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Ear to the Ground

Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Moment

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Posted on Dec 13, 2011
Flickr / bogieharmond (CC-BY)

Still occupied: Occupy Wall Street activists march to the Goldman Sachs building in New York City on Dec. 12.

Whither Occupy Wall Street? That’s the question that’s been on the forefront of the young movement’s agenda since police forced participants out of New York City’s Zuccotti Park last month. As The Nation’s J.A. Myerson put it in his OWS update, differences among members’ priorities and approaches are causing friction, but the breakup of their Liberty Square encampment signifies a strategic shift, not the end of the line.  —KA

J.A. Myerson in The Nation:

The activist core of the occupation—the people who met over the summer in Tompkins Square Park, who set up and continue to participate in working groups and who spend their days in meetings—sees this as an Empire Strikes Back moment, taking the opportunity to plan actions and events for the winter. In the atrium at 60 Wall Street and in the Occupied Office at 50 Broadway, they are planning important things, chiefly the continuation of the Occupy Our Homes foreclosure resistance project that kicked off last week. They have their eye on the Jedi’s return.

There is nobility in responding to ones own homelessness by working hard that everyone else might have a home. But elsewhere the current lack of clarity—about what to do right now—is causing tensions to bubble over. Absent a park to keep clean, for instance, what is the function of the Sanitation Working Group? Or Medical or Comfort, for that matter? The fracturing of Occupy Wall Street from its camp has created two distinct populations: the activists—planning for the future—and the occupiers—confronting the current reality.

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By Alan MacDonald, December 22, 2011 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

Gandhi knew that he was confronting an obvious political, financial/economic, and militarist EMPIRE—- whereas most Americans do not yet understand at all that they need to confront a disguised Empire.

In point of fact, the corporate/financial/militarist ‘global’ EMPIRE that now controls our former country (and several others, like UK, Israel, etc.) by hiding behind the facade of its multiparty modernized ‘Vichy’ sham of faux-democratic and totally illegitimate government, more effectively than the Nazi Empire ever hid behind its crude single party ‘Vichy’ facade in France, is the ultimate target that any successful Occupy movement in “The Coming Insurrection” [Negri] “Against Empire” [Parenti] will need to diagnose, expose, confront, and excise as an “Empire of Illusions” [Hedges] if a Global People’s Dream of democracy is to have any chance of reversing the loss of a perverted American Dream and learn something from “Why America Failed” [Morris Berman] because of empire.

Now however, it is very encouragin­g indeed to see that the Occupy message of confrontin­g the camouflaged Empire that has ‘captured’ and now ‘occupies’ our former country, by hiding behind a two-party ‘Vichy’ facade, has spread from Occupy Washington to Occupy Iowa — as the Des Moines protestors at faux-Emper­or Obama’s office demanded: “To fulfill the Occupy Wall Street movement’s call to return our country’s economic and political life back to the 99%, we will need a president who will make the dismantlin­g of the U.S. military empire their number one foreign policy priority”.

This Occupying Empire is not merely the military Empire but the entire integrated corporate/financial/militarist Empire of cancer that is the seminal cause of all our ‘symptom problems’ such as; increasing imperialis­t wars abroad, vast economic inequality at home, Wall Street ‘looting’, domestic spying and lying, environmen­tal destructio­n, etc. etc.

As the fundamental message of the Occupy movement “Against Empire” spreads from Occupy Washington, to Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Des Moines, and all the Occupy elements in the US the focus will broaden from the economic ‘symptoms’ that started Occupy to the disguised Empire which is the causal cancer underlying all aspects of our lives which Empire infects—- and the Empire itself will be first exposed from its “Vichy” government disguise, then confronted, and finally excised, like the cancerous tumor that Empire is!
Best luck and love to Occupy Empire.

Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

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By gerard, December 14, 2011 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

A country as broad, as diverse, as undereducated,as heavily propagandized, as devoted to materialism, as disempowered as the U.S. is going to require time to sort things out.  OWS is the beginning of that sorting process. Here it will be one thing, there something else.  The underlying unity will be in the amount and speed of information-sharing and the breadth of decision-making. I don’t see a sudden unification but a variety of persistent local actions, learning from experience and inter-related by the over-reaching idea of democratic participation to reclaim a “feel” for “one nation, indivisible.” Breadth of view is essential.
  Persistence is what will count more than anything—and persistence is hard to create and maintain in a nation of spoiled in-activists. Factors like continued unemployment, continued sense of “there’s got to be a better way” and continued experieces of small successes will keep things moving in the direction of a cumulative sense of achievement and effective direction.  This movement may be unlike any other, and we should allow for that possibility and encourage it.  That’s my gut feeling.

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By akaKen, December 14, 2011 at 6:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Part of the problem with the #Occupy movement and coming to terms with understanding it is that we don’t have a real model of what a Democracy looks like. I think Eric Holder’s recent comments support that.

As far as the workers effected by the port protests, here is an open letter from the American Port Drivers that show how we’re all in this together.

The majority of the people are hurting, frustrated and need reel hope if not real change. The poeple want accountability from their government with respect to Liberty and Justice for All.

Here is what the movement looks like.
“#Occupy” (Exodus)
“#Occupy Protest Song“

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By do over, December 14, 2011 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

By mrfreeze, December 13 at 10:54 pm Link to this comment

“Do over - you are suggesting the general strike I’ve mentioned many times but most
commentators on these boards reject it out of hand.”

