What's happened to the Occupiers?
To speak to early members such as Husain is to be reminded of Occupy’s original freshness, that idealistic vision of a world which is, simply, a fairer place. “We did change the conversation, we brought class consciousness into it – because economic justice and political justice and social justice aren’t separate struggles, they’re connected,” Husain says. “Ultimately we need solidarity within struggles in the United States.”
Andrew Sabl, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California in Los Angeles, who has been following Occupy since last year, agrees that the movement has had some success. Even if it has not operated through standard political routes, it has re-energised those who might have tired of politics and activism. “The issues that Occupy started talking about very quickly had an effect on political discourse: distribution of economic power, Wall Street corruption. They had been neglected by the political class in this country and Occupy changed that.”
There are two forms of involvement in politics, Sabl suggests. One is with a view to accomplishing a concrete goal, the other is a sort of religious involvement. “They engage for the sake of the activity itself and of being in a group with others who want to confess that faith. Occupy always has many characteristics of the latter, but Occupy by now is decisively a confession of faith, not a political movement directed at achieving anything in particular.”
Whether it’s down to those religious feelings or to more pragmatic impulses, a core of Occupy supporters remain stalwart, even those who expressed some misgivings. Back in Zuccotti Park, sitting alone and wielding his sign, Michael Glazer articulates an age-old activist sentiment. “You have to keep it up – somebody has to,” he says. “I’m here today, I’m holding a sign. I’m just trying to spread an idea.”