Perspectives for Occupy

  1. Following the mass movement in Wisconsin, we explained that the dam had broken and that we had entered a new era of struggle. However, our main perspective was for defensive battles against budget cuts, attacks on unions, layoffs, foreclosures, or fresh attacks on immigrants, women, or LGBT rights. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was something different. While resting on mass anger at class inequality, corporate corruption, and economic anxieties, fundamentally Occupy was a generalized struggle against the elite and the system as a whole. Rather than taking a defensive posture on this or that single issue, the ideas and rhetoric of Occupy boldly raised the need for a radical reorganization of our economic and political system. This feature, also seen in the youthful uprisings worldwide, captured the imagination of millions, “changed the conversation,” and put the ruling class on the defensive.
  2. Although the movement has clearly been weakened by police evictions and winter weather, it is by no means defeated. On the contrary, much of the activist layer born out of Occupy emerged from police repression more confident of their political power, while the mayors, police chiefs, and federal authorities who conspired to coordinate the repression find their legitimacy and political authority further undermined.
  3. Nowhere is this clearer than in Oakland, where the occupiers were twice able to shut down the nation’s fifth largest port in retaliation against police repression, while divisions within the mayor’s office and police officials played out publicly. Similarly in New York, Bloomberg’s cynical lies and brutal methods were exposed and his credibility damaged. More recent confrontations between police and organized ultra-left trends in Occupy Oakland gave city officials the opportunity to paint occupiers as bent on bedlam but, in general, ruling class attempts to discredit Occupy has met limited success.
  4. While the situation varies across the country, in many areas it’s clear that Occupy activists are regrouping for the next phase of the struggle. From the start of this movement, we have urged turning outward to draw larger numbers into activity, to develop a working-class orientation, and to build campaigns around concrete demands. Making clear demands and fighting for specific reforms is not a contradiction – as some trends in Occupy argue – with a more general critique of the system. The “transitional method” developed by genuine Marxism is the art and science of building the link, through a program of fighting “transitional demands” and proposals for struggle, between the immediate burning problems facing working-class people and the need for the socialist transformation of society. It is a method of demonstrating through the practical experience of struggle that capitalism is incapable of meeting our needs, and it outlines the concrete strategic tasks to bring about system change in direct relation to the living struggle and current consciousness.
  5. In fact, on the basis of experience, the most serious activists in the Occupy movement, attempting to resolve this same problem, are increasingly turning toward campaigns on immediate issues facing working-class communities and youth. The national “Occupy Education” day of action on March 1 appears to be gathering momentum, as does the idea of mass non-payment of student debts. After the experience of almost a million people participating in “Bank Transfer Day” last fall, we must be prepared for this kind of struggle taking off.
  6. With developments like “Occupy the Hood” and neighborhood assemblies in many areas, activists are shifting focus to take up immediate struggles in working-class communities. The “Occupy Homes” fight against foreclosures is gaining momentum in a number of cities, and more nationally coordinated action is being prepared. Occupy-inspired campaigns against budget cuts to crucial social services are also gaining some momentum in various cities. As of yet, the new campaigns being taken up by various circles of Occupy activists have not managed to rebuild the scale of protests and national momentum the movement had last fall, but the potential for new upsurges exists.
  7. Adbusters, credited with initiating OWS, put out a call to action for 50,000 people to occupy Chicago starting on May 1 to protest the G8 summit (originally scheduled for Saturday, May 19 – Sunday, May 20) and the NATO summit (still scheduled for May 21 – 22). The mobilization appears to be gaining steam, and the Obama administration – fearing disruptions – moved the G8 meeting to Camp David. However, the NATO summit protest will still likely attract tens of thousands and be the central flashpoint of resistance for Occupy activists in the spring.
  8. Across the country, Occupy and immigrants’ rights activists are building for May 1 demonstrations, which could be large in some areas, though calls for a May 1 national “general strike” will fail to gain much traction among workers. The protests against the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August and, to a lesser degree, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September will also be important rallying points for the movement.