Occupy Wall Street, One Year On

by Pham Binh on September 17, 2012

Broadway and Wall Street, 8 a.m.

First published by Independent Voter Network. Below is the original text.

Thousands of occupiers converged on the financial district attempting to blockade the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in celebration of the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Roving marches of hundreds choked off key intersections and dozens of arrests were made by the New York Police Department (NYPD). Fences and flex cuffs were their weapons of choice today instead of batons and pepper spray, a reflection of the fact that heavy-handed tactics were a key reason that OWS won so much sympathy and active support when copycat occupations spread across the country in fall of 2011.

Like any newly born grassroots uprising, OWS and its offshoots have struggled and stumbled due to external repression and internal difficulties. Occupied Wall Street Journal, the wildly popular newspaper, is printing its last issue soon. The mainstream media continues to focus on Occupy’s real difficulties with headlines like: “1 year on, Occupy is in disarray; spirit lives on.”

As anyone who ever spent time in Zuccotti Park during the encampment phase of Occupy knows, OWS was in disarray from day one. It continually teetered on the edge of implosion due to conflicting forces within or explosion from police forces without.

Organized chaos (or chaotic organization) was always OWS’s calling card and it succeeded against all odds, against the predictions of professional pundits and the left’s commentariat, and this morning’s blockades were the combination of winging it and careful planning beforehand among a cadre of local activists who have come to know and trust one another through the battles of the past year.

A fold-able version of the map above with a three-day itinerary and detailed explanation of events was handed out at various intersections in the Wall Street area throughout the morning to the rag tag army of occupiers which included disability rights activists, ACT UP veterans, the jobless, the homeless, and many young activists who donned suits and ties in the hopes of infiltrating and disrupting NYPD checkpoints aimed to weed out protestors from the immediate area of the NYSE.

As each roving band moved, a correspondent line of police followed to corral them and bark orders. They succeeded in shutting down many but not all of the choke points en route to the NYSE. When the Wall Street and Broadway entrance was besieged by hundreds of occupiers, some of whom sat down at 8 a.m., a line of Wall Street employees standing at Broadway and Exchange one block down stood and cleared the NYPD check point with their work badges.

The best live coverage of OWS’s one-year anniversary can be seen at the Timcast livestream.

Live video from your Android device on Ustream

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

David Berger September 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm

What I really like, Pham, is how, as a good Marxist, you highlighted the role of the working class.

NOT!

David Berger

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

“[W]e do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle.” — Karl Marx

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David Berger September 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Nice,but you forgot one thing, which Marx never forgot. The subject of the Marxist project is the self-liberation of the working class and thereby the liberation of mankind.

In your writing and, as I understand them, your political action, you consistently ignore this crucial notion. What actions, did you “Class War Camp” engage in as a group over the 3-day weekend?

David Berger

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The role of the working class? The working class went to work yesterday and did not engage in any strike action, although turnout in the park around 5pm was 1-2,000, many of them workers.

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David Berger September 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

FROM Pham Binh: The role of the working class? The working class went to work yesterday and did not engage in any strike action, although turnout in the park around 5pm was 1-2,000, many of them workers.

FROM David Berger: (1) Since both you and your so-called group played, as far as I know, no part in organizing the events of S-15, S-16 and S-17 (sorry if I’m wrong about that; plz correct me), you wouldn’t be aware of the various labor workshops, nor would you be aware of the fact that several unions actually sponsored events on S17.

(2) You mentioned “strike action.” This is a red herring. Who called for a strike on S-17? But, since you want a strike in which the Occupy Movement was involved in, I suggest you check out the CTU strike in Chicago.

(3) All of which goes to show that you have no concept of the role of the working class in revolutionary change.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Funny, now you’re telling me what I am and am not aware of.

Anyway, if you are interested in learning about what worker resistance in the 21st century looks like, here is a good example (unrelated to S17): http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/09/who-filmed-the-mitt-romney-fundraiser-video.html?mid=google

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David Berger September 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

Are you really saying that when someone filmed Mitt Romney that was “worker resistance”? Nice try to divert this thread. I reiterate my point (3) above:

(3) All of which goes to show that you have no concept of the role of the working class in revolutionary change.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

A worker filming Romney and putting out the footage is a form of resistance. You have no concept of what revolutionary change is. No wonder you avoid discussions of the Arab Spring.

