In its effort to distance itself from a corrupt political system, Occupy missed a crucial opportunity to marry libertarian support for Occupy with liberal ideals that could have served as the basis of building the mass political movement with the potential to Take Back America for the People. We cannot afford to miss such opportunities to forge links between the self-identified Left and Right if we are serious about wanting revolutionary change.
You say you'll change the constitution. Well, you know, we all want to change your head.
When Adbusters proposed the idea of Occupy they suggested that the movement focus on campaign finance reform through constitutional change and the curbing the power of the banksters. This sensible idea was almost universally ignored by those who responded to the call to Occupy America in favor of an amorphous form of protest billed as direct democracy, where any idea supported by a general assembly was afforded equal weight to any other.
It is obvious that both of the major political Parties have become so dependent on campaign funding by corporations and the rich that the only way to alter or abolish the corporate monopoly on political power is to demand that politicians of all parties and independents support a constitutional amendment that would end the of ability of the wealthy and powerful to buy the loyalty of candidates for Congress. This is the essence of the Pledge to Amend campaign, which aims to make support for such an amendment a litmus test in all congressional elections by 2014. Until Occupy or its successor can find unify around this core issue that is at the root of all the others on its agenda, it will continue to be dismissed as a protest rather than a call for a peaceful democratic revolution.
The revolutionary movement in the 60s was unified by opposition to a war that personally affected every member of the generation then coming of age. When the US government called for war this time, a small proportion of American youth would bear the burden for all of us. This encouraged Americans suffering the consequences of an economy wracked by corporate excess to put aside concerns about the wars to focus on surviving the resulting economic calamity. In the process, those who were seduced into the idea that by fighting a "war" on terror they were serving the interests of freedom were also largely forgotten.
Had Occupy heeded the lessons of the Vietnam protestors they would have put more emphasis on the fact that all wars in the modern age are fought for corporate Empire, tying the issue of another unpopular war with the economic and social costs of living in a nation whose government is one of, by and for corporations. Had Occupy focused on the connection between corporate power over the US government and war, lack of access to health care, the destruction of the environment and the economic crisis bringing the US to its knees, it would have gained rather than lost momentum in its first year. If individuals and groups working on all these issues come to recognize the purpose in rallying behind the issue of constitutional reform, Occupy can yet realize its potential.
But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.
Occupy has failed so far because the anarchists and the black block faction demanded that their goals of instant gratification and the use of property destruction be accorded the same or more respect as the ideas of those who they disparaged as reformers rather than revolutionaries. This was the same split that fractured Students for a Democratic Society, which was for a time co-opted by self-styled leaders who demanded that others follow their dictates. A modern parallel is the stubborn insistence of well-established groups and associations of groups such as Move to Amend that only by following the strategy of the few who claim to speak for the movement can we realize our mutual goal of constitutional change.
In suppressing dissident voices in the amendment movement they claim to lead, a small number of self-proclaimed leaders have missed the opportunity to play a part in influencing the Occupy movement. They failed to realize that eventually, those who endorsed their efforts would realize that the "leaders" did not necessarily speak for them because their goal was to build a network of followers who would not question their decisions on strategy and tactics. They not only failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam but did not grasp the opportunity to ride the wave of Occupy in rejecting the simple notion that no individual, group or association should be allowed to co-opt a revolutionary movement.
The answer to the question "can Occupy succeed?" is a resounding yes, but only if those who refuse defeat can stop demanding that others follow their strategy, listen to each other and develop a plan that the movement can rally around. First and foremost, we must refuse to accept that violence against people or property can ever achieve their goals, as the frustrated revolutionaries who gave in to violence in the Vietnam era learned to their everlasting regret. Violence was met by overwhelming violence by the government they sought to overturn. As we have seen, the threat of state violence to crush nonviolent resistance to a system that serves only the interests of those in power is just as real today.
The first American Revolution was born in violence because the colonists had no choice. In this era, the fact that the struggle must take place in occupied territory demands that we avoid violence. In order to assure that those who fought and died for the ideal of freedom did not do so in vain, we must also realize that radical change must begin from within the system if we are to replace it with one in which liberty and justice for all is a reality and not just an empty promise.
Don't you know it's going to be all right....
The American Revolution could not have succeeded in defeating the forces of British fascism in the 1700s if the colonists had not realized that their common enemy was an unholy alliance of corporate and state power. When a critical minority convinced a doubting majority of the necessity of overthrowing the government, Americans recognized that they had to put aside their differences in order to defeat the might of an Empire built on the idea that a privileged elite had the divine right to rule them.