Chris Maisano’s whole interview with Frances Fox Piven is worth your time, but I think this is the money quote that everyone should be carrying around in their heads right now:
It’s also true that when I say I think we may be on the cusp, at the beginning of a another period of social protest and [Occupy Wall Street] is the sign, I don’t think that social protest works as a little explosion and gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s much more interrupted, dispersed, there are periods of discouragement — 1959-1960 the civil rights movement people thought it was over, after 1962 in Albany, Georgia — this movement is going to be like that too.
It’s entirely possible that the Zuccotti park encampment and the nationwide flare-up of occupations will burn themselves out before they succeed in stoking a sustainable movement. If that happens, leftist pontificators will come out of the woodwork to tell us how they were too disorganized, or needed clearer demands, or had the wrong ideology, or didn’t connect enough with labor, or weren’t diverse enough, or whatever; then they’ll go back to lamenting that Americans aren’t rising up and the left is doomed. This cautionary note from Piven–who knows from insurgent popular movements–is a useful corrective to that. The important thing is to recognize that in terms of changing the terms of mainstream debate and activating a lot of depoliticized people, Occupy Wall Street has already been a huge success no matter what happens next.