Occupy's Spiritual Quest

The fork in the road ahead.


Dear occupiers, jammers, dreamers,

Three years after the May 1968 uprising that swept the world, the great French philosopher Michel Foucault observed that a key strategy of power is to “appear inaccessible to events.” Power, Foucault argued with a nod towards 1968’s failed insurrection, acts to “dispel the shock of daily occurrences, to dissolve the event … to exclude the radical break introduced by events.”

Forty years later, in light of Occupy, Foucault’s observation still strikes home. Despite achieving the impossible at unprecedented speed – sparking a global awakening, triggering a thousand people’s assemblies worldwide, and giving birth to a visceral anti-corporate, pro-democracy spiritual insurrection – Occupy is now struggling through an existential moment. Our movement has been dealt a blow: our May 1 and follow-up events have been dissolved by power; the status quo has shown itself to be far more resilient than many of us expected.

Now a passionate debate is emerging within our movement. On one side are those who cheer the death of Occupy in the hopes that it will transform into something unexpected and new. And on the other are patient organizers who counsel that all great movements take years to unfold.


May 1 confirmed the end of the national Occupy Wall Street movement because it was the best opportunity the movement had to reestablish the occupations, and yet it couldn’t. Nowhere was this more clear than in Oakland as the sun set after a day of marches, pickets and clashes. Rumors had been circulating for weeks that tents would start going up and the camp would reemerge in the evening of that long day. The hundreds of riot police backed by armored personnel carriers and SWAT teams carrying assault rifles made no secret of their intention to sweep the plaza clear after all the “good protesters” scurried home, making any reoccupation physically impossible. It was the same on January 28 when plans for a large public building occupation were shattered in a shower of flash bang grenades and 400 arrests, just as it was on March 17 in Zuccotti Park when dreams of a new Wall Street camp were clubbed and pepper sprayed to death by the NYPD. Any hopes of a spring offensive leading to a new round of space reclamations and liberated zones has come and gone. And with that, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland are now dead.

The task ahead of us in Oakland and beyond is to search out and nurture new means of finding each other. We are quickly reaching the point where the dead weight of Occupy threatens to drag down the Commune into the dustbin of history. We need to breathe new life into our network of rebellious relationships that does not rely on the Occupy Oakland general assembly or the array of movement protagonists who have emerged to represent the struggle. This is by no means an argument against assemblies or for a retreat back into the small countercultural ghettos that keep us isolated and irrelevant. On the contrary, we need more public assemblies that take different forms and experiment with themes, styles of decision-making (or lack there of) and levels of affinity… Most of all, we need desperately to stay connected with comrades old and new and not let these relationships completely decompose.

— Read the rest of the this article, by anonymous West Coast anarchists, at Bay of Rage



ccupy Wall Street was at the pinnacle of its power in October 2011, when thousands of people converged at Zuccotti Park and successfully foiled the plans of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sweep away the occupation on grounds of public health. From that vantage point, the Occupy movement appears to have tumbled off a cliff, having failed to organize anything like a general strike on May Day – despite months of rumblings of mass walkouts, blockades and shutdowns.

The mainstream media are eager to administer last rites. CNN declared that “May Day fizzled,” the New York Post sneered “Goodbye, Occupy,” and The New York Times consigned the day’s events to fewer than 400 words, mainly dealing with arrests in New York City.

Historians and organizers counter that the Occupy movement needs to be seen in relative terms. Eminent sociologist Frances Fox Piven, co-author of Poor People’s Movements, says:

“I don’t know of a movement that unfolds in less than a decade. People are impatient, and some of them are too quick to pass judgment. But it’s the beginning, I think, of a great movement. One of a series of movement that has episodically changed history, which is not the way we tell the story of American history.”

— Read the rest of Arun Gupta’s What Happened to the Occupy movement?

The fire in the soul of Occupy burns from Oakland to Quebec, Barcelona to Chicago, Wall Street to Moscow and Frankfurt… the question now is which fork in the road will our movement take?

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197 comments on the article “Occupy's Spiritual Quest”

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Occupy ahs been hugely successful. Anyone that thought that we were going to sweep away global corporations in a few months has no grasp on history. Occupations are a tactic not a goal in themselves. There are thousands of people working on Occupy in NYC alone. We don't need a park to be effective. The police will fight us furiously to keep us from getting one. That does not mean that we give up. There many creative things going on all over the world to promote the movement.
The problem with May Day was that we promised more than we could reasonbably expect to delver. If we had promised a day of solidarity with workers, it would have looked hugely succesful. By promising a general strike, when average people were in no way ready for that made 10-30,000 people marching down broadway easy to dismiss. (Distracting main stream media with a bunch of little actions and arrests did not help.)
Building a movement takes actuall work and creativity, not playing chicken with cops. We need to reach out to regular people and explain to them in plain english, wihtout a bunch of ists and isms why we are on their side, and why and how they can help. And when we get 10 or twenty million people on the streets, they will be begging us to sit in a park.
To help build the movement I am working on the Occupy National Gathering and Caravan. The Caravan leaves the West Coast on June 11th and gets to Philadelphia for the first day of the gathering on June 30th. The gathering ends on July 4th with an open visioning process that will horizontally collect the most popular visions of the particpants. Please come and particpate. Everyone is invited


Yes! Well said.
The idea of the general strike haunted us in many ways. tactic obsession has ruined armies and movements alike. What are our demands? We know them and as long as we speak to those likeminded, those who gathered at encampments last fall will come back. After all, the winter has not made america a better place and those people are still there and still in solidarity.


Then again, without the time to built for it, a general strike was not going to happen. Yet there seems little wrong with Occupy supporting local strike actions. Are not such actions a fitting tactic for May Day?


Then again, then again, given the seeming lack time, effort or faith in the idea, it might look to some that the aim was for the general strike to fail? An attempt to prove that this left-wing tactic does not work?


Or rather the likeminded will look for a better movement. We are not dogs likely to return to its vomit!


PLEASE, I beg you adbusters as an occupier, Stop being so impatient! Just because one event is a failure does not mean that the movement is dead unless you declare it dead—which you almost seem to be doing. This seems to be a reflection of the impatience of the media. Because the media thinks its dead, we get discouraged and thus inherit the superficial impatience of spectacle our media propagates. DO NOT ABANDON OCCUPY. Plan more occupations that are not linked to other things such as mayday so that occupying IS the point of the action. Whats the role of occupy? Not primarily May Day. THE PURPOSE OF OCCUPY IS TO OCCUPY. And we should go back to that fundamental through a big day of occupations. BE PATIENT and help plan a reoccupation this summer by recruiting those who have disappeared through painstaking work of door to door street to street propagation. If it fails, we do it again in a week of occupations. Trust me, as a student I know many who are more likely to do this in the summer. Recruit as we did for May Day, but not for a general strike, but to occupy. The Civil Rights movement, as has been said, took years to build, are we really going to move on because May Day turned out to be just a successful protest but a failed occupation? Wasn't marching the point of May Day, and didn't we march with success (and strike as much as we could in a postindustrial society)? Can't we make as big a turnout for an occupation if we make it the dominate tactic and not an epilogue to a day of marching?
Don't follow the media in declaring occupy dead! Don't get trapped in making crucibles for the movement. By controlling part of the narrative, adbusters, you have the power to help us continue this movement, so don't count us as dead!


With 24 hour 'Breaking News', some want instant results and see a week as a long time in protest. Yet Occupy is still new movement - give it time. Give it time to build for May Day, and related strike actions?


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