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The Occupy Movement: Nothing is a Real Cool Hand


I read Shamus Cooke's The Occupy Movement Needs a Good Fight with some interest, because it got me thinking about the arguments around having an agenda free movement.

Writers on the left and in the mainstream media opine that the right is looking to define the movement so it can ridicule, marginalize, or ignore it.  However, it doesn't seem to me like the right needs much of a definition to leap to condescending suggestions based either on false premises or distortions.  While still engaged on the one hand in a discussion of why it shouldn't adopt a specific agenda, on the other hand the left is busy trying to define what the agenda that it shouldn't have should be, if it had one.

As someone on the left who has felt powerless and alone for so many years, it seems natural to me to hear my fellow travellers complain that having an agenda will let the right define you.  Like a much whipped dog, we flinch even before a hand is raised against us. 

To me it seems that a better case for an agenda free movement can be made not of the negative observation that power will raise a sword to us — that's going to happen in any case.  Ask Scott Olsen.  No, a better case for keeping the movement clear of an agenda is that it strengthens the left's position in two important ways.  In the first place, it lets all of us feel and be a part of the movement — all of us who have had enough of constant war, media lies, corporate greed, and an officialdom that is not representative and never has been, a court system that's bought and paid for to the degree that they can say with a straight face that money is speech and corporations are people.  OK, so some people want it to be more about indigenous people, or women, or gays and lesbians, or animals, or — in the case of the article I mentioned at the outset — labor unions.  But as long as it's not about any of that it can be about all of it, and we can all belong to it.

Secondly, by not congealing too early into a fixed position, the movement has a real opportunity to serve as a beginning of a permanent democratic society (by which I mean a society where the word democracy hasn't taken an Orwellian wrong turn to mean exactly the opposite — capitalism).  If Noam Chomsky were to read me, which I find pretty unlikely even if I did mention his name, I'd tell him thanks for all the good ideas I gleaned from one of his recent books, including the idea of having a permanent structure and shared, common ideas so we don't fragment into a bunch of scared little special interests. Having a bunch of isolated lefties twittering to each other is fine as far as it goes — having a place to have dinner with congenial friends and find out you're not alone is even better.

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