What went wrong with Occupy?

There is no unifying target, the struggle against the 1% has been abandoned and leaders with old leftist ideas have converted the leaderless movement in a kind of organisation. The 99% know that with action methods and tactics that failed in the past real change is impossible.For a New Humane World we must pressure the 1%, creatively disturb their secluded and exclusive world. Out-lived leftist actions put hardly pressure on powerful people. The arrests and clashes only hurt the 99%. Damage to the 99% should be minimal and pressure on the 1% maximal. 

Most people in Western countries do not want to lose their more or less comfortable life. Only a minority takes part in demonstrations. In their private life the 99% often fight. Tax evasion, harassing the boss or colleagues or ignoring traffic rules are some activities carried out without any feeling of guilt. A new movement should minimise mass actions and initiate small autonomous actions common people can carry out with the capabilities and possibilities they have. 


 Occupy had a surprising start. Authorities were not prepared to cope with the occupation of thousands of squares. Obviously there was a lot of discontent. People were waiting for new ideas to get a humane world. 

The first slogan “Occupy the financial centres” pointed at the greedy 1% who benefited from the crisis.
The second slogan “We are the 99%” indicated that the 1% are different (in power and money) and should be the target.
That idea attracted the sympathy of the masses. Soon this unifying target was replaced by partial political demands that never had changed the world. Occupiers fell back on old action methods. The people at the top of society were once again not directly pressured. 
A Movement can only flourish with a clear target and a long string of small successes.

Some big tactical mistakes 

Electronic communication serves to spread ideas further and faster but the power of the 1% can only be broken by direct actions and not by texts on internet or on placards in a demonstration. On Facebook is discussed what the other side is doing but hardly what the Movement should do.  

The Movement should unite all 99% but old terms as anti-capitalism, communism, socialism or anarchism have an averse effect on many potential followers. The present is our responsibility, the future the responsibility of the people who live then. A better future can only be achieved when we have the power to defeat any selfish group of leaders. Our task is to take away the power and the money from the 1% and open the road to a New Humane World. 

Each action should contribute to this common goal, a Humane World without a greedy 1%. The emphasis on building a more friendly society in communes can be attractive to the participants but will not change the power and wealth relations in the world.

The idea that big actions bring change nearer is a fable. Demonstrations, strikes, petitions etc make clear that many people agree with the goals of the Movement. But authorities can easily control big actions and their power is not contested. Big actions will not continue for a long time. We need a long string of guerrilla-like small actions and many small successes undermining the confidence and the power of the 1%. The big demonstrations in Arab countries had some success by ousting some of the 1% but the kernel of the 1% is still in power.  

By defending the occupied squares instead of pressuring the 1% Occupy stopped to move. Activists became sitting ducks and authorities could gather strength to clear all squares. Occupy did not have an answer. 


Movements should move with surprising actions against clear targets. Past movements succeeded because of this simple truth but eliminating the power of the 1% needs new methods to change the world (that past movements never achieved).

Fifteen years after World War II the 99% started again to move. The Civil Rights Movement and the French Spring (in Holland the Provo Movement) showed that people wanted another kind of society. The movements had clear targets and original action methods.
The massive protests against the Vietnam War were less successful but anyhow the war stopped. There was a long string of successes in the growing number of Americans that fled the country to avoid being send to Vietnam. All actions were connected to the target to stop the war.
The Woman’s Liberation Movement and the Squatters Movement knew also many small success. But authorities were learning how to handle Movements by using better trained police, better publicity and better anticipating on what Movements could undertake. Leading activists did not change their methods. They forgot the advice of Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz about how to combat a seemingly mighty opponent.
The Anti-nuclear Movement (against bombs and nuclear plants) was hardly successful. More plants were build and more countries got atom bombs. 

After 1985 inspiring political movements virtually ceased to exist.
The small revival with the anti-G8 actions soon sizzled out, not because of violent clashes with security forces but because of the lack of inspiring successes. There were no new action methods and the world did not become a better place. Wars, crises or continuing poverty did not seem to activate the 99% in rich Western countries.
Occupy started to wither away for the same reasons why there were hardly any Movements after 1985. Repeating obsolete action methods, failing to get an answer on the improved methods of authorities to cope with mass movements, failing to unite the 99% around one clear subject (taking power from the 1%), dividing the masses by proposing targets and goals that only could be realised when the 1% had disappeared and not inspiring the 99% by a long series of small successes.   

