If Occupy is not to go the disappointing way of our mainstream politics, it has to persist as the name we use for our common struggle. It must continue to designate a space where, even as we disagree, we come together in opposition to Wall Street. Processes don’t define or constitute Occupy. The movement became more than its processes the moment people outside New York began organizing themselves in its name. At that point, Occupy took on a life of its own, extending far beyond the control or intentions of those who set it in motion.
Many of us long dreamed of creating a political form (a common) that could be adopted and adapted, that would circulate and inspire, in a protean, expressive, horizontal fashion. We imagined a politics capable of exceeding the confines of issues and identities. With Occupy, we have that. So we need to put it to use, not put it away, as some have suggested. Discarding the name we share in common and starting all over would be a costly mistake. Why should we reinvent what we already have when we could be extending, amplifying and empowering it? As has been made abundantly clear with Occupy Sandy, Occupy occupies a place in popular consciousness. We won’t easily get such a place again.
The backlash against Occupy within the movement is perhaps the most pernicious inversion effected by process-fetishism. If process-fetishism turned our efforts to build inclusion into practices of exclusion, our efforts to produce trust into patterns of suspicion, and our efforts to establish commonality into pronouncements of individuality, then it also turned our opposition to eviction inside out such that occupiers themselves are the ones trying to “evict an idea whose time has come.”
We have to occupy Occupy. We have to use the name we have in common for our common struggle, which will entail grappling with its meaning and its future. Struggles over the meaning of occupation, over the name we have in common, have energized us since we began. We are alive not because we agree but because we struggle over our common name. Those who ceaselessly repeat their mantra of leaderlessness—“no one can define Occupy”—miss the point. It’s not that Occupy can’t be defined. It’s rather that Occupy is defined in the fight over its meaning. That’s what makes it powerful.
Not everyone fights in and for the name of Occupy. Those of us who do have to claim the name, knowing that in so doing we claim the fight.