Occupy Wall Street has been one of the most powerful social movements in recent U.S. history. Among the many reasons for its popular success is that it is at heart a democracy movement. What made it different is that Occupy tied economic democracy to political democracy.

The movement, with its slogan of “We are the 99%,” and the popular phrase “The 1%,” forced the political establishment and mainstream media to finally acknowledge that the concentration of monetary wealth inevitably leads to concentration of political power.

Ironically, President Obama, whose signature accomplishment has been to shield the banks and wealthy from criminal prosecution and higher taxes, has swiped Occupy Wall Street’s language for his re-election campaign. Obama, organized labor and MoveOn are painting Romney as “Mr. 1%,” and Obama as defender of the 99%. At the same time, Obama’s FBI is waging war on radicals in the Occupy movement, raiding the homes of activists while entrapping others in fabricated terrorism plots.

So how did Occupy go from a remarkably powerful outburst of anger against the political and economic system to fragmentation and co-optation? This is not imply Occupy is over, but it has receded back into the pool of social discontent from which it sprang, while the social conditions that gave rise to it are only getting worse.

In this talk, Arun Gupta will look at what made Occupy such a phenomenal success last year, why much of it disintegrated, how the Democratic Party co-opted its language, and what is its legacy, including the various movements that have sprung from it or which have been significantly influenced by it.

Arun Gupta is co-founder of The Indypendent and The Occupied Wall Street Journal, and former international news editor of The Guardian Newsweekly. He has visited more than 40 occupations in 27 states covering the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide for The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Salon, Truthout, The Progressive, The Nation, and other publications. Since the fall of 2011 Gupta has helped set up Occupy newspapers in cities including Chicago and Tucson. He has been profiled by media including Business Week, PBS, Wired and The New York Times. He is a recipient of a Wallace Global Fund grant for his media work, and is a Lannan writing fellow. Gupta is a regular commentator on Democracy Now!, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera and Russian Television. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.

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