An Analysis of the Successes and Failures of the Occupy Uprising, Occupy’s Comparison with Previous Recent U.S. Revolts, and What’s Likely to Occur Next
Occupy, of course, is not dead. The residue of the movement continues to smolder among the ruins of the Great Global Recession. An occasional flare-up bursts forth in protest here and there. In the underground of cyberspace, however, there lives a vibrant hum of activity. Instead of dramatic visibility in parks and streets, many in the Occupy movement carried their ideals, values, and freshly exercised practices away to their homes, farms, businesses, and neighborhoods.
A new alternative civilization is emerging from the osmosis of Occupy into the greater culture at large. A good term to describe this organic yet deliberate dynamic planetary community is the Breakthru Civilization. We’re breaking thru old paradigms and ways of being that no longer serve humanity as these obsolete ways aid in the destruction of life on Earth. Breakthru from love and respect for life to love and respect our selves, one another, and our planet. It is a difficult challenge to move forward towards hate, fear, and violence with compassion, forgiveness, and love armed with nothing more than aware minds, open hearts, and firm backbones. Yet this Breakthru accelerates the expansion of individual awareness and mass consciousness to understand and embrace Socialism as perhaps the only immediate alternative to the current system dominated by Capitalism and corporatist fascism.
The number of activists has dwindled since those promising days from September 2011 to May 2012. They certainly no longer reflect the greater 99%. Instead, Americans woke up to the reality of economic inequality and class war. Occupy called attention to this invisibly visible ugliness so vividly the topic of class warfare was debated among Republicans and Democrats during the 2012 Presidential Elections. Yet Occupy itself subsided into the nooks and crannies of local neighborhoods.
What happened? Especially after so much occurred in the beginning to astonish and galvanize people around our planet?
Before I answer those questions, we must acknowledge and celebrate Occupy’s multiple successes. Occupy left enough of a significant impact, certainly in the short term as this story has yet to run its course, to perhaps catalyze a larger and more multifaceted transformation than is often realized. It’s still too new. So let’s celebrate a few successes:
- Occupy Wall Street gave us a new definition to shout out loud as we stood for a paradigm shift. The term “occupy” has come to mean a level of conscious intention. Instead of mindlessly inhabiting any realm or deliberately conquering a state, we re-inhabit our Commons. We reclaim our Commons, our homes, our businesses, our biosphere, our planet, our neighborhoods with intention and direct action. Occupy doesn’t necessarily mean to take over as much as it means to wake up, clean up, and re-create. The definition is deepening as the movement continues to evolve and morph.
- The Occupy movement highlighted progressive disenchantment with President Obama as it stripped the U.S. Democrats of much of their Leftist support.
- Occupy’s emphasis on financial reform set the stage that helped propel the fierce and incisive Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a rare tell-it-like-it-is-and-I-have-a-plan-for-action reformer into the U.S. Senate. At the same time the Occupy movement within the United States resisted endorsing political candidates or becoming a new political party itself as it sought to welcome in other 99%ers.
- Occupy helped set forces in motion adding to the rupture of the Republican Party.
- Primarily, it drew attention to the gross abuses of power by big Wall Street financial institutions and large corporations.
- Secondarily, it drew attention to the stunningly swift militarization of police and paramilitaries with numerous violations of the U.S. Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, revised 1981.
- Thirdly, Occupy riled up the flagging Tea Party after the Koch Brothers’ coup d’état pushed out the Ron Paul Libertarians, gave the newly conquered Tea Party something to push back upon in their efforts to take over the Republican Party from the Neo-Cons. Many of the original Tea Party Republicans fled to the Libertarian Party.
- Large numbers of Americans were repulsed by the infighting, blatant sexism, racism, Christian fundamentalism, and warmongering within the Republicans, although about 47%-48% of those who cast ballots went on to vote for ex-Governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential elections ultimately won by sitting President Barack Obama.
- Occupy provided a welcome and healthy contrast to the stage theatrics of the Republican-Democrat two-headed serpent. In yet another sign many Americans have considered voting a meaningless exercise is only 58.7% of eligible U.S. citizens cast ballots for a Presidential candidate in November 2012, lower than 2008’s yet merely a little higher than the last four decades. That means 41.3% of eligible American voters did not vote at all.
- The Occupy movement gave inspiration to ongoing protest movements across the Middle East, Russia, Europe, and Iran that were struggling.
- Even the Bank of England, one of the pillars of the emerging Euro-American Global Empire dominated by banksters and Corporacrats, felt compelled to call for greater moral and ethical behavior among those within the financial industry. Bank of England publicly attributed this to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
- Occupy also left behind the memory of what happened, what could have been, what did not happen, and what was possible. If anything, the Occupy movement left behind a deep and widespread network of fertile imaginations and local groups still in action for any future movements to anchor themselves into.
- Occupy catalyzed novel forms of cooperative and community-oriented leadership. There was tremendous variety of socio-political meetings and alternative economy microbusiness experimentation going on. Digital telecommunications were leverage to network the movement around the planet as Occupy Earth.
- Occupied also catalyzed growing reevaluation of and renewed appreciation for Socialism with a corresponding realization the Capitalism system imposed by the Rich classes is so hostile to working people and to Earth’s biosphere it must be overthrown and replaced.
- The Occupy Movement insisted on nonviolence and civil disobedience. There were exceptions such as the Rome riots in Italy and the brief, violent insurrection in the United Kingdom. Many forget the Arab Spring started out as peaceful demonstrations. They degenerated into violence and in some cases revolution and civil war as a reaction to the harsh violence of nation-state regimes to crush the Arab Spring.
