Dedicated to all those who, upon encountering the slogan "freedom isn't free," interpreted the phrase not as an immutable law, but as a fantastic challenge.
Table of Contents:
Foreword The Problem: A Nation is Led to Decline
Our Problem: There is a Member of the 1% Inside All Our Heads‚
The Solution: Whose Freedom? Our Freedom!
Building the Solution: The Beginning is Near
This pamphlet is one Occupier's attempt to make sense of what is a very young movement, considering the task with which it has charged itself. It is both a work written for myself and others like me, who are attempting to analyze where it is we are today, imagine the world as we want it to be, and develop a method that promises to take us from here to there.
Existing in a world that is not of our choosing, limited in what we can successfully communicate by the influence of an obsolete, dominant ideology, and limited in what we can do by non-inclusive institutions, it is essential we have, in the least, a rough theoretical method. We can have no strategy, nor tactics to serve it, without theory. Without distinguishing between strategy and tactics our movement becomes an all-or-nothing proposition in which nothing is the most likely outcome. Utilizing a theory that unites strategy and tactics, with the two working in sync, allows us to most effectively build the better world we have for so long insisted "is possible".
It is essential that I make it clear this is a manifesto of an Occupier. I am only one person in a collective. This pamphlet is not to be understood as representative of the whole of Occupy. I do not intend for it to be treated as definitive, but I do hope it proves useful.
You will find that much of this pamphlet is influenced by Marxism. It should be known that much of what it contains is drawn from previous theoretical work I contributed to Political Affairs, the Communist Party USA's online journal. I am a six-year member of that party, yet I have also campaigned for progressive Democrats, spent many years out of the last ten organizing as an anarchist, and enjoyed one year as member of the Socialist Party USA before I committed myself to the CPUSA and its popular front platform.
This history may seem rife with contradiction, but so is the world as it exists today. Perhaps what is outlined in the following pages will provide some insight into this personal history. That history is, after all, as politically diverse as those who have been successfully working together as part of Occupy.
The Problem: A Nation is Led to Decline
Near the end of the last century the United States' became a nation of unparalleled military and economic power. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the rapid expansion of global trade some in the capitalist class even proclaimed that the West had entered "the end of history".
Political philosopher Francis Fukuyama made such a claim in his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy, in part defined by a capitalist economy, complemented human nature and was to become the final social model for every society.
As the U.S. economy grew over the course of the decade, Fukuyama's proclamation seemed to become accepted wisdom among politicians and administrators who embraced neo-liberal trade policies and deregulation. The utopian hubris was such that it even disturbed economic libertarian Alan Greenspan who, as Federal Reserve Chairman, warned against "irrational exuberance and unduly escalating stock prices" in a 1996 speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
Most of the growth in this period was not due to production of goods with actual use value as much as it relied on the growth of the financial sector.
The financial sector surpassed manufacturing as the higher source of GDP in the same year Fukuyama introduced his theory. From 1990 to 2005, manufacturing's portion of GDP fell from 16.3 percent to 12 percent, a 26.4 percent drop from its original share, while finance grew from 18 percent to 20.4 percent, expanding 13.3 percent. In the same time period average wages remained stagnant, growing by only about 15 dollars a week, or 780 dollars a year.
As Professor David Harvey noted in his speech to the RSA, capitalism spent the nineties promoting the illusion of material growth through private debt. Effective demand for goods was created by the financial sector's finding new ways to lend money to people through credit and, especially, home mortgages. With unfounded optimism and a desire to maximize profits, financial institutions used the livelihoods of working people as bargaining chips to grow wealth in ways far removed from reality.
One way they did this was through expanding the use of derivatives, financial instruments which derive their value from the value and characteristics of one or more underlying entities such as an asset, index, or interest rate. A move was made to better regulate derivatives at meeting of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets in 1998, but this was prevented by Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, who was then acting as Treasuring Secretary after 26 years of work in the financial giant Goldman Sachs. When the Bush administration took over there was no longer any consideration of regulating these increasingly speculative practices. In fact, derivatives known as mortgage backed securities were deregulated in 2004 and the private mortgage industry was able to take on greater risk through distribution of bundled sub-prime mortgages.
It was the Bush administration's idealistic belief in the ability of markets to regulate themselves that led to the Great Recession that afflicts the U.S. economy now. When the housing market retracted in the final year of the Bush presidency the reduction of houses' value affected the mortgages financial institutions held and sent shockwaves throughout the economy. Finance was no longer supplying credit. The financial sector spent more than two decades making itself an increasingly essential economic fuel as wages stagnated and its collapse strangled the entire nation's economy.
