Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Everywhere
Police Attacks…Courageous Resistance…Big Stakes for the People
From New York to Denver to Oakland and other cities, the Occupy movement is coming under brutal and heartless attacks from the police and the powers behind them—and the people at the Occupy encampments and their supporters are responding with determination and courageous resistance.
In Denver on October 29, riot police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at close range at protesters. In Oakland, the police came in the middle of the night, tore down the encampment, and arrested those who refused to leave. The same day, 3,000 people took to the streets—and the police attacked with stun grenades and tear gas. An Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, was hit on the head with a police projectile and critically injured. Occupy Oakland has now called for a general strike on November 2. At Occupy Wall Street, the NYPD and fire department confiscated all the biodiesel generators—the day before a storm brought freezing winds and snow. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) put out a call and people came out with blankets and other supplies. Police and city authorities have carried out violent attacks in Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Nashville, Tucson, and Providence.
Thousands have stood up, determined to go forward and not back down. They have braved arrest not only to express anger at their own situation, but to change the way things are under the current system, which causes so much suffering for people here and around the world. An 18-year-old woman at Occupy San Francisco is emblematic. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 14, Miran Istina has been living on “borrowed time”—her health insurance company refused to provide her with life-saving surgery. She says, “I’m done being the victim. However long I have left is dedicated heart and soul to this movement, no matter what it takes.” The OWS movement has touched millions in all corners of society, awakened, stirred and given heart, and inspired and emboldened people around the world to take action.
OWS, in its audacity and with its cooperative ethos, is challenging the numbing atomization in society, where people feel isolated and left to their own. A new generation of young people is stepping to the fore, taking responsibility, and setting an example. Big questions about economics, the oppressive power structure, and the nature of capitalism are getting posed. All of this is causing concern and consternation in the ruling class—which is striking back, with police attacks as well attempts to pen in, channel, and derail this movement.
The courage and determination of the Occupy movement has struck a deep chord among broader sections of society—the NAACP, teachers and nurses unions, and others have expressed their support and condemned the police crackdowns.
This major development in U.S. society is important, and it’s crucial that this movement continue and intensify and rise to new challenges. As the Occupy movement shines the spotlight on the inequalities and injustices of the system we live under, those in the midst of the struggle are grappling with, debating over, and summing up some crucial lessons. Here, we want to dig into some of these lessons.
1. When people are in the midst of a hard-fought struggle and facing urgent, immediate questions—about next steps, how to deal with pressing needs and new turns—it is vital to “zoom back the lens” to look at the overall significance and context of that struggle. It’s important to recognize the profoundly positive role that OWS and other Occupy actions have and are playing in the world right now.
This is a society and a world of horrors for the vast majority of people. For example: Look at the 3.5 million people in the U.S. who will get foreclosure notices this year, and the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S., disproportionately Black and Latino. And look at the victims worldwide of U.S. drone attacks and missiles, and those sweating, dying and maimed in factories and sweatshops that feed the global machine of capitalism-imperialism.
Up against these realities, people have put themselves on the line to say “Enough!” For many, it’s an end to accepting things the way they are. Youth and others of all ages are fighting not just for themselves, but for a different and better future for all those who are ground down by this system. Over the past month and a half, people have occupied city parks and plazas in the “belly of the beast” saying: here we are, here we’ll stay, and here we’re going to make a stand. This has given great heart to many—including those at the bottom of society in the U.S. and the world, with nothing to lose but their chains.
All this is extremely important.
2. Those who stepped forward initially have been joined by many others—and this has had an electrifying effect on society. This shows how crucial it is for all those who yearn for radical change to relate to, stand with, and join in the Occupy struggle. At the same time, one lesson is how vital it is for people from the Occupy movements to reach out to other important expressions of protest, rebellions, and resistance.
One important development was the OWS movement joining the struggle against the apartheid-like oppression of Black and Latino people, particularly the youth. This movement to end mass incarceration (see “Taking the Movement of Resistance to Mass Incarceration to a Higher Level Thru Unleashing Determined Mass Resistance” by Carl Dix, at revcom.us) saw its audacious start on October 21, when people were arrested at a police precinct in Harlem, demanding a STOP to the racist, illegal, and unconscionable NYPD practice of stopping and frisking hundreds of thousands each year, over 80 percent of them Black and Latino.
When people from OWS joined the civil disobedience action against stop and frisk, when those fighting Stop and Frisk went to Occupy Wall Street, this strengthened the impact and determination of both struggles. There are beginning seeds of “fighters on one front becoming fighters for all”—and this needs to happen even more.
3. The illegitimate and increasing police violence and repression against the Occupy movement is making it more clear that the role of the police is not to “serve the people.” The police are NOT part of the 99% but are in fact a key part of the state apparatus, and their role is to enforce the current order of things—in the interests of the “1%.” And this 1% is not just an amorphous group of super-rich, parasitic and corrupt bankers and financiers, but a ruling class that dominates and controls the politics and economics of this society.