- Otherwise, Occupy demonstrations, while noisy and unruly affairs, were kept peaceful. Many rallies and protests were self-policing. The drive to maintain peace and nonviolence was intentional as the early Occupy people knew violence would escalate out of control, invite retaliation from riot police, and lose the support of the rest of the 99%ers.
- Occupy won many to their side because of their stand for nonviolence. The seemingly endless tent cities in public parks and city squares began to wear on many small business owners and merchants. The bulk of the violence, however, was provoked and instigated by heavily armed police and other security and intelligence forces.
The harsh ugliness of the police crackdown surprised many Americans and other Westerners, and they woke up to see how militarized, surveillance-savvy, and aggressive the police have become in our countries. This wake-up call to see the security monsters we created in our post-1999 and post-9/11 midst with militarized police teaming with intelligence agents infiltrating Occupy groups and provoking clashes with police to give the police excuses to crack down proved to be one of Occupy’s most important tho unpleasant gift to the public.
- Occupy Wall Street spread around the world and gave birth to overarching networks such as Occupy Earth!, Occupy Everywhere!, and Occupy Everything! People gathered to take public stands from Antarctica to the Arctic.
- The movement also expanded in the other direction, too, going inwards to embrace mindfulness, emotional discipline, spiritual interconnections, compassion, and the inner worlds of mind, heart, guts, and soul. We saw these awakenings expressed as Occupy Love, Occupy Within, Occupy Hearts, and even Occupy Yourself! One could make a valid point this reflects an integration of spirituality with socio-political activism. This trend was first recognized and its participants called the Cultural Creatives by researchers Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson back in 2000. The Cultural Creative awakening was another promising movement derailed by the 9/11 attacks.
- Occupy’s strength was so extraordinarily inclusive to the point it was challenging to address so many different proposals and issues. Many viewed this process as weakness, chaotic, and naïve. There was some truth to such views.
This perception of weakness, however, overlooked the wild, desperate, and inspired energy of people who lost jobs, savings, investments, homes, businesses, loved ones, college tuition funds for their children, and retirement funds for their elders in this Recession. They’d even lost hope…until Occupy rose up on Wall Street to spread across the nation and the world.
After all, there were many families foreclosed out onto the streets. These people came alive in their collective grief, love, and joy to realize a new sense of purpose. Their communal strength, depth, ethics, and seething creativity manifested surprisingly pragmatic blends of vision and hard work. These disenfranchised Americans didn’t merely “join” the Occupy movement. They made it happen. They were Occupy.
- Despite the mainstream mass media obsessive focus on the boring, old, redundant perception one couldn’t pin Occupy down with a specific identity or political-party type structure, Occupy volunteers crafted an amazing Declaration of Principles. The New York City General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street deliberated, crafted, and unanimously and anonymously adopted it in late September 2011 with a few minor revisions since.
This inclusive diversity was not what ended the mass movement in the streets but sustained it as these spontaneously self-organizing structures allowed anyone who wanted to have a voice to do so. This demonstrated the effectiveness of cooperative democratic anarchism in socio-political practice. This gave rise to a shared sense of solidarity with fellow 99%ers around the world.
- Yes, there were mistakes and abuses of power. Yes, many of those among the homeless underclasses who flocked to a movement where others of the 99% welcomed them instead of ignoring or ridiculing them did have alcohol and drug addiction problems, criminal behavior, and neuropsychological illnesses.
Still, considering the speed and turbulence of those times, the point is the very people the middle and upper classes found repulsive and scary were recognized and welcomed as never before. Many in those higher-up classes were now out in the streets and woods and recognized themselves in the dirty faces of fellow citizens they once dismissed as Postmodern lepers. That is a social revolution of community!
- Perhaps most importantly, the Occupy movement woke more and more citizens up to how badly Capitalism has failed humanity. It woke people up to the reality there are alternatives to Capitalism with the realization such alternatives including Socialism and Communism were and still are often misunderstood and feared as well as new ones created for today in the 21st Century CE. Yes, I’ve mentioned this before in this essay, and I cannot emphasize how vitally important this understanding is. My sense it is historical.
Occupy woke up disenfranchised individuals to what was possible, as they reclaimed their lives and reimagined the power of collective, democratic action.
Capitalism & Fascism vs. Communism
Yes, Capitalism has seethed with many internal reform movements ranging from Social Credit to today’s Conscious, Natural, Libertarian, Democratic, and Integral Capitalism. Yet as a distinction Capitalism has been collapsed into government politics and confused with Democracy even though the result is Authoritarian government and a so-called “free market” dominated by Finance Capitalism. The latter goes by three other labels, by the way, as Finance Capitalism is also known as Predatory, Crony, and Disaster Capitalism. There’s a reason this once hallowed abomination earned such labels. What results is Fascism, fascism with a little “f” to help cloak a creeping dictatorship pretending to be a democratic republic.
Historically, the same thing occurred with Marxism and other forms of Communism. Communism and Capitalism are both primarily economic systems confused as political ones. The first so-called “Communist state,” the Soviet Union, especially after Josef Stalin wrested control of the U.S.S.R. from the post-Lenin troika, was not remotely Communist. Stalinism set the stage for the collapse and therefore severe corruption and distortion of Marxism into a militarized dictatorship of the state. Subsequent “Communist” regimes modeled on Stalinism, such as Maoist China and Cambodia, were not Marxist or Communist at all but Fascist tyrannies masquerading as democratic worker’s cooperatives.
The Capitalists with their corporate lust for imperial colonies oft maligned the early soviets or councils. Yet these soviets engaged in more direct and participatory forms of democracy than the limited, representative democracies of the West that were coopted by banksters and their corporate allies. As primarily industrial workers created the early 20th Century revolutionary soviets and soldiers with a mix of academics and rural peasants, the early 21st Century Occupy camps with their local General Assemblies were in essence a new form of citizen soviet-like councils connected worldwide by digital technologies. Many of the old soviets lacked even telephones and electricity.