In the twenty five years before 1985 authorities found new methods to canalise dissatisfaction while protesters continued to use old methods. Successes became rare and the disappointed 99% refused to take part in new movements. The fat twenty-five years before 1985 were followed by the meagre twenty-five years. The hope for a New Humane World seemed to have disappeared. 

A new start 

The start of Occupy inspired the new generation. The next steps were not inspiring because old action methods returned and fighting against the greedy rich became protesting about relatively small problems. 

Demonstrations, petitions, strikes, attention for the political powers, etc. have not brought much change. The 1%, was neglected and actions concentrated on the effect of what the highest power caused. Protests against sackings, foreclosures, lower wages, growing poverty, continuing wars are partial political demands that in a time of crisis do not know any success. 

Trying to improve a bad situation can be laudable but partial political demands do not address the fundamental reasons of the bad situation. Actions should include attacks on the 1% who caused the bad situation and not be restricted to the effects of the cause. 

A Movement without a long string of small successes withers away. When the rich become richer and the poor poorer, why should the 99% take part in actions that do not challenge the rich. Even the lower echelons of the power, politicians and higher civil servants, seem to be exempted in actions that propose to fight the austerity. 

People’s Power 

You may wonder if 150 years of communist, socialist, anarchist or leftist actions have been successful. The power and wealth gap is still growing. The People have no direct power.
A central question should be how to develop People’s Power.
Demonstrations give some power but soon leaders recover and the old power relations return as is happening in the Arab World. Occupy hardly developed a People’s Power – another reason why the 99% became disappointed and withdrew. 

While a century ago leftist movements had ample interest in capitalists, in our time the 1% seems to have been excluded from any action threat. In the French revolution (see Jean-Paul Marat) the highest class was attacked but in the last century capitalists hardly felt any direct pressure. The left tried without much success to change the system and neglected to develop means for The People to control leaders.

Movements have clear goals and fighting for a vague new system does not attract the 99%.  When the 1% lose their power because of actions of the 99% the system will change anyhow. How the new system will look like is the responsibility of the people who live in the future, our task is to create the possibility that a society without a 1% can come into being in which not money inspires all decisions but the idea that all people have the same status.   

People’s Power is a continuous process. Leaders who do wrong must be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly they can come under fire. By Creatively Disturbing their private life, by not giving them any respite, (a principle of a guerrilla) they realise they can only avoid pressure by taking decisions in which people stand central and not money and the benefit of the own group.   

People’s Power should put direct pressure on humans who belong to the 1% by methods that can be carried out by any member of the 99%. Actions should be small and surprising with only occasionally a great peaceful gathering. Each action should contribute to the idea that decisions must be dominated by the idea that all humans have the same status, decent living, decent education, decent medical care etc. 

Only with new ideas, new tactics, a uniting target and a long string of successes we get a New Humane World. Without these basic conditions any movement will be short-lived and the power and the money will be still more concentrated in the hands of the Happy Few, the 1%.

 Joost van Steenis

About Joost van Steenis

My latest book "How to make Revolution, developing the Fourth People's Power", can be downloaded for free from my site http://members.chello.nl/jsteenis. It contains new ideas how to take the money and power away from the most powerful people, the elite. It strives to get a new society in which not money is the pivotal point of all discussions but the idea that all people have the same status. New action means are introduced to reach this paradigm shift (a revolution) that concentrate on direct actions in the living sphere of the elite.
This entry was posted in 1%, 99%, Action, Autonomous Clubs, Democracy, guerrilla, Occupy, People's Power, Violence, War of the Flea and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What went wrong with Occupy?

  1. Pingback: Actions of the past have not changed the world | downwithelite

  2. Pingback: Actions should have more success! | downwithelite

  3. Pingback: What went wrong with Occupy? | downwithelite

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