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dave brown September 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm

A rather lame review of Occupy. I would have thought Pham Binh capable of much more firepower than this, but I guess he is shell shocked by Syria as many of us are. Yet shock has to motivate us to examine our roots. Occupy was an outgrowth of the Arab Revolution, itself a revival of the suppressed Arab Revolution of the 1950s, when ‘socialist’ dictators and Stalinists popular fronts froze the revolution at is ‘democratic stage’ (ha ha irony). So if Occupy is anything to celebrate one year on, its got to be linked to the same forces that conspire to destroy it as conspire to destroy the Arab Revolution. Pham is really pissed off by Obama for being a bloody Obomber who is stopping the Syrian revolution take out Assad’s superiority in heavy weapons. He says Obomber wants the regime to survive because whatever replaces it is more dangerous to Israel and US interests in the region than Assad.

What’s new? This is US imperialism remember, that has been exposed as the no 1 terrorist since when? Well before 2001 anyway. It just so happens that saving the Syrian revolution does not serve the interests of US imperialism in its terminal decline. Looking to US imperialism for an explanation of the failure of the global proletariat to break through its naked reaction is not the answer.

Its the self proclaimed Marxist left that we have to blame.

The real betrayals are to be laid at the door of those who claim to be carrying the mantle of revolutionary Marxism. Stalinism has long since blown its cover, but in the absence of a revolutionary proletariat the petty bourgeois bureaucracy dominates the labour movement. It still plays a key role in locking the left into popular fronts with the national bourgeoisies and imperialism. Look at the ANC today and Zuma’s speech at the current Cosatu congress. ANC follows the Sacp concept of SA as undergoing a creeping national democratic revolution in partnership with international finance capital. Maoists are no better especially when they paint China as some sort of progressive ‘market socialism’.

Then there is the crypto Stalinist left that worships Chavez and Castro collaborating to delude Latin American workers that Capitalist restoration in Cuba and Chavez ‘socialism’ can resist US imperialism as part of an international popular front with Chinese imperialism.

So Stalinism lives both as a real force betraying the working masses on all continents, especially in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Therefore, the non-Stalinist left (mainly Trotskyist) are necessarily still isolated on the margins of the labor movement and pressured into either opportunist adaptation to petty bourgeois Stalinism and/or Social Democracy, or into sectarian positions in which correct but abstract demands are not translated into real politics. That’s why faced with the revival of the Arab Revolution most of the left split to either tail NATO or reject the revolution once NATO intervened. This proved to be a decisive test for what is left of the left, and most of the left failed it.

The reason why it failed brings us back to the other area where Pham Binh has raised the question: how can there be any revival of revolutionary Marxism to provide the leadership to the revolution against the counter-revolution in all of its forms such as the Arab revolution, fightbacks against austerity, and Occupy – and one should add Marikana? Leninism is mooted, in particular a party form that allows revolutionaries to directly engage in the whole class, not as forays by sects with abstract ultimatums, but as a revolutionary faction (in the positive sense) with a transitional method and program.

This brings us back to the basic question of the crisis of leadership. We cannot advance the struggle to the point of winning the working masses to a program of armed intervention in support of national revolutions; for a mass movement for the overthrow of finance capital; for a revival of trade unions in workplaces against the bureaucracy, etc without a democratic centralist vanguard party. But that party needs to be a ‘faction’ inside a party of the whole class which includes the majority of reformist workers.

Trotsky saw the campaign for a Labor Party in the US as the necessary step towards this vanguard Party. But the rot had already set in. When he said go to the Rooseveltian workers and get them to vote for the CPUSA the SWP leadership baulked.

That is the root of the problem where the rot set in. Unless we dig out those rotten roots there will be no revolutionary mass movement capable of destroying the Assads with heavy weapons, or bring Wall Street down.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm

A rather lame comment, considering that you barely mentioned Occupy but saw fit to mention Syria, Libya, Chavez, social democracy, a labor party, and Cuba. I wrote this in 20 minutes fresh off leading chants and taking pictures at OWS. Feel free to do better.

