Adbusters

Does OWS Have a Future?

The question mark that hangs over our movement.
Does OWS Have a Future?

Stanley Rogouski

Mike Emery is a sociology student at the University of Maine. This article first appeared in The Maine Campus.

Tuesday marks the four-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. Perhaps it’s time to ask the question: Is it working? In four months, has progress been made toward realizing the movement’s goals?

As much as I would like to be able to answer with an emphatic “yes,” reality is much less encouraging for Occupiers, who haven’t been able to maintain a consistent focus.

On July 13, 2011, Adbusters bloggers proposed an occupation of America’s financial center, slated to begin on Sept. 17. “[W]e want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” the post read.

So far, so good.

“Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices,” according to the post.

And that “one simple demand” is the problem.

That original proposal was based on the Egyptian uprising and the Arab Spring in general. The organization proposed that OWS should demand “a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”

Such a commission could have had a great and immediate impact on American politics or made proposals to lay a foundation for future reforms, like the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Instead, the idea was abandoned.

On Sept. 29, the 13th day of the Occupation, the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park issued a declaration listing 23 grievances against major corporations. Nowhere did this declaration call for a Presidential Commission, or for any action, except to suggest direct democratic participation and an admonition to “[e]xercise your right to peaceably assemble.”

We have seen peaceable assembly in the months since; we haven’t seen political action.

Compare this to the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt. Protests began on Jan. 25 and on Feb. 11, President Hosni Mubarak resigned. The revolution continued, and democracy is still at risk. Nevertheless, in less than a month, the Tahrir protesters did something that the OWS protesters haven’t yet done: They gave their country an opportunity for real change. They achieved their first major goal and then moved on to continue fighting.

The Occupy movement has tried to keep organization loose – the various local Occupy protests are linked in name and in spirit but have no obligation to support a particular political agenda. This has led to political fragmentation, as each group of protesters agitates for their own particular reforms. Some of these reforms have stayed on the target of reducing corporate influence in American politics, while others branch out unnecessarily.

For example, among the 23 grievances listed by the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park, there were references to corporations blocking renewable energy, mistreating animals and perpetuating colonialism. A flyer for an Occupy UMaine rally in November stated, “The Greedy Government & Corporations should be feeding & clothing the hungry, homeless, & struggling hard working American families.”

While I applaud the various groups of Occupiers for trying to keep these issues in the spotlight as long as the Occupy movement has it, the lack of focus on one singular, powerful reform has allowed Occupy opponents to paint the movement as one of radicals and hippies, letting inattentive members of the public gloss over the fundamental idea of the protests: Corporate influence in government perpetuates unhealthy levels of inequality.

Every other complaint, every proposed reform, stems from this issue.

As we’ve seen in Egypt – where protests and grassroots political action continue almost a year after President Mubarak’s resignation – a political movement doesn’t have to stop when it achieves its first goal.

Social activism is a task that never ends. As it stands now, the Occupy movement is showing us that without focus, a social movement with its heart in the right place and international support can squander its political potential.

Mike Emery is a fourth year sociology student at the University of Maine. His political columns appear every Wednesday in The Maine Campus.

What do you think? Does our movement have a future? Can we brainstorm/network through winter and come out swinging in the Spring?

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57 comments on the article “Does OWS Have a Future?”

Displaying 51 - 57 of 57

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Anonymous

Yes very definitely.
We have to educate common people about the harm done by our politico-economic system dominated by moneylenders.
They deprive us of most of our income and control all aspects of our lives.
This has to end at any cost.
Else civilization will come to an end.

