Occupy Will Be Back
    • COURTESY CRAIG WARGA/NY DAILY NEWS

      Nation Institute Fellow and Nation Books author Chris Hedges being arrested on November 3, 2011, outside the Goldman Sachs building in lower Manhattan during an Occupy Wall Street protest.

"Elections are something that Occupy needs to continue to avoid," Zeese said. "The Obama-Romney debate is not a discussion of the concerns of the American people. Obama sometimes uses Occupy language, but he puts forth virtually no job creation, nothing to end the wealth divide and no real tax reform. On tax reform, the Buffett rule — that the secretary should pay the same tax rate as the boss — is totally insufficient. We should be debating whether to go back to the Eisenhower tax rates of 91 percent, the Nixon tax rate of 70 percent or the Reagan tax rate of 50 percent for the top income earners — not whether secretaries and CEOs should be taxed at the same rate!"

The Occupy movement is not finally about occupying. It is, as Zeese points out, about shifting power from the 1 percent to the 99 percent. It is a tactic. And tactics evolve and change. The freedom rides, the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, the marches in Birmingham and the Montgomery bus boycott were tactics used in the civil rights movement. And just as the civil rights movement often borrowed tactics used by the old Communist Party, which long fought segregation in the South, the Occupy movement, as Zeese points out, draws on earlier protests against global trade agreements and the worldwide protests over the invasion of Iraq. Each was, like the Occupy movement, a global response. And this is a global movement.

We live in a period of history the Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul calls an interregnum, a period when we are enveloped in what he calls "a vacuum of economic thought," a period when the reigning ideology, although it no longer corresponds to reality, has yet to be replaced with ideas that respond to the crisis engendered by the collapse of globalization. And the formulation of ideas, which are always at first the purview of a small, marginalized minority, is one of the fundamental tasks of the movement. It is as important to think about how we will live and to begin to reconfigure our lives as it is to resist.

Occupy has organized some significant actions, including the May Day protests, the NATO protest in Chicago, an Occupy G8 summit andG8 protests in Thurmont and Frederick, Md. There are a number of ongoing actions — Occupy Our Homes, Occupy Faith, Occupy the Criminal Justice System, Occupy University, the Occupy Caravan — that protect the embers of revolt. Last week when Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, testified before a U.S. Senate committee, he was confronted by Occupy protesters, including Deborah Harris, who lost her home in a JPMorgan foreclosure. But you will hear little if anything about these actions on cable television or in The Washington Post. Such acts of resistance get covered almost entirely in the alternative media, such as The Occupy Wall Street Journal and the Occupy Page of The Real News.

"Our job is to build pockets of resistance so that when the flash point arrives, people will have a place to go," Zeese said. "Our job is to stand for transformation, shifting power from concentrated wealth to the people. As long as we keep annunciating and fighting for this, whether we are talking about health care, finance, empire, housing, we will succeed."

"We will only accomplish this by becoming a mass movement," he said. "It will not work if we become a fringe movement. Mass movements have to be diverse. If you build a movement around one ethnic group, or one class group, it is easier for the power structure and the police to figure out what we will do next. With diversity you get creativity of tactics. And creativity of tactics is critical to our success. With diversity you bring to the movement different histories, different ideas, different identities, different experiences and different forms of nonviolent tactics."

"The object is to shift people from the power structure to our side, whether it is media, business, youth, labor or police," he went on. "We must break the enforcement structure. In the book 'Why Civil Resistance Works,' a review of resistance efforts over the last 100 years, breaking the enforcement structure, which almost always comes through nonviolent civil disobedience, increases your chances of success by 60 percent. We need to divide the police. This is critical. And only a mass movement that is nonviolent and diverse, that draws on all segments of society, has any hope of achieving this. If we can build that, we can win."

Tags: chris hedges, jamie dimon, jp morgan, occupy wall street, ows, the occupy movement, zuccotti park

    • Chris Hedges
    • Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was part of The New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism and received the 2002 Amnesty Internati...

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