Op-Ed: Occupy Wall Street is Winning, So What’s Next?

October 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Yotam Marom is an organizer, educator, musician and writer. He is a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Marom is a member of the Organization for a Free Society.

Marom (center back, in the blue jacket and scarf) teaches a class on social justice in Hoboken, N.J. He took his students to interview people at Zuccotti Park about "why they chose to occupy Wall Street." MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

The Movement Is Growing

Liberty Plaza is teeming with people gathering for assemblies, talking politics or meeting in work teams. Three hundred people are listening intently to a lecture on participatory economics, while others are posing for pictures with a golden calf sculpture 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 amid all the commotion.

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. 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.

We have helped to unlock the hidden and slumbering potential of millions of people, ready to believe again that there is an alternative.

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 our demands through 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.

After Marom and his students reflected about their experience, they posed for a group shot in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. For the past four weeks the public-private park nearby Wall Street has served as a home-base for the growing movement. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

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 in which community is not a hamper on individual freedom, but rather an expression of its fullest potential.

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?

What’s Next?

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.

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.

Mutual of America


MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Judy and Josh Weston, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Rosalind P. Walter, Jody and John Arnhold and the Metropolitan Media Fund. Corporate funding is provided by Mutual of America, your retirement company.

© 2015 WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019