When the "occupations" first started I was very wary of their origins and who was behind organizing them etc etc. This obviously was eventually discussed on Facebook between me and a friend to which Mike Ely from the Kasama Project asked me: "Share with me your "I don't know what I feel about it"? I am curious why some decent people are so ambivalent." Besides the fact that I was flattered that he called us "decent people" he raised a great point. Before I could answer him my friend replied with about the same answer I would have given: "I'm definitely down with the Occupy Wall Street end of things. They seem to have pretty good politics. I'm just a little worried about the Occupy St. Louis end. Looking at the page, it seems like there's a bunch of Zeitgeist Movement types, which makes me kind of nervous...So if the protest is going to be about limiting the financial sector, getting corporate money out of politics, preserving/strengthening the social safety net, and building a democratic, egalitarian, left-wing movement for radical change, I'm totally in. I'm just nervous that it might not be."
And I agree with this so I just added my two cents: "Ive gone to go to things close to this message and when I got there it was just a bunch of move on people raising money to lobby. Should have known by the fact that no anarchist or commies were invited."
To this day I am unsure of who or what started this movement. Another thing that baffles me is how it changes from city to city. Some cities seem to be led by radicals while other cities are being hijacked or were led by liberal the whole time. So it is hard at this time to really speak about or address the OWS movement as a whole because the orientation, the class background and direction of the OWS movement at this time is very blurred.
Permits: One thing I've heard differ from city to city is the question on rather or not to obtain permits for assembly in these public spaces.
Let me be very clear here; if you have a permit then you are not occupying a space. You are permitted to hang out in that spot. 'oh but that is just being ultra-leftist' some might say. But the truth is that you are as my comrade put it: "All we've got is a giant hang out spot"
The same quoted comrade above brought up another great point (and you can and should read the whole article here) that is the "pro-police" activity that has been occurring in some cities. The pigs are our class enemies, period. They defend structures like wall street. That is their job. Their pay rate may land them in the "99%" but they defend the 1% and thus are only logically our class enemy. Not to mention it shows how unorganized this movement is by the fact that the police are attacking this movement in some cities. Even in New York itself where all this started the police have attacked protesters. So show some solidarity with the people from your own movement and stop pro-police demonstrations and stop letting them control your occupation.
The populist nature of the movement: good or bad? I have actually had someone tell me that there is no basis for the claim that this movement is populist. My response is simple; How can a movement who's main slogan is "we are 99%" not be coined populist?
One reoccurring theme I hear from both the left and the right about these occupations is that "we don't know what they stand for or really what they want." I disagree because we do know what they want, they released a list of demands when all this started.
My problem with the populism? Is that it really lacks class analogy. The top twenty percent of the population in the US owns around 83% of all the wealth. Leaving the bottom 80% of the population with only 17% of the nations wealth (1). I must reiterate the lack of class analogy. The next 19% are no better than the top 1%. I'm sure most of those 19% would love to be in the 1%. I know "we are 99" is a better slogan than "we are 80" but siding with the other top 19% just doesn't sit well with me.
What do I think are the positives with the populism? I have thought for a long time now that any movement in the US has to be semi-populist to be successful. I like that a left leaning movement that is large and in the media is pinning "us against them" even if I disagree with the amount of "them" (the rich) they are pinning themselves against.
Plus as an anti-capitalist it is inspiring to see all the "eat the rich" "tax the rich" and "smash wall street" style signs. I truly think if we took the populism out of these occupations that they would disappear fast.
Final Thoughts? There is still a lot to be seen as far as what the future holds for the OWS movement. There is very lose organization going on, some cities are very radical while some cities are playing liberal pacifism. Denouncing each other in some cities, signing papers promising not to denounce each others groups in other cities. To me it is all still very confusing and I am eager to see the outcome and results from this when all is said and done.
One thing I think deserves mentioning is the international solidarity these occupations have received from many of nations, including but not exclusive to: Australia, Russia, France, Brazil, South Africa and many more nations. And another very interesting development is a Chinese protest that echoed the OWS protest.
Written by: Dustin Slagle
(1) William Domhoff. "Wealth. Income and Power". Who Rules America. UCSC, July 2011. WEB. October 14 2011. http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html