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Occupy Has Generated a Multitude of Activist Networks

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
14th January 2013


The next big idea might very well not be called “Occupy”, which may be a good thing — but the chances are high that, even so, it will be the result of networks that were forged during the Occupy movement.

Excerpted from an interview of Nathan Schneider, conducted by Joel Dietz:

‘What did Occupy Wall Street succeed at? What did it fail at?

It very powerfully succeeded at introducing activists from around the country to one another and turned a lot of people into activists that weren’t before. It produced a tremendous number of networks, both online and offline, which continue to mobilize people on a number of fronts, though few are still called Occupy.

It also won a ton of disparate victories in communities across the country, from small and large labor disputes, a dramatic reduction in stop and frisks in New York, to the overturning of regulations concerning the policing of the homeless in various cities. It strengthened and encouraged various types of political organization as well as turned movements into international networks around the world that didn’t exist before.

The movement failed at initiating a general strike on May Day last year, which many people had been looking forward to. It has also not been able to bring on significant changes in financial regulation, how the government deals with climate change or the foreclosure crisis. But those are some of the hardest nuts to crack in all of politics, and I suspect that when they are cracked, it will be hard to think about how it could have happened without Occupy.

What do you expect to see in New York in the future? More of the same activism or something different?

The Occupy subculture in New York has been changing and maturing gradually as a community. The recent Occupy Sandy relief effort has been tremendous — I believe it was the largest grassroots mobilization of volunteers in the wake of the hurricane. And the Rolling Jubilee, a project working to abolish debt, has won the approval of business magazines that scorned the movement before. Neither has involved arrests. A wave of low-wage worker struggles at fast-food restaurants and Walmart have also been receiving a lot of media attention. Despite these actions, I think there is still a lot of learning to do on how to engage communities and help them organize and resist corporate power.

Do you feel any sense of shared vision or hope from other places on the globe affected by Wall Street’s shortcomings?

Occupy Wall Street organizers are constantly discussing what other related movements around the world are doing, both on social media and in their own planning meetings. They are closely in touch with activists on the ground in many of these places. Every time Occupy Wall Street quiets down for a period time in the U.S., the organizers watch closely (and travel to) places where things are flaring up.

There’s a lot of admiration for the Québec students, for instance, who just claimed victory after a two year fight against a tuition hike. Occupy Wall Street folks are always eager to learn from similar struggles taking place elsewhere in the world. But things often also move very slowly — except in cases like Occupy Sandy, when suddenly things change very fast.

What innovation in this area do you think is in store for us in the future? What should we be getting excited about?

It’s hard to say what is going to blow up next. Certainly right now Occupy Sandy and Strike Debt are the fights to watch, in addition to the Walmart labor struggle. This is a movement that has an endless number of clever ideas appearing all the time, but it’s never clear which ones are going to rise above the rest until it happens. The next big idea might very well not be called “Occupy”, which may be a good thing — but the chances are high that, even so, it will be the result of networks that were forged during the Occupy movement.”

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3 Responses to “Occupy Has Generated a Multitude of Activist Networks”

  1. Ree Says:

    As being an activist of Occupy Houston, I can confirm that other activist groups have been created from different arms of Occupy. For example, Occupy Houston, along with other activist groups in Houston have created a group called the Peaceful Street Project-Houston. Which this group goes out once a month and ensures that various citizens are not violated, harassed or brutalized by Houston police. This being done because Houston Police have been under fire for randomly shooting different citizens for little to no good reason-bottom line, it’s a result of being trigger happy. This is just one example of groups branching out of Occupy. There are hundreds more across the nation. So while the gov’t might assume Occupy is dead, we’re not. We’ve woven our way into other groups including Occupy that allow us more power to fight this corrupted system.

  2. Markus Petz Says:

    Interesting that it is seen to have achieved something. Over here in Europe the main thing it seems to have done is to become an internet meme that people used to highlight there was an issue. SO stick the word Occupy in front of something.

    Occupy yourself, Occupy reality and occupy X!

    It does not seem to have achieved anything else. Sure there are some people that came into activism – as there will always be new people at any event or happening that has a lot of commitment (its a moot point if they would not have come in anyway through Rainbows, Cultural Creative type societal shifts or Stop the War movements in the case of Occupy). But real change? Nope I can see all these things about the movement in the Alterglobalization, the works of Negri, Klein, Hawken and others years ago where there was a talk of the Movement of Movememts.

    As for now I see what happened in the Arab Spring, the Indignantes in Spain or protest movements in Greece as predating the Occupy brand and doing pretty much the same thing. If not deeper and more connected.

    The only 2 things that might be significant are this homeless rights and less frisking by the police. And I would want to wait maybe a year and see if things REALLY changed on that score.

    TO my mind if Occupy is to be successful they must move the Overton Window or at least prompt a different solution than was being conceived by the political elites.

    Perhaps that is a too harsh view? I do think activism is important and have been very engaged in actions for well over a decade. The USA has a long history of spawing movements that have been instrumental in world change making: Rainbow Family of Living Light, Friends of the Earth being 2 I have interacted with, BUT as of yet I do not see Occupy transforming in the way these or others have.

  3. ORSANS Says:

    Yes this happened in North Africa, Spain and globally after occupy. I think these new experiences just added on the Zapatista and social forum experiences. What is really good is that the course of things has changes. Every body knows now that there is almost 100% certainty about something big is coming up. 15M and Occupy was just the tip of the iceberg. This thing, what ever it is evolving into, is growing and spreading. With the awakening of Zapatista and giant indigenous movement Idle No More, Yo Soy 132 in Mexico we can expect to see something shocking and awing in a positive sense, horrifying for the 1%. This call for European Spring (www.facebook.com/events/149675178522571/?notif_t=plan_user_invited) and the form it will take, and this gathering of all horizontal new movements towards, around and beyond the World Social Forum in Tunis in March (www.global-square.net/about/) might be giving the signals of what is ahead of us! Again it doesn’t matter what is looks like or called, what is important that it is coming and every body know it is coming. More the 1%…

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