Occupy Theory Links Ideas and Action

Thu, 2013-09-19 13:19

by Occupy Theory

Occupy Theory was born in the midst of the 2011 occupation of Zuccotti Park in the Financial District of New York City. It arose out of a need to connect radical political theory with radical on-the-ground activism, and the need for physical, online and print spaces where the lines between ideas and action could be sketched dynamically.

Occupy Theory understands that we are engaged in the early stages of an anti-capitalist struggle in the United States and beyond. We are a part of a world historical struggle that is finally capable of ushering in a non-capitalist, non-racist, and non-patriarchal way of living. As a result, we see our immediate role as facilitating the kind of movement and action that can transform existing power structures. We view our role on the National Planning Committee as an extension and expansion of this work.

Occupy Theory operates from the assumption that there can be no radical action without radical thought. We need to understand and connect struggles and movements in order to understand and begin to end capitalism. Without shared analysis, vocabulary and theory, it is impossible to envision transforming the global social system. We feel that USSF and WSF missions and our beliefs resonate, and that this resonance has the potential to create new openings and opportunities for social change.

Occupy Theory organizes spaces for the emergence of movement-generated theory and practice by publishing Tidal Magazine, circulating leaflets, hosting assemblies, and facilitating political education.

Tidal Magazine (tidalmag.org) is a strategic platform that weaves together voices of on-the-ground organizers with those of long-standing theorists to explore radical possibilities. Evoking the metaphor of a "tidal wave" of popular resistance, Tidal has created a space for voices in the movement to come into dialogue with those of prominent radical intellectuals. Among these have been friends of the movement such as Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, and Michael Hardt, who, rather than focusing on Occupy Wall Street’s shortcomings, have found themselves engaged and inspired to rethink, discuss and advise about the current moment in which we collectively find ourselves, in terms of theory, strategy and action.

This combination of voices and experiences has served to highlight the historical stakes and global connections of OWS. It has directed the strategic conversations within the movement into a feedback loop of action and thought, testing and assessment, affirmation and interrogation. It is in this sense that the magazine is a call to "Occupy Theory." The magazine is not theory about a separate entity called Occupy. For us, Occupy is not a static noun, but rather an active verb to be taken up by everyone relative to static spaces, institutions, and concepts.

The cultivation of relationships with struggles around the world has been the intention of Occupy Theory from the beginning – a mission we share with the US Social Forum and World Social Forum. This has been taken to a new level with the development of our online platform tidalmag.org which features columns and blogs from intellectuals and organizers from Occupy networks alongside voices from the student movement in Chile, anti-austerity activists in Europe, grassroots movement-building in Detroit, and dispatches from the uprisings in Turkey and Brazil.

This fall we will use the Tidal platform to launch an educational program across the Occupy movement internationally. The program will include educational spaces in Palestine, New York, Soweto and Detroit. These locations are connected by our commitment to anti-racist and decolonial practice, which is central to the operations of the group. Additionally, the program will incorporate a network of horizontal learning spaces so that small groups and individuals can participate in their local communities and homes.

It is also our intention to host an increasing number of assemblies toward generating new ideas for anti-capitalist organizing over the next year. Two of the most well-known Occupy-generated projects - Strike Debt and the Rolling Jubilee - were the direct result of a series of Occupy Theory assemblies on education and debt. These projects were developed in spaces where dialogue was facilitated toward realizing potential on-the-ground manifestations of theoretical ideas.

Future assemblies will seek to develop new strategies for addressing the issues around race, racism, mass incarceration and extralegal violence, as well as the crisis in access to higher education and student debt. We hope and anticipate that these spaces will be a part of the Road to the USSF3 PMA process. Occupy Theory is a member of the Road to USSF 3 and Outreach working groups, and we are looking forward to embedding this process in our work, as well as connecting with other organizers with similar concerns and philosophy.

We believe that Occupy’s participation in the USSF is key to uniting the work of new organizers coming out of the Occupy movement with the work of long standing organizers. Occupy Theory believes that bringing together these energies productively could lead to a major breakthrough in the capitalist crisis.