Pinned by its own utopian capitalist ideology, but knowledgeable enough to know something had to be done, the Bush administration made a bold yet unimaginative push to restore the economy's basic functionality by bailing out the institutions that had led to the crisis. If limited by the laws of the capitalist system, the financial bailout package was absolutely necessary to prevent what would have led to a massive shortage of money in industry and households and to stymie a much greater economic collapse.
When the Obama administration entered office it was prepared not to bring a socialist plan but to pursue a modest Keynesian approach with the intent to restore what had been before. The resulting debate over economic recovery has been framed by the same ideas that led to the economy's fall. The Republican Party is proposing even less be done by elected officials to monitor the market, maintaining the status of the nation's wealthiest individuals and institutions, while proposing the market take over Social Security and that cuts be made to Medicare and other social programs.
As politicians debated, CEO pay returned to its pre-recession levels in 2010 and the census recorded the largest income disparity in its history. At the same time, the financial industry has taken many working people’s homes and caused overall home equity to drop more than 35 percent. Unemployment doubled to over 9 percent. Underemployment went from 8.8 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in late 2010 as many people left full time jobs to work part time and, on average, the workers who became unemployed and then managed to find new full-time positions saw their pay drop.
The economic crisis will not be resolved using the same reasoning that started it.
Proponents of unrestrained capitalism, who favor the ideas of economists like Friedrich von Hayek, argue that society should let economic crisis occur without government interference. They believe that markets will naturally recover in the end. This would make sense if capitalist societies were indeed at the end of history, but history has surprised before. Historically, entire empires, such as the Dutch or British, have collapsed as the result of economic crises. Both declines began as the result of growing economic disparity, the simultaneous displacement of manufacturing by finance and their no longer possessing an unrivaled manufacturing sector. In the past, specifically in the crisis preceding both world wars, the U.S. recovered because of the relative strength of its manufacturing. With China recently surpassing our production and the other two factors met, the historically exceptional standard of living people in the U.S. have grown accustomed to is very much in jeopardy.
One of the better explanations of the current recession can be found in a theory of political economy most economists prefer to ignore: Marxism. Marx observed in Capital that capitalism has internal contradictions that eventually cause it to self-destruct. These contradictions lead to economic crisis where economic disparity, rooted in the shrinking purchasing power of workers and the accumulation of wealth in capital, eliminates the demand for goods that capital requires for profit. A paradoxical cycle results where businesses either eliminate workers or reduce wages in an attempt to again profit and subsequently cause the lack of demand for their own goods to worsen. A few contemporary economists, including Nouriel Roubini, famed for predicting the current economic crisis, have recently stated that Marx's analysis of this problem is correct. In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, Roubini aptly observed that the current crisis can even be considered the second leg of the Great Depression, and had been put off by the growth of finance.
Despite their finding certain powerful truths in Marxist economics, Roubini and his colleagues go on to introduce ideas that would provide temporary fixes to the system but which shrink from addressing the fundamental contradictions they themselves highlighted. It is up to a much braver group of people to take action.
No later than one month after Roubini's admitting the applicability of a theory which advocates capitalism be transcended, a group of people calling themselves the 99% began to occupy an area near one of the most iconic emblems of capitalist power: Wall Street.
The Occupy movement is about people's exercising self-determination, the very process of decision making used in its General Assemblies to be juxtaposed to the current lack of power participants feel in our capitalist democracy.
Like previous anti-capitalist movements, Occupy drew to the fore the contradiction contained in the phrase "capitalist democracy".
The preamble to the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City states:
"As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power."
"We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments."
Yet the Occupy movement is young and at its beginning, as corporations and the class which operates them are so entrenched in U.S. politics.
The most widespread reason Occupiers give for why the wealthy and corporations exercise so much political power involves the process of campaign finance. In the past decade the majority of money presidential and congressional candidates raised came from contributions of $200 or more. Less than one percent of the population made these donations, 81 percent of whom had incomes of more than $100,000 a year. These donations pale in comparison to the amount of money businesses donate directly to candidates' political parties, which comprise near 90 percent of total contributions in any given election.
But corporations not only have a powerful effect on elections -- They are a virtually inseparable component of the U.S. political process itself.
The 1% of the capitalist class is able to use the wealth generated by the corporations which they run to continuously lobby on their behalf.
