Occupy’s Success Will Take a Lifetime

An organizer’s perspective on the need for continued efforts.

Nick Espinosa

Occupiers in Minneapolis defy police and bring tents to encampment on October 15, 2011. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/Creative Commons).

For In These Times’ December 2013 cover feature, Generation Hopeless?”, the magazine asked a number of politically savvy people, younger and older, to respond to an essay by 22-year-old Occupy activist Matthew Richards in which he grapples with what the movement meant and whether Occupy’s unfulfilled promises are a lost cause or the seeds of the different world whose promise he glimpsed two years ago. Here is Nick Espinosa’s response:

'Without a clear, disciplined and democratic process that allows people from all walks of life to meaningfully participate, we can’t develop and sustain leaders over time.'

Occupy Wall Street brought previously siloed issues under a big tent and sowed the seeds of revolutionary change that have yet to bear fruit. Richards is wrong when he denies that the movement’s lack of formal structure was a cause of its demise. And I couldn’t disagree more with his idea that we just need to wait until conditions are more conducive to organizing.

There has never been a more opportune moment to fight for the world we need for our collective survival — but success will take a lifetime of committed and intentional work.

Attending General Assemblies every night for months convinced me that this ultra democratic” method of decision-making made the movement inaccessible to those who could not afford to spend hours a day in meetings. This excluded the very constituencies most affected by the issues raised by the Occupy movement.

Without a clear, disciplined and democratic process that allows people from all walks of life to meaningfully participate, we can’t develop and sustain leaders over time. With authentically democratic structures and coordinated strategy, the Occupy movement, like social movements throughout history, could have better sustained itself beyond the inevitable police repression it suffered.

We must maintain hope and continue the work the Occupy movement catalyzed. Not because something might just give at some point if we’re lucky, but because with converging economic and ecological crises, our survival depends on our building democracy to exert control over our communities. With discipline, strategy and leadership development, we can counter corporate control and build a lasting movement to change the course of history.

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Nick Espinosa helped launch Occupy Minneapolis and started the glitterbomb” trend by dumping glitter on Newt Gingrich at a book signing in Minneapolis.
Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
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