Global protests ‘spring from failure of the Left’

Oct 17, 2011

Talking Point: OWS protesters are not petitioning politicians, they’re reinventing politics

The Occupy Wall Street movement, based in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, spread to global protests over the weekend under the slogan "occupy everywhere". Organising through social media, protesters occupied public squares in the UK, Europe, and Asia, protesting against austerity and corporate greed. Some commentators called the protesters disparate and inchoate, and questioned why they have failed to list a clear set of demands. But are they missing the point?
OWS incoherent

Protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement have gone global, but as yet they have failed to gel into a coherent set of demands, says Andrew Grossman in The Wall Street Journal. “It is unclear if the month-old movement, grounded in general discontent with the ecomomic situation and corporations, can transform its energy into influence on politics and policy.”
Yes, a month ago the disparate band of protesters decrying corporate excess seemed little more than idealistic youth, says an editorial in The Financial Times. “Today only the foolhardy would dismiss a movement reflecting the anger and frustration of ordinary citizens.”
Whether or not the protests evolve into a more lasting political force, remains to be seen. “But the cry for change is one that must be heeded.”
OWS springs from failure of the Left

Not only has OWS survived, it has captured the imagination of the embittered multitude, says Michael Cohen in The Guardian. But OWS isn’t a triumph of leftist activism, it has arisen in spite of it.
In recent times, the Left has “failed to push an effective populist movement, focusing its energy more on social issues than economic ones”, adds Cohen. In the face of these failures, “it seems almost appropriate that OWS has come about in such an organic and ad hoc manner”.
Power is being reinvented

This is “the new practical politics for those disillusioned with representative democracy”, says Laurie Penny in The Independent. The fact that politicians and pundits are even asking what all these people want can be considered a victory for the “occupy everywhere” movement.
And what many commentators fail to understand is “that occupation is itself a demand”, adds Penny.
What is being occupied is far more than a public squares, says Penny. The collective political imagination is being projected into a space beyond the traditional avenues of mainstream politics. “Power is not being petitioned here – it is being reinvented”.

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