Lobbying is a constant component of corporate strategy. In 2010, the oil and gas industry spent over 146 million dollars while employing 802 lobbyists, the pharmaceutical industry spent over 244 million dollars while employing 1,612 lobbyists, and finance (insurance and real estate) spent over 475 million dollars while employing 2,563 lobbyists. In comparison, public sector unions, representing the largest non-corporate, politically active institutions in the U.S., spent just over 14 million dollars and had a mere 150 lobbyists.
Further, as corporations are institutions which both own and manage a nation's resources, they naturally become politicians' biggest source for relevant information with which to form public policy. Corporate directors, executives, and those they employ as top level accountants or lawyers form the basis of the nation's largest think tanks and policy discussion groups.
Think tanks organize corporate money and industry experts to discuss issues surrounding public policy. They debate current policy, identify issues of their own and train experts. Of the ten largest think tanks in the U.S., seven are either explicitly conservative or promote ideas in line with the stated goals of the Republican Party. The other three define themselves as non-partisan. Some think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, focus on promoting experts and their interpretation of policies via public relations efforts while other think tanks, like the American Enterprise Institute or Chamber of Commerce, focus more on providing information and expertise to involved corporations, policy discussion groups, or directly to politicians.
Policy discussion groups are leaner than think tanks and tend to be focused more directly on policy formation. These are corporations' political working groups, where experts from think tanks present ideas to the heads of corporations and position statements are formed. One of the most powerful policy discussion groups is the Business Council, which began as a quasi-governmental advisory group in the 1930s only to become an independent entity in 1962. The Business Roundtable is the Business Council's active branch. These groups either meet directly with members of Congress and the Executive branch or work through lobbyists.
Corporations are, therefore, not only economic entities. They represent institutions of organized power and are the foundations that allow the capitalist class the constant influence in politics which the Occupy movement stands against.
The economy, having developed so that a small group of capitalists wield such a vast amount of power, forces progressives to reconsider capitalist democracy. The directors of these corporations are not only members of the nation's wealthiest one percent, but have been observed by sociologist G. William Domhoff to also be about 90 percent male and 95 percent white. These numbers have trended so as to point to an increase in the numbers of people of color and women on corporate boards, but Domhoff's research shows that the people of color and women who are selected by the majority white, male boards tend to be selected because they have put aside their values and adopted those of their wealthy white, male counterparts.
Capitalism has developed such that it undermines democracy itself.
The 1%, conservative politicians, and their allies are directing us to join them in looking at stars as they march us over the edge of a cliff. They present us with a utopian vision of capitalism, proposing we wait out the Great Recession while they design plans that would have us competing for jobs in a global economy which pays its workers wages far lower than what we earn now. They would have us believe there is no alternative to this vision, that we have entered the end of history and that the U.S. will be an exception among nations which have collapsed as a result of similar circumstances.
Let them march on alone. Let them have their end of history. We'll take the future.
Our Problem: There is a Member of the 1% Inside All Our Heads…
The ideology of the ruling class so permeates our capitalist society that many progressive activists often accidentally reference that ideology's set of theoretical assumptions when planning their own actions. Just as this outmoded way of thinking promises to continue the decline of society, it promises to undermine efforts at building a movement capable of changing that society for the better.
Karl Marx observed the power of the ruling class to control our mode of thought, or method of thinking, in his work The German Ideology:
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas…."
The progressive idea that the consciousness of people in any system is rooted in the environment in which they exist is seen here in Marx. The idea is that those who control the means of producing the social environment are those who formulate the widespread consciousness of the people. This consciousness represents more than just what seem to be isolated opinions on certain issues, such as the legitimacy of global warming. Societies make-up socializes the individual and becomes internalized such that it becomes the mode of thought through which they judge nearly everything they encounter in the world.
In capitalist societies, the dominant consciousness is primarily controlled by the few people fortunate enough to own and direct the means of production. When this is observed, it becomes apparent that underlying the consciousness of many is ideology. In capitalism, capitalist ideology is the dominant ideology, and it frames people’s consciousness according to its assumptions.
The set of assumptions present in each individual may vary, but not to such a degree that it is impossible for social scientists, such as sociologists and marketers, to identify trends in social thought and make approximate predictions based on them. Marx, often credited as being one of the first sociologists, refers to the sum of an individual's assumptions as his/her consciousness. When this consciousness is based on an ideology formulated by a group outside of the individuals' influence, putting them in a position in which they are essentially in another's control, Marx states that they are in a state of false consciousness.
Capitalism, as a system defined by class antagonisms, perpetuates false consciousness among the entire subordinate class.
