Occupy Wall Street meets winter

Yotam Marom finds the Occupy movement hoping that the winter of austerity might give way to the flowering of real alternatives

January 2, 2012
8 min read

On September 17th, we took Liberty Square, used it to begin to create the social norms and institutions of a society to come, and became the Occupy Movement. We hit the streets fiercely, abandoning the metal barricades they once contained us in, rejecting the marching permits they offered us, refusing their sidewalks. We were dragged, handcuffed, into the front pages of people’s minds, and brought with us a story many were trying to silence – a story about the profit of the tiny few through the exploitation of the many, a story about deep and systemic economic, political, and social injustice. We danced in the streets and parks we reclaimed, and then in the jail cells they took us to when they realized we weren’t going home. We were confident, invincible; it’s hard to be afraid when the sun is out.

 But the season has changed. Autumn has ended and winter is upon us. We’ve lost Liberty Square, and each day brings news from across the country that another occupation has been evicted. Winter is here, and with it the cold; but it’s more than that. Winter brings the sober understanding that we won’t be in the headlines every day, that we need to be more than a string of events or actions or press releases, more than an endless meeting. Winter is the nagging truth that the next decade of organizing must be more sustainable than the first months we spent in the sun; that this is a struggle for the long-haul, that burn-out and martyrdom are no good for anyone and no good for the cause. Winter tells us to see our families and take a day off when we are sick, because the movement has to be healthy if it’s going to last. Winter is here to remind us that revolution is not an event but a process, and that social transformation means not only harnessing a moment, but building a movement.

Winter is here. But winter is not sad, and it’s not tragic; it’s just real. We do not fear the cold, and we will not hibernate. We will use the winter to become the movement we know is necessary.

We Will Not Hibernate: A To Do List for the Winter

Grow. We will continue to build relationships with communities who have been fighting and building for decades already, from tenants organizing eviction defense in Bed-Stuy, to AIDS activists in the Staten Island. We will grow by joining struggles that protect people from the daily assaults they experience – from austerity to police brutality – and by waging struggles to meet peoples’ needs, like reclaiming foreclosed homes. We will transcend the open calls to action and the expectation that they are enough to build a movement; we will organize the hard way, because the hard way is the only way. We will have the million one-on-one conversations it takes to build a movement, door to door if we have to, and we will do it out in the open, because we have nothing to fear and nothing to hide.

 Deepen. We will finally take the time to learn how to do what we are doing better, from those who have been doing this for so long – from the land liberation movements in Brazil to the women on welfare building community power in Yonkers. We will also teach, because we are reinventing the struggle as we go, and we have learned a lot already. We will ask each other difficult questions we never had time for: How do we organize in a way that is inclusive and liberating? How do we build a movement led by those most marginalized and oppressed? How do we use decentralization to actually empower people and address the imbalances we face in society? We will think radically about what systems and historical processes led us to where we are now, dream deeply about the world we want and the institutions we will need in order to live it out, and plan thoroughly for the building and the fighting it will take us to get there.

 Build. We will continue to build systems for de-centralized coordination and decision-making, because liberation means participation, and participation demands structures for communication, transparency, and accountability. We will take our cue from the neighborhood assemblies in Sunset Park, and the university assemblies at CUNY, who are pioneering a shift from general assemblies to constituent assemblies – assemblies in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. We will build there, because that’s where people actually live and work, where we have direct, concrete, and permanent relationships with a space, the institutions in it, and the people around us. We will create stable platforms for organizing and growth, and the foundations necessary for a concerted long-term struggle – from complex things like participatory decision-making forums and systems for internal education, to simple things like office space and phone trees. We will create mechanisms to meet people’s needs using the skills we honed at Liberty Square to provide things like food, legal aid, shelter, education, and more. We will do it all in a way that is in line with the values of the world we are fighting for.

 Liberate. We will take new space, indoors and outdoors. We will do it because the movement needs bases in which it can create the values of a free society, begin to build the institutions to carry them out, meet peoples’ needs, and serve as a staging ground for the struggle against the status quo. We will take space for the movement to have a home and workplace, but we will also take space back for the communities from whom it has been stolen, and for the families who need it in order to survive. We mean not only to take space for its own sake, but to liberate it; we will transform foreclosed houses into homes, empty lots into gardens, abandoned buildings into hospitals, schools, and community centers. We will use the space we win for dreaming up the world to come.

 Fight. We will continue to use direct action to intervene in the economic, political, and social processes that govern peoples’ lives. We will use our voices and our slogans, our banners and our bodies, to shine a spotlight on the classes and institutions that oppress and exploit. We will make it so that the tyrants who are ruining this planet cannot hold conferences or public events without our presence being felt. We will fight in a way that is not only symbolic, but also truly disruptive of the systems of oppression we face. We will block their doorways and their ports, interrupt their forums, and obstruct the systems of production and consumption they depend on. We will do it until they will have no choice but to disappear.

Spring Will Come

The conditions that brought us here – the brutal and systemic oppressions we face – aren’t going to disappear on their own. The window we have opened to the world being born can’t be closed. Now winter is here, but we are not afraid. We will face the cold with intention and wisdom, using it as an opportunity to grow our movement, deepen it, and build structures that can carry it forward. We will continue to build the world we want while fighting to topple the institutions that stand in its way.

It will take some time for the seeds we have planted to grow into the beautiful flowers they are meant to be. Patience. Spring will come.

Yotam Marom is a political organizer, educator, writer, and musician based in New York. He has been active in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and is a member of the Organization for a Free Society. Yotam can be reached at Yotam.marom@gmail.com.

This article first appeared on Z Net.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out


7