Lately I have had plenty of time to surf through various web sites concerned with the OWS campouts. It has been facinating to read the non-coverage in the Washington Post, and the cheerleading on Truthout, Alternet, and Counterpunch. All this time at the back of my mind was the Poor Peoples Campaign launched in 1968 or 1969 by the SCLC, following through on a plan proposed by Dr King shortly before his murder. This also involved an encampment, Resurrection City, built on the national mall, in support of a program to address the persistent problem of poverty in America. Campouts for social justice are nothing new, the Bonus marchers also camped out for justice,. Occupations like the factory sit-ins which contributed to the growth of the trade union movement in the US, the occupations of nuclear power construction sites, and others have a venerable lineage in the arsenial of tactics available to social movements.The institutionalized violence of the state is also an old story.
What is different however about this moment is two things in my opinon. The decentralized yet interconnected nature of the protest facilitated by the new many to many media, and the intersecting crises that these campouts are responding to. Unlike earlier periods the entire edifice of industrial society is in crisis globally as the ecological foundations for life on this planet steadily erode and the limits of fossil fuels driving it all become clear. The new media facilitate the widespread diffusion of information, including narratives concerning the global eclogical, economic and political crisis.
Taken together, what is truely amazing is that this resistance is emerging in the belly of the beast, exposing the seamy underside of the so-called American democracy and fallacy of the linkage between free market capitalism and personal freedom. Given the restructuring generated crisis imposed this summer with the collusion of both US parties, between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, and the increase in military spending in spite of joblessness and infrastructural collapse, its no wonder that the State and the ideological Sate apparatus is losing its claim to legitimacy. Busted heads and bodies are the last resort when hegemony fails.