The German Ideology continues, focusing on the philosophy of Max Stirner, a specific philosopher present in Marx's time that Marx identified as perpetuating false consciousness. Stirner, an idealist, did not observe the power of ideology, ignoring material conditions on which it is based, and erroneously postulated that the class problem capitalism presents could be done away with by simply encouraging individuals to adopt a new principles. Marx asserted that, as consciousness follows ideology and ideology is so controlled by the ruling class, a critical amount of real, material organization to produce a new consciousness would have to come into the control of the working class itself before the majority of that class could adopt a consciousness which would make possible a revolution that would lead to a classless society.
The views of Stirner were for some time advocated among anarchist groups, although most have adopted materialist views that recognize individuals' socialization. Today, whether attributed to Stirner or not, many left wing activists of all types share with the general progressive community a paradoxical combination of principled individual action and consciousness of individuals' socialization.
In the United States, much of this can be blamed on the capitalists' suppression of the peoples' movements of the 1960s. As discussed in Adam Curtis's documentary film series The Century of the Self, many active in the politically anti-capitalist organizations of that time were demoralized when the oppression of the peoples' movement in 1968 unveiled the complexity of revolutionary action. This caused many of the activists to turn inward, to become preoccupied with new forms of spirituality, and to turn political action into something resembling an individual morality. Simultaneously, political policy experts and corporate marketers were able to, in varying degrees, adapt to what had become but cultural values among the younger generation. It became possible to be rebellious in one's style, and to represent one's values in lifestyles represented by the purchasing of certain products or the mimicking of certain subcultures present in capitalism.
Even those who remained politically conscious became influenced by this change, which continues to confound many leftists today. Disconnected from theory, leftists have started to judge actions in and of themselves. Radicals are tempted to judge their actions based on principles, often resembling a moral system, rather than a timeless, "living" theoretical method.
The contemporary theorist Slavoj Zizek commented on this phenomenon when we said, in effect, that he was surprised to find many in the anti-war movement of 2003 to be more interested in taking a stand against the war "to save their beautiful souls," deriving guidance from a personal moral idea of their own more so than a set of theoretical assumptions that saw the war as an extension of corporate power at the expense of the majority of people on both sides of the conflict.
The problem with relying on this method to guide one in political action lies not so much in the fact that it has represented itself in a moral form, but that it individuates political action so that it becomes nothing more than a reaction to the actions of capitalism, further allowing the individual to be satisfied with his/her personal intentions rather than broadly-felt results.
Another example of capitalist ideology's influence on progressive politics can be found within the way many activists think of consumerism.
Anti-consumerism has a worthwhile goal, encouraging people to look beyond the spectacle marketers build around products and focus on the way in which those products actually come into being. There are problems with the current anti-consumerism movement where it draws from assumptions rooted in false-consciousness, where it tends to place responsibility for corporate action on individual consumers.
The movement against consumerism encourages people simply to not buy products which are produced in ways that harm the environment or violate workers rights. The idea is similar to that which drives boycotts. However, the anti-consumerism movement wants not to influence companies to change specific business practices, but to go so far as to defy practices that are essential to remaining competitive in capitalism. What the movement does not realize is that it is relying on the capitalist concept that the consumer is the determining source of capitalism's features. Popularized by the Austrian School of economics, the notion is that one dollar equals one vote, and that the capitalist economic system is a democracy. This notion is terribly flawed, as it is immediately apparent that some people have far more dollar votes than others. To further complicate the matter, the cheapest commodities also tend to be those produced by the largest, most economically efficient firms. One ends up blaming the very victims of globalization, the poor and all those whose oppressions intersect with poverty, for dependence on commodities produced by such exploitative companies.
In response to people's concerns with what they consume, even Starbucks now offers a "fair-trade" coffee among its "free-trade" selection. If one protests using capitalist ideology as a basis, Starbucks can conveniently place blame for their exploitative practices on all those who do not buy their fair-trade coffee, since "the consumer holds the power."
Countered by the dominant ideology again and again, individual activists start to lose hope. Many in the anti-consumerism movement, and anti-globalization movement in general, have become fascinated with the concept of living "off the grid." The end result of political action being conceived of as something defined by personal life decisions convinces the individual that removing themselves from the capitalist system is, for themselves, the best course of action. In a society defined by capitalist ideology, the individual removes themselves from society.
The 1% could be no happier if the Occupy movement where to isolate itself. But to challenge capitalism requires more than personal convictions. If Occupy aspires to represent the 99% it must strive to be an accountable mass movement.
As ideology is the result of socialization, and the means of any form of production, exchange, and other social activity performs socialization and builds ideology, we must not retreat from our current society, repulsed by its current manifestation, but engage it everywhere with a transformative theory built from those experiences of ours not reflected within it.