So what did happen? Remember, so much occurred in the beginning. People were astonished. They felt inspired. They joined together and accomplished unexpected results as well as magnificent failures.
These successes demonstrated the lies we’ve all been fed from both sides of the “War of the Isms.” People discovered that individuals inside collectives do indeed take not just initiative but BOLD initiative. Decentralized networks of collectives connected by near-instantaneous telecommunications technologies proved highly effective in fluid distributions of power and in achieving results. Socialism with its practices of local community organizing, internationalism, and democratic centralism grew in popularity in seemingly exponential leaps and bounds as a clear and desirable complement to Democracy and as a sharp alternative to Capitalism and Fascism
Competition between individuals and between groups toward shared goals energized cooperative behavior. Conflict as well as issues of leadership can be managed and resolved within organically evolving groups even if such groups appear as unruly mobs on the outside.
Human initiative, envisioning, loyalty, and work ethics blossom within structures that allow for dynamic and creative emergence combined with the discipline to implement action. What is also clear these same qualities die within the stifling authoritarian structures of both rigid capitalist corporate businesses and the centralized command businesses of those unfortunately and inappropriately labeled “communist.”
We are still developing and evolving new structures. This historic transition of which Occupy is only a small yet vibrant part of it is a treasure trove for organizational development consultants, social anthropologists, and systems theorists to research, cultivate, and facilitate. True collectives are not run by centralized command and control. That is for military, security, fire and rescue, and other rapid-response forces. At the same time, however, any successful movement among social primates, which we humans are, requires leadership, whether authoritarian, representative, or cooperative. Successful teams require each person to step up and take responsibility. Cooperative businesses are a growing trend, too.
Collective and cooperative groups self-govern in different manners, including group consensus, majority vote, direct or participatory democracy, and democratic centralism. These approaches all can involve deep levels of deliberation among choices before final agreements are arrived at. Occupy folks got to experiment and implement a broad range of individual and group political power sharing.
The biggest challenge were the frustrations experienced when a core group evolved from activists on the scene found it difficult to relay and implement agreements when newcomers from the 99% were constantly arriving and leaving. At the same time, it gave people, many for whom Occupy was the first time they took a stand for something important in their lives, opportunities to train, experiment, and practice. Occupy was an organically evolving revolution. Veteran activist and visionary Tom Atlee’s Co-Intelligence Institute describes what more and more of us social beings are realizing as “co-intelligence,” short for collective and cooperative intelligence versus “co-stupidity.”
Occupy galvanized men and women people around our planet! Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Earth was unable to sustain itself as a populist mass movement, however, and receded into the activist subcultures.
Occupy’s Missed Opportunities and Failures amid the Resurgence of Class Warfare
Before I answer those questions concerning what I observed to have “gone wrong,” I first recognized the following:
- There is and was not any “99% versus 1%.”
- North Americans and especially U.S. Americans are among the most class-blinded people on Earth. Socio-economic classes are not rigidly stratified as they were in feudal Eurasia or in the slave-holding American states, and they exist. The Industrial and Post-Industrial Ages led to not less class stratification and classism but to more of it. Witness increased class fracturing, classism, and class warfare.
- The 99% is really an umbrella term for a vast array of classes cutting across ethnic, religious, gender, age, and political lines with increasing volatility and inter-class strife as the 1% engages, deliberately or unconsciously or half-awake, in the age old strategies of divide and conquer. Today the different classes at kept at each other’s throats over hot-button emotionally intense social and religious issues. Many are so caught up in wage and debt slavery trying to survive while being brainwashed by toxic news and toxins in our food and medicines.
- In the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election campaigns, controversy erupted over percentages. Republican candidate ex-Governor Mitt Romney claimed 47% of Americans live off Federal “entitlements.” Some economists claim it between 50-51% and many of those on it are not “welfare bums,” a dismissive term for those trapped in poverty, but the elderly receiving Medicare and Social Security and the middle class entitlements for many of those who’ve lost jobs, businesses, savings, homes, etc.
- The percentage of poor Americans spiked at over 16% in late 2012, and a number of analysts believed it to be much higher when upper and middle class people who’ve lost homes and financial wealth were factored in or if those on disability were added to the unemployment roles. For example as of March 2013 about 14,000,000 Americans drew disability checks, many of them because they’re simply cannot find work, or are too old to get higher education, too injured to stand and work but too uneducated or unskilled to sit and work, or are unable to relocated from regions they’ve spent their whole lives in. As Americans migrate through the bureaucracy and end up on disability, they are bureaucratically removed from the rolls of the unemployed.
- In addition, many Americans who want to work have given up, and with their unemployment benefits came to an end or unable to draw disability, have become homeless, squatters, or move around between friends and relatives. They drop off the rolls. Furthermore, there are undetermined numbers of small business owners and self-employed independent contractors who have lost their businesses and yet remain unaccounted for as they cannot draw unemployment. Thus the numbers of people actually unemployed are much higher. It’s bad enough, unfortunately, to cuss, “There’s a lot of folks who’re shit outa luck.” We witness the development of a new and shockingly large underclass trapped in near-permanent Depression.
- Anecdotally, there are increasing numbers of people who still identify as middle class by virtue of education, class background, or a once higher status who lost it in this Great Global Recession. As a result they became financially poor and now live below the poverty line.
