Carl Davidson : The Pundits’ Obsession About ‘Specific Demands’

Occupy Wall Street poster from Lalo Alcaraz /

Occupy and the pundits:
Do we really want ‘specific demands?’

By Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog/ December 6, 2011

I’m getting fed up with pompous pundits lecturing the “Occupy!” movement for not having a set of specific demands.

A case in point: A case in point: New York Times financial columnist Joe Nocera quoted at length in a story by Phoebe Mitchell in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on November 29. He was speaking at the Amherst Political Union, a debate club at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Nocera starts off with the now usual tipping of the hat to the protestors:

Nocera believes the anger caused by income inequality, a divisive issue across the country in this prolonged economic downturn, is the fuel for both popular uprisings. “If we lived in a country that had a growing economy and where the middle class felt that they could make a good living and had a chance for advancement and a decent life, there would be no tea party or Occupy Wall Street,” he said.

But we don’t live in such times, and the more interesting story is that OWS and its trade union allies are displacing the Tea Party, and energizing the progressive grassroots. Nocera, however, makes OWS the target.

He believes that for the Occupy Movement to be successful, it must frame clear demands that outline a plan for creating jobs and refashioning Wall Street to benefit the entire country and not just a select few wealthy investors. Without a solid plan for moving forward, he said, the Occupy protestors will be continued to be viewed by Wall Street supporters as little more than “a gnat that needs to be flicked from its shoulder blades.”

A “gnat” indeed. In due time, a progressive majority may well come to view our dubious “Masters of the Universe” on Wall Street as bothersome gnats to be flicked away.

But to get to the main point, Nocero knows perfectly well that there are any number of short, sweet and to the point sets of demands aimed at Wall Street finance capital and the Congress it works to keep under its thumb. Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO has been hammering away at his six-point jobs program — one point of which is a financial transaction tax on Wall Street as a source of massive new revenues to fund the other five.

The United Steel Worker’s Leo Gerard has been tireless for years working for a new clean energy and green manufacturing industrial policy that could create millions of new jobs and get us out of the crisis in a progressive way.

So what happens when these demands are put forward? With our Wall Street lobbyists working behind the scenes, the best politicians money can buy declare them “off the table.” Nocera and others of like mind in punditocracy put the cart before the horse.

OWS arose as a result of a long train of abuses, year after year of sensible, rational, progressive demands, and programs swept off of Congress’s agenda like so many bread crumbs from a dining table. Not even brought to a vote. OWS and a lot of other people are fed up with being dismissed.

The pundits should watch what they wish for. The demands and packages of structural reforms will be back, much sharper and clearer, and with the ante upped by hundreds of thousands in the streets, as well as millions turning out for the polls.

In fact, the solutions have always been there for anyone with ears to hear. We’ll see if our voices are loud enough to crack the ceiling at the top, and let some light shine through.

[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of Solidarity Economy Network, a writer for Beaver County Blue, the website of PA’s 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America, and a member of Steelworkers Associates. He is the author of several books, including New Paths to Socialism, available online. In the 1960s, he was a national leader of SDS and a writer and editor for the Guardian newsweekly. This article was also published at Beaver County Blue. Read more articles by Carl Davidson on The Rag Blog.]

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