Following on from my last post, this is the closest to a list of demands so far issued by Occupy. It has not yet been endorsed by any indivudal part of the Occupy movement! I’ll take it clause by clause. The manifesto is in italics. My commentary is in plain text.
Global May Manifesto
The statement below does not speak, or claim to speak, on behalf of everyone in the Global Spring/Occupy/Take the Square movements. This is an attempt by some inside the movements to reconcile statements written and endorsed in the different assemblies around the world. The process of writing the statement was consensus based, open to all, and regularly announced on our international communications platforms, that are also open to all (e.g. the ‘squares’ mailing list, the weekly global roundtables and the ‘international’ facebook group). It was a long and difficult process, full of compromises. This statement is offered to peoples’ assemblies around the world for discussions, revisions and endorsements.
Consensus in this context means that everybody involved in writing it had to agree before it was passed.
There will be a process of a global dialogue, and this statement is part of it, a work-in-progress. We do not make demands from governments, corporations or parliament members, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt. We speak to the people of the world, both inside and outside our movements. We want another world, and such a world is possible:
That’s pretty clear – there are no demands to existing political or economic leaders. Instead, this manifesto appeals directly to the people of the world. That inevitably means that anyone supporting this statement has put themselves beyond reach from political action unless all existing systems are destroyed and constitutions completely rewritten. That is theoretically possible but it does mean that very many people who might otherwise have become involved will not because they fear the prospect of the wholesale revolution required to create the new world the manifesto dreams of. It is a fundamentalist approach and completely uneccesary. There’s no reason to exclude any group of people from the conversation. To deliberately exclude even the possibility of dialogue with people wielding power is, at best, politically short-sighted and, at worst, self-defeating.
1. The economy must be put to the service of people’s welfare, and to support and serve the environment, not private profit. We want a system where labour is appreciated by its social utility, not its financial or commercial profit. Therefore, we demand:
- Free and universal access to health, education from primary school through higher education and housing for all human beings, through appropriate policies to get this. We reject outright the privatization of public services management, and the use of these essential services for private profit. Fine sentiments but the phrase “through appropriate polices” isn’t very helpful. Without any clue as to what the appropriate policies might be, this could amount to a justification for all sorts of actions. This sort of vagueness is typical of Occupy. “We’ll leave the detail to other people to work out” isn’t a convincing political position. Lacks cogency.
- Full respect for children’s rights, including free child care for everyone. This is very similar to the previous policy by the Labour Party in the UK.
- Retirement pensions so we may have dignity at all ages. Mandatory universal sick leave and holiday pay. Without any figures on what people should receive, this demand is virtually meaningless.
- Every human being should have access to an adequate income for their livelihood, so we ask for work or, alternatively, universal basic income guarantee. What does “adequate” mean? Occupy persistently fights shy of being specific. There have been all sorts of definitions of required income and income disparity levels proferred by various radicals but this Manifesto fails to adopt any.
- Corporations should be held accountable for their actions. For example, corporate subsidies and tax cuts should be done away with if a company outsources jobs to decrease salaries, harms the environment or the rights of workers. This is mared with problems. Who is going to decide whether a particular corporation has acted as alleged? By what mechanism will the decision be taken?
- Apart from bread, we want roses. Everyone has the right to enjoy culture, participate in a creative and enriching leisure in service of the progress of humankind. Therefore, we demand the progressive reduction of working hours, without reducing income. To what? Previously, demands of this sort have declared what the maximum working week should be.
- Food sovereignty through sustainable farming should be promoted as an instrument of food security for the benefit of all. This should include an indefinite moratorium on the production and marketing of GMOs and immediate reduction of agrochemical use. Again with the vagueness. What does an “immediate reduction” actually mean? Reduced to what?
- We demand policies that function under the understanding that our changing patterns of life should either be organic/ecological or else not occur. These policies should be based on a simple rule: one should not spoil the balance of ecosystems for profit. Violations of this policy should be prosecuted around the world as an environmental crime, with severe sanctions for convicted. No proposal as to which forum/court/assembly etc., would conduct these trials.
- Policies to promote the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy, through massive investment which should help to change the production model. Given that these demands are not for the ears of any part of the existing body politik but purely for the penniless people, it is difficult to see how the required massive investment can be achieved.
- We demand the creation of international environmental standards, mandatory for countries, companies, corporations, and individuals. Ecocide (willful damage to the environment, ecosystems, biodiversity) should be internationally recognised as a crime of the greatest magnitude. Fine. What are the proposed standards?
2. To achieve these objectives, we believe that the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from local to global. People must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies. To this end, we demand:
- Control and regulation of financial speculation by abolishing tax havens, and establishing a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). As long as they exist, the IMF, World Bank and the Basel Committee on Banking Regulation must be radically democratised. Their duty from now on should be fostering economic development based on democratic decision making. Rich governments cannot have more votes because they are rich. International institutions must be controlled on the principle that each human is equal to all other humans – African, Argentinean or American; Greek or German. What is the proposed democratic system to run these institutions? Without a specific proposal, the rest is just well intentioned guff. Incidentally, if the proposal is that a consensus model of democracy is used, I’m outta here. Nothing will ever get decided, as we have discovered that consensus does not produce decisions.
- As long as they exist, radical reform and democratisation of the global trading system and the World Trade Organization must take place. Commercialization of life and resources, as well as wage and trade dumping between countries must stop. Fine. What method of democracy?
- We want democratic control of the global commons, defined as the natural resources and economic institutions essential for proper economic management. These commons are: water, energy, air, telecommunications and a fair and stable economic system. In all these cases, decisions must be accountable to citizens and ensure their interests, not the interests of a small minority or financial elite. What type of democracy? Are new international bodies being proposed or not? Why isn’t food a global common?
