There is widespread confusion about what the demands working group is proposing. I don’t mean confusion with regard to the content of the demand – in progress – but the objective of the act of demanding, the meaning of demand assumed. What is the objective of the group in demanding GA ratification of its proposed demands? What happens after or is the mere ratification of its wish list by the GA the goal of the group?
Some things could no doubt be quickly cleared up.
1.Who is the addressee? Assuming even just formally it’s the US federal government – executive and congress – (though for the world as audience) does the DWG propose to offer to end the occupations if its demands (tba) are met (or just agreed to) by the Federal government?
If this is the case – the DWG proposes the GA offer to end the occupation on condition that demands are agreed by the addressee* – then the DWG is actually assuming advocacy for “the 1%” in negotiation with the protagonists of the occupations, undertaking to persuade the occupiers to commit to finite concessions in consideration of which they are willing to cease current resistance. If the DWG is indeed intending to offer the cessation of “OWS” in exchange for the meeting of its demands (whatever they may be), what does this entail? What exactly is DWG proposing to offer the government and the ruling class from the occupiers? What level of cooperation does it desire the GA authorise it to offer in exchange for the enactment of its policy recommendations?
* what would constitute agreement to or meeting of demands needs to be specified to if the GA’s promise is requested – the Democratic Party taking up the demands as a platform? Is the Iraq war over in the DWG’s opinion? Where does the DWG perceive the US to be at war rather than peacekeeping, occupying, hunting terrorists, or simply doing business? Is the “War on Drugs” among the wars to be ended?
2.Are the demands indeed being formulated with a negotiation as the objective? Is there a time frame the DWG estimates for the effort to get the addressee to the table? After which the DWG, if failing to begin negotiations, will need to go back to the GA for reconsideration? Since one of the common rationales for demands, and for these in particular, is “get something while we can, before the mobilisation fizzles out or is repressed”, and since time is money – people’s debts are mounting, a “living wage” unionized job three years from now is not the relief a job tomorrow would be for many, certainly the clock is ticking for healthcare needs for millions as well – this is an important issue.
These demands could look good if they are delivered very quickly or like a stalling tactic if there is no deadline. When does the DWG suppose it will have a concrete offer of something near its demands for the occupiers to consider? (Can we all assume the answer is “never” in all conversations and not just those where it is convenient to the case for demands?)
If this is really the case – that the DWG envisions, or adopts the posture of envisioning, a negotiation for the enactment of these policy recommendations – it should be first of all made clear. Right now the advocates of the “Jobs for All” demand are opportunistically shifting between one posture – the demand is realistic and can be met within the existing insitutions of government and without the abolition or transformation of private property and thus rejecting it is depriving 25 million people of unionized jobs and free healthcare in the short term – and the opposite: the demands are designed to be refused, to perform as the “tic tac toe” exhibition of futility to display the impossibility of low unemployment in the US economy, and these specific demands (of all unattainable demands) are chosen on the assumption that they
a) “transcend right and left” with their civil libertarian individualism, their show of faith that the US is not really an empire but just bunglingly and impecuniously meddling, and involving certain solutions common to fascism and to soviet communism
b) will appear to most “Americans” to be perfectly reasonable and to describe conditions “Americans” have always believed were their due and the purpose of their form of government and property laws
and therefore this list can serve in this heuristic purpose better and more vividly and poignantly than other equally “impossible” (unattainable without prior revolutionary change) demands which most “Americans” would associate with fringe leftism.
The DWG could very helpfully clarify whether the list they are trying to get the GA to approve is concocted for one purpose or the other. It should be made clear to the press, too, whether the DWG should be seen as trying to commence the negotiations for the end of the occupation, by getting conditions for the demobilisation agreed, or:
3. Are the demands not at all directed at the initiation of a negotiation for the end of the occupations and the enactment of these policies but some kind of spectacle or theatre which is intended rather to help the movement define itself and discover its unifying desires, wishes, beliefs (or lowest common denominator of desired change)?
If so, these demands so far are really, really divisive, typical petty bourgeois dissident effrontery, and will only naturally be seen by communists and socialists as just wretched reactionary propagandizing, strengthening the legitimacy of the status quo, feeding nostalgia and taking a very serious risk of promoting a fascistic narrative (this is a considerable danger) of what is wrong, how it happened, and how it can be solved. As self-portrait, these demands define the movement as Fabian, Fascist or Peronist rather than as communist or socialist, ostentatiously prioritizing economic growth and the perpetuation of capitalist exploitation in a bourgeois nationalistic perspective over democracy, justice, building internationalism, halting and reversing the militarization of the ruling class and its imperial state, commencing reparation, restitution and redistribution worldwide. It is a plan to restore the legitimacy of a ruling class as depraved as and more dangerous to us all than Nazis.
Moreover, given the current power relations, which are more asymetrical than ever, with the US ruling elite possessing unprecedented unchallenged supremacy, mindbogglingly powerful people-control and weapons technology, superbly disciplined, flexible and effective networks of kapos and clerks, the demands could be met to the letter in such a way as only to benefit the ruling class and to further enslave the population as if by its own consent and at its request. As they stand now, the DWG wants the occupiers to ask the treasury (the people) to pay the wages of $25million workers who might otherwise be unemployed, which is effectively to guarantee the payment of their debts to the richest few thousand people on the planet, while undertaking to exploit them (with the government as manager/enforcer, therefore no capitalists placing capital at risk in production) in the production of valuable infrastructure which can (and assuredly will, barring the overthrow of the current ruling class) be privatised as quickly and rapidly as it is produced, either in the old fashioned way or the newfangled manner. The ostensible egalitarianism (former convicts and undocumented workers eligible) and the feeble gesture toward redistribution top-down via financing (this scheme to pay the .01% its rents, interest, fees through taxation of the top 10%) seems like window dressing to disguise that the demands would fit well with a ruling class plan to stabilize itself as a ruling class while transforming the society over which it rules from one characterised by competition, asset volatility and formal liberties for the workforce to a more fully monopolised, feudalistic and despotic one with all rights attaching to property ownership. That the demands conspicuously reject proposed mention of humanity’s rights, democracy, justice, and politely refuse any language that might bring to mind the ruling class’ lawlessness, barbarism and mercilessness, tends to nudge the discourse in the most dangerous direction, toward the legitimisation and indeed inevtiabilisation of reaction and toward faciliating the project of containing this revolt in the guise (flimsy enough, and usually disavowed) of securing some concrete gains while the getting is good.
Now at the start, these demands were proposed alongside a list of demands for an end to the state’s violence and terrorising and lawlesness and debt amnesty. That these didn’t make the cut is very signficant, and shows how “compromise” can transform a radical agenda not into a reformist one but into a reactionary gain for the ruling class. Without debt amnesty, the Jobs for All scheme is a completely different animal.