Mass social movements of the 20th Century often had defining moments — the S.F. General Strike of 1934; the Bonus Army's occupation of Washington D.C.; the Freedom Rides, bus boycotts and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington; Earth Day 1970; the Vietnam War teach-ins and moratoriums. None of those movements were politically monolithic; all of them had internal conflicts over tactics and strategies.
But they came together in ways that made a political statement, created long-term organizing efforts, and led to significant reforms. Occupy can do the same — and more. At a time of historic inequities in wealth and power, when the rich and the right wing are stealing the future of generations of Americans, the potential for real change is enormous.
If something's going to happen this spring and summer, the planning should get under way now.
A convention could begin in late June, in Washington D.C. — with the goal of ratifying on the Fourth of July a platform document that presents the movement's positions, principles, and demands. Occupy groups from around the country would endorse the idea in their General Assemblies, according to procedures that they have already established and refined through the fall, and make it their own.
This winter and spring, activists would develop and hone the various proposals that would be considered at the convention and the procedures for adopting them. They could develop regional working groups or use online tools to broadly crowd-source solutions, like the people of Iceland did last year when they wrote a new constitution for that country. They would build support for ideas to meet the convention's high-bar for its platform, probably the 90 percent threshold that many Occupy groups have adopted for taking action.
Whatever form that document takes, the exercise would unite the movement around a specific, achievable goal and give it something that it has lacked so far: an agenda and set of demands on the existing system — and a set of alternative approaches to politics.
While it might contain a multitude of issues and solutions to the complicated problems we face, it would represent the simple premise our nation was founded on: the people's right to create a government of their choosing.
There's already an Occupy group planning a convention in Philadelphia that weekend, and there's a lot of symbolic value to the day. After all, on another July 4th long ago, a group of people met in Philly to draft a document called the Declaration of Independence that said, among other things, that "governments ... deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed ... [and] whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
ON THE ROAD
If the date is right and the organizing effort is effective, there's no reason that Occupy couldn't get close to a million people into the nation's capital for an economic justice march and rally.
That, combined with teach-ins, events and days of action across the country, could kick off a new stage of a movement that has the greatest potential in a generation or more to change the direction of American politics.
Creating a platform for constitutional and political reform is perhaps even more important than the final product. In other words, the journey is even more important than the destination — and when we say journey, we mean that literally.
Occupy groups from around the country could travel together in zig-zagging paths to the Capitol, stopping and rallying in — indeed, Occupying! — every major city in the country along the way.