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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: When do the post-mortems start?

There are almost no stories about the Occupy Wall Street movement today on Google News, Salon and Slate. I smell something in the air: Decay.

We should have known what was up when Bloomberg suddenly decided to take a friendly tone toward the occupiers. The Establishment has shifted its attitude from "We must fight this thing" to "Let the kids vent. When the weather turns bad, most of them will go home."

Nobody on Capitol Hill is acting as though the protests matter.

I woke up this morning and sensed that the kids had reached, if not the end, then the beginning of the end. Maybe I'm wrong; if so, feel free to explain how and why.

But even the hardiest protesters must be starting to wonder: Is that all there is? Are we just going to camp out and chatter and hobnob and march around? Why can't we focus all this energy on getting something done?

The good news: An end can also be a beginning.

Even if the protests soon start to lose steam, the rebels will regroup, and the movement will take on a new shape. The traumas that gave birth to this rebellion have not gone away; the 99 percent are still getting screwed.

So here is my advice on how to do it better next time.

1. Forget this "no leadership" crap. Leaders are inevitable and desirable: Think King, think Aung San Soo Kyi, think Gandhi, think Petra Kelly. But always make sure that your leaders are replaceable and tethered to the majority will.

2. Stop trying to make decisions by consensus. As I demonstrate in the post below, that strategy is a proven loser. Make decisions by a simple show of hands. As Churchill once said: Democracy is the worst system imaginable, except for all the others.

3. Have your shit together. You need a list of goals. Steer clear of anyone who tells you that the movement is about "changing consciousness." This country does not need vague New-Agey woo-woo crap right now; people are hurting.

4. Make sure that your list of goals stays focused on economics, on the destruction of the middle class. This is not a time to be talking about animal experimentation, the environment, race relations, the danger of the religious right, abortion or this country's stupid wars. All of those issues are terribly important, I'll grant you -- and all of them will figure into any broad discussion of economics. But wedge issues can kill you. The need to arrest our slide into poverty is a problem faced by everyone.

5. You need a book. Or perhaps a shorter written statement -- something on the order of the Letter from Birmingham Jail. You need to point to a document NOT WRITTEN BY COMMITTEE which tells the world what you want. (Any text written by committee is valueless. Committees have no ability to inspire. People respond to the personal.)

6. Define yourself as anti-Libertarian. You cannot be so inclusive as to include the forces that deregulated Wall Street in the first place. If you're trying to fix your car's body, you can't take an inclusive attitude toward rust.

7. Have an immediate, practical goal as well as several longer-term goals. When Martin Luther King went to Memphis -- where he was killed -- he was not there simply to talk about Civil Rights or the Vietnam War. He went there in support of a strike by garbage collectors.

I have recommended that the protesters seek the resignation of Tim Geithner as a good first step. Of course, his resignation would not solve our nation's problems, but forcing this president to do something he does not want to do would show that the movement has muscles.

If not Geithner, then go after someone else. You need a head on a pike. You need to show that you mean business.

When I suggested going after Geithner, a few people told me that getting rid of him would take the air out of the movement. WTF? That response was one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. You know what will definitely take the air out of the movement? Marching and chanting in the rain while nothing changes, as the Masters of the Universe look down on you and smirk at how cute you look.

Update: I forgot the most important suggestion...

8. Instead of worrying about whether you'll be co-opted by the Democratic Party -- take it over.

The people advising you not to have anything to do with the party are either libertarian infiltrators (there have been plenty of those, as we've seen) or the sort of lefties who feel that wielding power is in bad taste.

The libertarians understood the Tea Party as a vehicle for taking over the GOP. Tea Party libertarians loved it when Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann spoke at their events. Tea Party libertarians loved it when they got to choose who lived and who died in the primaries. That's what works. And for precisely that reason, the libertarians have been "helpfully" suggesting that OWS must never do what succeeded for them.

Way too many lefties -- eager, as always, to do their impersonation of Saint Sebastian -- have been taking and echoing that bad advice. Their motto: "We'll never have power, but at least we're pure." How's that workin' out for ya?
The Green Party of the United States might have something to offer.
Not for me. Did you read the preceding post?
Ian last year

) Too late) now how take over the D Party?
Can we Kick Markos out of the party (your demand #6) after we take it over?

The Case for the Libertarian Democrat | Markos Moulitsas | Cato Unbound

…there’s a whole swath of Americans who are uncomfortable with Republican/conservative efforts to erode our civil liberties while intruding into our bedrooms and churches; they don’t like unaccountable corporations invading their privacy, holding undue control over their economic fortunes, and despoiling our natural surroundings; yet they also don’t appreciate the nanny state, the over-regulation of small businesses, the knee-jerk distrust of the free market, or the meddlesome intrusions into mundane personal matters.

