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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Real Change, no...

If you don't vote, you lose an effective and legitimate method of influence, of free speech, of expressing your opinion.

Headlines again will read "Low turn-out of young voters."

Everyone else will believe that we are lazy, that we don't care. And that's the absolute worst message we can deliver.

I urge you to review what I wrote above.

We need to get our message out peacefully, influence policy wherever possible, run an effective GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaign, and personally: Everyone Vote.

That's the democratic process, and consider this:

- of all the so-called 'free' countries, the parliamentary and republican democracies, the USA is the most democratic and the free-est country of them all. Feel free to suggest another one.



No not quite. The idea of democracy in a stratified society is a complete fallacy. You don't own capital, you don't accumulate profit, you lose with or without the vote.



Such staggering obedience and conformity to the rhetoric and principles of this thoroughly discredited system. This is why the movement will move on without you. You can call the people who escalate the struggle 'criminals', or 'vandals', or whatever you want. But when you are ready to deepen your critique and actually look at the systemic issues and not just its current management I hope you join us in seeking a world actually worth fighting for.

Electoral politics is completely without value, merit, or substance and if Occupy goes in that direction it will be the last nail in its coffin and it will simply be abandoned by the real radicals as it is subsumed into this system that you apparently love so much.


"Low voter turnout" sends a stronger message than voting for another capitalist, no matter the party. It says that we understand that this system is bankrupt and that we will turn to other means in order to tear it down.


The winner couldn't care less what your intended message was by not voting, because he won.

At that point, the people who didn't vote lost if they preferred the other candidate.


This is the kind of reformist thinking that is guaranteed to ensure that absolutely nothing changes...

Although it sounds like you don't want anything to change, but rather to tweak the system a little better in your favor. Those poorer and less privileged than you can continue being made into 'criminals' and hunted down by the cops to maintain this system you so love. Hopefully a new phase of the struggle will wash away this kind of unquestioning rhetoric and shallow critique.


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