The Solution: Whose Freedom? Our Freedom!
The progressive movement widely accepts the idea that people's mindsets are products of their environment -- that they are socialized. Those who have the most power in socializing individuals are those in command of the economy, for it is they who have the final say in the construction of the majority of the population's work, the media viewed, and the very products which make up the social environment.
Further, the majority of those with economic power are inundated with the values of wealthy, heteronormative, white men. In a society where differences in power still exist among gender, sexuality, and race, people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals are predominantly engaged in work that is both determined by wealthy straight white men and which promotes the values of wealthy straight white men over their own.
Occupy has been criticized by some as being a response of previously privileged people to the loss of their status. There are real reasons for ire toward a movement that only achieved popularity after the recession. Women have consistently been paid a fraction of men’s' wages since such statistics were recorded, currently making 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same position, and African-American unemployment has not been below 10 percent at any point for over 50 years. However, while it is true a white worker, a black worker, a male worker, and a woman worker are not equally oppressed, they are all, none-the-less, without the power to be self-determining.
The Occupy movement does not represent the 99% as it is, but it is important that it desires to be representative of the 99%. Counter to the false consciousness that is perpetuated by a society made up of power divisions, Occupy proposes a new way of organizing based on solidarity and a common desire for self-determination.
As such, Occupy is seriously posing capitalism as a question. A pew poll in conducted in late 2011 revealed that, for the first time, a majority of 18 to 29-year-olds thought of socialism as a system superior to capitalism. At about the same time, the Republican Governors Association met in Florida in part to talk about messaging. Frank Luntz, a Republican political messaging strategist, insisted that conservatives respond to the growing unpopularity of capitalism by replacing the word with the words "economic freedom" or "free market". A change made to Texas textbooks at the same time also replaced "capitalism" with "freeenterprise system".
The capitalist question, when posed as a matter of economic freedom, prompts those without power to respond "freedom for whom?". The question begs an answer that calls for the need for a democratic economy.
This question has been posed before, and was elaborated on in Karl Marx's Capital. In Capital, capitalists' "free market" meant workers may be free to seek work, but are also "free" of the possessions (means of production) necessary to make a living. Capitalists benefit a great deal more from freedom defined as such, essentially claiming a "freedom to command".
The left in the U.S. has long emphasized equality primarily for the reason that it alleviates unjust poverty, while the right is often seen as the champion of freedom. This is because most people think of freedom as having "freedom from" something, which is what political theorists call "negative liberty".
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution represents negative liberty. It legally guarantees freedom from censorship and is meant to prevent the government from favoring one religion over another.
Recent progressive actions have resulted in the return of another idea of freedom. Before Occupy, the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison heralded this idea's return. What the labor movement there realized is that they where organizing for the "freedom to" join a union and the "freedom to" make decisions about what their work entailed. This is "positive liberty".
Positive liberty exists in many places in the U.S. with little recognition.
Pell grants represent the idea of positive liberty because they provide low-income college applicants with resources which allow them to pursue degrees they would not be able to if the grants were not available.
The feminist movement often stands for positive liberty. For example, their promotion of comprehensive daycare programs recognizes that jobs can often be inflexible and a parent gains more economic freedom if they can be sure their children will get the care they need when they need it.
This definition of two freedoms is often credited with the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin. However, if we look beyond the official historical narrative promoted by the dominant ideology, which credits Berlin, we find that the distinction is more accurately traced back to a book titled Escape From Freedom, which was published in 1941 by Marxist philosopher Erich Fromm.
This work of Fromm’s is incredibly important to our activism.
What Escape From Freedom seeks to explain is the dialectical nature of the expansion of freedom. It praises the expansion of negative freedom, which lead to modern society, but also points to the fact that real increases in inequality have subordinated many people to the power of wealthy capitalists and their corporations, the 1%, in ways that begin to contradict the ability for many, the 99%, to fully enjoy freedom. The individual person increasingly loses his/her power to be self-determining as they become more and more dependent on late-stage capitalism's large, privately controlled corporations for work, goods, information, and recreation.
Suddenly, many find that negative freedom alone isolates and weakens them. While a few individuals remain quite free and become very powerful commanding others about in large economic organizations, the worker feels subject to gigantic forces beyond his or her control.
Fromm wrote: "....Freedom has a twofold meaning for modern man: he has been freed from traditional authorities and has become an 'individual,' but at the same time he has become isolated, powerless, and an instrument of purposes outside himself, alienated from himself and others....".
