Revolution Online, October 10, 2011
Notes from Occupied Territory: A New Wind Blowing
Revolution received the following correspondence on October 5 about the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC:
Four hundred-plus NYU students gathered in Washington Square Park on a bright, sunny autumn day where the air seemed to crackle with their exuberance. Students walked out to go to the Occupy Wall Street march and some professors told their entire class they had the option to go. Probably the majority of students had never been part of anything like this, never even thought of doing something like this. A green-haired freshman chanting "this is what democracy looks like" stopped to take a copy of the special BAsics issue of Revolution. (#244, August 28, 2011) "Cool," she said. She came out because she supports Occupy Wall Street and it felt like the right time. Another freshman stood in the middle of everything looking around, he came down just to figure out what it's all about and why people are occupying and angry, he wasn't sure yet what he thought.
Another 300 or so people from the New School came marching down 5th Avenue to join us in the park. We cheered with glee and then the march was off to Foley Square to join the union- and faith-based community march in support of Occupy Wall Street. As we go an African-American woman in her early 30s said, "I'm not a student but I came down here to join y'all 'cause I like your energy." She was vocally defiant of the police from the very beginning. As they lined up along the march she said, "I didn't come out here to get beaten and pepper sprayed." Later, as the cops tried to prevent students from taking the streets, she stood in the way of the police and the students saying, "You try and take me down, I WILL FIGHT BACK!!" A Latino woman in her late 20s carrying groceries joined in, grabbing a copy of Revolution newspaper. I guess she must have abandoned the groceries because later I saw her holding the newspaper high with both hands. The march took to the streets chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets." There was also, "We are the 99 percent!" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!" People lined the sidewalks, and windows up above in apartment buildings quickly filled with people taking pictures, many waving with excitement, giving a thumbs up or a fist in the air in support. There is a feeling that the occupation has punctured a hole in the atmosphere and through this opening the anger and frustration of the people is pouring out around the economic crisis, most certainly a very deep anger around that, but with this an all-encompassing felt desire for a different world. This included opposition to the war in Afghanistan, the occupation of Palestine by Israel, patriarchy, attacks on education, the murder of Troy Davis, the repressive force of the police, the environmental crisis, and disappointment in Obama. There were many creative displays of opposition to all this.
We reached Foley Square to find it filled with thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people and from there a determined and long march went down to Zuccotti Park, site of the occupation. In the midst of this, fliers around the initiative to "Stop Stop & Frisk," called for by Cornel West, Carol Dix, and others [see statement here: revcom.us/a/246/stop_stop-and-frisk-en.html], were distributed. There was in the crowd a section of young people, mostly Black, Latino and Arab, who displayed an immediate recognition of the importance of this and a desire to take it up. It also became apparent as we got this into the hands of young people of every nationality that the most common response we were getting from white youth was that they had never heard of this. They had no idea what Stop & Frisk is, how this is used by the NYPD to harass thousands and thousands of Black and Latino youth on a daily basis. And as they learned about this, they became deeply concerned and alarmed.
One of these concerned white youth turned out to be an artist I know. He kept asking questions, first, "What do they do? Is it more common in certain neighborhood?" then as he started to get a picture of what was going on, "They can just get away with this? No one tries to stop it?" We told him that's what this initiative is aiming to do, it's not going to be a gimmick, we aim to put a stop to this illegal and harmful activity by the police.
We got to talking further about BAsics, about revolution and communism and he's working at an art gallery where a lot of eclectic and controversial work comes through. So I showed him a quote from BAsics 3:24 on the need for a radical revolt against this revolting culture. This resonated deeply with him, he talked about how increasingly in society, "Everything's defined by consumption, there's not any place to have space to just be or to think." He's a passionate skateboarder who came up in that whole culture and he talked about how the place for that kind of expression is increasingly limited and there's a feeling of culture being stymied. We made plans to stay in touch and talk further about creating a culture in opposition to all that.
The sun had set and as a rousing brass band threw energy up into the night sky, I stepped into occupied territory...
