One of the most celebrated features of the recent occupation movements has been the slogan, “We are the 99%.” Participants effusively love the slogan, but I have mixed feelings. Occupation critics bemoan absent demands. I say, patience. Occupation critics question ubiquitous moralism. I say, would you prefer being immoral, amoral, or moral?
But when occupiers and critics alike say, we love the creative innovation embodied in the 99% slogan, I worry. Does saying we are the 99% obscure more than it reveals. Will it ultimately misdirect more than focus the movement? Could it even distort movement priorities and practices? Yes, saying we are the 99% aggressively pinpoints a very small group who have overwhelming power and wealth in society. They are owners. They are capitalists. They are on top.
And there is policy related benefit, too. Mainstream corrections for economic crisis seek for the 1% to wind up even more securely in power than they were before the crisis. Mainstream policy makers want to get back to business as usual, which not only gave us the crisis in the first place, but also constantly gives us grotesque divisions of wealth, income, and power. We obviously do not want to get back to business as usual, and saying we are the 99% excellently orients us toward instead redistributing wealth and power.
Even so, I would prefer that we call the 1% capitalists. Calling them capitalists pinpoints that they own the economy. It highlights that you can’t retain owners but not have owners on top. To get rid of 1% dominating 99% requires replacing capitalism. But putting this quibbling aside, virtually every occupier knows the 1% are on top by virtue of owning productive property. Most people watching and learning from the occupations also know this, or can come to know it, and the 1% label wo … //
… Let me give one more example. Suppose, down the road, a time comes for issuing demands. Will coordinator class occupiers be okay with proposals that redistribute power and wealth not only from the top 1%, but also from the top 20% – 25%? Will doctors be okay with proposals from nurses that eat into doctors prerogatives? Will engineers be okay with proposals from workers that eat into engineer’s prerogatives? What about professors supporting students, even when it eats into professors prerogatives? Managers? And though it is harder to navigate the details, what about would-be doctors, engineers, professors, and managers?
If we want a movement that seeks self management, doesn’t that mean we do not want a class division that gives a monopoly on empowering work to a few and then elevates those few coordinators above workers? If we want a movement that welcomes and empowers working people, doesn’t that mean it must be guided by working class needs and desires?
For coordinator class members who will be okay with activism that benefits mainly workers, their involvement will certainly be highly beneficial to movements seeking real change. But for coordinator class members who won’t be okay with workers gains reducing coordinator advantages, their involvement could interfere with seeking classlessness and could become a serious barrier to retaining working class participants – just as the involvement of racists and sexists can be a barrier to retaining people of color and women participants.
My worry is that if we adopt slogans that place a big onus on even admitting that there are class differences within the 99%, much less on calmly and supportively delineating those differences and finding respectful ways to address them, then the obstacles and barriers we face could grow to be insurmountable.
My worry with the slogan we are the 99% is that maybe we need to find a way to talk about ourselves which welcomes participation, by all means, but which also admits differences that need to be addressed.
The desire to address and deal with differences by eliminating elite positions in a new economy is evident in our movements’ attention to self management and participation. This is what our attention to process is ultimately about, getting rid of hierarchies of power and influence. So, without becoming sectarian, without becoming judgmental, without becoming personalistic – can we pay attention to class differences which, if they instead go unmentioned, will get in the way of self management and participation? I think we can, and that we need to. (full text).
My comment: just thanks for this article:
- The 1% have not only the real economic power, but also the knowledge of manipulation, plus the absolute will to hold any power and influence. They have the ability TO REALISE all their goals, of which the MAINS STREAM PEOPLE is never aware, because the 1% are the closest, most aggressive hidden sect we have. Yes, sect in an almost religious tradition … and from which a big part of the 99% still tries to imitate anywhat in behavior and believe … yes, with the secret hope to be like them one day …
- HERE is the task for OCCUPY anywhat: OCCUPY our false beliefs, OCCUPY our own imitation of social darwinism, OCCUPY our love for every pitfall the 1% places before our feet … we happily step in …
- I see also how the highest 25% of our humanity are not different in their behavior towards the lowest 25%.
- Fazit: As long as OCCUPY xy looks only for economic abuses, which is higly necessary, the biggest power of the 1% will remain in the 99%’s desire TO BE LIKE THE 1%. So then, why not as slogan:
- OCCUPY our desire to imitate the behavior of the 1% … believing one glorious day we could be like them).