- The so-called 1% is probably closer to 3% – 5% when their Allies are factored into the mix. A more relevant term, albeit a mouthful is the Global Financial and Power Elites and their Allies. One can say the true 1% is closer to those in those hypercompartmentalized and highly classified factions of the so-called Breakaway Civilization buried deep within the Global Elites. The wealthiest of the 1%, the super-rich plutocrats, live as the top 0.01% and continue to amass prodigious amounts of wealth via compound interest upon capital aggregated within their sophisticated financial structures including offshore tax havens in non-tax treaty jurisdictions.
- The majority of “Allies” are the middle class people who work for these international elites in the military/security-industrial/corporate-education/prison-intelligence/surveillance complex. Those “Allies” constitute a significant chunk of “the 99%.” They supported the Elites, too, from a mix of fear (not wanting to lose jobs, benefits, and power), loyalty (in alignment with the political and/or religious beliefs of the Elites as understood by these Allies), and ignorance (few have or make the time to “take the red pill” to find out what is really going on “behind the curtains” of extreme wealth and power.
- America is a pluralistic nation-state of many socio-economic classes engaged in frequent if not always visible class warfare.
- See above. There are more classes than merely the Rich, the Middle Class, and the Poor. Each has distinct levels and subdivisions, too. Old money, new money. The rich, the ultrarich, the superwealthy, the megarich, the 1%, 3%, 5%, etc. and depending upon industry, ethnic and national origins, religions, and secret societies.
- The Middle Class is often divided between the upper and lower middle classes. The terms professional versus working classes are used, too. Bourgeois and proletariat, managers and labor, political and industrial, academic and intelligentsia, soldiers and officers, farmers, etc.
- The Working Classes are a mix of Middle and Poor. Generally speaking, working people depend on wages and salaries from their jobs rather than primarily from investing into compound interest-bearing capital assets. I would include solopreneurs and other kinds of small business owners.
- The Poor have levels, too, often divided more by race and ethnicity than finances. The upper and middle classes keep the poor divided by race and racial antagonism over scarce resources and positions “close to power.”
- Currently we see increasing numbers of both wealthy and poor with the middle class declining in numbers, power, and wealth.
- The enormous size of the baby boomer class also has an impact as the boomers transition into their elder years during a deep and extended recession coupled with endless wars. Many of the baby boomers contributed greatly to society since the boomer heydays of the 1960s, then many of them lost their wealth during this Recession at the same time many were retiring, had retired, or planned to retire. Many such boomers joined the younger generations on the streets and in the encampments of the Occupy movement.
- In America our class strata is as visible as the trees and buildings before us yet as invisible as the air we move through.
- There is a significant lack of civic education in America. There is little understanding, too, that capitalism, socialism, and communism are economic systems and monetary policies distinct from politics and government. For example, a republic, which the U.S.A. is, can be democratic, socialist, totalitarian, Islamic, or a constitutional monarchy. The U.S.A. is sliding from a limited democratic republic towards becoming a quasi-fascist republic. Occupy sought to wake up people to this shift and reclaim our Republic for Socialism and Democracy.
- It has been demonstrated in psychological studies those of one ethnic group who commit atrocities including genocide against those of other ethnic groups do not or refused to see themselves as engaged in genocide and war crimes. They do, however, easily observe the same atrocities when committed by another ethnic group upon others. The same principle applies to capitalism and communism.
Those in capitalist economies refuse to directly acknowledge and accept the many millions of human beings who died as a result of Capitalism and still are dying. It is easy, however, for capitalists to point out many millions of people died under Communism. And vice versa as well. Another factor complicating our understanding of these dynamics is Capitalism takes pride in being capitalism even as the massive deaths associated with Capitalism is ignored.
What was called Communism, however, under Stalin and Mao and their ilk, was not at all Communism nor reflective of Marx’s clearly spelled out approach to addressing class warfare and establishing Communism.
What we see is Fascism in three forms: 1) the extreme totalitarianism of Mussolini, Hitler, and the Axis empires where the melding of party and corporation dominated the state, 2) the extreme totalitarianism of Stalin, Mao, and the “Communists” who misappropriated Marxism and the Reds to establish a centralized command economy in which the Party dominated both the state and the economy, and 3) today’s Postmodern version as we see in North America and the European Union where Big Banks and large corporations directed by private wealth and central banks in turn control the economy and the state in neo-feudalism and “little-f” fascism.
- Nonviolence is a philosophy and civil disobedience is a tactic. Their application may not be the most appropriate or successful in every occasion when state violence is visited upon peaceful demonstrators. A rough analogy is the grossly misnamed Global War on Terror (or Terrorism). Terrorism is a tactic, the deliberate targeting of soft, civilian targets to sow fear, terror (an emotional reaction to extreme fear and anxiety), and horror. Terrorism is criminal and often backfires, although those engaging in actions labeled “terrorism” believe themselves to be “freedom fighters” while the other side justifies state and military terrorism as “unfortunate but necessary collateral damage.”
- A significant opportunity was lost when early proposals to seek a Venn diagram-style model of common ground between Occupy and the Tea Party and between the Greens and Socialists versus the Libertarians and Constitutionalists. After all, aren’t we all part of this 99%?
The original Tea Party people were Ron Paul Libertarians and Constitutionalists. They named themselves after the 1773 Boston Tea Party attacks by the Sons of Liberty on the monopolistic, proto-corporate and monarchist tax regimes whose abuses and tyranny triggered the American Revolution.
Take note the Boston Tea Party, romanticized and upheld in the heroic mythos of Colonial American Revolutionary history, engaged in a deliberate and violent destruction of private property. As such the Boston Tea Party was a thumb in the eye of emergent, post-mercantile Capitalism as the protestors assaulted the products themselves.
