What the Occupy Movement may need if it is to make a decisive difference in 2012.
political classes have been fully revealed this year as rabbits frozen in the
headlights of forces they neither understand nor can control.
The good outcome of this is rising popular mistrust of these classes. They do not deserve our trust, our votes, our taxes.
The current system
which is their lifeblood (variously described, including “liberal capitalism”)
is in crisis. All major political
parties are fully invested in this system and offer no real alternative (only
short-term fixes which turn out not to be fixes at all).
That is why I believe, for all its deficiencies, the Occupy movement offers one of the few authentic political directions we have. Among its important characteristics are:
(a) It deals with
the important issues head on. It
uncompromisingly keeps the spotlight on global and local economic injustice,
and the corporate and individual greed that fuels it, and insists that this
must be dealt with.
(b) it is global. Movements which arise in a single country context are vulnerable to exceptionalism and special pleading. International solidarity is the vital element that keeps any locally based initiative on course.
(c) It is highly
visible. It has made itself known to
most people around the world from a zero start in three months. This contrasts with the ponderous
“stuckness” of most official processes.
Speed is the necessary characteristic of any movement fit for averting
looming global disaster.
(d) It has little ideological baggage. Such baggage blights longer standing movements of both left and right (such as international socialism), bohth reputationally and functionally. This movement can respond to where people are at, with issues framed in language which speaks directly to them. The slogan “we are the 99%” is a powerful tool.
(e ) It has not
been “bought”. It is financially
supported by many small donations rather than becoming obligated to a few
mega-sponsors and their interests.
My hope for 2012 is that the impulse behind the Occupy movement spreads and strengthens. For this to happen Occupy needs to build strong alliances with other progressive organisations with mainstream credibility or penetration, at the expense of some of its independence. Already in some countries there are positive links to, for instance, trades unions and anti-poverty action groups. But more is needed.
campaigning group Avaaz.org is one of the amazing success stories of the last
few years. A coalition of Occupy+Avaaz
together with some of the newer progressive political parties that have begun
to spring up worldwide (e.g. the Pirate Party of Germany, LMP of Hungary, SaS
of Slovakia, Palikot’s Movement of Poland) could allow a much wider
participation in the process of seeking and implementing change than is
currently available to Occupy supporters, who pretty much have to turn up at a
campsite to have any direct say. That is
neither suitable nor appropriate for the kind of mass support and penetration that
this movement needs.
My fear for 2012 is that, as history forewarns, when populations fall on hard times and lose faith in their governments, they can easily fall prey to demagogues peddling various forms of political poison (racism, xenophobia isolationism, protectionism) and the seeking of scapegoats. There is a demagoguery of anti-capitalism too. When one hears “its all the fault of the bankers”, beware. Bankers got away with what they did because many different levels of society colluded in their dishonesty. Many of us profited from what we didn’t earn and did not complain when times were good.
We need stronger and more persistent messages than the demagogues, and hardier forms of organisation and support, which can sustain us when things get confused and challenging, as they undoubtedly will. My wish for everyone I am connected to and care about is that 2012 is a year of real growth, and of the building of the only prosperity which really matters, which is the prosperity of mutual human warmth and generosity, and the courage to face inevitable hardships with hope, solidarity, and creativity.