What happened to the Occupy movement?

Source: Al Jazeera

Although media coverage has dwindled, Occupy cells are alive and well all over the United States – and beyond.

Occupy Wall Street was at the pinnacle of its power in October 2011, when thousands of people converged at Zuccotti Park and successfully foiled the plans of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sweep away the occupation on grounds of public health. From that vantage point, the Occupy movement appears to have tumbled off a cliff, having failed to organise anything like a general strike on May Day – despite months of rumblings of mass walkouts, blockades and shutdowns.

The mainstream media are eager to administer last rites. CNN declared “May Day fizzled”, the New York Post sneered “Goodbye, Occupy” and the New York Times consigned the day’s events to fewer than 400 words, mainly about arrests in New York City.

Historians and organisers counter that the Occupy movement needs to be seen in relative terms. Eminent sociologist Frances Fox Piven, co-author of Poor People’s Movements, says:

“I don’t know of a movement that unfolds in less than a decade. People are impatient, and some of them are too quick to pass judgment. But it’s the beginning, I think, of a great movement. One of a series of movement that has episodically changed history, which is not the way we tell the story of American history.”

Brooke Lehman, a central figure in the anti-corporate globalization movement a decade ago, says:

“Compared to a year ago, the level of activity is amazing today. There is a whole new generation of high school and college students being radicalised.”

Others note that protests did take place in more than 110 cities on May Day in recognition of worker resistance and solidarity, no mean feat given the hostility to labour among the ruling elite i the US. At the same time, only shameless partisans would deny that the Occupy movement is struggling to reclaim the heights it had last year, and many activists admit this in private. Some argue that police and media hostility act as a one-two punch that can knock out movements such as Occupy, and this is all too true, as explained below. But other movements surmount these obstacles. North of the US-Canada border, hundreds of thousands of university students in Quebec have maintained a militant strike for three months against tuition increases in defiance of whip-cracking politicians, pundits and police.

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