[Marxism] Occupy Wall Street and the Significance of Political Slogans » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 27 11:42:45 MST 2013


This article by Michael Yates is most welcome. There has been a lot of 
Monday-morning quarterbacking about OWS's "failure", most notably from 
Thomas Frank, the editor of "Harper's". In the latest issue, there's a 
good rejoinder to him by Jeff Madrick that blames repression:

A year and a half after the take over of Zuccotti Park there exists a 
widespread conviction that Occupy Wall Street ultimately failed, and 
that it did so for lack of commitment, organization, and clear 
objectives. “The problem with the movement,” wrote New York Times 
columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin last fall, on the anniversary of the 
occupation, “was that its mission was always intentionally vague.” For 
this reason, Sorkin argued, OWS “will be an asterisk in the history 
books, if it gets a mention at all.” This response was typical of pro 
banking commentators, but many progressives arrived at the same 
conclusion. “What do we have to show for [Occupy] today in our ‘normal 
lives’?” asked my Harper’s colleague Thomas Frank in The Baffler. (His 
answer: “Not much.”) Occupy began with great promise, wrote Frank, but 
it had become “mired in a gluey swamp of academic talk and pointless 
anti hierarchical posturing.” Veterans of the left had already been 
frustrated by the occupiers’ lack of leadership and determined 
unwillingness “to say clearly and succinctly why they’re there,” as Doug 
Henwood, publisher of the newsletter Left Business Observer, put it. So 
it was inevitable that these shortcomings should be blamed when the 
movement failed to re-establish a geographic base or regain media prom 
inence after its eviction from Zuccotti Park by the New York City 
police. But it has become increasingly clear that OWS didn’t fizzle 
because its objectives were too muddled or its talk too abstract or its 
organization too chaotic. In fact, the movement was undone by a 
concerted government effort to undo it.

The most effective strategy of suppression was mass arrest. When the 
protesters organized a march across the Brooklyn Bridge two weeks after 
the occupation began, hundreds were arrested and bound with zip ties. In 
many cases, marchers were offered conditional dismissals—in essence, 
told they would not be held responsible for the initial charge unless 
they committed another offense. This naturally had a chilling effect on 
future protests. Who would risk a second charge and possible jail time? 
Targeted pre emptive arrests were commonplace before major rallies. One 
protester was arrested on two warrants for public urination from 2007, 
though the real offender was a different person with the same name. An 
obscure and usually unenforced 1845 law criminalizing the wearing of 
masks at public gatherings was used to justify the arrest of occupiers 
in bandanas.


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