Getting from A to B
A key discussion taking place within the global occupation movement is what kind of “demands” (if any) should be made and who they should be addressed to (if anyone). This conundrum gets to the heart of the matter.
Many drawn to the continuing actions on Wall Street and in the City of London, and to massive rallies in Madrid and other countries, have been driven to the streets precisely by the serial failure of existing political channels.
The self-evident convergence between the state, mainstream political parties, corporate and financial power has angered increasing numbers of people. What limited democracy there was has been sold to the highest bidder.
Banks form an orderly queue for state bail-outs, energy suppliers let prices rip, public services like health and education are turned into commodities, corporate lobbyists have direct access to ministers, pensions are reduced and employment rights undermined.
On the other side, the mounting grievances of ordinary people about their jobs, housing, incomes, education, health and human rights are ignored. This is the price we have to pay, we are told, for the economic crisis.
The crisis is, naturally, presented as an act of God, something beyond human control. This is deliberate mystification. It is intended to obscure the fact that the disaster is the product of an unstable, unsustainable, capitalist system of production for profit, fuelled by mountains of debt.
So as no one in authority is listening, the occupations and marches for real democracy are presented with an apparent contradiction. There is no point making “demands” of the existing powers, yet a statement of aims and aspirations is absolutely vital to garner support and build the movement.
The initial statement from the St Paul’s occupation in London reflects the dilemma. The starting point – “the current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust” – is dead right. The system – political, economic and financial – is the problem, not the solution.
The focus is, or should be, entirely on changing the system and not appealing to existing power and governments to do what they can’t/won’t do. However, point 5 about appealing to regulators to regulate properly and part of point 8 about urging governments to stop oppressing people, tends towards a reform of a status quo which is well passed its use-by date.
Of course, incorporating system change into a set of demands wouldn’t by itself resolve the apparent impasse (although it would be a step forward). If we are to avoid placing demands on existing powers, we should try and suggest an alternative. One way forward is through People’s Assemblies as a transition to a new, real democracy (see details about an open event this Saturday, the 22nd).
Our new flyer says:
Occupations run by Assemblies are test beds, showing what people can do when they are independent and liberated. A network of People’s Assemblies can widen this to the whole of society, giving it a concrete form that can appeal to all those under attack from capitalism.
Assemblies can facilitate a transition to a democratic society based on co-operation and self-determination instead of profit and corporate power. They will disprove in action the lie that there is no alternative to the capitalist system and the states/local government bodies that serve it.
In the end, it has to be about getting from A to B, transcending capitalism as a social system, replacing alienating, oppressive, undemocratic power structures with new democratic forms. Millions of people now see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. On October 15, their anger produced the first global day of action in the history of the world. Let’s take it on from there.
18 October 2011