Friday, December 23, 2011

no demands

Writing at Buzzflash/Truthout, Barry Eidlin, a PhD candidate in the sociology department at UC Berkeley, explains with grace and clarity why the various Occupy movements not only have no specific demands, but don't need them, and why such demands would be excess baggage.

The role of broad transformative social movements like Occupy is not to generate specific demands. It is to identify fundamental injustices and to refocus political debate on those injustices. And the Occupy movement has done this very well. Its central slogan of "We are the 99%" has articulated a unifying vision that has resonated with millions of people, who have protested, marched, and camped in hundreds of cities in over eighty countries around the world. Moreover, the movement has fundamentally reshaped our national political discussion. Whereas talk this summer was solely about how much to slash the federal budget, the discussion now is about the fundamental injustice of an economic system that allows the top 1 percent of the population to control 40 percent of the wealth. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism," admitted Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz to a recent gathering of the Republican Governors' Association.


For now though, the focus needs to be on creating new political possibilities. The movement needs to grow, needs to reach out to more people, and needs to keep the discussion focused on those responsible for today's massive wealth inequality. Any call for concrete demands at this point is simply an attempt to shift the discussion back to what we were talking about before Occupy came along, to close off those political possibilities.

This process of moving from protests to demands is messy, unpredictable, and uncertain. But that's how successful social movements actually work, and that's how social change actually happens.

Read the whole thing here.

Those who say they're sympathetic to the movement, then criticize the protesters for "not doing it right" are mostly not sympathetic at all, but hostile, and those who are truly sympathetic but baffled because #OWS didn't come up with a 10-point legislative program need to chill, sit back, and watch what happens this spring. They might learn something.

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