Occupy the future

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  December 28, 2011

Shirky, the group-dynamics expert who also authored the ever-relevant organizing guide Here Comes Everybody, recently met with Donovan and other "meta-movement builders" at Pace University, where he explained how networks like InterOccupy can help larger efforts thrive. At this point, according to Shirky, Occupy is fast-evolving into "loosely connected clusters of tightly connected clusters."

As Occupy grows, says Shirky, good ideas will inevitably flourish, while bad ones will flame out — just as they have at individual camps.

Occupy Congress

Occupy wasn't started by people interested in caution. And while there's a seemingly ubiquitous notion that the movement needs organization, many are pressing forward with a series of high-profile direct actions. Next week, swarms of activists in Iowa have pledged to disrupt the Republican caucuses as best they can. The same goes for Occupiers in New Hampshire, who have their own plan for spoiling the coming primaries. There are also major efforts under way in the Capital, where activists from all over will descend on the Washington Mall on January 17, plus aggressive actions planned for both national political party conventions, and an all-out Midwestern onslaught slated for May, when the G8 and NATO summits are both scheduled to be held in Chicago.

In the meantime, individual Occupy movements have to sustain themselves. To that end, Occupiers in cities like New York and Chicago have rented spaces to hold working-group meetings, while activists in those and other places are considering more full-service facilities where allies can also eat and sleep. Marianne Manilov, a consultant with the Oakland-based Engage Network who works closely with the movement, says such local hubs are critical.

"It's unbelievably important to have a place to meet, and to greet, and to eat with each other," says Manilov. "It's more than just socializing — it's about connecting with the people who you're fighting with."

Along those lines, there's a permeating attitude that the immediate next phase of Occupy should proceed at a slower, more calculated pace. At the recent "Occupy Onwards" conference, human-rights crusader L.A. Kauffman of the Global Justice Movement said adjustments are necessary if Occupy stands a chance of being more than just another line on the resume of career activists.

"It's very easy when involved in direct action to find yourself chasing the high," said Kauffman. "That experience can become addictive, and it can be tempting to continue doing the same thing. . . . It's a tricky moment, but simply following the urge to keep acting right now is not the wisest thing for Occupy Wall Street to do. They should take advantage of the seasonal imperative and hunker down to strategize."

In that statement Kauffman didn't get much disagreement from Occupy Wall Street direct-action group member Marom. Still determined to score regular wins on issues like student and worker rights — quick highs for the common good that will keep Occupy awake and expanding — Marom nonetheless concedes that the worst thing at this point would be for people to burn out.

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