On the last day of 2011, I went for a stroll towards Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. As late as mid-November this clump of off-Broadway public space, usually the preserve of Financial District workers, was a congested tent city teeming with thousands of men and women protesting against an economic system stacked in favour of a plutocratic and often tax-evading minority.

Now, barely six weeks later, it was empty: police had placed barricades all around to make entry difficult; flustered out-of-town shoppers milled about in search of discount department stores, enterprising vendors hawked tatty Occupy Wall Street badges, the smell of cheap muffins wafted from a food truck.

A few defiant protesters remained. One wore a V for Vendetta mask and held up a piece of cardboard with the slogan “Capitalism Has Failed” for tourists to photograph. A woman of pensionable age recited from memory Adrian Mitchell’s “To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam)”. But the passion and rebellion that had been staged here and broadcast all across the world appeared to have been extinguished. By the time I returned home and switched on the television, the evening news was taken up by politicians chundering forth an idiot argot of fudge, cliché and parochial mendacity. Had Occupy Wall Street been just a dream?

A slew of new books offer convincing and often thrilling evidence to the contrary. They include Occupying Wall Street: the Inside Story of an Action That Changed America (OR Books) assembled by a collective made up of dozens of freelance journalists, students and activists, that goes under the name of Writers for the 99 per cent; Occupy! Scenes From Occupied America (Verso, £9.99) edited by Astra Taylor and Keith Gessen and featuring many contributors drawn from savvy New York-based journals such as n+1, Triple Canopy, Dissent and The New Inquiry; This Changes Everything by the staff of YES! magazine that collects speeches and essays by the likes of Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit and Ralph Nader.

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