Independent Voices: Alternative Press Coverage of the Occupy Movement

Alternative Press Center

In These Times is proud to partner with the Alternative Press Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing public awareness of alternative press, to present a monthly round-up of the best of independent media from around the globe.

The Occupy movement — at first ignored by the mainstream press — went on to capture the nation’s attention, reigniting the discussion of inequality and injecting the 99 percent” into the popular lexicon.

Although the corporate press can no longer dismiss Occupy, its coverage has often been limited in scope, pigeonholing the movement’s message and sterotyping the Occupiers. But independent press from around the globe has been there from the beginning, offering in-depth analysis of the movement and its relationship to other ongoing struggles.

This month, we bring you fresh commentary on the Occupy movement from little-known authors and journals. Web links are provided where available. 

You won’t find these stories on CNN.

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Creativity (Pre-)Occupied”

by Max Heiven

Fuse: Art/​Culture/​Politics vol. 35 no. 1, Winter 2011-2012, p. 6-9

In Fuse, Max Haiven (New York University) asks how Occupy Wall Street and related movements relate to the struggle of creativity within capitalism and against its associated repressive forces:

As a whole, New York City is a creative battlefield, with perhaps the world’s largest formal creative class negotiating its place in a world of mega-museums, crass Wall Street patronage, government politicking, intense competition for jobs and the ever-present spectre of rent and bills. Meanwhile, many creative radicals wage persistent guerrilla war against the financial-police-aesthetic complex, staging daring public happenings, establishing alternative spaces and supporting social movements like the Occupation of Wall Street…

t is important to locate OWS’s creative resistance amidst the struggles over creative space because it allows us to see the Occupation as part of a historic continuum of struggles which stretches into the city’s history, back to before the birth and co-optation of hip-hop, and of disco, funk, jazz and blues. Castle MoMA and Fortress Guggenheim are grim monuments to the folding of the autonomous creative spaces forged by artists into the corporatized, creative space of the regenerate city.”

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Occupy Wall Street: Marco Deseriis in conversation with Jodi Dean”

Arena Magazine: the Australian magazine of Left political, social and cultural commentary no. 115, Dec. 2011/​Jan. 2012, p. 17-20

This issue features a conversation between Jodi Dean, political science professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and New School post-doctorate fellow Marco Deseriis, who has been involved in OWS since the beginning. They address the movement’s origin, and how its participatory nature may be a crippling factor:

Jodi Dean: My sense is that the loose, horizontal, consensus approach of OWS demonstrates the impotence of participation as an ideal — and the very reason that participation has become such a banal refrain: it stands for activity for its own sake, activity that is primarily that of a single individual doing their individual thing, that is, an individual that in no way comes into contact with others with whom they have to work. So in this respect, the horizontal, consensus basis of OWS repeats the worst aspects of participationism: individuals just participate’, stop by, say something, do their thing, and move on. Unfortunately, this mobility subverts the achievement of duration so central to occupation as a tactic.

This problem of mobile membership combines with the problem of unrepresentability. In the movement ideology of direct democracy no one speaks for another, no one has any more right than anyone else to participate in the deliberations of a group. In practice, this isn’t quite the case. People now speak in terms of their dedication to the movement: I’ve slept in the park for a month’ or I’ve been to every GA meeting’ or (differently) I spoke to a lot of people about this’ or I consulted with four different union groups’. Any of these ways of backing one’s claim is good. The problem comes in the dis-organisational practices that invalidate the claims, again, under the heading of no one can speak for any other’.”

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Net, Square, Everywhere?”

by Nick Dyer-Witheford

Radical Philosophy: a Journal of Socialist and Feminist Philosophy no. 171 Jan-Feb 2012, p. 2-7

The January-February issue of Radical Philosophy offers six Occupy Wall Street-related articles. Nick Dyer-Witheford leads off, contextualizing the movement with the alter-globalization movement, catalyzed by the Zapatista rebellion in 1994. Dyer-Witheford offers critical analysis based on the changing composition of the working class. He concludes:

In and around Occupy, various segments of this networked proletariat now swirl in what is, at best, a semi-synchronized choreography: At its core, in the squares, the precarious and unemployed, the students, the intermittent cultural and media workers, sometimes themselves becoming media capital; on its periphery, but expanding its orbit, workers in large-scale transportation and communications industries that circulate global capital; construction workers building world cities that are also communications hubs; public-sector workers, toiling in the infrastructures of what is in North America a substantially post-industrialized economy. Offstage, in this account, and only for the moment, are workers in the new manufacturing zones, doing the heavy lifting for the information economy in the electronics assembly factories of the Pearl river, the e-waste dumps of West Africa, and the coltan, lithium and rare-earth mines spread across the global south. Digital networks both connect and divide this workforce.

