In early November of last year, as Occupy protestors were just beginning to hunker down to endure the worst of the coming Winter, some in the media were already beginning to question the health of the movement that had started (in America, at least) only a few months earlier. Take, for example, Jon Friedman’s comments on the decline of the Occupy movement, writing for MarketWatch in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 2nd:
The media, serving as a proxy for the general population, are impatient and bored by what outwardly seems like a marked lack of progress.
No less an authority on American social movements than folk singer Joan Baez, a notable dissident during the eras of the Vietnam and nuclear protests, said: “I’ll be convinced when it develops a real direction. … So far it’s hard to tell.”
The only time someone gets excited about the protests these days is when some external force intervenes, such as when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted (unsuccessfully) to clear the park, purportedly to clean it.
Jon Friedman concludes his article saying that “For the media, the excitement has gone out of the story.” And let’s face it, it doesn’t take much for the media to lose interest in any story, unless perhaps it involves the untimely death of a reclusive and morally questionable member of the glitterati – just imagine, for instance, the media frenzy that will eventually pick through the unseemly bones of Gary Glitter’s rise and fall, whenever he finally pops his shiny, shin-high clogs.
But coming back to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement more generally, and it is noticeable that beyond the assemblies of core activists who so bravely withstood the American and European Winter months, not to mention the sporadic brutality of police assaults and evictions, less actively engaged supporters (and I count myself one) have slowly lost enthusiasm and gradually drifted away altogether. The reason being, not that we significantly disagree with the overarching reasons for dissent (putting aside the fact that any dynamic mass movement is bound to suffer from certain internal factional differences, since to some extent this is actually a measure of its well-being), but that having avoided seeking any broad agreement with regards to clear objectives and agenda, the overall message has been lost in the utopian clamour for consensus. This is not merely my own contention, but one shared by many who remain broadly sympathetic to the cause of the Occupy movement.
Eric Draitser has spent a great deal of time speaking to and also working with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Back in November he too worried about the health of the movement, and so he decided it was time to ask some tough questions. Here’s one:
“What kind of a revolution are you trying to make? Are you making a revolution that’s going to create a better society, or are you creating a revolution of good feelings?”
Draitser believes that the next wave of protests needs a realignment of the anti-Wall Street forces of the Occupy protests in combination with a resurgence of long beleaguered anti-war opposition. This is increasing urgent, he says, as the continuing neo-imperialist policies of the Obama administration push forward once more, seemingly intent on sparking an eventual war against Iran.
Friedman’s November article was entitled “Occupy Wall Street is 99% dead”, and obviously I hope that such news is greatly exaggerated. It may be that Occupy is merely hibernating and about to burst forth with renewed vigour when Spring finally comes again (and as economies in Europe and America sink further into debt-driven decline). In the meantime, the question that the Occupy movement should be asking itself, is just how did lose so much of its earlier momentum and get quite so stuck? Critical friends like Draitser may be able to offer some useful answers and immediate advice.
You can find out more about Eric Draitser and his aims for establishing a renewed coalition of dissent, as well as listening to his personal analysis of current US foreign policies, on his own website www.stopimperialism.com.