Revolution #248, October 23, 2011
Occupy Wall Street: Showdown and Victory – This Is So Not Over!
In the damp predawn dark of Friday, October 14, an enormous roar of jubilation went up in the canyons of Wall Street as more than 3,000 people cheered the news that New York City had backed down from unleashing their police on the Occupation of Wall Street. A victory was achieved, new ground seized.
The Guardian UK headline read: “'Occupy' anti-capitalism protests spread round the world.” Saturday, October 15, saw a massive demonstration in Times Square and there have been protests in over 1,000 cities across the world.
At the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, people started pouring into Zuccotti Park on Thursday night, October 13. People were prepared to defend the occupation against the threat of a brutal assault by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to clear the encampment under the pretext of cleaning the park. People came knowing of the hundreds of arrests of the preceding weeks, of the beatings, the pepper spray—which the chief of the NYPD boldly defended. Across the city and around the world people felt this was their fight—the stakes of whether or not this fresh wind of protest against the depredations of capitalism would continue or be set back. People stepped up. A Revolution newspaper correspondent described the scene:
“The young data analyst standing next to me at 6 am had driven two hours from Allentown, Pennsylvania: ‘When I heard on the radio they were coming at 7 to take back this park, that was it. I had to be here.’ He left the occupation in Allentown to come to NYC.
“The 40-year-old woman on my other side had gotten a call the night before from her union: ‘I can’t tell you what to do but I would be in the park by midnight.’ Her husband gave her his subway card and said: ‘Go for all of us!’”
Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: “I woke up this morning to get down here, with the other National Lawyers Guild and Center [for Constitutional Rights] people, to be here for what we considered might be a bloodbath. I’ve been in these before. I was in Columbia in ’68. And I was totally fearful of coming here.” (Democracy Now!, October 14, 2011)
Thursday night, revolutionaries spoke with people filling the encampment about the workings and crimes of capitalism-imperialism. of how the rules of capitalist ownership would operate to evict Occupy Wall Street (OWS). This is a system that evicts hundreds from their homes in the U.S. every day. This is a system that has waged brutal war in Iraq, which has driven two million Iraqis out of their country. This is a system responsible for a refugee crisis that spans the globe. This is the same system in which students are saddled with huge college debt and little chance for a job, let alone meaningful work. This is the same system where 2.3+ million people are in prison, many subjected to the torture of solitary confinement, and who, if lucky enough to get released from draconian sentences, are stigmatized and often denied access to political activity, public housing, and the basic requirements of life.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has become a concentration point and magnet for growing numbers of people who are saying ENOUGH of all this, and standing firm in the face of threats and attacks.
The city had announced it would clean the park at 7 am Friday morning. With the protesters surrounded by police, searchlights focused on the park with 30 minutes to go. A young man jumps up on a bench and shouts: “Mic check” and his words are repeated four times by the crowd so people can hear, as the police forbid amplification. He says: “Cleaning the park we know is a pretext to stop this movement, to silence your voices, to stop us from doing what we have been doing, which is changing the world... But we know that we can change the course of history.”
A woman comes next: “We will defend this park, brothers and sisters, in solid unity against injustice, oppression, inequality.” Another speaker shouts: “If you stay in the park, you are arrestable. That being said, our time is now!” They call for a show of who is prepared to defend the perimeter of the park. A forest of hands flies up.
Then the announcement comes—the city has backed off. The cheer goes up, two spontaneous marches immediately take off, headed for different parts of Wall Street and are met by more brutality—with police scooters running over legal observers and cops furious at being denied the chance to sweep the park throwing punches, beating and arresting dozens. Meanwhile the police have launched assaults against occupations in other cities, including Boston, Seattle, Denver and San Diego.
But for now, the people have won a round in NYC, and the ruling class is rocked back a bit. Splits abounded in NYC ruling circles as they weighed the impact of a brutal crushing of the occupation further exposing their illegitimacy. Yet, letting the occupation continue to grow and give defiant expression to outrage at the vast inequities and sufferings of the people is also fraught with dangers for them. Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke for the ruling authorities in terms of how they look at clearing the occupation: “It will be a little harder, I think, at that point in time to provide police protection, but we have the greatest police department in the world and we will do what is necessary.”
