Tag Archives: revolution

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.



You Say You Want a Revolution….

In this, my final post, I will attempt to define what Occupy Wall Street really is. Let me start by saying that I will analyze this through the lens of finances, which is what my posts were about.

Occupy Wall Street in one word, is a response.

It is a response to the conditions that the majority of Americans face in our society. These are people who have decided that they will no longer stand by when there are billionaires who can finance deep-sea explorations, when they can’t purchase a car.

Unemployment has gone up since the Clinton years, the stock market still hasn’t fully recovered from its dip in 2008-9. Local businesses have been forced to close down, these are all things that displease members of OWS.

Have they been successful? My answer would be no.

Does this mean anything? My research couldn’t tell you.

What my research has shown is this. OWS is run by a group of people who know what they are doing. They organize the money that people send them, and they have appropriated a Finance Committee. Despite the dislike for the Finance Committee, and there is a lot of dislike, the Finance Committee does exactly what it sets out to do. It makes sure that nobody spends money frivolously.

Now members of OWS dislike the fact that the Finance Committee has more say than the General Assembly when it comes to funding, but look at the money troubles that OWS is facing right now. If the Finance Committee had been more lax with spending, they would be in a worse situation.

OWS, in part through the finance committee, has become a hub for people who are not happy with their current financial situation. They provide metro tickets, food, and small amounts of medical care for people who have been injured through the course of protesting.

An organization without leadership simply cannot exist.

Through my research, I have determined that while there is no one leader of OWS, there are many, the Finance Committee included.

Lastly, I would also like to say that OWS is a voice. It’s a voice for people who want their frustrations to be heard by the government. They are tired of endless bureaucracy, and they want change right now.

OWS wasn’t something that was cooked up overnight, judging from how the finances work, it was methodically planned.

Occupiers have grown tired of waiting for change to happen, and they want to bring it. Only time will tell if this social revolution will actually amount to anything.

–         Image


What do We Really Want?

While it may seem like the Occupy Wall Street movement is original and wants to bring about a change in society, it also reflects something that we have seen before. Of course, I am talking about the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, sometimes referred to as the October Revolution. Before the revolution shook tsarist Russia, there was turmoil among the Russian people in regards to social, economic, and political relations. The cost of living had dramatically risen, workers wages fell 50% from 1913, the Russian national debt was 50 billion rubles. By the time of the revolution, there had been several thousand uprisings against landowners by the peasants. However, while the revolution in Russia was seen as welcome at the time by a majority of the proletariat, the upper classes and those who belonged to the Menshevik group protested the rise to power of the Bolsheviiks, who were led by Vladimir Lenin. The peasants redistributed the land seized by the Tsar, and Russia officially became the Soviet Union. Not to make any major accusations, but the OWS does seem to be heading in this direction. They are protesting the social, economic, and political relations in the US, as well as the national debt and the huge class gap. Do they really want to make everything equal for everyone, in the sense that everyone lives in a communal lifestyle? Look how well that worked out for Russia in the 20th century. Also, the Soviet government first started out being run by Vladimir Lenin, who was supported for the most part by the Bolsheviks and many other groups in Russia. During the Russian Civil War, the Red Army was supported by the people. However, after Lenin’s death, Stalin came to power and changed the whole dynamic of the Soviet government. Stalin changed the policy of equality and communal living to that of fear and obedience. What if the OWS movement became a less radicalized Bolshevik movement? Do we really want to tear down the institutions that we have now and replace them with more socialist institutions? Lenin was seen as a true nationalist, which seems like a positive thing to be called. Is it? Is the OWS movement heading down the same path as the Bolshevik Revolution? I don’t have the answer. Any thoughts?


Protest vs. Demonstration vs. Revolution

I have heard the words protest, demonstration, and revolution used interchangeably since the the beginning of the OWS movement, that I have gotten the definitions of the words confused. While they seem like synonyms, each word has its own meaning and context, so I have decided to post a quick definition of each, just to clear the terms up.

  1. Protest — A protest is a way to express an objections with any event, situation, or policy. These objections can be manifested either by actions or by words.
  2. Demonstration — A demonstration is a large group of people, usually gathering for a political cause. It usually includes a group march, ending with a rally or a speaker. A demonstration is similar to a protest in that they both can use the same or similar methods to achieve goals. However, demonstrations tend to be more abrasive and spontaneous, whereas protests tend to be more organized.
  3. Revolution — A revolution is a major change in the power structure and takes place in a short amount of time. Most revolutions are violent and tend to focus on cultural, political, and economic issues.

I will be posting later in the week a more analytic response about the differences between the Bolshevik Revolution and the OWS protests.

Feel free to offer up any suggestions or comments.





