Analysis of the Occupy Wall Street Movement
October 16, 2011 Leave a comment
We are posting this article on the Occupy Wall Street Movement from the American section of the International Worker’s League- Fourth International. This article is unique in that it analyses the internal dynamics of the occupation assemblies which very few others have done as precisely.
From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy USA: Tasks and Perspectives
From a few dozen youth in New York City’s Manhattan Park, Occupy Wall Street has now seen thousands (20,000 at it’s peak in NY) take action not only in N.Y., but also in the first days of sister occupations across the U.S – Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, among many others. This growing movement (there are now over 200 occupations) is captivating the hearts and minds of the majority of the peoples across theU.S.and the world.
These protests show that there is a potential for the American people to develop anti-austerity (i.e. against cuts to public services) mobilizations like their comrades inSpain,Greece, andChile; that’s if it manages to clearly express its political goals. This is why we must learn from the current strengths and limitations of the Occupy Wall Street protests so that the 1% is not able to make the 99% pay for the economic crisis caused by Wall Street and its partners-in-crime – Obama and the oligarchy he represents.
In this movement, marches and actions have grown to more than five-thousand strong. In fact, labor unions have joined the marches and actions, and the Occupy Wall Street protesters have been very happy to welcome them. The repression against Occupy Wall Street and its sister occupations has been severe: with a total of more than two hundred arrests during its few first weeks and an arrest of over 700 protesters who took to the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st.
The consistent message in the mainstream media, which is now being forced to cover this growing mass action, is that the movement lacks a clear message. Of course, the corporate press (i.e. New York Times, Fox News, etc.) is seeking to portray it as a confused and misdirected movement in order to diffuse and contain it as much as possible.
However, it is our responsibility in the movement to set clear political goals or a strategy toward accomplishing them exist yet. But some of the occupations that have started since Occupy Wall Street – like Los Angeles, Berkeley, and others – have faced the following obstacles: a) the bureaucratic facilitation of general assemblies , b) lack of involvement people of color, women, & rank-and-file workers, c) an unhealthy alliance with the police, Democratic Party, elected leaders, and non-profit forces, among other obstacles toward evolving the occupations.
Tasks and Perspectives
As a result, the most immediate challenges and tasks that the Occupy movements face are, in our opinion, 1) the independence of our movement from the Democratic and the Republican Parties, the police, and from elected officials, 2) the democratic organization of the movement.
The lack of a democratic process for the General Assemblies – the main space for decision-making being used for the occupations- hinders the ability of people to participate. Combined with this, for the movement to be truly democratic and successful, it must be independent from the big business & Wall Street parties- particularly Obama and his Democratic Party that bailed-out Wall Street and is cutting public services.
We need to develop a movement that is politically independent of the ones that are allied with the 1% in enacting the austerity policies that are hurting the 99%. Without this being remedied, the movement is likely to be co-opted and eliminate the possibility of a real change and reversal of this crisis.
There are six general tasks for the movement that must be won over in order to have a sustainable, democratic, class independent and mass-based movement:
1) We need to ensure class independence: Keep the movement independent from elected political officials, particularly from the big business parties (i.e. Democratic, Republican and the tea Parties) and from the police, that is not a “neutral” force.
2) Securing democracy of the movement and challenging the present leadership’s conception of it and practice of bureaucratic methods.
3) Develop the political program of the movement: what the movement should fight for and against, its principles (goals and values), and above all its demands.
4) Develop strategy and tactics of political struggle for the movement: how are we going to achieve our goals? Which other sectors we want to involve?
5) Strongly link the movement to the working-class and oppressed (i.e. people of color, LGBT, women) peoples and their current struggles to build solidarity and unity in action.
6) Link and build the base of the movement to other in other sites: schools, neighborhoods, & workplaces, so we keep spreading and involve more sectors of society.
For now, “OccupyUSA” is the most important social movement of the day in theU.S.A.It is happening in the midst of a strong general offensive against the working-class. At the same time, there are important reconfiguration and mobilization processes happening within the organized labor movement: for example, the 60,000 health care workers acrossKaiserHospitalinCaliforniawere on strike September 21-23.
As the occupation movement grows and spreads to Labor unions, the non-profits and other sectors, the movement must be cautious of the ability of bureaucrats from these sectors to strangle the functioning of the occupations.
