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The Progressive Economics Forum

Occupy Together: It’s About Time!

Here is a Globe and Mail commentary I wrote after attending the wonderful Occupy Toronto protests on the weekend.

The media keep going off about how this movement has no “central demand.”  Go to a Tea Party event in the U.S. and see if you can find “one central demand.”  That doesn’t stop them from being politically influential.  Their power and unity stems from an implicit common understanding that all problems are caused by “big government,” and hence the solution to all problems is to shrink government.

The similarly evident common understanding of the Occupy Together protests is empirically rigorous and morally compelling, in contrast:  Economic and social policy has been designed to favour the 1% at the expense of the 99%, that is wrong, and it needs to change.

There’s plenty of evidence about the truthfulness of this claim (Justin Podur has helpfully assembled several pieces of it here). 

The political challenge, to my mind, will not be trying to narrow the protestors’ slogans down to one sound bite: that would be both impossible and misguided.  The bigger priority will be working carefully to unite this spontaneous outburst with the efforts and resources of other progressive forces, into a movement that lasts and truly makes a difference.

It’s about time the lopsided burden of the crisis and its non-recovery sparked a populist rebellion from the progressive side of the spectrum.  Let’s use this new momentum to put those who caused the crisis (and profited from it, to boot) on the defensive for a change.

Enjoy and share:


Comment from Paul Tulloch
Time: October 17, 2011, 10:02 am

wow I had the same question Jimbo, why all the talk of demands. Trish H. posted on my FB page a good article that gets at this notion that we are having a real faster than light political upheaval and traditional means are just not what is up here.

I also believe that by pushing ofr a single set of demands, actually serves to divide and conquer and that is why the media keeps putting it out there to bait Occupiers of the occupied.

Polital movements such as this are not just traditional, they have a nuiance to themselves. We all know the connectedness of this movement is unlike any other in history, social media. And I don;t think their are any surrgates you can go back to, so having one set of demands means to turn the focus to what divides the occupiers.

Comment from Roy McPhail
Time: October 17, 2011, 10:20 am

I agree. Leaderless dissent has the better potential of forcing the 1% to either deal with the ideas of the 99% or kick up enough sand to lose the last of their credibility.

Comment from A friend
Time: October 17, 2011, 10:23 am

Jim, I think it would be good if you can volunteer some time to give a workshop. It’s all self-organized. Just pick a day and time that’s good for you (except 12:30 and 6:30 during the GA).

There’s lots of talk among attendees of OccupyTO about the banking system with some crazy ideas. Please come down if you can. In solidarity.

Comment from Jim Stanford
Time: October 17, 2011, 11:39 am

Thanks to “Friend” for that suggestion, I will do that this week for sure.

Comment from Darwin O’Connor
Time: October 17, 2011, 12:34 pm

Let us know when you plan on doing your workshop. Maybe some of us will be able to come down, too.

Comment from Larry Kazdan
Time: October 17, 2011, 6:03 pm

Letter in Winnipeg Sun and Toronto Sun

Focused complaint

Re: ‘Occupy protesters lack real focus, Oct. 14 editorial.

Protesters in Libya, Egypt and Syria who took to the streets had varied and multiple demands. Did your editorialists accuse them of lacking focus? In Canada, income inequality has increased, unemployment has grown and now the government claims it must cut more services.

The majority of workers who have seen their salaries stagnate while the rich get richer are fed up with government and big media that dance to the tune of corporate interests.


(Comment by Winnipeg Sun:

At least the Arab Spring protesters could point to one clear, shared goal — to remove the government in whatever country they were in.

Comment from Britta Hansen
Time: October 18, 2011, 6:29 am

If you have a workshop and I’m not in class I will definately be there. Just tell us the place and time!

Comment from Paul Tulloch
Time: October 18, 2011, 9:26 pm

thinking about the prospects and future of the Occupy movement. Many still kind of joke about the situation, media (especially Canadian stuff I have seen), business types, government of the 1% types, and the non-occupiers (many fence sitting middle class types who have not fallen or are not close to falling and unsympathetic).

But lets just look at a coupel of points to maybe intepret where the future pathway lay.

1) the economy is not getting better, and no miracle solutions lay up the 1% sleeve, like massive credit creation (borrowing on the future) rather than increasing wages. (, housing bubble, etc) I just do not see it, anybody see how capilatism in its current form or even plausible near term forms could alter course? ( I know the plasticity of capital is immpressive, but in my mind it has been destroying itself for the last 20 years and the housing bubble was its last hurray into keeping the middle class somewhat secure and happy, and most importantly watching their tvs and off the streets.)

2) (do I need a 2) about the only thing the near term, solution that seems to be taking shape and now driving a nail in the global economy coffin is austerity. SO I don;t see austerity clearing the streets of protesters. In fact austerity is just the ticket Occupiers fuel them selves up on.

3) alternatives- a smart green and social sustainable globalized keynsian type long term growth strategy is the only way to nondectructively and peacefully clear the streets.

so what will the future be, this is something very very very different from all previous forms of social protest. This protest never sleeps, and there is little control over communciation and if it is dealt with violently, it will be televised somewhere. So how will it be resolved. The Hoovervilles and tent cities are just being set up along side and the occupiers are building a home for the disenchanted, the disenfranchised, the unemployed, the hungry and the homeless. And social networks never lie. Trist me, I have over a dozen Facebook friends sending pics updates and even songs from many of the sites across the world. It truly is something that has never existed before and it will take the controllers a long time to figure it out. By that time the loudness could be deafening.

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