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Report on LALIT session on “Occupy Wall Street” movement in USA


Wednesday 21 December, LALIT member Elsa Wiehe, who is in Mauritius to visit family and friends from Boston, USA, where she is studying and working, shared her experiences in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement together with a group of other LALIT members. She has participated in the movement in three of the cities involved – New York, Boston and Oakland. She put emphasis on the history of the movement, that the Sale-by-Levy-like evictions of 2008 had begun a small movement that did not manage to get off the ground, but that with the economic crisis hitting all the “99%”, a mass struggle had started in New York in the Zuccotti Park near Wall Street financial centre, and then spread all over hundreds of US cities, in a spontaneous way. The idea is to physically occupy the spaces near the finance capital centres, in order to protest against their running the economy and politics in the interest of the 1%. This all started on Wall Street. She spoke of the caucuses on different themes (environment, women, and every imaginable demand) which have assemblies, and the general assembly, which takes decisions for each city. The movement, she said, is characterised by bringing together people with different grievances, but without, as yet, any demands in common. Some participants are afraid that demands might mean that there is an end-date (when you win the demand) to the movement, whereas they intend it to be ongoing and for the whole system to be changed.

She described not only the fantastic physical organization involved, organization of meals, first aid, waste disposal and even child care, but also the response to repression of different kinds. There is the “mike-check” idea, which symbolizes for Elsa the creativity and co-operation involved in the movement. When “port-vwa” were confiscated by the police, how were speeches shared? A speaker would say 3 or 4 words, and then a circle of volunteers in the crowd about 10-15 foot away (within hearing) would listen then turn around and in harmony, in a co-ordinated chant, repeat the words to those further away, and then a larger circle of volunteers further out from the epicentre, would, in turn, listen and then turn around and repeat the words to the others further away, and so on. Elsa, present with her baby, Yara, heard Noam Chomsky speaking at a rally in the Occupy Boston movement, through the mike-check cooperation.

In Boston, when it became difficult to occupy one space that represented finance capital, the movement began to occupy different spaces in the city of Boston. This was another of the creative aspects of the movement. And there are different tents, some where there is debate, others where there is first aid, a kind of hospital for the protest movement, and so on.

She said that all the movements in all the cities are united under the target they have agreed upon: Wall Street. There is a general agreement that the movement is anti-capitalist in a broad sense, not just against finance capital, their main target.
She said that consciousness had come a long way in a few months in the USA.

Ram Seegobin shared the fact that when he was in San Francisco, together with the most advanced sections of the working class, the longshoremen, just after the first Seattle protests against the WTO, he had found that the political and even class consciousness in the USA was extremely low. People, even in the working class, where he gave talks, had no idea about capitalism, or even what class they were in, or even on the necessity to co-operate in order to bring about change. This change in just a decade is fantastic, everyone concluded.

There was a lot of discussion, on the weight of debt on the US people, and Mauritians, too now. And the idea of ubiquitous “credit-rating”, which we do not yet suffer from here, and its effect on people.

Elsa said that police repression had, for the first time in a long while, been exposed. Ram Seegobin, on a lighter/more sombre note, said that if repression by the US Government against its own people continued, LALIT would have to put foreward a demand for the Mauritian armed forces to intervene in the USA in order to protect civilians!