(AP/John Minchillo)

Happy birthday, Occupy!

The former labor secretary asks what's next


Robert Reich
September 18, 2013 7:51PM (UTC)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Two years ago the “Occupy” movement roared into view, summoning the energies and attention of large numbers of people who felt the economic system had got out of whack and were determined to do something about it.

Occupy put the issue of the nation’s savage inequality on the front pages, and focused America’s attention on what that inequality was doing to our democracy. To that extent, it was a stirring success.

Advertisement:

But Occupy eschewed political organization, discipline, and strategy. It wanted to remain outside politics, and outside any hierarchical structure that might begin to replicate the hierarchies of American society it was opposing.

So when mayors, other public officials, and university administrators cleared the Occupy encampments by force — encampments that had become the symbol of the movement — nothing seemed to remain behind. Some Occupiers made plans for further actions, but a movement without structure, discipline, and strategy proved incapable of sustaining itself.

All major social-change movements in American history that widened opportunity and made this a more just society — women’s suffrage, the labor union movement, the civil rights movement, the anti Vietnam War movement, the environmental movement, the gay rights movement — have depended, to some extent, on leaders who helped guide them, and decision-making structures that provided discipline and strategy for those who joined.

These movements could sustain themselves over many years, sometimes many decades, because they consciously maintained hope on the basis of small but concrete victories, built their numbers by choosing their battles carefully, and kept their eyes on the big prizes. They educated the public about what was at stake, and then used public pressure to push elected representatives.

Occupy served an important purpose, but lacking these essentials it couldn’t do more. Inequality is worse now than it was then, and our democracy in as much if not more peril. So what’s the next step?

Advertisement:

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

MORE FROM Robert ReichFOLLOW rbreichLIKE Robert Reich

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Finance Inequality Occupy Occupy Wall Street U.s. Economy Video

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••


Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •