Dear Occupiers: A Letter from Anarchists
Crimethinc. Ex Workers Collective
Support and solidarity! We’re inspired by the occupations on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country. Finally, people are taking to the streets again! The momentum around these actions has the potential to reinvigorate protest and resistance in this country. We hope these occupations will increase both in numbers and in substance, and we’ll do our best to contribute to that.
Why should you listen to us? In short, because we’ve been at this a long time already. We’ve spent decades struggling against capitalism, organizing occupations, and making decisions by consensus. If this new movement doesn’t learn from the mistakes of previous ones, we run the risk of repeating them. We’ve summarized some of our hard-won lessons here.
Occupation is nothing new. The land we stand on is already occupied territory. The United States was founded upon the extermination of indigenous peoples and the colonization of their land, not to mention centuries of slavery and exploitation. For a counter-occupation to be meaningful, it has to begin from this history. Better yet, it should embrace the history of resistance extending from indigenous self-defense and slave revolts through the various workers’ and anti-war movements right up to the recent anti-globalization movement.
The “99%” is not one social body, but many. Some occupiers have presented a narrative in which the “99%” is characterized as a homogenous mass. The faces intended to represent “ordinary people” often look suspiciously like the predominantly white, law-abiding middle-class citizens we’re used to seeing on television programs, even though such people make up a minority of the general population.
It’s a mistake to whitewash over our diversity. Not everyone is waking up to the injustices of capitalism for the first time now; some populations have been targeted by the power structure for years or generations. Middle-class workers who are just now losing their social standing can learn a lot from those who have been on the receiving end of injustice for much longer.
The problem isn’t just a few “bad apples.” The crisis is not the result of the selfishness of a few investment bankers; it is the inevitable consequence of an economic system that rewards cutthroat competition at every level of society. Capitalism is not a static way of life but a dynamic process that consumes everything, transforming the world into profit and wreckage. Now that everything has been fed into the fire, the system is collapsing, leaving even its former beneficiaries out in the cold. The answer is not to revert to some earlier stage of capitalism—to go back to the gold standard, for example; not only is that impossible, those earlier stages didn’t benefit the “99%” either. To get out of this mess, we’ll have to rediscover other ways of relating to each other and the world around us.
Police can’t be trusted. They may be “ordinary workers,” but their job is to protect the interests of the ruling class. As long as they remain employed as police, we can’t count on them, however friendly they might act. Occupiers who don’t know this already will learn it firsthand as soon as they threaten the imbalances of wealth and power our society is based on. Anyone who insists that the police exist to protect and serve the common people has probably lived a privileged life, and an obedient one.
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