Usually coupled with discussions of the fact that the Occupy Movement is largely leaderless, is the subject of demands. Although each Occupy camp is autonomous, and thus different, most of the camps have no demands. The fact is that with an absence of demands, movements effectively reject the logic of representation – a logic that at once disempowers the many and allows for a force to refocus, or manage, the energy of a movement.
Without demands, there is no room made for concessions with power. Instead of focusing on a new round of electoral politics (recall this, vote for that), people must act. This is where the power of no demands comes from. A reclaimation of space is certainly powerful. That such reclaimations have been generalized throughout the world is incredible. But we cannot think that this is an ends in itself. The Occupy camps should continue while looking to expand their function as a space for organizing actions.
The occupation as a political act is not new – its use by those in power is exemplary in the history of colonialism. To look at its counter, the use of occupations by the disenfranchised, gives us a number of historical examples to remember and learn from. Perhaps one of the more enigmatic occupation movements was the one that transpired in France in May of 1968. Following the occupation of the Sorbonne (a university in Paris), workers began taking over the factories they worked in. The generalized tactic was used with the goal of autonomous control – occupation provided the means of effectively reclaiming a place of work or enterprise, such as a factory, school, or farm. May ’68 was a failure because of the efforts of union bureaucrats who ultimately wanted workers to return to work as it was before the strike. Ultimately most returned to the normal situation of day-to-day alienation under capitalism.
The Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil is another example of a political upheaval based around the reclaimation of space. The movement came out of a social climate in which 3% of the country’s population owned two-thirds of all arable land. It was, in a sense, an occupation movement concerned both with the equitable distribution of land and sustainable agricultural practices (which is to say they actively rejected the efforts of companies, like Monsanto, who had a vested interest in the proliferation of GMO crops). Their slogan was “occupy, resist, and produce.”
So here is the challenge: what if we were to use the occupation to takeover our workplaces and schools in order to reclaim and run it with our own goals in mind? Without bosses, without administrative classes, without politicians, our aim could be redirected towards collective empowerment on a very real level. What is clear is that those unwelcome “managers of society” pursue interests that are counter to the needs of the people. Why not takeover the tools of our own disillusionment? A factory that is an instrument of oppression in one hand could be liberatory in another after being repurposed by the workers themselves. Let us strike, forever.
At the point when the takeover is widespread, no longer limited to the public squares that formed the base of this movement, the worker as a subjectivity will soon dissolve. The delineations between employment and leisure (concepts best left to the realm of consumer capitalism) mean less and less as reclaimed enterprises suddenly fulfill a tangible role in our everyday lives. Such a movement “could then have proclaimed the expropriation of all capital, including state capital; announced that all the country’s means of production were henceforth collective property of the proletariat organized in direct democracy; and appealed directly (by finally seizing the some of the means of telecommunication, for example) to the workers of the entire world to support this revolution” (Situationist International Anthology, Knabb).
What is clear is that we must be proactive if we are to be effective. The Occupy Movement is at a fork in the road. Will we continue on the path of dead-ends and media fetishizations, or will we come together to reclaim and build a new world? Occupations of public space are certainly valuable. But we must now look to occupy workplaces and schools so that we can manage them in ways that speak to our needs and desires. This is not only possible, it is an essential move in a struggle for economic and social justice.