Why Occupy Failed

The initial notion was to occupy Wall Street and there was only one demand: bring a tent. People would actually live in the street, disrupting the flow of capital in a very real way. But it didn’t happen. Police forced occupy to a private park, and prevented it from rupturing the daily activity of finance.

Today, the occupy movement is failing because the direct action it is taking is not on the same level as the damage being done. Occupy was initially successful because it was a festival where people were free to speak their mind and offer their help. It was thousands of people from all walks of life, carrying on in the tradition of a global justice movement. It fed people. It housed people. It inspired people to do something besides contribute to their own enslavement. It captivated the media, wrenching the public spotlight away from the government and corporate control.


If we are taking the dictator Mussolini at his word, and Fascism is in fact the merging of corporate and government power, then we are living in a Fascist state. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” He helped take the world 2 war and plunge Europe into the bloodiest decade in recorded history. Mussolini explained that Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism.

As that century closed, a terrorist organization hit two world trade center buildings with airplanes, killing almost 3,000 people. The U.S. launched a war on terror and began to take control of an oil-rich landscape. More than a decade later, not much has changed. Opposition has grown, yes, but not to the degree necessary to substantially challenge the ruling class of techno-corporate political-bureaucrats hell-bent on profit, economic growth, and an ever increasing supply of material wealth at the cost of social services and ecological integrity.

Humanity needs energy to feed a growing population. If an ecosystem is deprived energy, it withers away and dies. If large sectors of society are deprived energy, they wither away and die. Life is a series of cycles: energy, water, food, time… By disrupting cycles, life is disrupted. At present, the life of the empire machine is disrupting living cycles and sucking the life out of the natural world. Only if we disrupt those cycles that give life to the empire machine will we be able to deprive this beast of the energy it demands to continue to enslave and murder the community of life we love so much and depend on to live.

If occupy wants to make a lasting impact, it cannot resort to protesting these cycles of imperialism. Protest as a tactic does not sustain cultures. Instead, it allows those processes to continue, merely denouncing them as they do. Protest is designed to exert pressure in the hopes that mobilizing people to carry signs and chant slogans will be enough to influence representatives to legislate citizen initiatives. It isn’t. Not when an entire economic system, and politicians’ campaign contributions, depend on exploited relationships of living communities.

Occupy Wall Street transcended politics by recognizing the impotence of representational government, determining for themselves an alternative culture in specific, tangible ways. Free stores organized to provide for certain needs and creative displays of social artistry were offered by a complex arrangement of radicals, workers, students, homeless, homeowners, and celebrities looking to build a free and just sustainable eco-social system. It just couldn’t hold space. It was weak, and unprepared for the inevitable repression that ensued from a frightened political and economic state.


Conversations are great, but having them while you do something that matters is more important. There are real needs to be addressed, that can only happen in the moment. What is a better use of the present–protesting bullshit or producing something better? Even if what you “produce” is the death of a murderous civilization, what is more productive than that?

There are things that occupy can do to disrupt destructive processes: prevent injustices and right wrongs.

We need unification. We need diversity. We need resilience and wisdom and morality and coordinated campaigns. We need spontaneous insurrection. We need to stop what we are doing–all the bullshit jobs that suck our lives dry and destroy the joy in our hearts– and identify problems to be solved, redistributing our energy and efforts there. Occupy needs to operate as an oppositional force to industrial development and the flow of capital, especially if that flow in any way deviates from or inhibits how living systems operate. Cooperative networks of mutual aid need to be defended. And because ultimately we depend upon the land we live in, this means we need to hold space (occupy it) and make sure any oppression and injustice is banished from it as we continue to liberate more space.

Michael Schmidt writes in his Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, we need working class organizations under workers’ direct democratic control with strictly mandated delegates subject to rank and file decision-making, mobilizing masses of ordinary people, in the process of making a truly social, grassroots revolution, with communes and syndicalist unions federated horizontally across urban and rural areas, defended by an armed militia, under the pluralistic civilian control of mass organizations of class; these are invigorated by specific organizations of anarchist tendency intimately tied to struggles through mutual aid, solidarity, responsibility, federalism, and principles of revolutionary anarchism to sustain its action.

 So occupy the streets, break up the concrete, plant a permanent culture, and grow it, against all odds, and for all time.