Like me, these were people who didn’t instinctively reject the ability of government to protect our personal liberties, who saw government as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see the government as the source of first resort when seeking solutions to problems facing our country. They also saw the markets as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see an unregulated market run amok as a positive thing. Some of these were reluctant Republicans, seeking an excuse to abandon a party that has failed them. Others were reluctant Democrats, looking for a reason to fully embrace their party. And still others were stuck in the middle, despairing at their options—despondent at a two-party system in which both parties were committed to Big Government principles.
Moulitsas is important, but not THAT important. I detest him on a personal level and my heart sinks when he shows up on Olbermann's show. But keep it in perspective.
"If you're trying to fix your car's body, you can't take an inclusive attitude toward rust."

Nice line.

They're never gonna kick out the Libertarians. They pride themselves for having a rainbow of anarchists, socialists, Libertarians, unions, etc.
The only way to take over the Democratic Party is to do what the Tea Party did with the Republicans, go after the entrenched leadership. That means going after Obama (primary him), Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, etc. That's not going to happen with OWS.
jeez, why not? Take Reid, for example. The Teabaggers were powerful enough to make sure that their candidate took him on last election -- and she was so extreme that she lost what should have been a sure thing. Well, that can be done in all sorts of places around the country...this time by the good guys. And I think that an OWS candidate would do a lot better than Angle did.

I don't think you need to take on the leadership right away. Just win a few big seats.

And stop focusing on Obama. WIn or lose in 2012, he is almost irrelevant when it comes to the question of defining the heart of a remade party.
OWS is a leadersless anti-Wall Street crowd, not a political movement like the Tea Party. Any attempt to change the Democrats in Washington would have to come from a movement, with candidates that sign on to pursue certain policies if they are elected. Unless there's a change from a crowd to a movement, I don't see OWS accomplishing anything.
"Make sure that your list of goals stays focused on economics, on the destruction of the middle class."
"The need to arrest our slide into poverty is a problem faced by everyone."

The middle class is surely no larger than 30% of the population, by any serious definition? (I'd put it smaller). Most of the population is poor already and facing a further slide downwards.

I won't waffle on, but what do you mean by the middle class? It's very heterogeneous. Some bits of it are doing fine, and not only debt brokers. No lawyers, medics, or middle-ranking city officials are sleeping in their cars, unable to afford health treatment, etc. But what are these guys if they're not middle class?

Is "working class" a dirty phrase in the US? Applied mainly to blue-collar industrial workers, maybe, of whom there aren't many left?

There's an issue with middle class people, or petty bourgeois, in danger of proletarianisation. I mean, why support their privileges? But one could ask the same about many workers - why support them when homeless people are much worse off, etc. Then you end up supporting just the lumpenproletariat, which is ridiculous. And the threat to some middle class people isn't just that they lose their privileges, but that they get made homeless, get really put in the shit, in which case, yes, they should be included in any decent oppositional movement. And some petty bourgeois have a standard of living that's no higher than many working class people's anyway. And ruining much of the middle class is a big part of third-worldisation. But making a minority the 'focus' - why?

Why shouldn't the focus be on the working class? Labour must awaken; otherwise you just get populist politics based on advertising.

(I don't know what it is with Petra Kelly. The green movement in Germany was a spooked-up diversion from, and replacement of, a) opposition focused on the working class, b) the 'political soldier' Bonny-and-Clyde crap, and c) anti-Americanism. People can talk about red-green, but a colour other than red was deliberately chosen. A shape could have been chosen instead, such as a circle).

In the UK, when middle class people say "it's always the middle class that gets crapped on", they're generally speaking against welfare, in the belief that the authorities do too much to "help" the poor, while poor old "middle Harry" gets forgotten about. Aw, how hard it must be for them, on only twice the average income. It's always a right-wing low-tax position. They might not have read 'Atlas shrugged' (thank God), but they do believe that middle class people are the most hard-working (!) They forget to notice the working class majority.
b, I should have been more careful in my phrasing. I meant "middle class" as most Americans define the term, which differs from the way the rest of the world defines it.

Americans consider much of the working class (except for the minimum wage sector of the working class) to be "middle." In this country, if you're paid more than -- what? Let's say ten, maybe eleven bucks an hour, you're in the middle.

I know that this distinction doesn't make sense from a Euro perspective. But you know how Americans like to flatter themselves...

And I think calling Petra "spooked up" is silly. At any rate, I wasn't very paranoid in 1981.
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