In addition, as the 2012 presidential elections are around the corner, Democratic Party and their allies – union bureaucrats, non-profits, and the like – will try to channel the occupation movement into electoral solutions and away from strikes and occupations. This was the fate of theWisconsinmobilizations of early 2011 whose leadership (composed of the aforementioned sectors) removed the possibility of a real reverse of the cuts and the legislation by not organizing a General Strike and instead doing the recall process.
What is clear is that the American youth and workers have once again entered into the scene of class-struggle. Although the occupation movement’s political consciousness is uneven and unclear, it may evolve into the strikes and actions that the rest of the world has been experiencing since the 2008 Great Recession. Likewise, though the U.S.is late to the game, we have the advantage of learning from the battles that our brothers and sisters faced recently, like the March 15th Movement of Spain, the Arab Spring and the Chilean student protests.
OccupyLA, OccupyOakland, OccupyBoston, and others have just begun. And time is running against the occupations movement and the sectors it seeks to represent: the youth, workers and unemployed (i.e. the 99%). During the start of OccupyWallSt there was the possibility that the movement would not gain the momentum needed and would immediately collapse. Thankfully the protesters that were led by the youth in N.Y. stayed the course for the first lackluster days and showed the people the way. We must look forward to this patience and commitment spreading across the nation.
However, the present leadership that continues to dominate this movement must be challenged, both in the realm of democratic organization and independence from elected officials (i.e. class independence); this will create the foundation needed to develop the independent and militant character of OccupyUSA. Otherwise, the movement risks being politically short-sighted, co-opted, and eventually buried.
We Need an Alternative to Wall Street and Capitalism
The “OccupyUSA” movement is an expression of an anti-capitalist sentiment of the people but it lacks firm political direction. Thus the movement must be cautious of co-optation from Obama and other Democrats as they are taking advantage of the void; they are now saying they understand the sentiment of the occupations movement and some are saying they support and are fighting for the 99%.  This hypocritical stance ignores the fact that Obama and his Democrats are tied to Wall Street and its big banks & corporations; they are funded and enact the policies of these sectors.
They got us in this economic mess and the only way out will be possible if all youth, workers, and oppressed peoples unite and exercise their power to withdraw their labor, stop “business as usual”, and hit the banks, corporations and ruling elite where it counts. Furthermore, the movement must spread to labor unions, non-unionized workers, youth, unemployed, and oppressed peoples everywhere.
Occupy Wall Street is sowing the seeds that will allow Americans to mobilize a mass fight-back. In order for OccupyUSA to make a big step, it must mobilize around demands that unite the 99% and clearly express their interest:
– Jobs, Free Public Education, & Universal Healthcare for all,
– Tax the Wealthy! End Foreclosures, Take Back the Bailout Funds & Nationalize the Banks!
– No to Wars and Imperialist Occupations of other Countries!
– End the Prison Industrial Complex! End Police Brutality!
– Legalization for all Immigrants!
The OccupyUSA movement must lay the foundation for a mass movement that demands an alternative to a system based on profit, one that can meet everyone’s basic human needs. In order to be rid of the exploitation and oppression they face, the working class and oppressed people will have to take power into their own hands – and away from big business and the financial elite. Only with worldwide socialism and with workers democracy will we be able to have a world that is democratically run by and for the vast majority of people.
 In general, one of the factors that have led to the bureaucratic facilitation of general assemblies has been the use of consensus (i.e. 100% of people have to vote yes on decisions.) and its use to silence minority views. Consensus makes it easier for a person to paralyze a meeting and makes it difficult for the majority of peoples’ opinion to be realized. What preserves the democratic character of a meeting is the right of any participant to speak, express their opinions and/or make proposals. The participant should be not be coerced verbally, through gestures or the use of podium; they should have the same amount of time to talk as everyone else. Each individual can have whichever opinion they have but it will be the self-governing assembly who then votes and decides. Therein lays the true democratic nature of a meeting.
 Some occupation’s (for example, OccupyLA) organizers have built a harmful relationship with the police. They are spreading the idea that the police are our friends and will protect the occupations if we follow their rules and directions. These organizers also check the “legality” of their occupation’s activities with the police. This relationship ignores the fact that the police are the arm of the state and only listen to their bosses. Furthermore, as some Occupations show (i.e. WallSt,Boston, andSeattle), the police has been deceiving, beating, & arresting occupiers. Thankfully some occupiers are trying to change this relationship to the police and educate others on police brutality.
 Lucy Madison, “Obama: ‘Occupy Wall Street’ reflects ‘broad-based frustration'”, http://www.cbsnews.com 10/6/11