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Brian S. September 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

Sounds like we’re all doomed then!

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Brian S. September 18, 2012 at 7:00 am

I don’t know if people in the US follow Gary Younge – one of the best transatlanitc commentators on US Politics (Guardian correspondent now settled in the States – and one-time youthful Trotskyist): but in a feature assessing Obama’s electoral chances, he attributes Occupy Wall Street with effecting a major shift in the terms of political discourse:
” It is rare for a president to recover from this level of protracted economic distress, particularly when they brought such high hopes with them. But the last year handed Obama two crucial, mutually reinforcing tools with which he could start to build an electoral revival. The first was Occupy Wall Street, which sprouted offshoots in every state in the country, burning brightly before fading into smaller more grassroots campaigns. The occupations had no specific demands, and had no organic connection to the Democratic party. But by concentrating their ire on the inequities of the financial system and the greed of financial elites – two things Obama had failed to do anything about – they shifted the target of national frustration from government to inequality. Polls showed a significant portion of the country agreed with its aims, with 77% believing there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations…”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/17/barack-obama-election-gary-younge

There’s also a more extended and spot-on discussion by one of the Guardian’s sharpest economics columnists, Aditya Chakrabortty:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/17/occupy-year-old-critics-wrong

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

Obama has not even attempt to co-opt Occupy’s rhetoric of 99% v. 1%, preferring instead the mantra about fighting to defend “middle class” jobs and families. He is going to slaughter Romney on election day because Romney is a horrible candidate.

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David Berger September 20, 2012 at 8:50 am

Actually, on October 11, 2011, during the salad days of Occupy Wall Street, the following appeared in Business Insider:

“[White House spokesperson Josh] Earnest added that while on the trip, Obama will make it clear that he is fighting to make certain that the “interests of 99 percent of Americans are well represented” — the first time the White House has used the term to differentiate the vast majority of Americans from the wealthy.”

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-10-16/politics/30285591_1_house-spokesman-josh-earnest-president-barack-obama-class-warrior#ixzz270hwZ1y5

Is that all you can say about Romney? That’ he’s a “horrible candidate”? I mean couldn’t you even say he’s an “uncool dude” or a “filthy right-wing plutocrat”? Last night Lawrence O’Donnell at least called him, I’m writing from memory, a “bloated fat cat.”

David Berger

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

Of course that’s not all I can say, but what more needs to be said? His chances at winning the presidency are less than Sarah Palin’s.

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David Berger September 21, 2012 at 12:05 am

With all due respect, I would think that as a Marxist, you might have more to say.

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David Berger October 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

FROM PHAM BINH: Thousands of occupiers converged on the financial district attempting to blockade the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in celebration of the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Roving marches of hundreds choked off key intersections and dozens of arrests were made by the New York Police Department (NYPD). Fences and flex cuffs were their weapons of choice today instead of batons and pepper spray, a reflection of the fact that heavy-handed tactics were a key reason that OWS won so much sympathy and active support when copycat occupations spread across the country in fall of 2011.

DAVID BERGER: So now we have softer, gentler cops who bust Occupy people because of all the “sympathy and active support” Occupy got. I’m sure that, to a certain extent, the police are chilling it out, although I’m told by people who were in the Wall Street area that the police treatment of individuals was pretty rough. Meanwhile, a massive, grassroots campaign against police brutality and the Stop and Frisk tactics goes unmentioned.

FROM PHAM BINH: Like any newly born grassroots uprising

DAVID BERGER: Is that what OWS was, an uprising? Here is a sample of definitions of this word courtesy of Google.
• A sometimes limited popular revolt against a constituted government or its policies; a rebellion.
• The act or an instance of rising or rising up.
• a revolt or rebellion
• organized opposition to authority; a conflict in which one faction tries to wrest control from another
• a rebellion or revolt

Maybe some people recognize OWS in one of these, but self-flattery aside, we need to distinguish between an uprising and a movement. OWS was/is a movement, like many others before it and far from an uprising. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

FROM PHAM BINH: OWS and its offshoots have struggled and stumbled due to external repression and internal difficulties.