A Comparison of Global Protests: Occupy Wall Street and the 1990s Anti-Globalisation Movement [Part 2: Differences]

Although Occupy Wall Street and the 1990s anti-globalisation protests do share similarities, the differences between them are especially noteworthy. These divergences show what developments have occurred in the relatively new area of global protests. Some of the main differences between these movements are listed below:

  • Context:  When the anti-globalisation protestors were agitating for change during the 1990s, the capitalist economic system was booming and employment was high. Although these protestors may have been displeased with the idea of inequality and poverty in third-world countries, many of these unpleasant realities did not directly affect their quality of life (Webb 74-75). However, the Occupy Wall Street protesters faced a far less favourable economic situation. According to the United States Bureau of Labour, the unemployment rate in June 1999 (the month in which the anti-globalisation protesters held their J18 Carnival Against Capital international demonstration) was 4.3%. The number of unemployed persons who were searching for their first job had fallen to 349,000 nationwide. The employment statistics for October 2011 (the month in which Occupy Wall Street’s 15-M synchronised global protests occurred) were far less pleasant. The overall unemployment rate stood at 9%. The number of unemployed new entrants into the job market had climbed to 1,293,000 nationwide. The anti-globalisation protests occurred in a period of sustained prosperity; the Occupy Wall Street protests occurred in the context of a prolonged economic recession. The differences between these environments may serve as an explanation for many of the divergences between the two movements which will be discussed below.
  • Size and Scope: The anti-globalisation protests were far smaller in size than the Occupy Wall Street movement, with protests only occurring in a handful of large cities during the decade. Furthermore, these cities, namely Seattle, Montréal, Genoa and London are all wealthy Western cities. By contrast, Occupy Wall Street protests have been held in 951 cities in 82 countries. Lists of these may be found here and here, although it is important to remember this data is user-submitted. Protests have been reported in smaller towns and in cities which do not play a major role in their country’s economy. Additionally, many of the protests occurred in non-Western nations and in developing nations, such as the countries of South America. OWS protests are far more widespread, and have managed to transcend cultural boundaries to a greater extent than the anti-globalisation movement, which remained confined to Western cities with a key role in the economy.
  • Strategy: The anti-globalisation protests occurred sporadically and were day-long events in which protestors gathered at a specific location, voiced their dissent, then went home. Occupy Wall Street protestors have typically remained encamped at the location of their protest until being forcefully removed by police.
  • Demands: The demands of Occupy Wall Street protestors are not clearly defined, which allows them to agitate for change in many areas. This makes the movement more adaptable, and it has been used as a platform by individuals and groups with many different agendas. OWS demands broad social change, and individuals within the movement have demanded education reform, political change, healthcare reform, immigration reform and many other issues. By contrast, anti-globalisation protestors confined the scope of their protests to economic matters. Therefore, their goals were far narrower, and the movement had more of a unified focus. Within the area of economic demands, the OWS protestors certainly seem to voice more radical demands than those expressed by the anti-globalisation protests. Perhaps this radicalisation is a result of desperation stemming from the economic downturn or, more likely, the large size and visible status of the movement –for, as Bill Wasik argues, a group which perceives itself to be powerful will act in a more extreme manner (Wasik 7). The anti-globalisation protestors opposed the particular manner in which capitalism was being used, not the idea of capitalism itself (Webb 74). However, there are visible elements of anti-capitalist thought among the OWS protestors, such as the Workers World Party.

An OWS protestor in New York City holds a sign reading "Capitalism is Organised Crime! This whole system has got to go."

Workers World Party members protest capitalism at a New York City OWS protest in September 2011

  • Opponents: OWS differs from anti-globalisation protests because the movement has named specific opponents. Occupy Wall Street protests against “the 1%” of the wealthy, the Republican Party, banks, corporations and other persons or institutions mostly associated with the conservative establishment. OWS has selected specific targets and made their displeasure with these extremely public. Their hostility toward their opponents is palpable, and many of the protestors want the elites whom they dislike removed from power. In this sense, they are true “revolutionaries” who want to replace one societal order with another (Webb 74). The anti-globalisation activists objected to the manner in which capitalism was utilised, but had no explicitly named enemies and rarely called for leaders to be removed from power (Webb 74-76). Thus, OWS protesters are more strident in their demands and more targeted at their opponents than the anti-globalisation activists.

This OWS protestor has identified a specific corporate target

This OWS protestor advocates a class war, ostensibly with the revolutionary goal of removing current elites from power

  • Technology: Although the anti-globalisation protests occurred in the internet age, the 1990s-era agitators did not have access to much of the technology used by OWS in the new millennium. I have not been able to find a website established by the anti-globalisation movement. By contrast, OWS has a tumblr and a twitter account to communicate with its followers. OWS also benefits from an increase in the speed and portability of technology; its adherents can follow the movement’s online presence with laptops and smartphones, and may thus receive updates at a moment’s notice. OWS’s use of technology makes it a more adaptable movement capable of rapid and spontaneous action. The challenge for these more connected protestors is maintaining control and avoiding unwanted mob-like outbursts.

Is the Occupy Wall Street movement strong because it constitutes a reaction against an unfriendly economic situation? Is the movement’s open platform more appealing to the public? Or does the movement owe its larger spread to the significant technological advancements which have occurred since the 1990s?

Global protests are a relatively new phenomenon, and their nature is still evolving. Clearly, the face of global protest can undergo a great deal of change in a short amount of time. What differences will another decade bring in the methods of global social movements? I’d love to hear your thoughts!