After the raid on Zuccotti Park early this morning, what remains of Occupy Wall Street? The library was destroyed and thrown in the garbage; the kitchen and commune that fed and housed hundreds now gone. But what about the general assembly? The police violence demonstrates that the relevance of Occupy Wall Street as a political situation is by no means in its attempts, failures and very real successes at direct democracy. It is instead a question: what is beyond democracy in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street?
The occupations movement is highly structured, and this structure is a focal point for political debates. Decisions are made by the general assembly (GA) through a process of democratic deliberation; it also serves as the basis for the delegation responsibilities and tasks, which are required both to keep people participating and to organize political activity.
All eyes are on Oakland. And rightfully so. Oakland has shown the other occupations how the movement can be successfully escalated. By transforming the occupation of a park into a general strike, Oakland has indisputably emerged as the most militant section of the national occupation movement. All the other occupations across the county are asking themselves how they can follow in its footsteps. But, as strange as it may sound, the best way to reproduce the level of militancy that has erupted in Oakland may actually be to not follow in that city’s footsteps.
We expect history to provide us with explanations – to place the immediacy of experience within a wider story whose terms will be progressively elaborated and illuminated. Political action, which aims at intervening into history and altering its movement, has an entirely different kind of truth – a subjective truth produced in the act of participating.
Occupy Oakland’s call for a day-long general strike on November 2 has revived interest in the tactic, calls for which were also heard over the winter in Madison, Wisconsin. Yet the general strike is practically unknown today in the United States, functioning more as a rhetorical index of militancy than a serious proposal for unified action. In solidarity with this movement’s profound rupture in political language, we’ve selected a few important moments in the history of the concept to illustrate its potential directions.
In the early twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans migrated from the Deep South to Harlem. Racist white residents fled to the outer boroughs and the suburbs, and landlords began to double and triple Harlem rents, capitalizing on the limited geographic options presented to new black New Yorkers. Families crammed into single rooms, but when the first of the… Read more →
The International Herbert Marcuse Society held its fourth biennial conference at the University of Pennsylvania. A mix of academics and activists, the conference represented yet another attempt to connect the two worlds. What better way than to have Angela Davis herself – renowned intellectual, renowned communist – share her thoughts with us on a chilly Friday night.
Only through following a long-term organizing approach can Occupy Wall Street begin to harness the anger and energy it has made visible and translate it in into a dynamic, class-conscious movement. And only the labor movement has the experience and organizational capacity to take on the challenge.
This is an unfinished work – a snapshot of history as it occurred, experienced by me, reported on social media, or retold by trusted comrades. It will lack the finality of hindsight. Contained within is my account of the Oakland Insurrection, as it has unfolded over the past days and weeks. Both the insurrection and this essay are works of hope. I hope that we push forward on the streets of Oakland, the Bay Area, and everywhere else, to the limit of what is possible – beyond occupation and the proposed general strike to “total freedom” for us all.
Dismantling a public education system in a country with strong background of political struggles requires a mitigated form of neoliberal strategy. Between 2009 and 2010, I observed this operation as a new professor at the University of Puerto Rico. In the spring of 2010, students opted for an indefinite strike. The one-month-long occupation of the Mayagüez campus left a permanent memory in those who participated in it.