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.”