On Sept. 21, the New York Branch of Workers World Party held a forum to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The speakers included not only WWP organizers Larry Holmes and Caleb Maupin, but also Lauren Digioia and Yoni Miller, leading OWS activists. The meeting was chaired by WW Managing Editor LeiLani Dowell.
Justin Wooten, a Montclair State University student who was recently arrested and severely beaten by New York police, attended the forum and was recognized from the podium. Wooten faces serious criminal charges as a result of events at the Sept. 17 OWS demonstration commemorating the anniversary.
Caleb Maupin, a youth activist and WW writer, opened the forum, remarking, “Occupy Wall Street has made a huge contribution in the struggle against capitalism. The fact that people are talking about the 99% and the 1%, not just in New York, but in Utah, Missouri, South Carolina and everywhere else is a huge leap forward.”
Maupin pointed out, “Sam Marcy, a founding member, of Workers World Party, used to always urge people to put their ‘class glasses’ on. As a result of Occupy Wall Street, literally millions of workers are walking around with their class glasses on, and this is a huge victory. One of the big Marxist-Leninist concepts we saw play out with Occupy Wall Street is that of ‘expropriating the expropriators.’”
Yoni Miller spoke on OWS’s political evolution, the current ecological crisis, and various new strategies that could be implemented in upcoming class battles. Miller also thanked WWP for not condemning or ignoring OWS, as many other left groups have done.
Lauren Digioia spoke of her personal experience, having worked as a server in Times Square before becoming inspired to join the OWS movement and fight against the capitalist system. She pointed out that modern capitalism urges youth to “sell their souls to the devil” in the hopes of getting ahead. She also reflected on how being in the struggle has brought her closer to other people, amidst an alienating capitalist society that seeks to drive people apart.
Larry Holmes, First Secretary of WWP, concluded the forum with stirring remarks about the elections, the looming economic disaster, and the threat of mass austerity, among other things. He spoke of how OWS was a sign of things to come, no doubt impacting the Chicago teachers’ strike and other ongoing events. Holmes said OWS raised the question of what role a revolutionary communist party would play in modern struggles and also highlighted the need for some form of unity among various Marxist-Leninist tendencies.
The discussion after the speakers included the experience of the American Servicemen’s Union, which organized GIs against the Vietnam War; the political ramifications of the tactics used by the Weather Underground in the 1960s and 70s; and the role that OWS has helped to play in broadening class consciousness on long-time injustices like racist police brutality.
Dinae Anderson commented about her recent experience in becoming a communist as a teen and how it was similar to OWSers who recently became politically active. A number of OWS activists attended the forum.
The forum ended with attendees collectively chanting “All day! All week! Occupy Wall Street!” and the Spanish version of “The anti-capitalists are here !” before ending with the singing of “The Internationale” with piano accompaniment.