These Sons of Liberty went on to tar and feather those they disapproved of, pour boiling tea down the throats of their victims, hung hangman’s nooses in prominent public places, skirmished with British troops, and attacked British ships. They even managed to burn one such hated British customs schooner down to the waterline and shot and wounded its commander.
This is no different from today’s protestors throwing stones through the large glass windows of Big Banks and Corporatocratic department stores selling products made abroad by slave labor. At least these so-called “Anarchist vandals” did not detain prisoners, smear toxic tar over their bodies, pour boiling liquids down these people’s throats, or set ships or tanker trucks afire.
As the British East India Company and the British Crown, including the imperial tax regime, were deeply enmeshed in the domination of the markets and governments of Colonial America, the same can be said today of the network of central banks, big banks, and transnational corporations dominating governments and markets.
This “Venn diagram opportunity” was lost, however, when the Koch Brothers moved in to hijack the Tea Party and forced out the Ron Paul Libertarians. The opportunity lost was the possibility of two large groups among the 99% recognizing what they shared in common despite significant differences to work together to transform the political landscape of the United States.
- Another opportunity of an unknown quantity was the effects of the Arab Spring. This wave of unrest broke out in Tunisia in December of 2010 and spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Non-Arab populations such as Turks, Persians, Berbers, Tuaregs, Israelis, Kurds, Sub-Saharan Africans, and Europeans were directly affected and became involved.
The uprisings of the Arab Spring began as largely peaceful and were facilitated by the Postmodern explosion of digital audio-video and telecommunications technologies. Social media was not widespread or easily accessible during the Anti-Globalization Revolt. It became widespread during the Arab Spring. Facebook, Twitter, and blogging as well as others became the primary means for rapid communications around the world.
Massed peaceful protests, however, eventually degenerated into mass violence as regime military and security forces assaulted peaceful demonstrators. The Arab Spring fell into the throes of messy revolutions or fragmented into civil war.
The early successes of the Arab Spring, which appeared in the mainstream mass media as nonviolent even though they were indeed quite violent, inspired Occupy Wall Street in September and October of 2011. The Occupy movement also skillfully leveraged Internet and smartphone technologies. The graphic violence of the Arab Spring including the Iranian revolts galvanized Occupy to remain nonviolent in the face of armed police provocation were broadcast moment-to-moment via social media.
Occupy followed with the same strategies. Social media quickly became a powerful tool for both movements to quickly raise awareness and generate support across our planet. The spread of Occupy Wall Street across the world as a greater Occupy Earth also continue to inspire and motivate the Arab Spring.
- The Occupy Movement was not truly prepared as protests and encampments spread across the globe. How to synchronize planet-wide actions across time zones, languages, religions, and cultures even with digital technologies proved daunting.
- The horrific violence of the Arab Spring as well as memories of the violence of the Anti-Globalization Revolt reinforced the Occupy movement’s intention to remain nonviolent. At the same time, however, one can argue Occupy’s refusal to engage in organized violent self-defense or to go over onto the offensive against the state regimes doomed it to being crushed by the security forces of Empire and eventually dismissed, even ridiculed by the Mainstream Mass Media. It was contrary to many of those among the Occupy movement to even conceive of amassing weapons and engage in military-style training such as those “Patriot” militias did and still do on the Far Right.
- The majority of the 99% would’ve been happy to get a job with benefits without going further to transform the system where small numbers of people profited at the expense of so many others and thus allowed people to loose almost everything.
We, and, yes, I say “we” as I considered myself a participant within the Occupy uprisings although I did not take part in the direct, participatory democracy of local general meetings. I chose to observe meetings, ask questions of those in meetings, and left to honor childcare agreements with Kristina, my wife at that time. Even with so many people coming together to re-create grass roots direct democracy, such was no match for the abuse of armed force wielded against Occupy. The militarized security forces of the Empire of the 1% crushed us.
We were infiltrated by spies and under surveillance, which would be expected by those in authority concerned primarily with maintained order to foster illusions of stability amid a climate of war and recession.
We were infiltrated by agents provocateurs. This would be expected in an authoritarian regime. We didn’t expect such harassment in our naïveté in a big unruly and pluralistic Democracy. but would not necessarily be so in nation-states proclaiming themselves as constitutional democratic republics of one kind or another.
We failed to gained active support from the majority of the vaunted 99%. By the end we not only failed to enroll them further but toward the end also alienated them. I felt somewhat alienated by the end myself. Furthermore, this allowed the corporate mainstream mass media to turn initially sympathetic folks against us. The mainstream news, generally speaking, portrayed us as a bunch of smelly, narcissistic hippies, punks, and deranged addicts who deserved to be locked up for tenting and pooping and squabbling in public parks and along the streets and whatnot.
One watching the mainstream news rarely saw images of middle class families with children, professionals, and foreclosed-out-of-their-homes regular folks down in the camps and streets with Occupy. Instead one saw a few minutes of high drama to hold one’s attention to be bombarded by psychologically-savvy commercial breaks to run out and go shopping once the news was over. Occupy campers set up kitchens, port-a-potties, recycling centers, and first aid stations in numerous locations, although, yes, conditions deteriorated toward the end under the relentless assault of heavily armed Police forces as Winter approached.
Winter remains a force of reckoning for those living out of doors even with high-tech equipment and clothing, and many didn’t have those items. In numerous Modern wars winter conditions have brought great hardship and sometimes defeat to even the best armies on the planet.
The Federal Government kept a certain distance from the Occupy movement although federal agencies including the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and so forth were certainly involved. The brunt of the grunting was left to cities, counties, and states and their security forces.
