A Mass Movement and Dual Power
We are almost at the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Hundreds of occupations have sprung up across the country and around the world. Hundreds of thousands have participated by marching, carrying out civil disobedience, and putting their bodies in motion. Millions have engaged with us by email, in letters, through livestream, on twitter.
A movement is growing, and much more quickly than any of us could have expected. It has been surreal. But it is only the beginning; we have an enormous task ahead of us. The stakes are high and only a true mass movement – one led by the most marginalized and oppressed groups – can accomplish it.
This movement must become a dual power – a movement able to prefigure the values of a participatory, egalitarian and solidaristic society in new and liberated institutions, while simultaneously toppling the old, oppressive structures that exploit and constrain. We must build the new and fight the old at the same time. We must do it all while telling the story of the world we are creating, to defeat the story told by the masters of the status quo.
Already, we have created some of this world, from general assemblies and autonomous working groups, to occupations with free medical care and radical libraries. Already, we have begun to wage our offensive on the banks and finance capital, by marching on their offices and their politicians, carrying out actions in bank lobbies, moving our money to credit unions.
These were necessary first steps, and mainly symbolic – to pose an alternative and establish the legitimacy of our movement, to unlock the hidden potential of so many people ready to join it.
Now it is time to move from the symbolic to the real.
Moving from the Symbolic to the Real
We need alternative institutions that fight, and fighting institutions that express an alternative. And we need them all to have real, long-lasting effects.
We need institutions truly capable of meeting peoples’ needs – we need health clinics and social workers, democratic schools and worker cooperatives, neighborhood assemblies and reclaimed homes. We need them on a large scale, and we need to defend them from the attacks of the status quo. We need to take space not symbolically, but for keeps.
And our opposition to the status quo, too, must transcend the symbolic and become the real; our protest must become resistance. We must intervene directly and tangibly in the processes and institutions carrying out the incredible injustices we oppose. We need foundations for continued struggle, so that we can build on top of our successes rather than starting from scratch each spring. We need structures that protect our movement and the gains it makes. We need to develop them on our own terms, so that they truly embody the values of the world we are fighting for.
We will make a real impact when we re-open the abandoned hospitals and put doctors in them; when we bring the occupation to the schools and the schools to the occupation; when we liberate foreclosed homes not just for a day, but to move families back into them. We will make a real impact when the government sessions where they continue to pass new austerity measures behind our backs are interrupted by our active resistance to them; when the arms trucks can’t get across the bridges because we’ve blocked them; when the banks have to close not their branch lobbies, but their headquarters, because those they have disenfranchised have risen up to barricade their doorways.
In turn, those real victories will become symbols in their own right. They will be symbolic of a world being born, of people struggling to liberate themselves and each other, of people getting together intentionally to recreate the world as it should be.
And, yes, it is possible.
Liberating the Impossible
Cynicism is the only thing standing in our way, and cynicism is nothing more than a defense mechanism we use to protect us from taking risks – to keep us from dreaming. If there is one thing we have done well, it has been to truly challenge the narrative that there is no alternative. Only two months ago, everything we now know about the movement being born and the stories it has told was impossible. But it happened.
Imagine, then, just how much more is impossible. Imagine how beautifully possible the impossible is now becoming. We have only just begun. Already, we are standing strong, ready to smash cynicism to bits – smash it like a tinted glass window that keeps us from imagining the world we want. We are a bundle of dreams, passions, and wills hurtling through that window, crashing into the world we know is on the other side waiting to be born. We are liberating the impossible.
And it’s only the beginning. So join.
Yotam Marom is a political organizer, educator, writer, and musician active in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. He is based in New York and is a member of the Organization for a Free Society. Yotam can be reached at Yotam.firstname.lastname@example.org.