This is what makes the slogan We are the 99 per cent” simultaneously inspired and mystifying. Networks enable a circulation of struggles. They make the resistances to global capital by various segments of the global worker digitally visible, audible and legible to one another. But they do not spontaneously guarantee the commonality of these struggles, which must rather be constructed as a project of political articulation. This is the task of communist organization. The important radical formations of the future will be those that bring to this old task a new fusion of networked and terrestrial connection to actualize the aspiration emblazoned on the banner carried at the Oakland general strike: Occupy Everywhere: Death to Capitalism”.

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Globalization of Capital, Globalization of Struggle”

by the Editors

Insurgent Notes: a Journal of Communist Theory and Practice, no. 52012

The January issue of Insurgent Notes focuses on the Occupy Wall Street movement with ten articles. The editors lead off with a critical comparison between the 1960s New Left and the Occupy Wall Street movement. They conclude:

One of the [Occupy] movement’s strengths was its resistance to the pressure from various outside forces, starting with the media, for concrete demands,” not to mention for leaders able to negotiate such demands[5] and thus become targets for repression and co-optation. As someone put it, even OWS activists who wanted demands did not know what those demands were. CLR James remarked long ago that the realities of capitalism in its statist phase[6] educate people directly and prepare the point of departure of revolt with an inchoate sense of what is necessary. However diverse and scattered the specific consciousness of participants, the lack or refusal of demands expressed the deep reality of the movement as one of a blocked society, which implied total transformation, however poorly articulated. What were the demands” in France in May 1968 or in Argentina in 2001/2002, or other situations where power lay in the streets”? What are the demands” in Greece today? The total transformation required — we call it revolution — is not something one demands,” but something one does.

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In Our Hands is Placed a Power: Austerity, Worldwide Strike Wave, and the Crisis of Global Governance”

by Steven Colatrella

Socialism and Democracy vol. 25 no. 3, p. 82-106

Steven Colatrella situates the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States within the larger frame of global resistance to economic austerity measures fostered by global governance institutions such as the World Trade Organization. In the global context the Occupy movement is a later entrant to a working class strike wave challenging the ever-expanding entrenchment of a global ruling class served by austerity measures. The consequent crises and revolutions around the world challenge the legitimacy of global governance institutions at a fundamental level.

To understand these revolutionary upheavals we need to investigate more closely the global strike wave against austerity that has given birth to them. We need to understand the latter in its context, which is largely unprecedented, and we also need to see it in relation to its precedents, other historical worldwide strike waves. Classes, nationally or globally, are not static structures. They are ever-changing, and always in formation and re-composition, resulting from their struggle with other classes and from the need to address the societal changes, national and global, brought about by that struggle. While never limited to formal organization, class formation and re-composition often requires organizational form to provide guidance, orientation and cohesiveness. This is the context in which to understand the role of global governance: not as a world state, but as an institutional means of uniting the ruling class globally - a project that is never fully completed, or which at least is unlikely to be fully realized. The world’s working class is surely far more diverse than the capitalist class. Unity, always relative in the case of the working class, is for workers globally to be found not in over-arching organization but in common struggle.

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The Occupy Movement and Class Politics in the US”

by Megan Trudell

International Socialism n133 Winter 12 pp. 39-53

Megan Trudell draws connections between the growing consciousness of gross inequality among the US working class, the protests of the Occupy movement, and the common roots of their collective resistance. She also highlights state collusion with the super-rich in enacting measures that further increase inequality and act to repress such resistance among protestors.

The self-identification of the movement as the 99 percent of US society who have seen none of the benefits of the increase in wealth over the last 30 years, as opposed to the 1 percent who have been enriched to an enormous degree in the same period, has refocused the bitterness and anger in US society in a clear class direction. The slogan reflects the reality of the deep and growing inequality of wealth, the determination of the richest to make the rest of society bear the burden of the crisis and to use the recession as a political weapon to push through further austerity and attacks on working class conditions, and a developing sense of the role of the state in stifling collective democratic protest and protecting the 1 percent – and a determination, so far, to meet such repression with resistance.

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