An Agenda?

Naomi Klein Wolf has an interesting piece in the Gruniard today, in which she makes the claim that the Occupy movement is coalescing around the following demands:

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

It’s hard to know how accurate such a poll can be, but if it is anywhere close it means that the political class has some big problems. It’s a shame that the “demands” are so US-centric, but at least the second, separation of high street and investment banking, is universal.

If said motivations could be clearly elucidated to the general public they would most likely be extremely popular. Whether people would take to the streets to demand them, and whether the political class is even capable of delivering such change, against their own self-interest, are of course open questions. However, if the Occupy movement is to stand any chance of not simply being beaten out of existence (the state has a monopoly  on the use of violence in the public sphere) it has got to get some sort of consistent message out.

Perversely it’s pretty obvious why coming out and making a set of demands, or setting a political agenda is likely to derail the existing movement. As soon as politics and politicians get involved the current “democratic process” will ensure that the voices with the most money will win out. That’s why we’re where we are today and why trying to ferment chaos in society at large is the only perceived way forward.

Perhaps the only way forward, without the kind of social dislocation and disruption that the Occupy movement presumably seeks, is for a group of wealthy philanthropists to create a ethically chartered parallel banking system, and for the public to move to it on mass. Doesn’t seem likely.

Sticking to the current course, it’s hard to see how the Occupy movement can attract the kind of numbers that are needed (presumably millions on the streets of all major cities) to have an impact.


4 thoughts on “An Agenda?

  1. Thanks Jon for that wrap-up.
    And thanks for articulating this: “the state has a monopoly on the use of violence in the public sphere” I have been thinking a lot about that lately and couldn’t find a satisfying way to express myself.

    • The whole ‘protest in a democracy’ thing really doesn’t seem to be working… hard to see where things go when the ruling class is bought.

  2. Interesting counter response at Alternet:

    Personally, I think OWS has been clear along about what they want and what they are doing. But two issues have prevented their so-called “message” from resonating: (1) they are attacking bankers (the very heart of the problem) so the media simply can not have that, and (2) there is no single leader delivering their message so they do not have a focused delivery mechanism. However, that lack of “focus” will make it harder for them to get taken over by the Democrats like the Tea Party was taken over by the Republicans. The Tea Party and OWS should hang out.

    Another observation: the OWS guys actually have a very serious political voice in Ron Paul, who has been saying for decades what they just discovered a couple of months ago. Paul is on the verge of getting serious attention in the US, but he is being treated rather poorly by the Republican Party and the media. Watch the parallels between Paul/OWS going into the two political conventions. This could end up like 1968.

    • no idea what that alternet piece is trying to say. comes across as just having a axe to grind with wolf… but doesn’t say much that contradicts what she says in the guardian.

      it has certainly been the case that on a high level the occupy people have consistently made the point of campaigning for a fairer society, a society with a wider distribution of wealth. what they haven’t been clear about is just how that should be achieved. that seems both smart and limiting, on one hand it stops them getting tied up in policy discussions (that are easily polarized in america), but on the other it makes it easy for the media to ignore / ridicule any attacks on their sponsors.

      isn’t the tea party already discredited as a false grass roots movement, at least partially funded by those that would maintain the status quo?

      i’m not sure that it’s possible to take ron paul seriously while he holds libertarian views. maybe i don’t understand him well enough, but i’ve dismissed him as one of the red in tooth and claw laissez faire capitalism advocates. it’s hard for me to put someone like that on the same side as a movement that essentially seeks to reduce the ability of a minority to accumulate the majority of the wealth. that’s what capitalism does, and more capitalism will do it more.

Wise words...

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