-Greenie Gibson


4 thoughts on “Why Occupy Failed

  1. “We need spontaneous insurrection!” exhorts Greenie Gibson—evidently oblivious to the fact that Occupy’s most militant franchise tried to spark just such a revolt … and failed miserably. Anyone seeking more information is invited to consider my book “Occupy Oakland: The Little Revolution That Couldn’t,” available at Amazon. You can occupy all the streets you want but you’ll never win the hearts & minds of the American people, who (in contrast to you) mostly love their country and have zero interest in trading hard-won civilization for self-destructive anarchy.

  2. Interesting book Alan, thanks for letting people know how they can buy it. I’d invite you to write a longer response if you’re interested and we can post that on the site.

    If by “militant franchise” you mean Occupy Oakland, then I think one could argue pretty easily that shutting down the ports to cause millions of dollars in lost revenue was one of the most effective occupy actions that took place, with the intent to cost money in order to prove a point and express dissatisfaction. Regarding your hearts and minds of the American people comment, I’m guessing you didn’t go to the Occupy San Francisco camp on market, or else you would have heard honks of support all day as literally everyone, from MUNI drivers to armored vehicles waved and blared their support.

    The premise of this site is that the “hard-won civilization” you are describing is actually unsustainable, hence will be collapsing, since the mass exploitation of life-support systems and ecologies the world over contributes to tipping points, mass extinctions, and slavery. That hard-won civilization comes at the cost of the well-being of humans and non-humans alike, and so while the “anarchy” you worry about might be “self-destructive” in the sense that it probably looks to tear down key social institutions that propagate misogyny and ecocide (your “self-“), such destruction might itself be creative and positive, opening up possibilities for a culture that doesn’t cannibalize the world we live in.

    I guess it depends on your definition of “failed miserably,” really. And of course who you identify with. Again, feel free to submit an article for the site and we’ll put it up.

    • storyteller410, thanks for responding to my comment. You guessed wrong, though, about my experience with Occupy San Francisco. Although not a camper, on October 12, 2011 at noon, alongside hundreds of other non-Occupiers from around the Bay Area, I joined OSF outside the Federal Reserve on Market Street for a previously announced protest march. There was, as you note, considerable popular support for Occupy. But it didn’t last long and certainly didn’t lead to the “spontaneous insurrection” Greenie Gibson espouses above.

      You are also mistaken in your wishful thinking about the two 2011 Occupy Oakland port shutdowns having caused “millions of dollars in lost revenue.” No data has been adduced demonstrating any such effect. Working men and women—Port employees and others in associated industries—lost wages, but the 1% was never significantly impacted.

      As for Occupy having failed miserably, my remark related specifically to Occupy Oakland’s year-long attempts to spark the spontaneous insurrection that you favor. I didn’t enlarge that failure to encompass the rest of Occupy, since I’m unsure spontaneous insurrection was the overall goal of the larger movement. However, I remind you that the article upon which we are commenting is entitled “Why Occupy is Failing.” Its author Greenie Gibson evidently equates the present condition of Occupy with failure. So do I.

  3. It didn’t last long and wasn’t effective in insurrection–and failed. As for the port shutdown, “For the day, it was a loss of $4 million to $8 million,” http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_19540367 (for Oakland alone) Occupy isn’t interested in helping the 99% participate in a system that creates a 1% in the first place, so the shutdown was aimed at demonstrating the ability of a group of people to shut down the flow of capital. Which it did in a coordinated manner. When it is able to sustain a blockade, it will permanently shut it down, disregarding the dependency of the middle-class on the system.

    What were you expecting to get out of the 10/13/11 protest march? Spontaneous insurrection is the goal of occupation, being to “non-legally” hold space to disrupt the flow of capital. Meanwhile anti-capitalist’ marchers smash windows, vandalize ATMs http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_22806325/oakland-no-arrests-after-anti-capitalist-marchers-smash and generally cost corporations money. If an insurrection is an uprising (rising up) against an authority or government, engaging in civil disobedience and direct action stops the continuation of a corrupt system of private profit at the expense of community welfare. But back to the initial idea that occupy can “occupy all the streets you want but you’ll never win the hearts & minds of the American people, who (in contrast to you) mostly love their country and have zero interest in trading hard-won civilization for self-destructive anarchy”, you imply

    1. the hearts and minds of America need to be won
    2. occupy doesn’t love the country
    3. civilization is won
    4. anarchy is self-destructive
    5. civilization and anarchy can’t co-exist

    I would answer,

    1. occupy only needs enough people to occupy space.
    2. occupy loves the country so much it is willing to put its physical bodies in parts of the country and refuse to move out of those spaces.
    3. civilization is a conquest of people and places through militarized colonization and resource exploitation.
    4. anarchy is a free association and direct organization of liberated communities.
    5. true

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