Comparisons of the Occupy Movement with Previous Uprisings in America
Demonstrators and police have evolved greatly in the sophistication of their strategies and tactics. It seems both are caught up in the classic case common to warfare everywhere where one side tries to leapfrog ahead of the other. Let’s start at the beginning, back to the extended turmoil often referred to as “the 60s.”
America endured what was for all practical purpose a disorganized, multi-sided, and intermittent quasi-revolution/semi-civil war. It began in the mid-1950s, although some would say it began with the Battle of Hollister, CA, in 1947. This series of conflicts continued through the 50s, peaked in the 60s, and ended in 1975 with the end of Watergate and the demise of the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Weather Underground. This time of troubles in many ways ended in a draw without any clear-cut victor. One result was the education and experience developed and improved over time between elements of the military, police, security, and intelligence on one side and radicals, revolutionaries, rioters, protestors, and guerrillas on the other.
There was another round of violence between government agencies and heavily armed Far Right Wing militia or “Patriot” groups and racist White Supremacist paramilitaries. This violence began to grow prevalent in the early 1980s.There was an upsurge of warfare between drug gangs and the race riots of 1992. This period of intermittent insurrections subsided soon after the horror and shock of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
The lesson from this period was the level and sophistication of heavily armed and disciplined groups small in number disproportion to the incredible level of destruction wrought. Federal, state, and local governments began to militarized police and other domestic security units. They increased general surveillance of domestic radical groups for the first time since the 60s and early 70s. Technology advanced exponentially, including the Internet, and was leveraged in cunning ways by many of the players of this still unnamed conflict.
The Anti-Globalization Revolts broke out across the planet in the late 1990s, including the Battle of Seattle in 1999. It was essentially a revolutionary world war of sorts by the “awakened general public” against the neo-fascist, banker and corporate domination of nation-state regimes viewed as an emerging, dictatorial New World Order. The non-democratic, authoritarian World Trade Organization, or WTO, was the primary institution targeted by tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the world and from the Right to the Left during the Battle of Seattle.
“Globalization” at that time was viewed by many as the domination and exploitation of people and the environment around the planet by the global financial elite. Massed hordes of demonstrators surged in rebellion against massed phalanxes of police and military. Small groups of violent revolutionaries weaved in and out of often-nonviolent crowds wreaking havoc.
In the beginning, the security forces were overwhelmed and reactive. They soon learned from their failures and returned to the demonstrations as heavily armed and disciplined formations. Militarization of domestic security took another great leap toward fascism.
In the beginning, the Anti-globalization protestors were largely peaceful and deplored the violence of relatively small numbers of “anarchist gangs.” The demonstrators leveraged cell phones, digital cameras, and the Internet to communicate among them and to sway public opinion to their causes.
Nonviolence positions began to deteriorate later during these revolts as militarized police forces countered peaceful protests with ruthless violence, tall barricades, and effective containment strategies. Protesters fought back fiercely with primitive weapons in what many termed “police riots” as “the cops” were held to provoke much of the violence or dramatically escalate violent crackdowns on mostly peaceful if loud and noisy crowds.
The capitalist pockets were plenty deep enough to finance the counterrevolution. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 snuffed out this revolt even though a few more riots and uprisings would continue on into 2002. The world was distracted as priorities shifted into a nasty and protracted Global War on Terrorism, also known as the Global Long War.
By the time Occupy Wall Street erupted and spread around the planet, demonstrators had learned certain lessons from past revolts. So they came preferred. Occupy protestors would not outfit themselves with heavy firepower as the Militia movement did and go train in the woods. To do so would be viewed and smeared as criminal insurrectionists and associated in the public mind as no better than scary Far Right Wing kooks. Besides, the horrors of Waco and Oklahoma City remained fresh.
Many in Occupy identified with the Far Left to the Left and the Moderate Middle with a number of Libertarians, too. Factory workers, farmers, Social anarchists, democratic socialists, labor unions, Greens, Marxists, traditional Constitutional conservatives, the unemployed, students, the indebted, and the homeless were represented as well. A surprising number of police, military, and former police and military people stood up for Occupy. So did those in the financial industry disgusted with widespread Big Bank and corporate greed and corruption.
There was widespread outrage over the Supreme Court of the United States declaring corporations (and unions) to be “persons” with the same rights as individual humans. In quite a few cases, however, many people within Occupy rejected all of those labels. They refused to be boxed up by the mainstream mass media and limited by identification with the past. Occupy was all about right now and tomorrow.
Nor would Occupy allow itself to engage in violent riots, looting and burning, terrorism, and mass street battles against security forces. Yes, a relatively small number did so, especially in Europe. In America a number protestors broke agreements with their fellow demonstrators to remain peaceful and attacked workers and police during the attempt to shut down the seaports. Even so, Police, not demonstrators initiated most of the violence during the Occupy uprisings. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the people in the encampments and on the streets with Occupy proclaimed nonviolence, peace, and at most civil disobedience.
People wanted peace. After decades and decades of more or less continuous war and threats of war, both abroad and domestically, people yearned for peace and freedom from the fear of war and violence. So the Occupy movement embraced nonviolence and for the most part strictly held to pacifism in the face of armed aggression. By doing so Occupy claimed the moral high ground. Main Street America and the rest of the masses came to identify those who perpetuated violence and economic turmoil not with “rioters in the streets,” but with the banksters and Corporatocracy of Wall Street as well as Government.
But the security forces had also learned their lessons from past decades of dealing with violent domestic outbreaks. They were more than ready for Occupy and any other uprisings, for that matter, without even knowing it. They’ve been awake since the 1999 Battle of Seattle. They’ve been on edge since the 9/11 Terror Attacks of 2001.
