Along with so many unions and groups within the wider labour movement, the New Unionism Network has voted overwhelmingly to support the Occupy movement*. As a contribution, we are producing a series of leaflets by network members who have fully developed alternatives to the current system. (David Schweickart’s model here; Michael Albert’s model here).
Among the hundreds of unions and federations that have endorsed the movement and offered support are:
- ITUC – the International Trade Union Confederation (the world’s leading international union body) (details);
- WFTU – World Federation of Trade Unions (the second largest international body) (details);
- EI – Education International – largest of the sector-based “global union federations” (details);
- UNI global union – another of the global union federations (details);
- ITF – the International Transport Workers’ Federation (details);
(We are still trying to find out about the other global union federations)
- AFL-CIO – the largest union federation in the U.S.A. (details);
- SEIU – largest union in Change to Win – the second largest federation in the U.S.A. (details);
- AFT – the American Federation of Teachers – largest union in the U.S.A. but independent from both of the federations above (details);
The movement went global in October. More than 2,500 Occupy groups are currently listed on the global hub, Occupy Together. However, OccupyWallStreet – the group who catalysed the movement in the U.S.A. – has since been evicted. Similar actions have closed sites across many other cities. There have been 1200 arrests in New York alone. With 2012 approaching, we are about to find out if this is a movement or just a moment.
Despite the restrictions imposed by police and local administrations, Occupy events look likely to become more diverse, larger, more frequent and more resolved. A thriving network of working groups is giving organizers autonomy (see http://goo.gl/9NqH9) without compromising the larger commitment to participative democracy. Links between groups across countries are taking on a more resolved character (see here and here).
Separating fact from ideology
Naturally enough, conservatives have been doing their best to discredit the Occupy movement. There is a conscious strategy behind some of this criticism (details). Most commonly, though, we have seen negative responses based on fear and/or misinformation. Where these are sincerely held views, they should be respected as such. Values (whatever they may be) can cloud our judgment. Let’s try to separate facts from ideology.
The Occupy movement is not dominated by anarchists, communists, “big labor”, hippies, the lunatic fringe, the Democrats, “rent-a-mob”, punk rockers or whatever other demons people choose to conjure. It is a broad-based movement with extremely wide popular support.
- A survey by TIME magazine suggests the majority of the U.S. population supports OccupyWallStreet. Among men, support is 57%. Among women it is 51%. Among young people (18 to 34) it is 60% and among the elderly it is 51%. More.
- An earlier survey, cited by CNN, suggested that most people hadn’t formed an opinion yet. However, among those who had, positive views were much higher than negative views. More.
- A survey by NBC-Wall Street Journal (2-5 November 2011) found that 76% of respondents agreed with this statement:
“The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.” (60% strongly agreed).
- Both US union federations (AFL-CIO and CtW), representing about 16 million working people between them, have formally endorsed the Occupy movement. That said, unions came along after they were invited; they were not instigators.
- In a survey of Occupy participants, 70% identified themselves as politically independent. More.
The Occupy movement has not been vague about its goals. Right from the start, the goal has been to end the political dominance of “the 1%”. However, strategy, tactics and “demands” were not decided in advance. Rather, these are being left to participants to decide through “participative democracy”.
- You’ll find the original message that launched the movement here. It called for the primary goal (“a single demand”) to be arrived at through a process of deliberative democracy.
- Here’s an organizer’s post from September 12: “The people coming to Wall Street on September 17 come for a variety of reasons, but what unites them all is the opposition to the principle that has come to dominate not only our economic lives but our entire lives: profit over and above all else.” More.
- The origins of the consensus-based discussion process used by most Occupy groups is discussed here. More recent steps to go beyond this, without compromising the deliberative process, are discussed here.
- On September 29, after almost two weeks of discussion, the OccupyWallStreet group issued its first Declaration. You’ll find it here.
The Occupy movement is not calling for a violent revolution. In fact, non-violence has been a key principle agreed in advance by almost every Occupy group. They have stuck to this, with a few exceptions, despite well-documented police assaults, wrongful arrests and provocations. That said, there is an element within the movement that is calling for a more strident response to attacks. How peaceful this group remains will depend on the behavior of police and council authorities.
- The first Tactical Briefing (September 13) called for “a commitment to absolute nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition“. More.
- The OccupyWallStreet website says: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.” More.
Don’t take our word for any of this. If you want a real sense of what this movement is about, why not go down and speak to your local group? (details) If there isn’t one nearby, read their blogs, or watch some of the footage on Flickr and YouTube.
Here’s the kind of stuff you’ll come across:
* New Unionism Network voting results
90% of us voted to support Occupy Wall Street. 87% voted to support local Occupy events. A few additional votes received by email pushed support to 91% and 88% respectively. Approximately 7% of members are undecided. However, outright opposition is extremely low: less than 3% in both cases. Full results are accessible here.