Van Horn, Robert

Advisor Department





Occupy; Student; Activism; Wall; Street; Capitalism

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


In order to understand the present we must first understand the past. The United States may be a country founded on principles of democracy and republicanism, but students in universities across the nation have aligned themselves, historically, with some heterodox philosophies over the years. Whether it was Communism or Socialism in the 1930’s, or left libertarianism and direct democracy during the recent Occupy protests, students have long considered whether the policies of the United States government were really working in their best interests.

On campus in Depression-era America, Leftist student groups began to rise up and attempted to change the course of American politics. These Leftist groups were strongly rooted in Socialist and Communist alternatives to American capitalism, which they believed had failed the American people. By organizing and recruiting middle class college students, the Leftist groups on campus grew membership rates into the thousands. No greater was their impact felt than at the CCNY campus in New York City.

Occupy Wall Street began as a movement of American citizens who felt disaffected by their government after the sweeping bank and automotive industry bailouts of 2008 and 2009. Believing that the United States government had abandoned them in favor of following a too-big-to-fail doctrine, the members of Occupy Wall Street organized in Zucotti Park to protest high unemployment, the failure of American capitalism, excessive government spending on foreign wars, and the continued inaction of the government to improve economic conditions in the United States. The movement was quickly embraced by students who feared that when they graduated college they would be left jobless and saddled with massive student loan debt. The student response to Occupy Wall Street was immense and their demonstration of solidarity impressive, especially in New York.

This paper’s objective is to explore the connections between radical, left-leaning student activism in 1930’s New York and the student activists who have come out in support of Occupy Wall Street. This is important because Occupy Wall Street is a unique movement. Massive sit-in protests in Zucotti park, where people from across the region stood together united by their cause: putting to an end economic inequality and stopping the United States government from continually propagating a pro-corporate agenda while Main Street and the 99% are left footing the bill. It is important for us to understand that, while Occupy Wall Street is a unique movement, it is not the first time people united, firmly, against their country to protest its policies.