Domestic military and intelligence forces, let’s call a spade a spade here, OK, crushed the Occupy movement in the streets, plazas, abandoned homes, and public parks. The cops simply didn’t charge in and beat people. They leveraged and applied the tactics of urban warfare with skill and an almost emotionless determination to follow orders and get the job done. Confiscation of expensive camping gear, mass detentions, infiltration with spies and agents provocateurs, surveillance by the FBI and even the CIA contributed to the demise of Occupy as a mass middle class movement. People were desperate for income to feed their families, buy medical care, and pay for a roof over the heads.
Yes, an unusually harsh winter amid the extreme weather oscillations of global climate disruption certainly was factors. Hygiene, sanitation, litter, and drug and alcohol issues were issues addressed during the first months of Occupy, but as matters deteriorated toward the end some encampments experienced challenges in managing these conditions under the combined assaults of aggressive police action, winter weather, and shortage of funds.
The primitive yet effective and deliberate violent force projected by Police intimidated many in Occupy from fighting back even if they wanted to resist with violence in self-defense. Police brutality shocked and certainly cowed many Occupy supporters from joining those marching in the streets and tenting in the camps. Reminding the cops they, too, were part of the 99% did little to dilute the stormtroopers fury as they followed orders in this measured and ugly crackdown upon the demonstrators and tenters.
The hands-off, lip-service approach by President Obama discouraged many in the progressive middle and reminded the baby boomers who fought in the 60s of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. “LBJ” was a Democrat atop a Neo-Liberal administration who oversaw both the false flag deception engineered in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify America’s massive escalation of the Vietnam War as well as riots, terrorism, and near-civil war breaking out across the United States. “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?” was a popular rallying cry at many protests against Johnson’s Democrat regime.
Obama didn’t attract those kinds of hate from Occupy per se. There was, however, great disgust and lost of respect with Obama as President. He was viewed as a man who however brilliant and charismatic nevertheless betrayed his word and his principles. He acted as a puppet of the Global Financial Elite and of his own National Security State. The Occupy movement contributed to America’s awakening by highlighting the hypocrisy and disconnect with reality Obama represented.
Occupy versus The Empire
More than ever, Occupy woke Americans and the world up the Western powers and indeed most of the planet is engaged in class warfare. Rich against poor, the middle class against the poor, the middle class against the rich, one religion against another, one ethnic group against others, one nation-state against others, and labor against management against capital. The Empire of the Octopus has been taken over by the Vampire Squids.
The Global Financial Elite and their Allies continue to move through their revolving doors at various nexuses of power as they continue their slow motion power grab. The Euro-American Global Empire is not the true empire. Behind the scenes spreads a shadow empire who leverage the U.S., the EU, NATO, the WTO, and others as puppets. The international capitalist-communist network that is neither true capitalism nor true communism but a perversion of both distorts the global economy and amplifies class division to keep the classes disunited at each other’s throats. The scope of this scary spider’s web of institutions is astonishing.
There are numerous overlapping interlocking networks of the International Central Banking Cartel, the Big Wall Street Banks, and the transnational Corporatocracy with governments at all levels from the local to regional to national to the global. The National Security States of nation-state regimes, the numerous interlocking and non-democratic institutions from the United Nations on down including the Bretton Woods Three, the overlapping military alliances including NATO, the numerous treaties governing trade and commerce, the revolving door of networked secret societies and clubs, and on and on.
The original military-industrial complex Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned us of back in January 1960 has since morphed into an immense planet-wide military/security-industrial/corporate-intelligence/surveillance-education/science complex. Another major contribution of the Occupy movement is it sparked a serious curiosity in many to jump down the rabbit hole and follow the money to see what is really happening. A number of so-called “conspiracy theories” proved true or at least credible, especially as conspiracies are historically more common than the mainstream believes. The People woke up.
There are in motion multiple challenges facing our country and our species. The convergence of truly planetary challenges and global wicked problems is unique in human history, as we know it. This convergence is disastrous. I am reminded of Jared Diamond’s phases of Civilizational Collapse overlaid with Naomi Wolf’s 10 Steps to Dictatorship. Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to describe the conquest of nations by first dominating economies and financial institutions to then corrupting the government and eventually controlling the military-industrial-intelligence complex.
I call it “creeping dictatorship,” as fascists have learned the hard way all-out wars of conquest usually result in defeat. Instead they’ve determined conquest by economic means insures a stealthy victory. A republic becomes a dictatorship all dressed up pretty as a democracy with the commons under privatized corporate exploitation. One way or another we end up in a horror evocative of George Orwell’s dystopian1984 or Ayn Rand’s tome to romantic fascism, Atlas Shrugged.
Rethinking Guns, Gun Control, Gun Violence, Nonviolence, and Guns for Self-Defense against the Empire
Nonviolence with civil disobedience has become the rallying cry of the demonstrative Left. Gun control is all the rage after the recent string of domestic gun massacres. The grotesque horror of Newtown, Connecticut shook Americans on both sides of the gun debate and provided an opportunity to regulate firearms. The Obama Administration with a mix of Democrats and Republicans vigorously support gun control. So do a number of state and local jurisdictions.
Recently, however, the U.S. Congress failed abysmally to not only reinstitute a Federal ban on assault rifles but proved incompetent to pass a simple, basic requirement for background checks. About 90% of Americans supported this background check, but the National Rifle Association or NRA, now bankrolled these days by the Corporatocracy behind Big Guns, bullied Congress without shame and stomped upon the People’s wished as if bursting a crunchy cockroach wide open with one’s boot.
Even the majority of regular folks associate those civilians gathering assault rifles and sneaking around in the forests and swamps training for combat with Far Right extremists such as the Patriot militias, the Neo-Nazis and other White Supremacists, and gang spillover from the Mexican cartel wars. Then, of course, there are those heavily armed survivalist preppers who debate among themselves whether its best to hunker down in a fortress or “bug out” and go nomadic.
