“Direct Action is a method by which we ordinary people achieve specific political and economic goals, without having to rely on so-called experts – be they politicians, lawyers or businessmen. In this way, together, we confront the powers which oppress us, and take targeted actions against them to win our demands.” – Anonymous
Occupy Wall Street has taken the nation by storm. It has spread to nearly every major metropolitan area in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands to its confrontational, directly democratic structure.
Since its inception earlier this year, protests have steadily become more militant – beginning with the occupations of public parks, and moving on to attempted general strikes and direct attacks on the banks.
In the wake of these popular actions, the banks have been forced to cancel plans to fully implement new debit card fees. Wells Fargo, CHASE, and finally, Bank of America, have all yielded to the increased pressure protestors have brought down on them, in the form of bank closings, transfers in which over 1 million bank customers switched to credit unions, and direct confrontations with CEO’s and those who support them.
The lesson here is clear: within a matter of days, the concerted effort of the people has accomplished a small piece of what it took the Democratic party months to bungle – we have won what essentially amounts to a financial reform which will save workers around the country mounds of desperately needed cash.
The victory, however, was far from intentional – no group specifically called an action or undertook a campaign to end these bank fees. The fee cuts, then, have simply been a fortunate accident, which may help more of us learn that when we act together, we can achieve more than political parties ever have. When we take Direct Action, a whole new world opens up to us.
The liberal establishment has, since almost the beginning of the U.S.’s answer to the global occupy movement, scolded occupiers time and again for not having a list of clear demands.
Various assortments of protesters and radicals, for their part, have retorted that either the occupy movement is simply not about demands, or that any attempt to unify the occupations under a list of demands would allow it to become watered down and lose its revolutionary potential.
Certainly, the occupations have attracted massive numbers of people without the need for – and probably because of – the nebulous character of the protesters’ immediate aims. Mass movements are mass movements, after all, because they incorporate such a wide and diverse set of people, with a correspondingly wide and diverse set of aims.
Further, solidifying any sort of official list of demands may very well make the protests that much more controllable by the authorities, who could use moderate concessions and reforms as a means of pacifying protesters. Certainly, this is the wish of liberal commentators such as Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, for whom the protests’ “lack of focus,” and “confused nature” relegate it to the realm of mere “free speech,” and not the noble and effective processes of the “democratic institutions” we already have. She warns readers that if the protests continue to oppose opting back into the system, they risk “[accelerating] the decline” of Western Democracy as we know it.
Cementing a list of demands for the entire movement, however, let alone even for one city, is a needless and probably alienating endeavor. People who currently support the occupations, but may not have the numbers they need to get their demands onto an official list of demands, will simply walk away if they feel like no one is listening to them. Though each of these groups may be small, the number of small groups with their own pet issues is rather large – an attempt to solidify an official list of demands would push them away – and people would leave in droves.
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