In 2011, activists began an occupation of Zucotti Park near Wall Street, starting a movement that spread around the world and changed the discourse around wealth, inequality, corruption and justice.
At the time (and ever since), critics have dismissed it as a stunt, a flash in the pan, an anarchist boondoggle whose lack of crisply defined demands doomed it to peter out into irrelevance.
But eight years on, Occupy's legacy is alive and well, with Occupy organizers and veterans playing key roles in the Democratic Socialists of America, Justice Democrats, the anti-student-debt movement, and other radical organizations that have changed what is considered "mainstream politics" in America and around the world.
Vox's Emily Stewart does a deep dive into Occupy's legacy, and shows how the Movement for Black Lives' critique of race and politics has merged with Occupy's more class-oriented critique to produce a more inclusive, radical politics.
Occupy's legacy -- the mainstreaming of Fight for 15, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, AOC, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders -- is the thing that gives me the most hope for our world right now.
Strikes and militancy have deep roots in the labor movement, but as journalist Sarah Jaffe in her book, Necessary Trouble, noted, Occupy had “added vigor” to labor campaigns throughout New York and had galvanized them to make bigger, bolder demands.
“We needed to be more aggressive and direct-action oriented toward how we were going to make our demand and hopefully win, which is not dissimilar from what Occupy was doing in terms of being more aggressive, taking the streets, taking arrests,” said Jonathan Westin, now executive director of New York Communities for Change.
Fight for 15 claims that it has won raises for 22 million people. New York City’s minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour at the close of 2018, and the idea has made its way into the Democratic Party’s bloodstream. After some wrangling and a push from Sanders, the party included a $15 minimum wage in its 2016 platform. It is now a mainstream position for many Democrats.
Occupy has also played a part in pushing forward the conversation around student debt. Millions of students had turned to the hope of higher education to lead to economic success, only to be left with thousands of dollars in debt and few well-paying job prospects. For-profit colleges seemed to be actively scamming students and the government.
In the months after Occupy, a group rooted in the movement marked “1T Day” of student debt hitting the $1 trillion mark. Former Occupiers also launched Strike Debt! and subsequently published The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual, a book on the debt system and how to fight it, and created a project called the Rolling Jubilee. The plan behind the Rolling Jubilee was simple — and smart: Organizers raised money to buy delinquent debt that financial institutions often sell for pennies on the dollar. Instead of trying to collect that debt, they forgave it. Through a telethon and online videos, Rolling Jubilee was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and cancel millions of dollars’ worth of debt.
We are (still) the 99 percent [Emily Stewart/Vox]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: David Shankbone, CC-BY)