The Occupiers' day
The Occupier movement has designated today as a mass day of action, with events planned for "951 cities -- 82 countries". Yes, the movement is spreading beyond the US, and why not? The damage wrought by a de-regulated, out-of-control financial sector has been world-wide.
This week protesters invaded and vandalized the Goldman Sachs building in Milan, Italy's financial capital, and there are efforts to mobilize in Frankfurt, Germany's financial center. Note, though, that the relevant conditions in other countries are very different. Germany is already a model socialist state; compared to the US its social safety net is robust, economic growth is strong, and unem- ployment and economic inequality are low. There have already been mass protests in several of the more economically-damaged European countries this year, but their target has been austerity policies, and the force imposing those policies is the European Union, not the banks. An effective movement for change will need to focus on the distinct problems of each region. But Europe's situation does resemble ours in one way: while many countries suffer from stagnant growth and double-digit unemployment, an out-of-touch political establishment bizarrely navel-gazes over debt and deficits instead of focusing on job creation.
Back in the US, Eliot Spitzer argues that the Occupier movement has already won by shifting the political discussion to the issue of unemployment where it belongs, though I'd argue that Obama deserves some of the credit for this. The movement is also working on its biggest weakness -- its lack of specific goals to rally behind. Here's a list of "demands for Congress" from OWS. The first eight, which have apparently received enough votes to make the official program, seem solid -- bank re-regulation, the Buffet rule, investi- gation and prosecution of financial criminals responsible for the recession, and similar. The list of original proposals (scroll down) included some items that are good in themselves but would have detracted from the movement's focus (opposing the PATRIOT act and the war on drugs) and even a nod to 9-11 conspiratardia, so the selection of the top eight from among them shows the kind of pragmatic and practical approach I've been hoping for.
On my other question about the Occupiers -- whether they can get the level of participation necessary to achieve anything (turn-out in the hundreds of thousands) -- today may give us the beginning of an answer. The Occupy Portland rally on October 6 drew at least 10,000 people in a medium-size city (metro-area population 1.7 million), and if this is typical of the rallies across the country, then the movement at least has the potential to reach the size it needs; I haven't seen any comprehensive hard numbers, though.
(But attendance at rallies is not the only, or the best, measure of effectiveness. 300,000 people staying home and calling Congress to demand passage of the AJA would mean a hell of a lot more than 300,000 people scattered among park camps in 100 cities.)
One promising sign: 54% of Americans have a favorable view of the movement, compared with just 27% for the Tea Party. And this despite MSM belittling and disparagement.
More links of interest: Shaw Kenawe has a report from Occupy Boston last week; Political Carnival has cartoons (the first one is wonderful); and an older generation of activists is turning out to support the new.
Update (8:43 AM Pacific): So far most rallies in Asia and Europe have been quite small -- one in Rome was larger, but was sullied by a small group of violent people. We'll see what happens in the US.
Update 2: Looks like Madrid is holding quite a big rally, perhaps because Spain already has a large and vigorous anti-austerity protest movement.
[Image at top: Occupy Portland, October 6]