WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The Occupy movement has been inspiring, amazing, and fascinating. But if we really want to change this corrupt system we need to take things further.
Right now it is too easy for the 1% to ignore us. We are still relatively small. Business as usual has been allowed to continue uninterrupted. The 1% can pass us by on their way to their corner offices and continue to ruin lives, to pillage the environment, to profit off of the hard work and misery of others. We cannot allow this to continue. We must take the occupation further. We must disrupt the machinery of the system, not solely through symbolic protest that appeals to our leaders to fix everything, but through direct action.
Direct action strengthens us and it weakens them. Direct action wakes people up to the fact that they don’t have to just take it when they are being screwed over. They can stand up and fight back. The system and the 1% who govern it can only work when people are beaten down, passive, conforming to their “place” in society — when we follow the orders of cops, politicians, and bosses.
We know that the government serves only the interests of the 1%. We know how money dominates the machine of politics. Our problems cannot be fixed by appealing to the same broken machinery that upholds the system. Instead we must take matters into our own hands. When we don’t depend on leaders, politics, and symbolic appeals but on collective direct action anything is possible — even a complete change in society.
Here are ways we can take direct action:
1) We’re pissed off about home foreclosures, right? The same greedy banks that were bailed out with our money are now kicking ordinary people out of the homes they worked so hard for. Politicians can’t fix this problem, but we can — we should set up a network of people within the Occupy movement willing to help stop foreclosures. We can occupy the homes and prevent people from being kicked out onto the streets. This is not a pipe dream; it has already happened. In Spain, protestors have stopped over 50 foreclosures in recent months through the kind of networks I am describing.
2) Let’s stop evictions. In many cases landlords will evict people at the drop of the hat and kick them out on the streets. This leaves entire families homeless. We must mobilize the same kind of networks described above to prevent evictions.
3) Not only should we prevent evictions and foreclosures, but we should stand in solidarity with rent-strikes and mortgage non-payments when they happen. People who go on rent strikes have good reasons for it; most of the time they are protesting awful conditions in the apartments they pay exorbitant amounts for. Housing should be a human right anyway! No one should be homeless in a society of abundance like ours. Let’s stand with rent strikes and refusals of mortgage payments when they happen. Let’s organize networks and affinity groups within the Occupy movements in charge of publicizing our support for these types of actions and organizing that support when they are contacted. This will bring even more people into the movement because it shows them what we are all about; solidarity with each other and resistance to putting profits before people.
4) Let’s support labor actions. Whenever any group of workers goes on strike in any city, that city’s Occupy movement should be there for support. We need a committee, affinity group, network, or working group within each occupy movement in charge of coordinating labor actions and publicizing the fact that we will support striking workers. Nine occupiers in New York disrupted an auction which had locked out the art handlers in a wage dispute; imagine how effective this action would have been if a hundred people had disrupted it! We should swell the picket lines so that workers’ demands cannot be ignored. In the long run this supports our own interests as employees because whenever one group of workers gets higher wages or better conditions, it is more likely that these conditions and wages will become standard for the industry. If we fail to support strikes when they do happen, we are sabotaging our own future. And we need to stand with striking workers whether their union officials support their actions or not. This movement is not about officials and bureaucrats, it is about the people themselves standing up and creating a new society. This will cause even more people to join us, as they will see that we stand with working people everywhere.
5) We should occupy universities and schools which are proposing cuts; whenever a public school or university is having classes slashed, teachers laid off, or any other kind of cut, we should be there. Education is a human right! There should be no cuts in education while we spend more than half of the budget on violence and imperialism in other countries! Again, we need a working group or network which gathers information on school cuts, publicizes out support for anti-cuts actions, and coordinates actions against school cuts. The same goes for cuts in hospitals or any other public service.
6) Let’s occupy unemployment offices to prevent them from cutting off benefits. There are trillions of dollars available for imperialist violence, bank bailouts, and corporate welfare but none to help the employees who have been thrown out of work like they’re disposable and who haven’t been able to find work for a while. This is unacceptable. Let’s occupy the unemployment offices and demand they extend unemployment benefits indefinitely. If we put enough pressure on them they will come up with the money!
These are just a few of the actions we should and could be taking to grow the movement, to increase the struggle, and ultimately to completely change society from the bottom up. We can’t rely on bosses, politicians, bureaucrats, or self-appointed “leaders” to win this struggle for us, we must do it ourselves! There is nothing wrong with standing on the corner chanting and holding signs. This is a great first step. But it is more symbolic than practical and ultimately we are asking our corrupt leaders for change. Instead, we must stand up and make change happen ourselves. Direct action will connect us with a broader base of people because it will show them that this movement can help them directly. We have realized that the system we have now is utterly corrupt and that it must be radically altered. But many people are cynical, passive, and uninterested in politics. To get those people to stand with us we will have to show them what we are about, rather than simply tell them. We will have to show them that the system is not invincible, that instead of just asking for change, we can make it happen.