Recent events have raised many important questions: What does a real and vital movement look like? What is the nature of leadership in struggle? Is there a ‘correct’ way for us to fight against our conditions? Below is a statement from some friends addressing theoretical and practical concerns that have arisen in the last month or so...
Occupation, as a particular tactic, has become such a frequent topic of conversation in recent time only because it has resonated highly with workers and students across the country. People tend to forget that student occupiers’ inspiration came directly from workers in Chicago who occupied their factory in December of 2008 against the theft of their pay. Soon after the New School and NYU occupations, the students and non-students involved were heading regularly up to the Bronx to reciprocate the support of the Stella D’Oro strikers on their picket lines, and offer support for the potential occupation that the workers were considering. Today poor and homeless people are “occupying” empty land, foreclosed homes, and warehoused properties. So much for occupation as the ‘fetishized’ plaything of privileged elites!
Part of the reason for the resurgence of occupation – and land takeovers more generally – are the particular necessities that it addresses. Not merely a means or an end, an occupation or a land takeover becomes a venue for transforming the use of space for self-directed activity, and forging new bonds of material solidarity. It directly addresses the contradictions of a class society in which privatized space lays empty while public common space is closed and policed, and homelessness surges alongside a startling swell in home foreclosures and warehoused condos. By seizing space and holding it hostage from those who would control it, occupation creates a venue for collective action on a greater scale and can also significantly disrupt the normal functioning of institutions. Workers, students, and the homeless effectively put this form of direct action back on the table in the United States, where it has become the most notable feature of recent mass struggle.
(This reply posted on take the city is a response to The Politics of Impatience and references events at Hunter College in New York City on March 4th.)