In the early morning of Nov. 15, 2011 the New York Police Department raided, pepper sprayed, beat and arrested protestors at the Occupy Wall Street encampment. This raid destroyed the birthplace of what has become an international movement against the rich elite and their exploitation of the working and middle classes. Mayors of cities across the nation are following in New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s footsteps and are conducting raids at Occupy encampments across the nation, thus ending what can be seen as the first phase of this movement.
For all of the courage we have seen in the national Occupy movement, our greatest challenges are before us. We have seen the bravery of the people that not only have created liberated spaces for the communalization of services and materials of survival, but to defend those spaces. We have seen the defense of those spaces in the general strike in Oakland, California. In New York City occupiers defended their encampment for two months from police repression. In Denver, Colo. we’ve seen the people reoccupy after riot police raided their encampment. In Portland, Ore. we’ve seen the people lock arms to stand between the police and their encampment to stop an eviction. In Chapel Hill, N.C. we’ve seen the people stand up to S.W.A.T. Team members raiding an occupied abandoned building, which was to be turned into a social center, with semi-automatic rifles. We have seen the bravery and courage of the people to stand up against the 1% and defend their liberated spaces where new possibilities of social relations can be created.
But now as the police destroy what the people have created, and winter quickly approaches, we are going to hit our roughest seas yet. We now have the great challenge to learn from the past months and use this knowledge to move this resistance as far as it can take us. We must also learn from the elders who have struggled long before we set up our tents and joined the movement. We must learn from our histories and see what can be used to further our resistance. We must learn about the student and worker uprising in Paris in 1968, when students and workers joined together to create new forms of social relationships based on mutual aid and worker’s dignity. We must learn from the Black Panther Party who struggled against the racist and colonialist American empire from within. We must learn how they built a movement for the people and by the people to create a new society outside of the capitalist mode of production. We must learn from the anarcho-syndicalists who organized and fought fascism in Spain in the 1930’s. They created new forms of production based for the people’s needs, as well as discovered new and egalitarian ways to combat the forces of oppression.
The list can go on and on of examples of our comrades who fought against the exploitation of the elite. But the important lesson here is that we are not the first people to struggle, and we are far from alone in this struggle. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, we must not only learn what made these struggles powerful, but also what made them weak. We can learn from our histories what paths not to follow and what mistakes made these movements fail.
As the current phase of our movement ends, and as we see our numbers in the camps dwindle due to police repression and the chill of the winter air, we must educate ourselves of the lessons of the past. When this movement started in mid September, no one could have imagined that it would have left to what it is now. It started as a rag-tag group of folks disenfranchised with the current social structure and with the dreams of the possibilities of a new social system. Now it is a global movement of working and middle class people from diverse backgrounds demanding an end to the alienation and exploitation of their capitalist daily lives.
We must use this lull as an opportunity to study and reorganize ourselves for when the warmth of spring returns our movement can be more fierce and powerful than before.
Nicholas Silveri-Hiller is a student at WCU majoring in gender and women studies with a minor in African American studies and sociology. He can be reached at NS660747@wcupa.edu.