Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

We are winning – so what do we want?

More reflections from a Wall Street Occupier.

October 13, 2011
7 min read

The Movement Is Growing

This time it was even harder to break away to write.

Liberty Plaza is teeming with people gathering for assemblies, talking politics, or meeting in work teams. 300 occupiers are listening intently to a lecture on participatory economics, while others are posing for pictures with the enormous golden made and donated by local interfaith leaders. There are people passing by on their way to work, travelers getting off tour buses to take pictures, students from local high schools being toured around. There are people from the Bronx and Bed-Stuy, Minneapolis and Madrid. There are drag queens networking with transit workers, Rabbis leading a thousand people through a Yom Kippur ceremony, and members of the People of Color Caucus planning to “Occupy the Hood.” People are doing yoga, teaching composting techniques, cleaning the square, and livestreaming the occupation to its million viewers worldwide. Some even manage to steal a few hours of sleep amidst all the commotion.

Last night, while on the phone with a journalist (who wouldn’t have returned our phone calls two weeks ago but is now begging us to say something, anything), I stumbled upon an impromptu demonstration at the famed Charging Bull. This was only blocks away from a pop-up Occupy Wall Street art exhibition, which happened to be across the street from a towering financial building newly donned with a banner reading – “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Downtown Manhattan is an occupied zone, a bustling revolutionary city-center. People are taking the struggle on the road, expanding it, pushing it forward. We are making the movement part of our lives, and our lives part of the movement.

Over 100 cities in the US have active occupations right now, with more than 1,300 cities hosting formal meetings to plan for them. At the rate of change in this movement today, by the time this piece gets edited and published in a day, the numbers will be higher. Hundreds of cities around the country and the world will be carrying out actions in unison on October 15th. Unions and community organizations have joined the fight, and national organizations are trying to decide how to best join the movement without thwarting or co-opting it (which frankly, they couldn’t do, even if they tried). The pundits are conjecturing their heads off, while politicians of all stripes scuttle about, trying to figure out just how to try to use us. And yes, they are talking about us in Congress and in the White house, even sending their messengers to the occupation itself.

They would be fools not to. We are winning.

We Are Winning

Every once in a while, in the course of some enormous struggle, those driven, tired, frazzled fighters have a moment or two to stop and think, to pick our heads up and look ahead. I had a moment like that a few days ago, and that’s when it hit me – like a blow to the head: We are winning. We are winning.

Sure, we haven’t captured government institutions, haven’t smashed the banks and the classes that control them, haven’t even won concrete reforms or come up with solid institutions to protect our gains. We aren’t even close to finishing the fight or creating the world we wish to live in. But – alongside revolutionaries around the world – we have helped to unlock the hidden and slumbering potential of millions of people, ready to believe again that there is an alternative. We have reignited hope in the possibility of a free society, punctured a small hole in the hegemony of cynicism, liberated some space in our hearts and our minds to gather the strength to fight and to dream. What was inconceivable just a month ago is now so very real.

And then the second part of the thought hit me: If we are winning, then what do we want?

What Do We Want?

The media and politicians call us muddle-headed, and confused. They claim we have no demands or purpose. Well, let’s set the record straight. It’s not that we don’t have demands; it’s that we speak them in a different language. We speak them with our struggle. Our movement is made up of people fighting for jobs, for schools, for debt relief, equitable housing, and healthcare. We are resisting ecological destruction, imperialism, racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. We are doing it all in a way that is participatory, democratic, fierce, and unwavering. There is nothing very vague about that.

But we do not stop there. That, perhaps, is what sets us apart from those who wish to use our tremendous and growing power for small gains or modest reforms. We want more. We want it all. We want a political and economic system that we all actually control together, one that is equitable and humane, one that allows for people to self-manage but act in solidarity, one that is participatory and democratic to its core. We want a world where people have the right to their own identities, communities, and cultures, and the freedom from oppression and constraint. We want a world with institutions that take care of our youth, our elderly, and our families in ways that are nurturing, liberating, and consensual. We want a world in which community is not a hamper on individual freedom, but rather an expression of its fullest potential.

If that’s not a clear enough statement of demands for you, CNN, I don’t know what to tell you. And you know what? We’re only getting warmed up.

As we keep fighting, we will continue to ask ourselves difficult questions. What world do we envision? What values do we want to live by? What institutions do we need in order to live those values? What structures will we build to protect what we’ve won and create a platform for continued struggle? What will we win for ourselves, and what will we win for generations to come? How will we fight these enormous battles in a way that is both effective and reflective of the new world we are ushering in?

October 15th and Beyond

Make no mistake about it, we are not aimless; we simply speak a different language – a language of mutual respect, participation, self-management, and action. We make our demands in this language that screams that we are here for the long-run, that our goal is not merely reform, that our vision is deep and radical, that we will not be bought off or co-opted, and that we are prepared to struggle in order to win not only those gains we can pronounce now but also those we can’t even fully articulate yet. We claim our space through actions that shout that we are here to stay, that this movement isn’t going home, that we are winning already, and that there is no turning back. We build this movement through the firm and fearless declaration that another world is possible, and that anything less is unacceptable.

You will see our demands plastered on subway walls, scrawled on hanging banners, tweeted across oceans, marched on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands, shouted in unison from millions of streets, windows, and computers screens. You will see them all over the world, from post-industrial cities to the country-sides, from capitals to shanty-towns. You will see them expressed in the streets of New York City on October 15th, when we bring the battle straight to the banks – those shiny little storefronts of finance capital. You will see our demands when we descend on the fluorescent decadence of Times Square and re-decorate it with our humanity.

Yes, we speak a different language, a fearless and visionary one. We are shouting, with every ounce of passion and strength we can muster: Of course there is an alternative. It is us.

Yotam Marom is an organizer, educator, musician, and writer. He is a member of the Organization for a Free Society, and can be reached at Yotam.marom@gmail.com.

With thanks to our friends at www.zcommunications.org/znet

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero


9