Occupy must become a full-service movement. It must offer meaningful work to a vast range of supporters, from nonviolent direct-action enthusiasts to occasional protesters at stockholder meetings to signers of petitions and campaigners, in order to drive big money out of politics. It must be more than a protest movement. After a brilliant start, it must continue engaging America in what amounts to a moral as well as a political upheaval. It must think of itself as an awakening that challenges people at every level not to tell Occupy what to do but to ask themselves what they will do, individually and together, to revive values more decent than “enrich yourself.”
It’s not a bad idea to restate Occupy’s core principle: it is a movement on behalf of the thwarted 99 percent against the dominant institutions that fatten the 1 percent. It aims to bring to an end the grotesque state of affairs in which the burden of big money crushes democracy and to depose the forces that produced economic catastrophe, along with their shabby ideas and financial delirium. It knows, in the words of one sign, “The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.”
To take on a warped state of affairs that has been decades in the making will take decades. Such a tall order requires an organizational evolution. The kind of face-to-face meetings that flourished in the encampments and may yet flourish there again are both necessary and inadequate for a mass movement. Occupy should develop national communication networks that can decide on coordinated actions. Supermajorities, not unanimities, should decide. Technology should be explored to expedite debates in which Occupiers engage one another and don’t just skip from person to person expressing opinions helter-skelter.
In the realm of direct action, it’s crucial to gather new circles of supporters by winning tangible victories. One priority is to fight for live-in victories, as Occupy Our Homes, Take Back the Land and other networks are doing. There has already been, in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Seattle, California and elsewhere, considerable success at creating what are, in effect, functional little encampments that stop illicit foreclosures, auctions and evictions. Committed people in Brooklyn and other neighborhoods are forming electronic networks to mobilize people as needed to prevent evictions.