David P. Hamilton : What Occupy Wall Street Has Accomplished

Eat the Rich: Occupy Wall Street is made for TV.

What the Occupy Wall Street
movement has accomplished so far

By David P. Hamilton / The Rag Blog / October 18, 2011


1. The implantation of the tactical innovation of the occupation model into the U.S. One day mass march-and-speeches demonstrations had run their course, largely because the ruling capitalist elites adopted the strategy of refusing to take them seriously. A wholly new phenomenon is presented when the demonstrators refuse to go home, set up housekeeping on the doorstep of the ruling class, and become unruly neighbors.

The MSM could no longer avert its gaze. It’s made for TV and it has gained traction. Now they can’t stop talking about it and their audience wants more.

2. Internationalism in action. The Occupation movement began in Tunisia last spring with the action of one man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in protest of the dictatorial Tunisian government. From this spark the Arab Spring began. Then came the Indignados of Spain and Greece protesting austerity measures and lack of opportunity while the 1% prospered.

Both movements arose from similar origins and around related issues. The Occupation Movement is the most graphic expression of this new wave of international insurgency in the U.S. Egyptian movement veterans have joined the demonstration on Wall Street. It is a propitious moment for the development of new international relationships on the left.

3. For the first time since the 1930’s, a broad-based, explicitly anti-capitalist movement has sprung forth in the U.S. and its themes have quickly demonstrated great resonance among the general population. It was laughable when the MSM critics complained that the movement had no central message. That we have a ruling elite, the 1%, who rule corporate capitalism, that they have corrupted American democracy, and that their interests are contradictory to those of the other 99% is quite a bit of message. That message is, of course, Marxist to its core.

4. The Occupation movement has already changed the terms of the political debate. Liberal Democrats (Feingold, Rangel, Lewis, etc) are trying to associate themselves with the occupations and they will be strengthened by that association. It is reported that Obama has plans to “incorporate” the Occupation movement into his reelection campaign, if only rhetorically.

But with the Occupation movement, the manifestation of class warfare where the oppressed actually fight back against their class oppressors has become legitimized. It is now within the established paradigm to point fingers at the “malefactors of great wealth” again and hurl unequivocal abuse. This genie, whose central demand is simply for economic justice, will be difficult to re-bottle or to satisfy with rhetorical bromides.

5. The alliance of organized labor with the Occupation movement is historic and will serve to energize both. But this is only part of the great diversity of this movement that is drawing support from a very wide demographic.

I was shocked in Oakland that the homeless had joined the Occupation encampment until it occurred to me they had more reasons to be there than anyone else. Wandering among them, we were joined in conversation by a 60ish white nurse from San Rafael and a young anarchist brother in a Chomsky t-shirt while a middle-aged Chicana played the guitar and sang in Spanish to the assembled.

6. The Occupation movement emerged with amazing spontaneity. Sparks are lit all the time. Finally, one of them ignited because the objective conditions were so ripe. This clearly fits an anarchist model and is a rejection of the Leninist model. Perhaps the most astounding element at this point is that current polls show the “occupiers” twice as popular among the general public as the Tea Party.

The consciousness is there and anxious to be led in militant new expressions that, given our major party’s pervasive prostitution to the 1%, transcend what conventional party politics can offer.

Back to the barricades!

[David P. Hamilton has been a political activist in Austin since the late 1960s when he worked with SDS and wrote for The Rag, Austin’s underground newspaper. Read more articles by David P. Hamilton on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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2 Responses to David P. Hamilton : What Occupy Wall Street Has Accomplished

  1. Unknown says:

    Fred R. Shapiro is the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations (Yale Univ Press 2006), and I take his word about the origin of quotations above anyone else’s. As for “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” he attributes that to a speech by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on November 11, 1947. But his footnote to that one cross- references a French-born British anthropologist and novelist, Robert Briffault, who in a 1930 book entitled Rational Revolution: The Making of Humanity, wrote:

    “Democracy is the worst form of government. It is the most inefficient, the most clumsy, most unpractical…It reduces wisdom to impotence and secures the triumph of folly, ignorance, clap-trap, and demagogy..Yet democracy is the only form of social order that is admissible, because it is the only one consistent with justice.”

    Many, if not 99%, of Americans agree that Obama’s caving was the collapse of the possibility of democracy in the US; David Graeber writes about this with tremendous persuasion at


    [last paragraph:] Say what you will about Americans, and one can say many things, this is a country of deeply democratic sensibilities. The idea that we are, or are supposed to be, a democratic society is at the very core of what makes us proud to be Americans. If Occupy Wall Street has spread to every city in America, it’s because our financial overlords have brought us to such a pass that anarchists, pagan priestesses, and tree-sitters are about the only Americans left still holding out for the idea that a genuinely democratic society might be possible.

  2. Anonymous says:

    All of those things you mentioned (some of which are true, some of which are debatable) still don't constitute any concrete accomplishment! Everything here is pure extrapolation. If you really want to make a difference, stop just standing around and attempting rhetoric so as to seem as if what you are doing is actually important. Really, I would love for you and those involved in OWS to

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