Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Occupy, Year One

by CHIP GIBBONS

I’d like to start with a confession. When I first descended upon the Bowling Green statue in Lower Manhattan on the morning of Saturday September 17, 2011 to discover a handful of people doing yoga, I was not impressed. While my spirits were raised when a larger, but still small group of people marched from Bowling Green to Zuccotti Park I did not believe that we were on the cusp of a historic moment. I had been involved in activism since I was a high school sophomore and as a result have participated in more protests than I care to admit publicly. At the time the events of that day didn’t seem particularly special or memorable.

Looking back a year later, never in my life have I been so glad to have been so wrong. Far from being just another protest, Occupy Wall Street is unquestionably among the most important social movements of the past decade (which truly is an accomplishment, because in spite of the media narrative of passivity the last decade saw sizable protests against the IMF and World Bank, the war in Iraq, racism, and for women’s and immigrants’ rights). Occupy has captured the public imagination like no other protests since the 1960s.

As the one year anniversary approaches, the media narrative will most likely focus on what Occupy has accomplished. Perhaps the media will fixate on the fact that many of the encampments are gone (whether or not they will mention that these encampments were violently broken up by the police is another story). Of course, while no single individual speaks for Occupy, it doesn’t take much to realize that Occupy’s victories lie not only in the encampments. They lie in the newly mobilized activist networks that have waged (and even won) battles in their own communities–whether it be the many homes defended against foreclosure or Occupy Baltimore’s campaign against a proposed new youth jail.

Just as important as these victories is the impact Occupy Wall Street has had in shifting the dialogue concerning economic issues. For decades, the spectrum of acceptable discourse has been rapidly closing. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a vigorous debate about how humans might organize their society. Socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, and radicals of every stripe attracted sizable audiences. Even relatively mainstream intellectuals like John Dewey expressed dissatisfaction with the wage economy and proposed that true democracy meant not just popular participation at the ballot box, but in the workplace as well. In short, capitalism and democracy were not one in the same, but were instead deeply antithetical to each other.

Yet only eighty-some years later Margret Thatcher, one of the architects of the current neoliberal economic order, would chastise the people that there was “no alternative” to her particular brand of capitalist economics. What happened?  First, we were told that there was no alternative to capitalism. Then, not only did we have to accept capitalism as the only viable economic system, but we could only choose a particular brand of capitalism: A deregulated, cutthroat brand of capitalism that mixes unchecked corporate power with a disempowered working class, free markets with accelerated rates of incarceration and police repression, tyrannical technocrats with diminished formal representative institutions, corporate welfare with gutted social services, and in times of crisis, bank bailouts with austerity.

There was no alternative. And every politician accepted it. If you lived in the United States it didn’t matter if you elected Democrats or Republicans, the policies were essentially the same (as were the corporate donors). Western Europe, where social democratic and socialist parties still existed in name, faced a similar closing of discourse.

Anthropologist David Graeber got it right when he said that Occupy was about the rediscovery of “the radical imagination.” While Occupy’s coalition of supporters include everyone from left-leaning Keynesians to anarchists, Occupy’s power and appeal rests in its fundamental core assertion than there is indeed an alternative. It is the rejection that private profit is the only valid raison d’etre for anything, whether it be education and healthcare or prisons and the military. Instead, Occupy proposes the radical alternative that the lives, well-being, and futures of flesh and blood humans are too precious to be traded along with slips of paper on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Chip Gibbons is an activist who has been involved in various activist causes from labor rights to death penalty abolition to anti-war activities. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Studies and History from Bard College. His undergraduate thesis was on the Central American Solidarity Movement. He maintains the blog Exiting Emerald: Observations on Democracy and Empire.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]