A ‘Spring Resurgence’ for Occupy?

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Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard has been covering Occupy Wall Street since its first dramatic days at Zuccotti Park. She began as a freelancer for The New York Times. After it was revealed Lennard was personally and publicly sympathetic to the cause, she left the Times and picked up her pen for Salon. We spoke to Lennard about her thoughts on Occupy’s next act — what she calls a ‘spring resurgence’ — as well as the nature of ‘objective reporting’.

Lauren Feeney: What does the Occupy movement, which packed up its tents for the winter (largely by force, and with some exceptions), have planned for spring?

Natasha Lennard: The huge mass of different Occupy groups never stopped meeting and planning throughout the winter — even if Occupy’s public presence diminished. Much of this planning has been about a spring resurgence, recognizing the importance of being out on the streets, and that this can only really kick off in reasonable weather.

The big focus point for a lot of people is May Day. A general strike has been called by a host of Occupy groups hoping to use the date as an anchor to build momentum and get people excited. The idea of a general strike is historically resonant, but needs radical rethinking to appeal in our current socioeconomic context. Occupy creates an amazing space for re-imagining these political notions.

Feeney: Aren’t general strikes illegal in the U.S.?

It’s illegal for unions to politically strike. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 made that so, following a year of six general strikes in the U.S. in 1946. Many labor organizers are involved with planning for May Day and are working on how best to deal with the risks posed by a call for general strike. But the vast majority of workers are not unionized. The challenge is to frame ‘general strike’ in a way that allows room for everyone to strike out, generally — even precarious workers and the unemployed.

Source: occupymay1st.org

Feeney: General strikes still make headlines in other parts of the world. Greece, for example. That’s a country of only 11 million where general strikes can bring as many as 100,000 people into the streets. You write that the proposed May Day strike has 12,000 promised attendees on Facebook. Is that enough?

Lennard: One Facebook event is hardly a telling metric — I just thought it worth mentioning that months in advance, considerable interest is building. Immigrant justice groups (who have organized on May Day in the U.S. since 2006), labor groups, anarchists, activists and so many others are coming together to work on this and build capacity, so there’s good reason to think many tens of thousands of people will hit the streets that day. That’s the hope anyway.

Feeney: The G8 and NATO are meeting in Chicago in May. Should we expect to see Occupy there?

Lennard: Without question — of course. Occupiers from around the country will go to the summit, as will summit-hopping anarchists from around the world. Summit protests are always explosive. With the added context of Occupy Wall Street, I can’t imagine what will happen in Chicago. Expect some heavy-handed policing, that’s for certain. I’m definitely going to cover it.

Feeney: In the early days of Occupy Wall Street, you were reporting on the movement for The New York Times. Then, the late Andrew Breitbart featured on his website a video of you praising Occupy in a panel discussion at a bookstore on New York’s Lower East Side. The Times issued a statement saying they wouldn’t use you in the future. Was this fair? Is there such a thing as objective reporting?

Lennard: There is a type of reporting, a certain style and format and practice, that is recognized as objective reporting. It’s entirely divorced from any philosophical considerations of what it means to claim objectivity — but that’s a long conversation. The New York Times was totally fair to me; the work I want to do is not compatible with their paradigm of journalism. I have a problem with that paradigm.

Feeney: How would you describe your current relationship to the Occupy movement?

Lennard: I’m involved in and committed to aspects of Occupy. And when I write, I write to incite change and challenge conventional wisdom — so it’s in solidarity with Occupy.

Feeney: Does this affect the reporting you do for Salon?

Lennard: Of course — it informs it.

Feeney: Salon just hired you on as a regular “Occupy” blogger — what does that say about their expectations for the movement?

Lennard: Salon CEO and founder David Talbot recently noted that when much of the mainstream media abandoned Occupy coverage, Salon kept delving into it because it’s “the most important social movement of our day.” I think when spring comes around and Occupy really kicks off again, the publications who did not leave it for dead will be proven right.