“Not so fast,” some on the Left including some Communists are beginning to say. In a perfect world, yes, let’s get rid of all guns. And consider we have a perfect storm beginning to blow hard. We’re at a pivotal tipping point as a species as we face planetwide disasters including an emerging worldwide dictatorship, corporate destruction of democracy, capitalist seizure of public assets, and numerous environmental and economic disasters. It’s not wise to give up our weapons, say those who’ve reconsidered gun control.
When I say I don’t want guns around, I include not just guns in my home and in those of our neighbors, or, obviously, criminals, but also the Government. As long as Government is not truly of, by, and for the People, I do not want to remain unarmed while the forces of Government are so heavily armed. Although I grew up with firearms in Virginia farm country, I do not have any desire to possess guns now. I do not currently have any firearms. And yet, I remain most leery of so many other fellow Americans having guns. The rate of gun deaths, including accidental ones, is extremely high. So, yes, I struggle with this dilemma. Today many of the major American political parties on the Left, including the Greens, various Socialist groups, and the Communist Party USA eschew violence and renounce aggression in all cases with the possible exception of self-defense.
The militias, the gangs, the Neo-Nazis, the neo-fascist government, and the corporate private security mercenaries are all heavily armed. And we’re gonna just go out there peacefully? Nonviolence works primarily when it’s allowed to be displayed by the Elites, doesn’t it?
Didn’t Gandhi’s murder result in a religious civil war with millions dead across South Asia? Didn’t MLK’s assassination trigger an eruption of bloody revolts that went on for years? Remember the lone, brave “Tank Man” standing down Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square on 5 June 1989? Remember the group of Chechen mothers, wives, and grandmothers staring down Russian armored forces advancing toward the city of Grozny, Chechnya in December 1994? Did their brave stands without violence or weapons end the fighting and stopped the wars? No, indeed, events quickly grew worse in both places. Even the brutal murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman walking along a street in Tehran to watch fellow Iranians protest crooked elections on 20 June 2009, did not stun the Persians into peace.
Ferocious Iranian crackdowns continued in the wake of Neda’s videotaped death and squelched nonviolent demonstrations for greater democracy. The all-out military assault by Syrian Government forces upon crowds of peaceful, pro-democracy protestors eventually drove the demonstrators to abandon nonviolence and seize arms to wage civil war and revolution with. Now Islamic jihadist extremists appear to be stepping into the power vacuum as Syria fractures.
This is not without precedent. The Russian Revolution of 1905 began with the massacres of peaceful protests by striking workers. The Tsar’s Army gunned them down and eventually subdued the rebels. When the oppression of the working classes became unbearable again, the Russian Revolution and Civil War broke out again in 1917. This time the rebels were armed and ready, and they won.
So what will happen next time the successor movement to Occupy arises around the country in peaceful protests? What will the general public do if economic breakdown and martial law triggers civil war and the only non-governmental groups with heavy weapons are Far Right private militias, the so-called Patriots, the drug cartel gangs, and White Supremacists?
This long overdue debate about the elephant in the room, keeping and stockpiling weapons for self-defense against heavily armed factions, is another legacy of Occupy Wall Street and its stand for nonviolence. It takes courage to rethink the unpopular and move beyond gun nuts versus gun grabbers screaming at each other while the corporate kings of Big Guns cross their arms and smile as an intimidated Congress voids their bladders in fear.
When the weaponized forces of the Global Elite launch another campaign to alienate and subjugate Americans class by class, what will we of the working classes do? As militarized Police began to move against peaceful protestors in the future, what will those of us who rally for love, liberty, equality, peace, prosperity, and justice do? What will we do? What will you do?
Back in September, October, November, and December of 2011, we responded to the great crisis of the moment. The crumbling economy, the collapsing housing market, the corrupt government, the greedy beyond measure banksters and predatory capitalists with their endless wars have been cannibalizing the rest of us for years. We kept at it January through May of 2012. Together we among the poor, working, and professional classes made history. The middle class took a stand. The Global Financial Elite and their Allies continue to build their Empire of Vampire Squids. Tomorrow, however, awaits.
William Dudley Bass
Monday 22 April 2013
Friday 26 April 2013
Notes: As the author, I participated in multiple rallies, marches, and forums off and on in Seattle, Washington, with Occupy Seattle during September thru December of 2011. I also participated in the Occupation of the Rotunda and the State Capitol Building with Occupy Olympia and the Green Party of Seattle. I did so with a mix of friends, my wife of the time, Kristina, and a couple of times our youngest daughter, Talia.
Got a surprisingly expensive parking ticket from the City of Olympia for parking my car in the proper parking zone along a side street but pointing in the wrong direction against oncoming traffic, something I’ve done many times before without any harassment. It’s one of those laws no one including the police really pays attention to, yet during Occupy Olympia they cracked down. I called to protest the ticket and request a reconsideration, but the law was the law. The ticket was a minor legal harassment, and I paid the fine.
In addition, I also penned several essays and articles on his experiences and analysis of events. There will be a few more. Check them out and study those you find interesting in the website category, “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” at: http://williamdudleybass.com/category/history-politics-economics-religions-war-peace-news-analysis-more/occupy-wall-street-movement.
One essay in particular to point out as it deals more with the here and now, what is emerging, and what’s possible for our future is, “We’re Building a BREAKTHRU Civilization for Love! Occupy Civilization with Love!” at: http://williamdudleybass.com/we’re-building-breakthru-civilization-love-occupy-civilization-love.
Thank you. Together we made history.
* Copyright © 2013, 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.*