Occupy Movement Hopes for New Lease on Life


Vallejo, who is 24, was a geography student in the Chilean capital Santiago before becoming a star of the protest movement last summer.

Erik Buhn, 27, is a student of Scandinavian studies, history and classical archeology in Frankfurt. He missed the last semester because of Occupy.

At first glance, one might think that Vallejo and Buhn were allies, two participants in a big, worldwide protest movement. Vallejo is fighting on the side of the organized left, experienced anti-capitalists who have staged similar protests in the past. Buhn is one of the many new critics of capitalism. "Left, right, we would prefer to put these categories behind us," he says, referring to Occupy, which he hopes will provide him with new answers.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters, convinced of their broad appeal, chanted: "We are the 99 percent." Unlike the labor movement of the 19th century or the student movement of the 1960s, they saw themselves as a movement for everyone. Then winter came to the United States and Europe, and the ground froze under the tent cities in northern climates. In many camps, the occupiers either gave up or were driven away by the police.

Are people still indignant, they are now asking themselves? How many will return in May, and where will their outrage take them? Will they find new answers, possibly even a new political idea? 'The Hibernation Period Is Over'

Erik Buhn walks from the tent camp to the Frankfurt Opera, which is across the street and has declared its solidarity with the movement, as has much of Germany. The country's main opposition parties -- the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green Party and the far-left Left Party -- have voiced their support, as have the influential Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) and the Attac movement, which opposes neo-liberal globalization. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has let it be known that she sympathizes with Occupy. The Frankfurt Opera offered the camp occupants the use of its toilets and cafeteria.

Buhn greets the concierge and makes his way to a wooden table in the cafeteria, where six men and a woman are seated, the current membership of a group called "Demo Working Group." The group's biggest concern at the moment is not how to change the system, but the more mundane question of how to get at least a portion of the 99 percent back onto the streets of Frankfurt. "People have to see that the hibernation period is over," says Buhn.

The meeting is chaired by a man named Wolf, who pushes sheets of paper labeled "Agenda" across the table. "Obviously May 1 is the beginning," he says. Then comes the anniversary of the "Indignados," the "indignant" who occupied Madrid's Plaza del Sol square on May 15, 2011, inspired by "Indignez-vous!" (published in English as "Time for Outrage!"), a pamphlet written by the 94-year-old former French R├ęsistance fighter St├ęphane Hessel. 'Greek Would Be Good'

Indignation is the program of all critics of capitalism. Indignation over the trillions in taxpayer money that had to be used to protect banks and economies from collapse. Indignation over the pursuit of profit of a small number of people that is driving society into crisis instead of serving the common good. Indignation over the fact that governments are seemingly impotent when faced with the vagaries of the markets, and that they have even fueled market activity with their incorrect decisions during the last few decades.

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