Share: mp3 | Embed video

Since the occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City in Autumn 2011, new offshoots of the Occupy movement have formed. After  Hurricane "Sandy" hit the East Coast, people organized "Occupy Sandy" in order to help poorer communities which were left aside by public aid. Facing a massive debt crisis because of soaring tuition fees, unemployment and public service cuts, the platform "Strike Debt" was created in order to resist the power of banks and to fight for social justice and democratic rights.


Silvia Federici, professor emerita for Political Philosophy at Hofstra University, Long Island, NY; political activist and author of several books, including "Caliban and the Witch"


Kontext TV: In 2011 you supported the Occupy Wall Street movement. What is left of the movement? And do you see any attempts to initiate new social movements in the U.S.?

Federici: I know that there is a lot of critique about where the movement has landed and just in the seminar that we attended, we heard that some members of the occupy movement have really made a business out of it. And that's very deplorable, but I want to be on the optimist side. And see first of all that the occupy movement was a very broad movement, that brought something new to the political scene. It was a very broad movement in the U.S., it involved thousands and thousands of youths because it took place not just in New York, it took place in 600 American cities. A lot of young people were inspired by it, were mobilized by it and we don't know what those young people will do, but they were brought into politics by it. There were hours and hours and hours of conversation, of sharing of experiences and I can say this, that out of the occupy movement some very interesting developments have come that are important to mention. First, ... was Occupy Sandy. When the hurricane Sandy - this habit of naming hurricanes and disasters with women's names is really horrible - but hurricane Sandy came and you had a whole costal area that was completely unattended to because this is where poor people lived. And the city for days and days didn't go there, didn't provide any help. So the people who had been involved in Occupy formed themselves as Occupy Sandy and actually went there and with the local residents began to organize. And I spoke with a number of them and actually those relationships have not ended after the first day. Many have built long lasting relationships. And that also has sparked of a very interesting debate about where the service ends, where the politics begins, how to not replace service workers. So that debate was very useful because it really went to the heart of some of the issues related to the Commons. Because the Commons as they try to build forms of mutual aid they are certainly not intended to bring in the Big Society, Cameron's Big Society which speaks of the Community but only to provide volunteer labor. That's not what the Commons is about. It's not about providing volunteer labor so that we can replace the public workers. It's about building something different, it's about building an alternative and I think Occupy Sandy stimulated that discussion. Secondly, out of the Occupy movement in New York came a organization called Strike Dead which now has expanded to other towns, for example California, Philadelphia and other places. Strike Debt is a very interesting organization, it's fighting against all kinds of debt. For a long long time there had been in the U.S. a discussion about doing something about student debt because the students now are totally burdened. The education - going to university, going to school - has become so expensive that by the time you have a certificate you might have 50.000 or 60.000 dollars of debt. And you'll never be rid of it, particularly with the job market being what it is today. And so people have been talking but it was only when a lot of young people found themselves together speaking which each other night upon night, discovering that everybody had a debt. So many had a debt. Because you know, having a debt creates a lot of shame. It's not like being in a wage struggle. Indebtedness creates a sense of failure, shame, people don't like to talk about their debts. It's different when you are in a struggle around wages: You recognize that you're being exploited, you are in a collectivity. But out of Occupy came in fact a pulse. So now we have Strike Debt, which is an organization that is very interesting. They've done lots of interesting tactics, you can go to the website. They've also produced a very important manual, a handbook that you can download from the internet. It speaks of the issue of debt and the debt economy. All kinds of debt from mortgages, from healthcare, from credit cards and from education. Tuition fees, taxes. And then it also gives all kinds of practical advice and discusses the politics of it. What to do, how to organize.