Occupy demands: Let’s radicalise our analysis

Robert Jensen writes: There’s one question that pundits and politicians keep posing to the Occupy gatherings around the country: What are your demands?

I have a suggestion for a response: We demand that you stop demanding a list of demands.

The demand for demands is an attempt to shoehorn the Occupy gatherings into conventional politics, to force the energy of these gatherings into a form that people in power recognise, so that they can roll out strategies to divert, co-opt, buy off, or – if those tactics fail – squash any challenge to business as usual.

Rather than listing demands, we critics of concentrated wealth and power in the US can dig in and deepen our analysis of the systems that produce that unjust distribution of wealth and power. This is a time for action, but there also is a need for analysis.

Rallying around a common concern about economic injustice is a beginning; understanding the structures and institutions of illegitimate authority is the next step.

We need to recognise that the crises we face are not simply the result of greedy corporate executives or corrupt politicians, but rather of failed systems. The problem is not the specific people who control most of the wealth of the country, or those in government who serve them, but the systems that create those roles.

Most chart the beginning of the external US empire-building phase with the 1898 Spanish-American War and the conquest of the Philippines that continued for some years after. That project went forward in the early 20th century, most notably in Central America, where regular US military incursions made countries safe for investment. If we could get rid of the current gang of thieves and thugs but left the systems in place, we will find that the new boss is going to be the same as the old boss.

My contribution to this process of sharpening analysis comes in lists of three, with lots of alliteration. Whether or not you find my analysis of the key questions compelling, at least it will be easy to remember: Empire, economics, ecology.

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