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Before evaluating whether Occupy Wall Street succeeded at their goals, it is best to first come to an agreement as to what their goal actually was. The Occupy Wall Street movement was an example of direct action against the perceived corruption of financial institutions. People were upset that the politicians they elected were not effectively taking on corporate interests: in fact, most of them were taking money from the same corporations OWS was protesting. Many came to believe that change could not happen in the electoral system and decided to take matters into their own hands. “The Meaning of Occupy” mentioned specific Occupy groups that had goals of implementing more regulations. Others had a loftier goal: to “smash the state” and rid the nation of capitalism entirely.
The Occupy movement lost steam for the same reasons many far-left groups splinter: petty disagreements in ideology drove people apart. Occupiers came from many ideologies; some were social democrats who believe the existence of capitalism can be sustained as long as regulations were in place, others were socialists who believed in seizing the means of production, others were anarcho-communists who believed in the destruction of hierarchy entirely, whether it is from the state or from corporations. Within the anarchist camp, there were disagreements on how to get to their goal of a stateless society (individualism, syndicalism, collectivism, etc.). Between the anarchists and those who believe change could come from within the State, both groups saw each other as naïve and these disagreements divided the movement. However, Occupiers shared one common interest: to engage the corporations through direct action that they felt were hurting working people.
There is a difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, though they are often compared. The Tea Party had a vertical leadership structure; clear, defined, goals; massive funding from the organizations that formed the Tea Party; and an interest in electoral politics. Occupy Wall Street had a horizontal leadership structure (decisions were made by consensus) with only a common interest (opposition to financial institutions) rather than common goals. They did not have, nor necessarily need, massive funding, and they had no interest in electoral politics. The Tea Party was seen as a legitimate movement because it was endorsed by politicians and corporations, while the Occupy Wall Street movement was often seen as criminal by the mainstream.
Did the Occupy movement fail? Yes, they did. While the Occupy movement did offer an opportunity for many who felt disaffected by the political system to engage in direct action, the failure to unite caused many to lose interest in the movement. It is much more difficult to unite far left ideologies than far right ideologies. Right wing ideologies are usually grounded by the flag, Bible, and money. Far left ideologies often reject all three, leaving more room for disagreement. If a movement such as Occupy Wall Street is to succeed in the future, they need to have a common goal in mind rather than just a common interest.
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