Why OWS needs specific concrete demands and leadership
By: Alan Maki Saturday November 5, 2011 7:03 am
Originally published in two posts on Firedoglake
It is not logical to think people will continue to occupy anything indefinitely— not a park or a factory or a school or a Wall Street office or a politician’s office.
Movements for social and economic justice need clear demands aimed at solving specific problems intended to improve the lives and living conditions of people.
This is what unites and brings people into struggle.
All successful movements for social change have used this simple formula; it is the only one that achieves results:
Education + Organization + Unity in action = Victory for the people
In other words, you start out helping people to connect all the dots relating to their problems.
We have many people saying the strength of the OWS movement is that it is “leaderless” and “without specific demands.”
This creates confusion which is good for who? Obama, the Black Box?
So far what we are getting out of the OWS movement is that people are “fed up.” This is good that people vent their anger.
But, are people “fed up” with government, Wall Street or capitalism— or all three?
People are “fed up” because they are experiencing problems— very specific problems.
Unless people clearly articulate what they are “fed up” with anyone and everyone can claim they speak for OWS without having to solve the very specific problems of everyday living people are experiencing.
It is not like it is difficult to find out why people are “fed up.” Anyone can walk through a grocery store talking to people. Start up a conversation at the gas station. Engage people where they work or go to school.
In talking to people one quickly finds what the specific problems are.
It is only logical that people who are “fed up” should articulate their specific problems if they want these problems solved.
The problems can be articulated in a way that leads to people arriving at the conclusion there are specific solutions to their problems.
The specific problems and their specific solutions must be clearly articulated or people who are “fed up” are going to become more frustrated. Eventually they will come to the conclusion there is nothing they can do about their problems if struggles do not lead towards solutions to their problems.
If people become disillusioned in thinking it does no good to organize and come together, the result, if this happens, is that Wall Street remains in power and the problems just get worse.
Isn’t it our goal and objective to solve the problems people are experiencing in a way that the people have a chance to successfully challenge Wall Street for power?
That specific, concrete demands providing solutions to problems aren’t being adequately articulated by the OWS movement is not the movement’s strength it is a severe weakness. All movements need leadership. The more collective the leadership the better; but leadership none-the-less. After all, someone eventually has to sign a union contract or in some collective way agree that problems have been solved.
I question just how “leaderless” the OWS movement really is.
George Lakoff and his Rockwood Institute advising these do-nothing "progressive" Democrats have for a very long time articulated the position that only “progressive policy directives” are required and specific solutions to problems should be avoided at all costs. (See “Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives” by George Lakoff)
It appears to me that OWS has a leader— the wrong one; either by chance or by intent, it doesn’t matter how this has happened. We need to turn this situation around.
Amy Dean, the darling of the Obama loving Democrats who seeks to turn every concern of the people into her own personal profit by "advising" people on what to do, “let the cat out of the bag” in her recent essay which tries to guide people towards the “leadership” of the Rockwood Institute. See: http://my.firedoglake.com/amybdean/2011/11/04/unity-is-strength-for-progressives/
Republicans have their “fed ups” with the Tea Party— another movement that is “leaderless” and without specific demands by design.
The Democrats now want their “fed ups” as long as people don’t come articulating specific problems they want solved.
Additional Note # 1. Please note: I added this comment after reading the discussions to my initial post on Firedoglake and several phone conversations:
If you look at the Occupy Oakland protests thousands of people turned out bringing with them their problems stated on the signs they were carrying.
People aren’t interested in shaping some new kind of democracy in isolation to their problems.
People want a say in the decision-making process so their problems get solved. People are fed up with politicians who won’t respond to their problems in a way that solves their problems.
If OWS continues to ignore the specific problems people are having people will get fed up with OWS, too.
We are beginning to see some discussions about occupying homes being foreclosed on and some discussions about occupying plants slated to close in order to try to save jobs. This is the general direction OWS will have to move in order to keep the movement growing.
We also saw how OWS made a list of demands an on that list was the demand to solve the health care mess— but, what did this demand for health care reform consist of? It called for a “financial means test” to determine eligibility for access to health care.
To suggest that it may take years for OWS to articulate demands relating to solving the problems people are experiencing smacks of the same kind of thing we hear from Obama and the Democrats so why not give Obama a chance to see what he can do with another 4 years?
If the main thing people were interested in is making friends and helping people one person at a time while a new kind of democracy is being talked about then the signs people were carrying in Oakland would have reflected this.
Lots of signs said people want jobs; many others conveyed the idea that people want real health care reform.
Other signs took note of rising gas and food prices while other signs called for a moratorium on home foreclosures. Lots of signs called for defending public education from cuts. All kinds of signs called for peace, not wars.
What people are saying when they turn out in the thousands everyplace is that the majority wants peace and social justice and in a democracy this is what people should get.
I can guarantee that most of the 99% are not going to participate in long-winded discussions about “democracy” when they are without jobs, hungry and homeless.
Eradicating poverty is the most democratic demand of all.
It is the struggles of the people trying to solve their problems in the process of creating a better world to live in with improved living standards and a healthy and safe environment at work and in their communities that defends and expands democracy not the other way around.
Additional Note #2. Please note: This is the second edit including another comment to responses I have received on FireDogLake:
Leadership involves much more than some specific person. Leadership implies having an ideology that understands that bringing forward specific demands aimed at solving the specific problems of the people through universal social programs is the way to go.
In fact, “leadership” is being provided to the OWS movement or we wouldn’t be hearing this talk about how the movement should remain “leaderless” without specific demands. This is leadership through ideological saturation; a “leadership” I believe is wrong-headed intended to serve the goals and objectives of Barack Obama and the Democrats.
The criticism of Obama is that he hasn’t acted to solve the problems of the people in a timely manner. Obama and the Democrats demagogically claim they need more time.
Now we are hearing the exact same thing from the “leaderless?” OWS movement that it will take, perhaps years!, to develop specific goals and objectives which include bringing forward solutions to our common problems as we (the 99%) are all pushed into poverty.
It isn’t rocket science to determine what our common problems are and their solutions. Go into any supermarket in a working class community and most anyone can itemize the problems and provide a shopping list of the solutions.
Here it is. This isn’t something I thought up in a dream. This comes from years of discussing with people what kind of problems they have and what they think the solutions are. Anyone can print off this program and take it to church, to work, to school, shopping to ask people what they think about it. Here is an idea… maybe listen to the people for the “leadership” the OWS movement requires… what a novel idea when it comes to considering how democracy is supposed to work!
A program for real change…
* Peace— end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and shutdown the 800 U.S. military bases on foreign soil.
* A National Public Health Care System – ten million new jobs.
* A National Public Child Care System – three to five million new jobs.
* Works Progress Administration – three million new jobs.
* Civilian Conservation Corps – two million new jobs.
* Tax the hell out of the rich and cut the military budget by ending the wars to pay for it all which will create full employment.
* Enforce Affirmative Action; end discrimination.
* Raise the minimum wage to a real living wage
* What tax-payers subsidize in the way of businesses, tax-payers should own and reap the profits from.
* Moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions.
* Defend democracy by defending workers’ rights including the right to collective bargaining for improving the lives and livelihoods of working people.
* Roll-back and freeze the price of food, electricity, gas and heating fuels; not wages, benefits or pensions.
* Defend and expand Social Security.
* Wall Street is our enemy
How is Barack Obama’s Wall Street war economy working for you?
Let’s talk about the politics and economics of livelihood for a real change.