Anonymous

thanks to adbusters chosen start date many Occupations have struggled to just survive the winter. We'll see shoots of growth in the spring

Anonymous

What can we learn from the 60's and the 70's protests,
Our Oppressors had so many years to develop their tactic on the populace,
We are fighting the same forces, we need a serious group in nga nyc that is willing to go all the way,

Anonymous

Occupy Wall Street: A Social Barometer
Occupy Wall Street started in New York’s financial district and with startling swiftness spread across the entire country and then the world. The protesters involved in the event seemed to have a variety of causes and some referred to the movement as a giant soapbox for anybody to come out and voice their opinions. But one idea was unified among all of them. A sad piece of common knowledge that everyone seemed to know and accepted as permanent and unchangeable. This was the idea that the rich are getting richer and manipulating the masses and the government to do their bidding at the cost of the common good. You would be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t accept this reality whether it is in the heart of the Occupy movement or in some small diner in the Bible belt.
Many are surprised at how long it took for Americans to rise up against big business especially in the current global climate of change and advocacy. Protests are common in our European neighbors but somehow in America we have lacked in or organization. Perhaps it is our vast geographic distances from one another or the wide range of sub-cultures and communities that we were unable to find common ground. But alas we have come together, not to fight an enemy but to fight an attitude. This attitude we stand against is the belief that the super rich are infallible. The attitude that they have the right to influence our government that is suppose to serve us all. The attitude that money is a form of free speech and can be used to influence public institutions. The attitude that money is the ultimate form of power and should be pursued above all else.
The reason the Occupy members choose Wall Street as their base of operations is clear. It is the financial hub of America, capitalism and the world. It is ground zero for the greedy. It is where stockbrokers and bankers knowingly sold out their fellow Americans futures for their own monetary gain. This where fortunes were built on the backs of the weak. This is location where capitalism began to devour itself. So it only seemed only natural that they go directly into the belly of the beast, proclaiming openly, “We know what you did and we see through your guise. We won’t let you destroy the futures of many for the gluttony of a few”. And so began the American peoples revolution, as I’m sure it will come to be recognized in the coming years.
Is this was a war than the occupy movement would be but one battle. The enemy is not person or a group but a system. The system has been years in the making and declares itself supreme above all others. The system that accepts it’s faults and shrugs improvement. The system uses peoples optimism and patriotism against them telling people that if they follow the American dream, work hard and follow the rules they will be rewarded when their only reward is the bait and switch. The bait of the American Dream is switched for the reality that most people die in the same financial tier in which they were born. The bait of hard work is switched for the reality that most of the wealthy inherited their money. And the bait of following the rules is switched with the reality that many wealthy and successful people generated their money through unsavory, irresponsible, harmful if not downright unlawful means.
The occupy movement was not a solution nor did it claim to be. The Occupy movement was a call to arms. It was mirror held up to the wealthy in this country to show them what they’ve become. It was a snapshot of American people to other Americans to show them what we’ve become. It was the inquisition of ourselves to ask, “Is this the best we can do?” It was a challenge to all of the great and the good in this country and the world for the next grand idea. But most importantly, the Occupy Movement was the message to the public from ourselves- “Unity is more powerful than currency”.

Anonymous

The business with the desecrations in the churches is appalling. I've been a supporter, I have friends who are very involved, and when conservative family members started dismissing OWS as a bunch of bums over the holidays, I defended the movement. I pointed out that NYC churches were being supportive, offering housing the very evening of the day that Zucotti Park got shut down (I was there, I heard the first offers) as proof that this was a movement that many religious people were supporting.

I'm dreading the next time the family gathers and the subject comes up. They are going to laugh me out of the room.

I see where the stories are being spread - Fox News. The National Review. The Wall Street Journal. Conservatives delighting in smearing the movement. But even if it was one or two bad apples, their deeds were a terrible, terrible repayment of the kindness those churches showed.

If there's been any sort of formal public apology, or even acknowledgement of that, I haven't seen it. I'd love to.

Anonymous

The business with the desecrations in the churches is appalling. I've been a supporter, I have friends who are very involved, and when conservative family members started dismissing OWS as a bunch of bums over the holidays, I defended the movement. I pointed out that NYC churches were being supportive, offering housing the very evening of the day that Zucotti Park got shut down (I was there, I heard the first offers) as proof that this was a movement that many religious people were supporting.

I'm dreading the next time the family gathers and the subject comes up. They are going to laugh me out of the room.

I see where the stories are being spread - Fox News. The National Review. The Wall Street Journal. Conservatives delighting in smearing the movement. But even if it was one or two bad apples, their deeds were a terrible, terrible repayment of the kindness those churches showed.

If there's been any sort of formal public apology, or even acknowledgement of that, I haven't seen it. I'd love to.

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