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Occupy Wall Street

Power to the 99 Percent

Is the first anniversary of the Occupy Movement this month something to celebrate? With a bit of perspective, we can now look at its tangible achievements and limitations.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905).

The background to 2011 was one of weak class consciousness, let alone socialist consciousness. Inequality remained firmly off the political agenda. The message from the millionaire ruling class was “We're all in this together”. Ed Milliband's challenge to the austerity myth was merely that the cuts were too deep and too fast. Little surprise then that cuts to welfare were implemented relatively free of political impediments.

Then in Spain, protests calling for “Real Democracy Now!” and to “Take the Square” formed the inspiration for Adbusters magazine to call for similar protests in the United States.  It asked, “What is our one demand?”

99 Problems and the Rich Are One

It is nice to see Occupy London explain its general ideological direction at greater length than we’ve seen in its meetings and previous writings in the June issue of The Occupied Times of London. (The Occupied Times is produced by an ‘autonomous working group of Occupy London general assembly.’) The initial statement on 16 October 2011 agreed by a ‘gathering of Occupy London’ leaves a little to be desired, and though Global Occupy Manifesto (May 2012) did consult international Occupy groups, Occupy London was not consulted to publish. The Occupied Times describes itself as ‘self-funded’ and states that it “does not operate an open-door policy like most other working groups, instead taking the form of an affinity group”.

Revolution or Reform?

This key question is also being debated among some in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is united in its outrage against grotesque social inequality and in its desire to bring an end to the dominance of a tiny minority (the “1%”) over the will of the majority. So it was disingenuous – or daft – for onlookers to say that the movement has no demand. The demand for social equality is clear enough, but the critics who ignored, then ridiculed the OWS movement understood “demands” in the specific sense of concrete reforms to make things less bad.

Somewhat strange logic, if you stop to consider it: as if it were up to the victims of capitalist inequality to figure out how to turn a profit-chasing system built upon worker exploitation and minority ownership of the elements of production into an egalitarian society.

Where Will It End?

The Occupy movement is a sign of spreading unrest.

Just last month ago we asked in our editorial whether we were beginning to see the “red shoots” of recovery in the class struggle. At the time, the annual conference of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) had just called for joint industrial action, street protests and a campaign of civil disobedience, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned that America and Europe were facing the worst jobs crisis since the 1930s and an ‘explosion of social unrest’. We said then that there was no way of predicting with any confidence whether this expected ‘explosion’ would go off, or turn out to be a damp squib, depending, as it did and does, on what millions of people think and decide to do.

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