A general strike is a strike by all the workers (or most of the workers) in a community, regardless of where they work. The May Day actions didn’t even amount to a regular strike. Rather, May Day 2012, at least in NYC, was more or less a roving lefty carnival. It was a series of performances—joyous street theater on a larger than normal scale. But it was politically meaningless. This exposes what is, in my opinion, a fundamental feature of the Occupy movement: Occupy is all play and no power. Substantive political action—and, in particular, the future of left resistance to inequality—remains in the hands of established movement organizations.


Strategic clarity is more likely to come from the groups who make up the outer movement; the members of unions, MoveOn, and other groups; those who not only fill out the ranks of Occupy’s big turnouts but also turned out, with remarkable militancy, in Wisconsin, first in December, when Governor Scott Walker set out to roll back collective bargaining rights, and then in subsequent recall fights. These are people who are not especially interested in transfiguring their way of life but want reforms. They distinguish readily between ends and means. They want progressive taxation—steeper rates, a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street transactions (the National Nurses United have been fierce and consistent about this), taxing capital gains at the same rate as salaries, and so on. They are for job growth and against austerity budgets. They want to curb a plutocracy that has taken possession of the commanding political-economic heights ever since Ronald Reagan galloped into Washington three decades ago to deregulate big capital, gut labor unions, and roll back as many sixties reforms as possible. The unions and other groups have come to the aid of Occupy in myriad ways, mainly out of the spotlight, most recently training tens of thousands of activists in nonviolent techniques. But they, as an ensemble, as a unified political force with a unified program, have not stepped up.



2 thoughts on “The Limits of Occupy

  1. The author of this piece disregards two key points that undermine this (status quo) argument: 1) it is has not only been Republicans who have promoted (and legislated) and neo-liberal policies but also Democrats and where this leaves electoral (a.k.a. “practical”) politics and 2) how much the Occupy Movement has contributed to the ability of mainstream (a.k.a. “liberal”) political forces demanding reformist (and only reformist) change

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