With encampments being closed across the country, it is important to remember the end goal is not to occupy public space, it is to end corporate rule. We seek to replace the rule of money with the rule of people. Occupying is a tactic, but the grand strategy of the Occupy movement is to weaken the pillars that hold the corporate government in place by educating, organizing, and mobilizing people into an independent political force.
The occupations of public space have already done a great deal to raise awareness that the wealth divide is caused by a rigged economic system of crony capitalism and that we can create a fair economy that works for all Americans.
We also have become aware that many of our fellow citizens are ready to take the extreme action of sleeping outside in the cold in a public park. And, we now also know that we have the power to shift the debate and force the economic and political elites to listen to us. In just a few months we have made a difference.
However, occupying public space involves a lot of resources and energy that could be spent educating, organizing, and mobilizing people in much greater numbers. There is a lot to do to end corporate rule and the challenges of occupying public space can divert our attention and resources from other responsibilities we have as a movement.
When we were organizing Occupy Washington, DC, before Wall Street began, we were in conversation with movements around the world. The Spanish indignados told us that an occupation should last no more than two weeks. After that it becomes a diversion from the political objectives. This has been experienced by occupiers across the country.
Occupying for a short time accomplishes many of the objectives of holding public space—the political dialogue is affected, people are mobilized, and people can see that fellow citizens can effectively challenge the corporate state. Staying for a lengthy period continues to deepen these goals, but the impacts are more limited and the costs get higher.
What should be done next? The Occupy movement needs to bring participatory democracy to communities. Occupiers could develop an aggressive organizing plan for their city. Divide the city and appoint people to be responsible for different areas. Make these areas as small as possible. Develop plans for house-to-house campaigns where you knock on doors, provide literature, ask what you can do to make their lives better.
Plan a march through the different communities in the city. Make it a spectacle. Hand out literature as you march. Let people know what occupy stands for and why they should join in building a better world for them and their families.
Plan public general assemblies in communities across the city. Teach people the general assembly process, the hand signals, how to stack speakers, how to listen and reach consensus. Learn the local issues. Solve local problems. Let people know about the National Occupation of Washington, DC, the “American Spring” beginning on March 30. Organize people to come: share rides, hire buses, walk, ride a bike, get people to the nation’s capital to show the united force of the people against the rule of money. This will be an opportunity to display our solidarity and demand that the people, not money, rule.
How rapidly a movement makes progress is hard to predict. It is never a constant upswing of growth and progress. We may be in for a sprint or, more likely, a marathon with hurdles. If you are hoping for a sprint, note that the deep corruption of the government and the economy has left both weaker than is publicly acknowledged. It may be a hollowed-out shell ready to fall.
But this may also take years to accomplish. Take the timeline of the Civil Rights movement, for example: in 1955 Rosa Parks sits in the front of the bus, not until five years later, in 1960, do the lunch counter sit-ins begin.
With mass media and, especially, the new democratized media of social networks, the Internet, anonymous leaks, and independent media, it is very likely the end of the rule of money will come more quickly. If we focus on our goal, act with purpose, and use our energy and resources wisely victory will come sooner.
The elites are foolish to think they will stop this movement by closing occupations. The Occupy movement will evolve in new and unpredictable ways that will make the elites wish for the days of public encampments. The 1 percent should know they will be held accountable. The people have found their voice and will not be silenced. The era of the rule of money is nearing its end.
Kevin Zeese is an organizer of Occupy Washington, DC and co-director of It’s Our Economy.