the vested interests of power and privilege. Our movement has the potential to move beyond threats to counter-power; a living democracy in the streets. Next we must enter workplaces, institutions, and communities. Occupy Wall Street, yes, and from that occupied space let us occupy schools, hospitals, workplaces, and apartment buildings. Bring the general assembly from the public square to our jobs and our neighborhood blocks. When we bring this democracy to our daily lives, we will open up a new front in the occupation wave and have even greater power to make changes with direct democracy. In our assemblies we have the power to erase layoffs, stop foreclosures, and eliminate exploitation by bosses and administrators.
Let’s start now: start training each other, learning together, have these conversations and debates at our jobs, in our classrooms, around the neighborhood, in the army barracks, and the prisons. We hold the power, but we must learn to use it. They have no answer to this crisis except misery. We have our democracy. We know how to run society: we make it function every day with our work and our time. The winds of revolution are blowing, but the storm clouds of reaction loom. Let us bring whirlwinds and torrents to those who impose dictatorships and poverty, let us bring hope and a new society through our collective power and common cause. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy your city! Occupy everything!
I have a simple question, one often imposed by my ex-wife when I suggested that ‘we’ needed to do something. That question was “Who’s ‘We’, White Man?”
Movements are not ‘born’, nor are they ‘built’. Genuine movements happen when real social forces build up on real, everyday, average people to the point where the levies, or the constraints imposed upon them can no longer resist the pressure and the once placid lake becomes a torrential movement .
It is a natural process. I suggest that there is no need to flyer, educate or organize anyone. Clearly people do not need you to do that. They are not so stupid as to not understand what’s pressuring them, regardless of what you may believe.
If you want to be of help, then add your talents and labor and wisdom and compassion to the conflict that will emerge.
There is no vanguard.
Steven, on your first point, which is one of semantics, I don’t think the language describing movements as being ‘born’ and ‘built’ is off the mark at all, and I think those terms correspond with the process which you go on to explicate with “movements happen when real social forces….” A deeper analysis of the genesis of movements doesn’t preclude the fact that being born and built also have meaning here.
And just because it’s a natural process doesn’t mean that there’s no need to flyer, educate or organize. There are natural processes like the sun coming up in the morning, and other natural processes like growing a garden which require attention, care and cultivation. Growing a movement is more like the latter. Sure, the forces which induce the process are organic but we also have to have a human hand in the mix. We’re not coming into being in a vacuum. There is a tainted soil which defines the dirty status quo garden in which we’ve all taken root, and many people don’t understand the nature of that, let alone the nature of the kind of garden we’re attempting to sow in contrast to the old one.
Under the old way we’re educated and organized in a manner intended to sustain the old oppressive garden. And many bring those ways of being into the new garden, even as they criticize and hate the old one. New ways of organizing and educating are part of the process of building a movement which can challenge the old one.
One further point: this is not vanguardism! It’s a process engaged and implemented based on winning battles ideologically, and then proceeding en masse. It is not a revolutionary head disconnected from a reformist body. If progress isn’t advanced on a basis of democracy, then it’s not progress.