There is a really fresh wind of resistance that's extremely important for the movement for revolution to unite with and spread and connect with the leadership of Bob Avakian. When you spend any amount of time here, it has a "Woodstock feel" as far as people living and relating to one another in a different way as part of opposing the current direction of things in society. It's an amazing thing to walk into. The park is filled with people of all ages and races from all walks of life; there's people whose homes have been foreclosed, students, youth, older folks, artists of many types, people of all races, very much integrated and working and living together. There's various stations for things like information, food, medical, art and culture. Everywhere you look there seem to be helpful signs posted and new things that have been donated to help people function, like a phone charging station and tonight there was great excitement because there was a large barrel of fresh coffee!!! It's a particularly lively night at the occupation because of the march and music, and singing seems to be coming from every direction. Everywhere you look there are smiling faces, creative energy and activity. The mainstream, bourgeois media has characterized things with everything from hostility and hatred to dismissal to an air of smug cynicism and annoyance. But this is a place where people are getting organized in various ways to oppose the current political and social moment and find ways for the people who are willing to drop everything and put a hell of a lot on the line to come together and live and really wage a fight, and in all this people are beginning to relate to each other differently, not based on what you're worth as a commodity or what's on your résumé or how many people you've slept with, but who are you and what are you about and how can we all contribute to the fight to change this shit and let's talk about the planet, and its future. It's a very beautiful thing.
Hundreds of people had a back and forth about whether to march again. This was done via human sound amplification (the much-reported method of the crowd to circumvent the police ban on amplified sound—repeating whatever an individual says so it can be heard by the large group) for probably upwards of an hour. After this, a section decided to march.
A discussion with a group of artists brought up some of the well-known questions of human nature, of whether human beings could carry out such radical transformation. Two young artists brought up some of how they've been wrestling with this. Like is it the reemergence of property relations when individuals at the occupation want to have personal space, and even set limits, "this is my space I've set up, please respect that." We found a spot to eat our delicious and healthy free meal and talk more. He posed that he's been reading Marx and Lenin and Trotsky and he's trying to figure out different things, he's attracted to anarchism, but he's also attracted to the "4 Alls" from Marx1 He asked, "Some people say that you get to communism by making revolution throughout the world and it all happens at once and you're there, other people say you need a transition, can you break this down for me, which one is it?"
I talked some about how Bob Avakian has been working on this and how the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) lays a framework for this. He said, "This is really interesting, I just have like five more questions now!" He is thinking of starting a philosophy and ethics discussion group at the occupation and plans to get and read BAsics as soon as he can.
These guys were part of a walkout at their community college where they said probably close to a hundred people walked out. They said this was part of statewide walkouts and that now they were here to stay at the occupation for a week. One of them said they came "because I'm a socialist" and the other because "I support the occupation." Another young guy came from out of state with his sleeping bag and backpack and a T-shirt that said "Occupy everything." He quit his job and came out indefinitely, "because it's the movement I've been waiting all my life for." I asked what movement is that and he seemed to think about this for a moment and said, "Well, you look at all these police out here and people have been nonviolently protesting all day and they bring violence. People can't get any jobs, they don't have anything they need, and when they [the government] say they're going to give back to the community they just take, they say they're going to give people healthcare and they can't get it, people can't get an education for their children, I'm tired of it."
A young student who was at the April 11th celebration of revolution on the occasion of the publication of the BAsics book, rushed up to give me a big warm embrace, "It's the revolution we've been waiting for!" He put his arm around me and looked out at the park, "I'm so happy," he said. He dropped out of school this semester because he said, "My friends have degrees and they're working at McDonalds and I'm just like, What's the point? And I wanted to be here as much as possible, I feel like I'm learning more here." At the same time as there is this righteous joy and resistance there is a lot of back and forth with him and others around the role of the police and the quote from BAsics on that topic—with him saying, "I agree with that, but they should be on our side." There was a lot of struggle about the real nature of the police and the state. There was also much grappling with how to bring about revolution and a new world and the contradictions involved in that.
There's a lot of this kind of openness and back and forth and there is a moment here. We cannot allow this occupation to be repressed or snuffed out, it needs to be supported and spread and go forward. This revolution and the leadership we have needs to be brought to this in a major way. Whether people who are waking up through this occupation find out about the way out of this is incredibly important. People who support Occupy Wall Street and know about the leadership of BA and how it speaks to all the critical questions people are wrestling with and how to "Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution"—how to bring into being a whole different and far better world—should donate to get BAsics and the other works by Bob Avakian into the Library at the New York occupation and the occupations popping up all over the country. Donate to support revolutionaries and youth spreading this and being in the mix. Find ways to connect this revolution with the occupations and support and join in this new wind of resistance!
As a group of us huddled together watching TV on a screen set up by an occupier who left a major corporate job to come participate, a middle-aged guy came by and asked, "Are you a student, are you guys students? I came down here to support my kids." He works as a security guard at one of the campuses and today he asked the kids, "Why are you walking out?" and they said, "We're walking out for you." Something about this had struck this guy so deeply that he had come down there at 11 at night to stand with these students. They had roused him and he wanted to be part of this and share his ideas about how things could be changed and what they needed to do.
1. The 4 Alls: the abolition of all class distinctions, of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations. [back]
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