Occupy Wall Street Founder David Graeber on the Movement's Future

“We were trying to create an environment where people could be heard”

Sept. 17, 2011: The occupation of Zuccotti Park begins

Photograph by Natan Dvir/Polaris Images

You don’t see us recovering from the financial crisis and the recession?
When I talk to people who seem to know what they’re talking about—and this includes people in institutions like the Federal Reserve or the International Monetary Fund—everybody seems to think that nothing was actually fixed. They basically patched it up with Scotch tape, and in two to three years—probably two at this point—it’s all going to happen again.

Were you disappointed that the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t accomplish more?
I’m personally convinced that if it were not for us, we might well have President Romney. When Romney was planning his campaign, being a Wall Street financier, a 1 Percenter, he thought that was a good thing. That whole 47 percent thing that hurt him so much was something the right wing came up with in response to our 99 percent.

But in terms of changing the whole legislative political direction, I think that’s a lot to ask. We weren’t trying to push specific pieces of legislation. We were trying to create an environment where people could be heard. And I think we did that. We also tried to do something else, which was to create this culture of democracy in America, which really doesn’t have one. And that’s such a major task. The more fundamental the aims of a movement, the longer it’s going to take. We’re organizing in much more constrained and difficult circumstances these days, but it’s still going on. It’s just that people don’t report on it that much.

Most people who warn about the potential of another economic crisis focus on how to prevent it. But you sound like you see it as an opportunity.
Yeah. Well, you’ve got to make the best of a situation. It’s not going to be great. I mean, a lot of people are going to suffer. I wish they wouldn’t. But I don’t hear anybody coming up with particularly convincing reasons why it’s not going to happen.

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