October 29, 2011
Posted by 1br
There’s been a lot of talk about demands of the Occupy Everything movement.
Are there demands to be made? If there are demands, who “listens” to them?
Are there no demands because that makes us stronger? Stronger for what? Are there no demands because we don’t want anything? Or are we offended at needing a “listener”? Or is it that a demand for anything less than everything is a waste of time and energy?
Here are some facts:
- A demonstration like this gives us an opportunity to meet one another and spread ideas.
- The Occupy Everything movement can easily end up a Democratic Party pressure group like MoveOn.
- The Occupy LA committee is committed to working with the LAPD and the Democratic Party, to the point of harassing and threatening immigrant food vendors, because they might “threaten” the committee’s food inspections.
Regardless of the committee’s orientation, we have choices to make.
Let’s say we all agree on a set of demands: free healthcare nationwide, free higher education, and a living wage. These seem outrageous in the context of American politics, but they are practically possible. They don’t violate any law of physics or chemistry.
How would we implement them? How would we ensure these goals were accomplished, materially, in real life? Next year, for instance?
Assuming we want a law, the most modest of the goals, single-payer healthcare, would entail an all-out years long battle with Democratic and Republican politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, the president, 50 state governments, the Supreme Court, global insurance and pharmaceutical companies, hospital conglomerates, the FBI, and probably private security forces.
Thinking about the practical implications of trying to budge this awful monstrosity that we live in, in terms of its own methods, should reveal to any reasonable person that at this point in time, any demand is a demand for everything.
This is not 1929 America, with industrial resources, an expanding global economy, healthy, fresh, debt-free workers straight off the boats, farms and plantations.
This is 2011 America, in a shrinking, highly competitive world economy staggering under the weight of 40 years of (mostly US-originated) debt. The typical large corporation today is a fairy-tale air castle of fictitious capital–claims on someone else’s future income–and its directors scramble frantically, as they must, to eke out a margin of profit by any means necessary, as they must. Whether that’s making trains, planes and automobiles, or the division of continents for resource extraction, or going to war over the division, or busting unions, or using the atmosphere as a toxic-waste dump, or shooting demonstrators, or supporting dictators, or flying drones into family homes, or blowing a bubble in real estate, thereby reaching deeper and further into the pockets of the working class than ever before… that’s what capitalist firms and the states they command must do to maintain the value of their stocks and bonds. They have to pay those dividends somehow. They have to make sure their bonds really do pay 103 percent.
This is worldwide. It’s no different in China, Germany, India or Russia, and we all know that the big corporations operate everywhere.
So if we want single-payer healthcare we have to interrupt the capital flows of several globe-spanning corporations and overwhelm the resources of several large states. For laughs, imagine the United States enlisting China to sue the United States, on behalf of, say Kaiser-Permanente, or some other healthcare conglomerate, in the WTO.
Only the working class, conscious of itself as a class separate from the state and “the people” can do this. “Work” makes this thing go. And only workers can stop it and bend it to their will.
Which means that the only hope for the Occupy Everything Movement is to identify ourselves as and reach out to other workers as workers. Even those without jobs. The unions are wrapped up in the Democratic Party, just like the Occupy LA committee. So we don’t need to reach out to the unions per se. But we need to reach out to the workers in them.
The largest working-class demonstration in US history since the 1930s was the 2006 May Day quasi-general strike of the Latino workers in this city and many others across the country. We need to make contact with these workers and others, as workers, if we expect anything to come out of Occupy Everything.
Till then, the question of demands is as abstract and utopian as voting.