I was answering a challenge by Robspierre to list a few potential ideas for possible actions against the banks.  The focus needs to remain directly on the Banks if they are to be brought down to size.  To me a general strike suggests something much more inclusive; however, perhaps it can be shoehorned into that concept, not sure. 

Some people attempt to play it safe and get others to provide the controversial ideas rather than doing it themselves.  If one is going to play it safe, why even comment on the movement for change as Robspierre does.  He seems academically engaged only.

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By mrfreeze, December 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm Link to this comment

Do over - you are suggesting the general strike I’ve mentioned many times but most
commentators on these boards reject it out of hand.

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By do over, December 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment

Robespierre115, I can list potential ideas but Occupy must make the proposals and get consensus before taking action.  Maybe stopping payments on unsecured loans like credit cards; stopping student loan payments; stopping foreclosures via direct action prohibiting police from delivering eviction notices or evicting; boycotting the big banks worldwide; assembling on the streets where high level bank executives live; demonstrating and possibly occupying the Federal Reserve; blocking traffic to and from the big banks; asking small businesses to boycott the big banks; asking citizens to sell their stocks in big banks; asking truck drivers to stop deliveries to big banks; asking tradesmen and repairmen not to service the needs of big banks; asking trash haulers not to pick up the trans at big banks; asking big bank employees to withold their excelence; refuse to pay taxes if Washington continues to bail out big banks; mail letters and packages in sufficient numbers to screw up the mail of big banks; and a host of other creative ideas that would be generated by others.  Is it worth a try?  I know the majority of the public would support these things and the movement would grow as a result.

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By mrfreeze, December 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

Robespierre115, Gerard, do over - You’re all expressing great ideas. In fact, there are a lot of Americans who are open to and actually have “great ideas” on how to change this country….but change will not come….Americans are too bigoted, too fat & lazy and far too propagandized to know that they are their own worst enemies. The war against the wealthy elites simply cannot be won unless and until there is a fundamental change in our collective values. OWS is a great “idea,” without a leader, without a plan and, when presented to the American people, it’s a cause without an interested audience….let alone actual players. When OWS is attempting to close down the Ports here on the W. Coast (I live in Seattle), they succeed in pissing off the very low-paid workers they presume to represent. When they “occupy” physical space anywhere near a business or neighborhood, those interests get pissed off. TV audiences listen to the politicians, police and journalists report on the feces and drugs, etc. at the encampments. It’s as if revolution is supposed to be nice and clean, sanitized, civilized, un-profane. Unless and until literally MILLIONS of Americans take to the streets, unified and defiant….....until Americans engage in some huge general strikes against the corporate czars, we will realize no fundamental changes in “the system.”

But boy oh boy…...can those Americans get out there and shop… that gets millions of us off our fucking fat lazy asses and out there in the streets!!!!!!

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By Robespierre115, December 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

@do over, but again, you’re proposing a broad, vague idea without anything else. Should the banks be nationalized, heavily regulated (and if so, how?) etc. Nobody is proposing ideas, just shouts. Behind the banks stands the oligarchy, behind the oligarchy stands the capitalist system etc.

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By do over, December 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

It’s the banks stupid !  The Occupy movement will burn itself out attempting to solve the everyday problems of existence.  If that is what a particular Occupy group decides to do then that is their decision.  I would council that the Banks remain the villians and the primary target.  The movement will grow by confronting the banks because people understand that until they are cut down to size absolutely nothing will change.

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By Robespierre115, December 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

That’s the problem with the postmodern jargon, last chance FOR WHAT? People are well aware that the system is a major problem, most people by now do want actual democracy and have lost much faith in the current order of things, OWS really doesn’t need to struggle hard to “inform” people. One issue is that many average joes have to go to work, raise and provide for a family and deal with every other issue in LIFE, they most likely already support OWS without having to sit in a tedious “General Assembly.” The reason the “ruling class” doesn’t cooperate is because it doesn’t see you as a threat, more like an annoying fly it brushes off and once smashed doesn’t do much of anything else. People have already caught on, but if OWS can only offer slogans and vague concepts then you’re not going to see the masses risk themselves for you.

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By gerard, December 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

But on the other hand ... ?

Realizing that the problems of our government and economic system are so
complicated, and have deliberately been allowed to fester unsolved for
decades… ?

And considering the fact that promoting a new way of viewing problems (broad
democratic involvement) and a new basically innovative method for solving
them (non-violent action) requires time for millions of previously uninvolved
people to “catch on” ...

Plus attempting at the same time to not only inform people (without the
cooperation of dedicated public media) plus the lack of interest and
cooperation from the “ruling class” (government, business, courts, military)

Plus random attacks from sources advocating belligerence and sabotage ...

Occupy is doing pretty well, steering a rational course through land mines.
Don’t kock it!  Understand the difficulties, and help where you can.  This may be
our last chance—literally.

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By Robespierre115, December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

A big problem here is that where else can OWS go? It grabbed the world’s attention, it has turned into a house hold term etc. But now what? It feels like people are trying to hold on to the hope that the movement is still strong, and maybe it is, but the big question is it will progress into anything other than a term for doing a little civil disobedience, venting (legitimate) grievances and just PROTESTING but with no serious expectations of anything more than that.

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