With the tremendous flop of Occupy’s promised May Day General Strike, and the rancorous denunciations by libertarian Occupiers of the labor-backed “99% Spring” non-violence trainings over the last couple of months, even the most ardent Occupiers are beginning to admit they need a change of strategy, calling for a new “meme” to continue New York’s OWS movement which promised much, but has produced little. The outcome of the Chicago protests have energized some, while causing others to question the trend of some more extremist elements escalating towards more aggressive radicalization. Disturbing reports of some former Occupiers caught in an FBI sting operation to bomb a commuter bridge in the northeast, and the increasing alignment of others toward the controversial “Black Bloc” have left working-class supporters feeling increasingly alienated. It has become increasingly clear to this observer that without a proper understanding of the greater struggle at hand and its causes, and lacking a clear and comprehensive solution, the movement is doomed to failure.
This is not the first time this has happened. The SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) movement in the 1960s, born out of older left and labor movements energized by the 60s New Left had a huge following for several years as students swelled their ranks across the country, protesting the Vietnam War. However, as the war dragged on without relief and the protests seemed to be becoming increasingly ineffectual against the monolithic military-industrial complex and complacent voting base, a faction within the SDS grew restless and formed the Weathermen, in order to “bring the war home” – and awaken the American public to the horrors that were being inflicted on a daily basis to the people of Vietnam. The bombings of government targets they conducted over the following years at first generated much publicity and discussion, but quickly lost support with the very people they were attempting to goad into action. Despite evading capture for over 10 years, the group of radicals had little to show for their daring actions, and it caused the SDS as a whole to fracture and crumble, and they themselves had to spend more time trying to survive than actually get their message out to the public.
What Occupy and the SDS have in common is this: without laying the groundwork of educating and organizing the working class (and Occupy has yet to even identify and align itself as a solidly working class movement), radical direct actions will only serve to alienate the very people they are seeking to awaken. This is not to say that there is no place for openly confronting the oppressors of the people with force in the streets. However, it must be done with the support of the people, and that only comes with time, and a solid message and awakening class-consciousness.