At the same time as attempts to crush Occupy encampments with the organized violence of the police, authorized by city governments, we have seen the powers-that-be (and those who promote their interests) trying to contain or co-opt the movement. There are those who are constantly “advising,” cajoling, and working for this movement to be a force to pressure the politicians and the corporations to make one reform or another. They push the view that the real, and realistic, achievement of the movement would be to pressure one section of the elite or another to give up this or that concession. Bringing the Occupy movement under the tent of “pressure politics” would mean nothing more than accepting those bounds set by the system—and leaving this intolerable world the way it is.
Those who would put an end to this movement employ two methods. First, they use the open repression of the state and its armed enforcers. And they also attempt to corral and tame the struggle through appeals to settle for a few reforms. These two tactics come hand-in-hand.
Why are those in power so intent on seeing the Occupy movement come to an end, one way or another? The actions of occupiers at Wall Street and in other cities are intolerable to the rulers precisely because this has been a movement of mass protest that refuses to accept the bounds for what the system has deemed “acceptable.” They cannot accept people stepping forward in determined protest to expose and oppose the crimes and outrages that those in power perpetrate on people here and around the world.
It’s also a fact that this situation is posing real difficulties for those at the top, and real concerns among them about the legitimacy of their system being broadly called into question. When the authorities have attacked the encampments, and the people have stood strong, this has led to more people being drawn in and broad outrage at the violence of the police. There are differences among the rulers over how to deal with the Occupy encampments—even as none of them can tolerate a movement that is in many ways breaking out of “protest as usual” and questioning the whole setup.
What we have seen is that when this movement has deepened and sharpened the focus against the system, and when it has broadened and reached out, when it has responded to police attacks with more determination—it has been able to come out even stronger, carve out more space, and open up new possibilities. This is a key lesson in forging the way forward.
4. A key part of the strength of OWS—and the inspiration it has given to people—has been the wrangling, debate, and questioning around the big questions confronting humanity. What is the actual source of the obscene inequalities and the heart-breaking injustices in this society? How do we understand the real nature of the government and the police? Is there something fundamentally unjust and exploitative about U.S. society and its political-economic structures, or can these be made to serve the interests of the great majority of people? What is the actual solution to these profound problems facing humanity? And many more crucial questions are being taken up and tested out.
It’s important that this lively scene of intellectual inquiry and contestation of ideas continue. It opens up a vision of how people could relate to each other in a future, liberated society, and is part of what has made OWS a magnetic force for many here and worldwide. And it is through such ferment and debate that people can “deepen and sharpen” the thrust of the movement against this system. Coming to as accurate and scientific understanding as possible of reality at any point is vital to being able to change that reality in the interests of humanity. As people rise up in struggle, they can go further the more that they learn about the cause of the problems, and the solution.
Revolutionary communists have been in the middle of this, learning from everyone, being a part of the process of discovery, and bringing out an understanding of how all the problems that people are outraged about are rooted in the system of capitalism-imperialism…just what the nature of that system is and how this system must and can be abolished through communist revolution...the possibility of building a whole new, socialist society that is in the interests of the masses of people…and how there is a visionary leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party. People all over are reading the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, watching the Revolution Talk (online at http://revolutiontalk.net), and reading Revolution newspaper. More people becoming aware of, debating, and getting into this radical, viable vision of revolution and liberated society is an important part of “deepening and sharpening” the focus of the movement.
As part of this, the Revolutionary Communist Party is consistently bringing forward the need and basis for—and consistently working to actually draw people in, in different ways, to contributing to building—the movement for revolution. Revolution newspaper plays an important role in all of this. It helps to spread the word about what is really happening; it helps people to connect with each other and act together in a powerful way.
5. The Occupy movement has attracted people and forged new unities between people: students, homeless people, Black youth from the communities, older ‘60s people, unionized people and other working people (to name a few). People who have different experiences and different outlooks about the world and approaches to questions. The kind of mix taking place is very exciting, especially for those who see how the society constantly tries to divide different sections of the people. And together with this, there are sharp differences and struggles, or contradictions, among the people.
These differences among the people are not the same as the “contradictions between the people and the enemy”—between the people on the one hand, and the rulers, their police, and their whole state structure on the other. This can get complicated, because these two types of struggles or contradictions can become intertwined—particularly when the enemy, in various forms and guises, is seeking to instigate, exaggerate, and seize on the struggle among the people in order to serve its anti-people aims.
In this situation, there is an important need to distinguish between these two types of contradictions, and correctly approach the differences and struggles among the people—from the standpoint of the larger interests of humanity. Part of this is the need to set and struggle for standards of conduct within the movement, such as not talking to and giving information to the police. These standards should reflect and promote the forging of a new morality and new relations among the people—where differences are settled in ways that serve the interests of the people and not antagonistically…where people learn from each other, while struggling out differences in a principled way…where there is conscious struggle against racism and patriarchy, which reflect and reinforce the current oppressive society.
Revolution newspaper calls on people in the Occupy movement and those who are coming to support it to write to this paper and contribute to this discussion with your thoughts, observations, and questions, in order to further enable the “deepening and sharpening” of the focus of this movement, in the interests of all of humanity.
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