The only way society can preserve freedom in general is by recognizing the need for positive freedom. The problem of the modern person being rooted in the complexity of social and economic forces, Fromm wrote that increasing freedom requires society "replace manipulation of men by active and intelligent cooperation, and expand the principle of government of the people, by the people, for the people, from the formal political sphere to the economic sphere."
This position is based on a critical observation of the organization of the capitalist economy. In late-stage capitalism, capital accumulates quite densely in the coffers of very small a percentage of the population. In the United States, 10% of the population owns about 71% of the wealth and the top 1% owns over 38%. On the other hand, the bottom 40% owns less than 1% of the nation's wealth.
This wealth of resources is used by the individuals who control it to employ others in their exercise of negative freedoms matching their goals. Media apparatuses are bought or created. Political foundations are formed to manipulate public opinion and lobby government. People are barraged by constant advertisement. And this manipulation is all regarded as business as usual.
Consider who has the most ability to make use of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All have the theoretical ability to enjoy this negative liberty, yet it is global news corporations, radio conglomerates, corporate advertisers, and the recording industry, acting on the behalf of their wealthy investors, which are most able to make real use of it. The result is that most people experience freedom of speech passively, and those who do not become frustrated when they have to constantly engage a deceptively "common" message which does not reflect their lived experience.
Given the material situation described throughout this pamphlet, in which the 99% finds itself not only economically unequal but with less liberty than those who comprise the 1%, it is apparent that a movement which seeks to renew democracy, so that people of all races, creeds, genders, and sexualities are in the position to determine their futures themselves, must challenge capitalism.
The capitalist system can never really be democratic. Even the concept of equal opportunity does not satisfy this end. Private ownership of industry, by definition, requires that a majority of people be left out of decision making regarding their very own labor. Even if they all work as intensely and intelligently as they possibly could, it is impossible for the 99% to ever become the 1%.
The most powerful force in a modern society being the commanding heights of economic institutions, the dominant governing structure that is the corporation must be replaced with an alternative structure that is defined by inclusion. It is necessary to form a democratic economy.
The struggle which lies ahead is not only a struggle for equality. This struggle is a struggle for freedom.
Building the Solution: The Beginning is Near
Those who desire a society that operates such that self-determination is inherent are frequently able to identify ways in which society currently limits self-determination, sometimes have an understanding of how systems might be structured so they naturally result in self-determination, but find most troublesome the path leading from the world as it is now to the world that many insist "is possible".
If this process confounds many who desire social change, it baffles those who are not so concerned even more.
This accounts for some of the confusion demonstrated as many political pundits of various media institutions demanded the Occupy movement declare a list of grievances at its founding. Though not immediately, and not uniformly, different sets of demands have emerged from many of the 100 or so occupations found in cities across the United States. Such demands give some idea of what the Occupy movement is about, but focusing too narrowly on the demands misses the movement's very important core element. The most important feature of the Occupy movement is the very process by which demands were made.
The Occupy movement is important in that it no longer looks to the government, as it is currently, to achieve its overall goal. The General Assembly, the legislative body present at each occupation, represents in miniature an alternative governing organization meant to both demonstrate everyday people's ability to manage their affairs as well as act as a body to be compared to the government itself. In fact, Goldsmiths, University of London anthropologist David Graeber, a founder of Occupy, made many statements indicating this as the reason for the movement's being organized as it was.
Occupy is organized such that it is not defined by its demands, but by its method. This keeps it from becoming a movement which can be satisfied by any act of politicians that moves society one step closer toward freedom, but may very well remain many steps from its actual attainment.
Many thousands of people are experiencing a type of self-determining power in being part of occupations across the country, but the freedom experienced by any individual in Occupy has thus far been limited primarily to the confines of Occupy activity itself.
In order to transform society, such that self-determination is the norm, Occupy needs to translate the theoretical understanding at the root of its democratic method to form a strategy and coherent tactics to tackle society as it is, transforming it in all its complexity.
Tactics describe temporary work that promise short-term gains important in that they both provide people relief from the worst aggressions of an oppressive system and assist a revolutionary movement with popular support or a new social, political, or economic tool to serve its strategy.
Strategy is the big-picture view. Strategy makes sense of tactics, stringing the results of tactical action together in an effort to make a previously unattainable action possible. Strategy is flexible, but serves the ultimate goal.
Occupy has thus far done well in establishing itself as a new political force without outlining a clear strategy. Using clever slogans, an identifiable label, and occupations across the United States and other nations, it drew into it people with all manner of concerns regarded economic, political and social inequality.