- As long as social inequalities exist, taxation at all levels should maintain the principle of solidarity. Those who have more should contribute to maintain services for collective welfare. Maximum income should be limited, and minimum income set to reduce the outrageous social divisions in our societies and their social political and economic effects. What on earth does “maintain the principle of solidarity” mean?
- No more money to rescue banks. As long as debt exists, following the examples of Ecuador and Iceland, we demand a social audit of the debts owed by countries. Illegitimate debt owed to financial institutions should not be paid. Without a definition of legitimate debt, that last sentence is utterly meaningless.
- An absolute end to fiscal austerity policies that benefit only a minority, and cause great suffering to the majority.
- As long as banks exist, separation of commercial and financial banks, avoiding banks “too big to fail”. An odd choice of words. Perhaps something has been lost in the translation? Normally, this division is described as between the investment and the retail banks. Whilst many of us might agree with this aim, few of us can pretend that it is impossible to imagine a future scenario where a retail bank with virtually everyone in the country as a customer could fail.
- End of the legal personhood of corporations. Companies cannot be elevated to the same level of rights as people. The public’s right to protect workers, citizens and the environment should prevail over protection of private property or investment. Hang on, what about all the demands above which did apply to corporations?! Either we’re demanding new laws to regulate them or we’re not? What happens to all the charities which have adopted corporate status? What should the transitional arrangements be?
3. We believe that political systems must be fully democratic. We therefore demand full democratization of international institutions, and the elimination of the veto power of a few governments. We want a political system which really represents the variety and diversity of our societies:
- All decisions affecting all mankind should be taken in democratic forums like a participatory and direct UN Parliamentary Assembly or a UN people’s assembly, not rich clubs such as G20 or G8. This appears to be a proposal to stymie what little progress the UN has made. How would a participatory and direct UN Parliamentary Assembly work in practical terms? Assuming that there is a method to make it work, this could not use the consensus method of decision making because that would guarantee that nothing would ever get decided.
- At all levels we ask for the development of a democracy that is as participatory as possible, including non representative direct democracy. The upshot of this is that we will abandon (i) all reasoned debate, with the result that the UK would immediately reintroduce capital punishment in defiance of all the evidence based arguments against it; (ii) mob rule because there will always be plenty of people who want an advocate to speak for them and will not fare well in big crowds dominated by certain people; and (iii) no-one will take responsibility for anything because no-one will be understood to have any greater power than anyone else.
- As long as they are practiced, electoral systems should be as fair and representative as possible, avoiding biases that distort the principle of proportionality. What electoral systems are proposed? What is meant by the principle of proportionality.
- We call for the democratization of access to and management of media (MSM). These should serve to educate the public, as opposed to the creation of an artificial consensus about unjust policies. Hello! Did you notice the internet? That’s exactly what it does best. Information can now spread like a supercharged wildfire around the world in minutes. Most people in the West appear to get much of the information from social networking on the internet.
- We ask for democracy in companies and corporations. Workers, regardless of wage level or gender, should have real decision-making power in the companies and corporations they work in. We want to promote cooperative companies and corporations, as real democratic economic institutions. Erm, previously there was a demand to abolish corporation. You can’t abolish them and make them democratic at the same time!
- Zero tolerance of corruption in economic policy. We must stop the excessive influence of big business in politics, which is today a major threat to true democracy. Real slippage here. At the start, these demands were addressed so as to exclude business and political leaders in representative democracies. This demand appears to be specifically aimed at them.
- We demand complete freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration, as well as the cessation of attempts to censor the Internet. Fine. Apart from the new bit about the internet, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees these rights.
- We demand respect for privacy rights on and off the internet. Companies and the government should not engage in data mining. You could regulate it but banning it completely is unlikely to work. Prohibition generally doesn’t work. How are you going to stop the collection of the data? Every time you visit a webpage, all sorts of data is collected. Defining data mining more precisely would have been a good start.
- We believe that military spending is politically counterproductive to a society’s advance, so we demand its reduction to a minimum. What would that minimum be? Without any proposal as to how to calculate it, this demand is utterly meaningless.
- Ethnic, cultural and sexual minorities should have their civil, cultural, political and economic rights fully recognized. Looks like another bid to support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights again.
- Some of us believe a new Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fit for the 21st century, written in a participatory, direct and democratic way, needs to be written. As long as the current Declaration of Human Rights defines our rights, it must be enforced in relation to all – in both rich and poor countries. Implementing institutions that force compliance and penalize violators need to be established, such as a Global Court to prosecute social, economic and environmental crimes perpetrated by governments, corporations and individuals. At all levels – local, national, regional and global – new constitutions for political institutions need to be considered, like in Iceland or in some Latin American countries. Justice and law must work for all, otherwise justice is not justice, and law is not law. Some of us? The whole point about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that it is universal. It is intended to apply to everyone on the planet. How would the proposed Global Court be populated? Is the proposal really capable of sitting next to law making by street mobs? Without anyone able to ‘be in charge’, there will be no-one capable of signing off international treaties. How on earth is the Global Court going to come into being? By consensus amongst every person on the planet? Come off it!
This is a worldwide Global Spring. We will be there in May 2012; we will fight until we win. We will not stop being people. We are not numbers. We are free women and men.
Glib words. Not exactly the rallying cry at the end of the Communist Manifesto is it? It’s not even grammatically or schematically accurate (Occupy is a peaceful movement, thus no ‘fighting’).
For a Global Spring!
For global democracy and social justice!
Take to the streets on May 2012!
Yeah, yeah. Except that in London only 300 people turned up. There were more people in my local pub last night.