INTERVIEW Protest After Occupy: Rethinking the Repertoires of Left Activism
In this interview, activist and public intellectual Micah White reflects on his role as co-creator of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. OWS was the fulcrum of Occupy, a grassroots movement that quickly spread to public squares in cities across the globe. Occupy sought to bring about broad-based prosperity for the People, epitomized in its call to action: ‘We are the 99 percent.’ In White’s words: ‘The goal of Occupy was an actual change in the political regime, and actual transformation of who had power in our world.’ White reflects on the fallout of OWS, which he characterizes as a ‘constructive failure,’ and the lessons he carried forward in his ongoing activist work and brief foray into municipal politics in rural Oregon. Taking a longitudinal view of revolutionary movements in the West (from the turn of the twentieth century to the present), White makes a provocative proposal: ‘I think we should use protests to win elections.’ His argument would make many of his fellow organizers, particularly those opposed to the current system of corporate-led governance, bristle. And yet, White argues that the viability—and sustainability—of social movements depends upon turning to, and ultimately transforming, electoral politics to reflect the collectivist ethos of Left politics.