From Occupation to Revolution


by John Spritzler and Dave Stratman

November 7, 2011


There is no step the OWS movement can take that would have greater impact than to decide explicitly that its goal is revolution.

Transforming the whole society has in fact underlain the movement from the start.  It is implicit in the movement’s profound commitment to democracy, to equality among participants, to sharing and support for each other.  Why should the values embodied in OWS be limited to a few blocks in towns and cities across America?  The movement’s refusal to focus on specific demands is an unspoken acknowledgement that the whole society has to change.

To make transforming the whole society its explicit goal would clarify the agenda for the coming years: a national and international dialogue about how to defeat the ruling elites and what a post-revolutionary society should look like.

If OWS takes this step, then folding the tents in the heart of winter (or losing them to police raids) will matter less.  The revolutionary strategy can be carried out even without them.  The movement can scatter and regroup as the situation demands.

What does it mean to make revolution the goal?  Does it mean picking up a gun or smashing bank windows or attacking the police?  No, it certainly does not.  It means building on the foundations already established by OWS:  equal and supportive relationships among the people and democracy in decision-making. The question is how to extend these to all of society.

Some believe that if occupiers hang on long enough, then the desired changes will happen.  Others believe that if enough people get themselves arrested in civil disobedience actions, this will exert “moral suasion” (as Gandhi called it) on the rules and make them change their ways.  Some think that if everybody can agree on a few realistic demands, that will do it.  And some believe that electing different politicians will solve our problems.

None of the above actions can succeed, however.  Any solutions which do not remove the ruling elite from power and create a real democracy offer only more of the same. Difficult though it may be to achieve, revolution is the only practical solution to our problems.

To declare its goal to be revolution would transform the OWS movement. OWS would have a strategic goal within which the movement can develop tactics and measure success. By declaring its goal to be to defeat the 1% and extend equality and sharing and democracy to all of society, OWS would gain a new level of consciousness and create the possibility for far deeper ties and participation from the wider community.

The chief elements of a revolutionary strategy are recruiting to the movement and spreading revolutionary ideas—that the ruling class has no legitimacy, that revolution is necessary, that it is possible, and that it is the only way to create a society based on equality and mutual aid and democracy.  Tactics would emphasize communicating these ideas to a wider public and recruiting fresh forces to the discussion of how to defeat the elite and how to make a new world.

Every Occupation should become a base camp for spreading the idea of revolution and recruiting to the movement. Occupations should actively reach out to the larger community, as Occupy Boston did recently when it cooperated with Occupy the Hood and local people to stage a large rally in the heart of the black community. The rally focused on local concerns, especially police brutality, but put them in the larger picture of inequality in American society.

The OWS movement has already found huge resonance with ordinary people across America and the world.  The now-famous sign seen at OWS, “The beginning is near,” touched on a profound truth. Millions of people nationally, perhaps billions worldwide, long for a world based on the values which OWS has expressed. There is no better way for OWS to unite itself with these aspirations for a new world than to declare revolution to be its goal.

How might the Occupy movement proceed to embrace revolution as its goal? Perhaps a Declaration of Revolutionary Aims or some such document could declare the movement’s determination to defeat the rulers and outline some principles on which a new society might be based: for example, economic production to fulfill human needs, not profit; a sharing society in which all who contribute would have equal access to social goods; decentralized government based on federated local assemblies. (Our essay, “Thinking about Revolution,” outlines what a new society might look like.)

No doubt people’s sense of social possibility will grow more expansive as the movement grows in self-confidence. The point now is to start imagining a new world and put fighting for it on the agenda.