What has happened in this last week underscores two fundamental points: 1) Occupy Wall Street has sparked the imagination of so many and become a vehicle for expressing outrage at the deeply unjust impact of the economic crisis because the occupations have stepped out of the bounds of “politics and protest as usual” and the occupiers have put themselves on the line, coming back after each and every attack by the police and the media. 2) The ruling class finds this intolerable and is prepared to use its repressive force to attempt to crush this. The occupiers must remain vigilant and determined, while constantly reaching out to bring more people into the protest.
At the same time as Occupy Wall Street faces attempts to shut it down, enormous pressure mounts for the occupation to come up with “demands.” Sections of the Democratic Party are seeking to get in front of this movement, to lasso it into their suffocating ruling class embrace. And pressure is being exerted from different quarters, including bourgeois commentators, some union leaders, various liberal advocacy groups, and politicians, to come up with realistic “demands.” And within the Occupy Wall Street movement itself, there is debate over this.
It must be said: The basic demand to “Occupy Wall Street” is righteous and important—to seize public space to make known that people are suffering needlessly and unjustly and that we are refusing to put up with it; to have a liberated space to explore alternatives to the way things are. This must continue to be the focus of OWS and not be diluted or diverted. It is this character and thrust of Occupy Wall Street that has powerfully tapped into and is now a vehicle for expressing the widespread discontent of millions, with international impact. Further, this movement has shaken things up, brought something new to the political and ideological terrain, and has the potential to uncork even greater opposition and resistance to the way things are.
The Occupy Wall Street encampment has not only been a site of resistance—but also a place where people are forging and experimenting with new forms of community and cooperation in opposition to the dominant and suffocating values of this society. People are working together to clean up the park; holding mass discussions and cultural activity; reaching out and seeking to work with people and businesses in the neighborhood.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is presenting a challenge to the ruling class. In this context, it needs to be recognized that some who raise this “demand for demands” are expressing their desire for OWS to end—for some small concession to be “negotiated,” in order to put a stop to this growing movement. The demand to formulate demands is wrong—other than the demand for the POLICE TO BACK THE HELL OFF.
Conscious political operatives of the Democratic Party are aiming to bring this vibrant political opposition back under the wing of sections of the ruling class. There are efforts to channel the righteous outrage of people into a program of reform, like more regulations on banks and changes in tax policy. A big ace in the hole for them here is to appeal to progressive-minded people to support them to prevent the return of the Republican Party—the likes of fascistic forces such as Rick Perry—to the White House. This is a killing and paralyzing choice for the people. The workings of capitalism—however it is “regulated”—continue to grind up humanity. What is really required is for this movement to get broader and deeper, to continue to link up with other streams of resistance in society and make common cause with people around the world—and to more clearly target the capitalist system.
Responsibilities and Challenges for Revolutionaries
Revolutionaries are and need to be even more in the swirl and process of this crucial struggle together with the people—bringing forward how communist revolution is the solution and that this revolution has a leader, Bob Avakian, who people need to learn about, and they need to get into his works. Revolution Books in NYC has tables every evening in the park and has donated books to the occupation library. The revolutionaries are spreading and wielding Bob Avakian’s book BAsics, the Revolutionary Communist Party's (RCP) Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), Bob Avakian’s Revolution talk DVD, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About (especially the section on “What is Capitalism” at revcom.us/a/248/avakian-on-what-is-capitalism-en.html), Revolution newspaper, and other important materials of the Party.
Revolutionaries must be working with people at every key juncture to help determine the direction of the movement that will best keep things moving forward, and should be in the forefront of determined and courageous action when such action is needed.
The occupation upsurge should be connected with other important struggles and other sections of the people, including taking up the action called by Carl Dix, Cornel West and others to Stop “Stop and Frisk” in New York City on Friday, October 21, and the nationwide actions on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, standing together with those who are most suppressed and massively incarcerated in this country. Imagine if the occupations wore black on October 22 in unity with the National Day of Protest.
At every point, revolutionaries should be involving people—both in the encampments and more widely in society—in meaningful work to contribute to and build the movement for revolution—spreading and corresponding with Revolution, donating and raising funds for the newspaper and for the Revolution Books stores, organizing discussions of BAsics, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and other materials. People should be learning all they can about the changing thinking among people and developments in the world... and corresponding with Revolution newspaper.
The fresh breeze of Occupy Wall Street that is spreading around the world needs to become a sustained wind blowing away complacency, acquiescence, and conventional thinking, clearing ground for even broader, more determined resistance as well as the emergence of a new, growing movement for revolution that can sweep away the horrors of imperialism and set to work creating a whole new world.
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