Within progressive and left political circles there's still a lot of talk about "Occupy" as if it is a movement that remains highly active, with mass participation and influence still growing, and the movement increasingly relevant in the day to day American political scene. Is this really the case?
If one surveys the scene right now, one might notice that there really are no "Occupy" actions happening. There are no parks or public spaces being occupied. The kind of town hall dialogue within public space that went on last autumn isn't happening either. Confrontations with police and local government where they are happening are based on attempts to re-occupy this public space (literally and figuratively) by activists, almost immediately met with overwhelming police force. Given the high level of local government and police resistance to attempts to re-occupy, "Occupy" has lost the kind of magnetic effect which brought millions of otherwise "non-political" people into "Occupy" actions and its wider dialogue.
So, that's it, American resistance to capitalism and the 1% is over...
God, I hope not!
While "Occupy" as an active movement winds down, other forms of resistance continue, and some of these have been pretty successful. Here in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest the ILWU (International Longshore Workers Union) has once again successfully defeated an attempt to break the union's job control of the West Coast ports. It should be noted too that the attempt to break the union's control of the ports was very much a combined effort uniting capital (grain shippers primarily) and local and State governments; and they failed...
Another example: Northwest Oregon has also seen a flurry of teachers strikes across a number of rural and suburban school districts. Teachers are currently striking the Reynolds Educational District. Earlier this spring Eagle Point Educational District staff struck for eight days, although finally capitulated to the District's demands.
Likewise, last weekend saw a determined protest of NATO in Chicago. Determined in that demonstrators continued to plan and hold demonstrations in spite of every legal obstruction available thrown in their path, with demonstrators hit with the kind of police violence that Chicago and its Police Department are so famous for. Yet these actions involved thousands.
And it should be mentioned too that resistance continues on university campuses, around local events (Trayvon Martin for instance), and so on. In this sense, "Occupy" might be dead, but resistance continues.
A natural history of movements:
"Occupy" accomplished much. Indeed a lot of the resistance going on now (not to mention further resistance) wouldn't be happening without "Occupy".
The above is a bit simplistic, but "Occupy's" significance and importance comes down to a couple of accomplishments. First, "Occupy" broke the official political apparatus (government, Republican and Democrat politics) and the media's monopoly control of political discourse. Second, "Occupy" directly contradicted the phony 1%'s (or more accurately to .1 %) limited and twisted portrayal of reality.
Yet that which contributed to "Occupy"'s success also contained some serious limitations to the further development of a viable resistance movement.
For instance, "Occupy"'s town hall type general councils, with their emphasis on direct participation and consensus decision making made it possible to bring forward a thousand points of view in a public and political setting (and was basically adequate in running camp affairs), its fluid and anarchic structure made a definition of objectives and supporting actions impossible.
"Occupy"'s insistence on total consensus and its belief in the equality of all ideas also meant that no ideas were subject to evaluation and tests of validity. While educational events covered just about any angle one could think of, the movement itself was unwilling to to criticize or adopt any definition. Here in Salem for instance, the "Occupy" movement displayed a great reluctance to define itself in opposition to the "Tea Party".
As a movement, "Occupy"'s insistence on defining itself around an action, that is camping out in public places; and its style of process, that is open consensus, became too much to bare. "Occupy" as "Occupy" progressively fell apart as police repression and winter set in.
Here's the big question though:
Is "Occupy" the movement? Or is "Occupy" a phase in the development of a wider resistance movement?
If "Occupy" itself is the movement, then we are already dead. This is because there is no "occupying" going on now, and because those who participated will be looking backward trying to re-create, rather than widening and developing as events unfold. Finally an insistence on the equality of all ideas hiding behind consensus would mean perpetrating "Occupy"'s worst internal defect, that is its tendency to devolve into a "Tower of Babel".
On the other hand, if "Occupy" is a phase in a wider development, it leaves us in the position of learning a great deal about how and what to resist.
Last autumn's "Occupy" actions firmly placed capitalism's dirty under belly in the national and international spotlight. The mass nature of "Occupy" meant too that American capitalism's unquestioning mouthpiece, the media, could not stuff this one back into the closet.
The value of the above two factors cannot be minimized. Yet if we stop here, all of last autumn's actions will eventually be forgotten and "Occupy" will cease to be a historical force as it is instead transformed into meaningless nostalgia.
So, I honor "Occupy" as I bury it. Yet bury it we must if the spirit created is to continue and take form.
P.S. Please comment, this is meant as a sort of dialogue