Presented with the task of remaining relevant in what is now apparent will be a long term struggle, Occupy must consider strategy.
Having drawn together great numbers of people with diverse political backgrounds, ranging from anarchists to progressive Democrats, Occupy is presented with the challenge of maintaining relevancy among both those involved within it as well as those it seeks to represent in general. It would do well to be mindful of sectarianism. The modified consensus methods used in General Assemblies, which allow for ample discussion and encourage mutual respect in the act of passing a proposal, encourage internal solidarity. Further, media and outreach working groups which work to draw in new members provide a mechanism which can be used to keep an occupation accountable to the 99% in general.
Practiced in balancing the ambitions of its members, and focused on accountability, Occupy must also maintain momentum. In making demands, but not being defined by demands, the Occupy movement cannot rely on protest as its only activity. The primary aim of protests tend to be to frame public opinion or push those with power to make a certain decision. Either relies on outside forces to do something for those in the group protesting. This is a useful tactic, but does not change the balance of power. To change the balance of power, proposals that affect how the system itself operates must be made and won. In the current situation, this is a call for the proactive creation of local victories which increase the self-determining power of any member of the 99%.
As Occupy remains relevant and gains momentum its base of support should grow. The tactics employed as part of this strategy ought to be relevant to other people or organizations in contact with Occupy who represent the 99%. As growth in local areas occurs, each occupation could free up the resources to devote additional attention to coordinating nationally with other occupations. Occupy would then be better able to act as a national movement, and achieve the power necessary to render the system of the 1% obsolete.
In serving this basic strategy, which ought to be elaborated on as experience provides insight, a variety of tactics may be employed.
One of the most promising developments to come out of Occupy has been the discussion of a diversity of tactics. While each individual may have a preferred tactical activity, the strategy of a political movement allows for many types of tactics, and often requires a variety of them in any given situation.
Protest is a necessary tactic to influence public opinion. A Nexis study in late 2011 revealed that Occupy had, in the course of its occupations, caused the media to increase mentions of "income inequality" by 500%. In the same time period, a NYT/CBS News poll reported that a majority of people in the U.S. favored wealth redistribution for the first time since the Great Depression. Similarly, when the Iraq War was first proposed in October of 2002, about two thirds of the U.S. population supported military action. After months of protests against the war, the number was reversed, with two thirds of the population against it.
The fact the movement in the latter example failed to gain victory points to the fact protest may sway opinion and gain a group support, but it cannot always be relied on to achieve victory by itself. This is why direct action and strikes are important.
Direct action, shied away from by some of Occupy's "less radical" members, is important in that it can both prevent those with power from conducting business as usual and achieve important victories. One of the largest, recent uses of direct action to stall policy was achieved in 1999 when 50,000 activists prevented the WTO from meeting in Seattle, Washington by blockading the streets. Direct action which advances the cause of self-determination is illustrated in recent actions involving the Republic Window and Doors plant in Chicago. In 2008, worker activists prevented the plant from closing and in February 2012, an action by workers, unions and Occupy Chicago prevented a second attempt to close the plant which may further result in a transfer of the factory to worker control.
Strikes are similar to direct action, but should be distinguished from that tactic for the important reason that they are primarily associated with the exercise of democracy in a workplace. Unions, armed with the power to strike, are able to consistently exercise collective bargaining power as a democratic counterweight to employer power. The power of unions earns workers organized in within them a median weekly wage nearly $200 higher than non-unionized workers, among other benefits. Important connections are being made between Occupy and unions, many joining Occupy Oakland in a general strike in November 2011. If unions and Occupy can work for each other's mutual benefit, the strike could become a very powerful tactic in advancing the cause of a democratic economy.
Voting, disdained by some of Occupy's "more radical" members, is none-the-less another essential tactic. The U.S. government, and the two parties which comprise the vast majority of elected officials, are not monolithic entities. Important differences exist between the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as throughout their membership, and these divisions among the ruling class can and should be exploited to Occupy's advantage. The history of organized labor provides an important and relevant lesson here. Union membership went from 3 million members in 1933 to 15 million in 1945 because workers campaigned for and elected public officials. Owing their office to organized labor prevented these politicians from acting against strikes, including the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 and the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37, which would have normally been suppressed by use of the police or national guard. These strikes, like Occupy's activism, involved the occupation of public space.
If Occupy embraces a diversity of tactics, and can maintain solidarity between members who may strongly favor one tactic over another, it will advance in its strategy and further implement the self-determination central to its theory.
