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"Had Occupy Wall Street been just a dream?": Sukhdev Sandhu reviews writing from the Occupy Movement

Huw Lemmey 9 January 2012

The Occupy Movement hinges, according to Sukhdev Sandhu's survey of new books borne from it, upon a war of words as much as any type of direct action. In doing so, it has inspired a wave of written provocations, communiqué and other literary responses to this upsurge in popular, media-savvy dissent.

Such disparate forms, from microblogs to theoretical journals, mirror the different tasks of this new body of writing; some are aimed at garnering support from sympathetic bystanders, others at discussing theory and strategy within the movement or trying to make sense of the financial crisis and how it affects the ordinary citizen. Discussing the first books to emerge from the movement in the Daily Telegraph, Sandhu is already starting to uncover prominent themes:

What comes through most forcefully – aptly since the Occupy movement believes in the indivisibility of labour and ethics – is the abiding sense of protest as a form of labour. Right-wing pundits portrayed those at Zuccotti Park as shirkers and layabouts; the reverse was true [...] they committed themselves to the difficult task of doing without leaders and making decisions collectively.

As Occupy groups start to shift towards more confrontational direct action, with occupations of abandoned and foreclosed buildings in the UK, US and Europe, books like Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America document this "decolonisation of the American mind, in which the Newspeak of “budget crisis” and “debt ceilings” was replaced by cant-busting terms such as “greed”, “inequality” and “unfairness”". For Sandhu, part of their power comes from the writers situation not within the "ivory-towered elite", but within a precarious, un-unionised profession that is very much part of "the 99%".

Occupy Wall Street continues to push the parameters of the national conversation in the US, with "port shutdowns" over the winter period, whilst in the UK the movement is diversifying from tactics of direct action, meeting with politicians and business leaders to work to increase transparency within the political and business worlds. The early literature from Occupy records a young movement in its vital first days; complicated, passionate and fluid, finding its ideological feet and creating a new language of dissent.

Visit the Telegraph to read the article in full.

Filed under: articles, occupy, reviews