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  • Jmaiv 1954

    I hope you can help spread the message in the South. Tennessee is now banning Occupiers from using public property to spread the message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Rolf/100000571423135 Linda Rolf

    Is it wise to align yourselves with anarchists? How can the movement ever appeal to average people if it allows ultra fringe elements to participate (with possible violence and vandalism)?

  • Ruth Iorio

    Anarchists are not fringe elements, nor are they aligned with violence. Read Graeber’s “Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology” and please stop swallowing the BS you read in the MSM. Signed – An anarchist.

  • Michael C. Duff

    It is not unlawful for unions to strike for political reasons.  It is unlawful for unions to engage in “secondary boycotts” – a term with a complex and technical meaning under Taft-Hartley.  If anything, unions exercising appropriate caution may enjoy INCREASED protection because of the First Amendment implications of regulation of their conduct.  On the other hand, just because an organization is not a union does not mean it could not violate the secondary boycott provisions of Taft-Hartley.  This is tricky business and I’ve written about it at some length.  Anyone interested can contact me privately at the University of Wyoming College of Law, where I am a professor and teach labor and administrative law. 

  • lyrita59

    Thank you, Ruth.  You took the words right out of my mouth.
    Dictionaries and Thesauruses handy, everyone?

  • Albiegf13

    Civil disobedience is the most potent weapon that the Occupy movement has in it’s arsenal…  In Argentina the participants in movements stand in their doorways, terraces and balconies and bang their pots and pans together….  The problem as I see it is that most Americans are frightened by authority, it’s not that they respect it, it’s that they are afraid of it, and thus afraid to defy it….  When you get hungry enough, sick enough, desperate enough, you will defy it…  Trust me, revolutions do not evolve in a vacuum….  Americans are still under the illusion that we live in a democracy with equal justice for all….  The goal of globalization is the achievement of global parity in the standards of living and social justice, the price for Americans and Western Europeans, is a diminished standard in both…  There is no way around this…

  • Michael C. Duff

    I’m not sure what the “it” is that there is no way around.  I don’t agree that the redistribution options being offered by the neoliberals are the only ones possible.  I do agree, of course, that transnational dimensions can no longer be ignored (if they ever could).  At the end of the day however there are interclass relations that don’t change just because they arise in an international context.  Wage slavery is wage slavery and the objective should be to eliminate it everywhere.

  • Anonymous

    This is so exciting.  A 21st Century general strike.  So many bright, authentic, committed people figuring what a present day general strike can be and do.  And I finally may learn what an ‘anarchist’ is to boot.  Thanks all.  It’s on my calendar. 

  • Albie Farinas

    It, are the global government (political class), corporate (including MSM)  and other non-government institutions, such as religions and unions.  With globalization, these institutions gain scale in influence and co-alles with other institutions that are like-minded advancing their similar and mutually beneficial agendas.  In very simple terms, their policy is to “welcome the converts, persuade the skeptics, coerce the resistant and eliminate the recalcitrant.”     The scale-ability of globalization has also produced concentrated and exponential growth in the wealth of the men and women who manage these institutions and are dynamic in advancing the global agenda.  Western culture, western Europe and North America. along with it’s Christian foundation, has dominated the globe for most of modern history, we’re in the process of a dynamic transition to global parity and sovereignty, most of this transition will occur through the process of attrition, older people dying off and with them their old ideas, beliefs, customs, cultural biases and assumptions.  Humans are genetically hard-wired for self preservation and I can pretty well assure you that we will organize socially on a global scale in order to advance that agenda.  All the disparities in wealth, justice and power will smooth themselves out over time, however this transition will at times be quite messy, primarily because of the resistance to change in the spectrum of age.

  • Anonymous

    Over on the Salon site.  So many missing the point of what OWS/Occupy is about.  Such a shame.  Plenty of time before May 1st to catch on, however.

  • Anonymous

    Hello out there.  Want to help get folks’ attention in prep for a fine May Day 2012?  Post a comment like maybe, “May 1st.  Stay tuned.” on your Facebook page and see who “bites.”  Use your creativity to reply without spilling the beans.  This (an Occupy May Day 2012) could be huge for what ails us.  Have a little faith in the new intergeneration.