DAVID BERGER: A little more conciseness might be in order here. Once the “external repression,” by which I suppose you mean the evictions, was over, what you call “internal difficulties” began in spades.
Basically, the politics of all tendencies within the Occupy movement have been tested again and again. Stalinists, Maoists, insurrectionary anarchists and orthodox Trotskyists have failed utterly. Independent socialists have done pretty well. Noninsurrectionary anarchists still have some credibility. Social democrats, who were very common at one point in the form of lower-level union bureaucrats, or bureaucrat wannabes, are still present. Liberals have more-or-less complete vanished into the hog heaven of the Obama campaign.

FROM PHAM BINH: Occupied Wall Street Journal, the wildly popular newspaper, is printing its last issue soon. The mainstream media continues to focus on Occupy’s real difficulties with headlines like: “1 year on, Occupy is in disarray; spirit lives on.”

DAVID BERGER: That’s hardly a political analysis of what’s going.

FROM PHAM BINH: As anyone who ever spent time in Zuccotti Park during the encampment phase of Occupy knows, OWS was in disarray from day one. It continually teetered on the edge of implosion due to conflicting forces within or explosion from police forces without.

DAVID BERGER: All true, and at one point, as I recall, you produced a piece, which I can’t find at the moment, which produced a rudimentary class analysis of what was going on in the park. However, you couldn’t analyze the relationship of the Occupy movement to the working class, which for a Marxist is crucial. And you have not participated in precisely those parts of OWS that worked to form a relationship to the working class.

FROM PHAM BINH: Organized chaos (or chaotic organization) was always OWS’s calling card and it succeeded against all odds, against the predictions of professional pundits and the left’s commentariat, and this morning’s blockades were the combination of winging it and careful planning beforehand among a cadre of local activists who have come to know and trust one another through the battles of the past year.

DAVID BERGER: Welcome to Fantasy Politics! The chaos in Zuccotti Park may have been exhiliarating for a week or so, but by the time of the police raid, it was becoming overwhelming and negating the movement. There was less and less space for political discussion or a political presence within the park. More and more, political activities, including the General Assembly itself, were being confined to a small area while the encampment, which was becoming a hippy drug camp.

FROM PHAM BINH: A fold-able version of the map above with a three-day itinerary and detailed explanation of events was handed out at various intersections in the Wall Street area throughout the morning to the rag tag army of occupiers which included disability rights activists, ACT UP veterans, the jobless, the homeless, and many young activists who donned suits and ties in the hopes of infiltrating and disrupting NYPD checkpoints aimed to weed out protestors from the immediate area of the NYSE.

DAVID BERGER: And it all amounted to a hill of beans. The result, as compared to demonstrations of a year ago, was less than a joke. Significantly, though, Binh does not discuss the events of Saturday and Sunday, the 15th and 16th, when events took place sponsored by the viable, organized groups of OWS, including those involved in labor struggles. Instead, we hear about the attempts of a “rag tag army of occupiers.” This denotes politics that have not developed since the eviction ten months ago.

FROM PHAM BINH: As each roving band moved, a correspondent line of police followed to corral them and bark orders. They succeeded in shutting down many but not all of the choke points en route to the NYSE. When the Wall Street and Broadway entrance was besieged by hundreds of occupiers, some of whom sat down at 8 a.m., a line of Wall Street employees standing at Broadway and Exchange one block down stood and cleared the NYPD check point with their work badges.

DAVID BERGER: And? Months of planning for a few minutes of disruption and some small articles in the papers. All about as effective as the nonexistent general strike on May Day. Fortunately, there are groups within the Occupy movement trying to place it in a relationship to the working class, instead of rerunning the politics of a year ago.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

“Binh does not discuss the events of Saturday and Sunday, the 15th and 16th, when events took place sponsored by the viable, organized groups of OWS, including those involved in labor struggles.”

Funny, you do not discuss it either. Hypocrisy much?

The amount of time you spend following my written to debunk it would probably be better spent on real-world organizing, although I have to say I’m flattered you find me to be such a threat/heretic to warrant the treatment.

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David Berger October 6, 2012 at 1:44 am

When your so-called class war camp has a meeting, let me know. I’ll attend and listen to what you have to say about real-world organizing. Until then, I’ll be working with the OWS Labor Alliance.

David Berger

Reply

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