The Occupy Wall Street campaign, now in its third week, has inspired a wide range of commentaries, as well as like-minded events all across the US. Here are two somewhat contrasting views from commentators I trust. Arun Gupta of New York City’s Indypendent newspaper offers a positive outlook on this emerging movement’s potential to confront key issues of increasing corporate dominance and elite control, viewing the Wall Street occupation as an inspiring, directly democratic response to a broken system.
Blogger and movement strategist Jonathan Matthew Smucker (beyondthechoir.org) offers a more skeptical view. He’s more critical than many social ecologists would be of the movement’s countercultural dimensions, but raises the important question of how far a movement can go if it’s mainly rooted in the efforts of previously unorganized individuals. He contrasts this with the organizing for the WTO shutdown in Seattle in 1999, when working alliances with more traditional organizations and movements were developed in parallel with grassroots, affinity group-based organizing. Smucker’s recent essays on the legacies of community organizing and the inherent limits of social media as an organizing tool are also first-rate.
Occupy Wall St. has also issued a comprehensive Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, as well as a working draft of principles of solidarity for the daily General Assemblies that are shaping the evolution of this movement. The new website for the New York City General Assemblies describes them as:
… an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times.
Meanwhile, kindred efforts are emerging in cities across the country. In Boston last weekend, a General Assembly of 1000 people on the Boston Common supported a lively march on the regional Bank of America headquarters, with some 3000 participants. ISE alum Matt Leonard points out, however, that the Boston march was initiated prior to the Wall St. events by the local Right to the City chapter, which has focused on grassroots organizing, alliance-building and articulating a comprehensive alternative vision. Matt recommends the New Bottom Line network, with national trade union and community organizing roots, which has been organizing campaigns to challenge the practices of B of A and other big banks across the country.
The Reader Supported News website continues to offer excellent daily updates from on the ground in New York and elsewhere. Also, Leigh Brownhill from York University in Toronto reminds me that protests are continuing throughout Canada in support of First Nations peoples who are resisting the destruction of their lands by the development of the Alberta tar sands. She recommends a series of reports on the latest civil disobedience action in Ottawa that are posted here, and many of us at the ISE also rely on regular updates from the Indigenous Environmental Network.