The situation of many in the 99% calls for it.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer struggle is a struggle for self-determination which should be of interest to Occupy. Lesbian and gay couples have the freedom to marry in only six states, five states have laws which completely prevent them from being free to adopt children, and 19 states provide absolutely no employment protection for LGBTQ individuals. Occupy can participate in safe space trainings so as to ensure their GAs are welcoming, assist in the organization of pride events to generate social acceptance, protest businesses that discriminate against LGBTQ people and begin to draft legislative proposals at the local level which would protect LGBTQ people's freedoms.
Race relations in the U.S. must be addressed as well. Formal liberties were granted as a result of Civil Rights struggle, but equality, and the positive liberty that entails, remains elusive. Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow provides ample evidence of this, as do the recent cases of Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Rekia Boyd. Police watch programs and the creation of local Civilian Review Boards can alleviate some of the abuses the state perpetuates against African Americans. Community programs which serve workers should also be tailored to people of color. Further, campaigns to repeal Arizona's anti-immigration law, SB1070, and copycats are important. The unpopularity of such bills among those who exploit undocumented workers suggests that the unionization of those workers could serve to greatly empower them.
Women's freedom and the feminist movement should also be embraced. The recent attack on women's access to contraception by Republican politicians brought the struggle between women's freedom and the employers supposed right to limit that freedom to national attention. Further, the prohibitive cost of childcare in the U.S., at an average of $224 a week, greatly limits mothers' freedom to work. Local child care subsidy programs could provide for this freedom.
Heteronormativism, racism, and patriarchy must all be challenged by a movement that desires to maximize freedom. Further, for the multitude of reasons described throughout this pamphlet, women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals are of the 99% and, while their respective oppressions are not rooted solely in economic causes, they share with the working people of the 99% a necessary struggle to democratize the economy such that their interests trump those of the 1%. There is no better time to advance this cause than the present.
Given the popularity of the Occupy movement's slogans regarding the undemocratic nature of capitalism, as well as the high demand for jobs, Occupy is presented with an opportunity to begin to build the foundation for a democratic economy.
In order to reduce inequality and defend the 99% from austerity measures, many in Occupy have been advocating progressive taxation.
Considering total income accrued by the wealthiest 10 percent of households jumped from 34.6 percent in 1980 to 48.2 percent in 2008, and that the wealthiest 1 percent's share in the same time period rose from 10.0 percent to 21.0 percent, it would not be a radical idea to levee an increased tax on the rich as part of such a plan. These income groups paid taxes at 70 percent in 1980, but now pay half that at 35 percent. It is estimated that for every 1 percent taxes is raised on only the wealthiest 1 percent of households that 150 billion dollars of annual revenue would be generated. Gaining a victory in this regard would largely neutralize concern over the nation's debt, save social programs and allow Occupy to free resources from reactive struggles to proactive activity.
In order to provide much needed employment and empower the 99%, Occupy could organize recent interest in worker cooperatives into a movement that makes them a reality.
The book America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty and Our Democracy, published in January, 2012, provides examples as to how a people's movement might establish worker owned cooperatives. A March, 2012, report by the United Steel Workers, titled Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model, also provides insight into how that union, and the labor movement in general, could participate in the creation of worker owned cooperatives modeled after Spain's 85,000 member-strong Mondragon cooperative.
These reports, and the successful cooperatives studied as part of them, indicate that worker cooperatives are established at the local level. Using government credit, investment from foundations, start up money from friendly institutions, or the direct occupation of closing plants, organized workers can build, purchase, or be given businesses of considerable size and begin to operate those workplaces themselves. Such cooperatives may further join together and create revolving funds to assist in further propagation of cooperative workplaces.
In furthering self-determination, Occupy could assist in the construction of cooperatives in which each worker has an equal vote in determining the nature of their work. A cooperative's policy may also include caveats that demand equal representation of women, people of color, and minorities, resembling those rules contained in the bylaws of certain 501(c)3 non-profits.
It is imperative we build structures of positive liberty where self-determination has stagnated and private ownership is characterized by a tyranny no less powerful than that which has, throughout history, pushed people to stand for freedom.
The next time a corporation requires a bailout, it should be bought out. It's about time the 1% understand what it's like to be handed a pink slip, and it should be the 99% which hands it to them.
Occupy's struggle will be a long struggle, containing both times marked by great gains and other times in which it seems all is lost. The ideas contained in this final chapter are ideas for the present. It is not comprehensive, nor meant to be limiting. While a theory may be timeless, tactics are responsive to the situation. I look forward to what great gains the future holds.
As I stated previously, Occupy is still an incredibly young movement.
It has a lot of growing to do yet.