Beyond Wall Street
A statement on strategy
by Resist and Multiply, based out of hunter college made of community members, students and workers, fighting for a free cuny.
All over the world, mass protest is becoming the norm. People are rebelling against dictators, corrupt governments, and austerity regimes, all of which are part of an exploitative economic and political system. For the past month, thousands have been occupying Zuccotti Park in New York in a revolt against Wall Street which has both contributed to the global wave of dissent and given new legitimacy to collective protest and organization in this country. Discussion of expanding the occupations has recently begun, but the questions remain of where, why, and how.
What are people so upset about?
People wonder what the protesters at Wall Street stand for because everyone seems to have a different answer. However, the only reason the movement has been able to stay alive this long, and even grow, is because the protesters agree: The society we live in works to benefit a very small few at the expense of the majority. The problem is not based on greedy individuals in power, but rather the whole capitalist structure. Even if we agree that this is the problem, our solutions are different because the system is complex and affects all of us differently.
Capitalism is the reason we’re in debt, unemployed, and struggling to pay rent. But capitalism also affects the way we think about ourselves and the way we relate to each other. Most of us have been told over and over again that rich people are rich because they work hard; that we need to look out for “number 1” in order to succeed like them. But living this way makes us feel like shit. It destroys our sense of community and meaning in life, and we feel apart from our neighbors, co-workers, and classmates. We feel alienated.
The thing that unifies Wall Street protesters is the opportunity to overcome this alienation through experiences of shared social responsibility through collective decision making and based on achieving a better future. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
Bringing Wall St. to your job, school and community: disrupting the system
Have you ever thought you could do a better job than your boss? Felt taken advantage of at your job? Noticed that some people get to go to school while others don’t, and that it has a lot to do with the neighborhood they come from? When it comes down to it, capitalism exploits the majority so that the few on top can maintain their fortunes, while the rest of us have to work hard just to survive. Furthermore, some of us are more exploited than others. It is not just about saving our pensions or paying less in taxes, because most of us don’t even have those options. We are struggling to take care of ourselves, our families, and for our day to day survival.
But we have the power to transform our struggle into our liberation. We are not just the 99%: we are people of color, immigrants, women, and poor people. WE do the work, WE control our bodies, and WE take care of society. But we can’t do it as individuals– we need to work together.
How do we do this?
The Occupy Wall Street movement won’t change the system itself. It will, however, open up space for us to bring this struggle to our schools, where we are trained to be good workers; to bring it to our places of work, where we make society function; and into our communities, where real power lives. We need to organize ourselves: go on strike, occupy our schools, have walkouts, do work slowdowns and build community centers for self-determination. Each of these actions can be pieces of a new system built right here and now, just waiting to link up with each other. When we do these activities together, we disrupt the profit of bosses and the power of politicians. Instead of turning to them for answers, we create our own.
CUNY is the largest secondary educational institution for working class people of color in New York, and a major employer in the city. CUNY used to be free, but tuition was established in 1975, soon after protestors changed the composition of the system from mostly white to mostly people of color by using sit-ins, walkouts, and strikes. Historically, larger issues in our society have been fought over and won on CUNY campuses: the fight against white supremacy in the open admissions struggle and battle for Black and Puerto Rican studies, the establishment of Hostos and Medgar Evers, and the fight against drafting working class people to go to Vietnam.
But now, CUNY is used as a testing ground for neoliberal capitalist policies: tuition hikes, overcrowding classrooms, hiring adjuncts at low rates to do hard work, and making scholarships and remedial classes harder to access, is making CUNY whiter and more upper class—its makes us feel like the people who fought for it don’t even belong. Occupying, striking, and other direct actions allow us to build a movement that does fundamentally new: a direct democratic, open, and free CUNY, that works in relation to the rest of society, and addresses struggles against gentrification, police and state violence, and the devaluing of caring and teaching labor that go far beyond campus walls.
If you wanna throw down: