Occupy Wall Street is an easy target -- a group of protesters taking on one of the most powerful institutions in the country, with loose spinoffs in cities all over, and no clear leadership or (many would say) agenda. The Atlantic's business writer, Danile Indiviglio, weighed in Oct 5 with an essay he called "Five Reasons Occupy Wall Street Won't Work." Some of it's your typical musings from a guy in a suit who doesn't understand direct action ("But the Occupy Wall Street movement's anger is directed at bankers. Here's the problem: they really don't care.")
But his main pitch is one that I'm sympathetic to, and so are a lot of other supporters of the growing movement. He says the protesters don't know what they want:
Any protest that hopes to accomplish some goal needs, well, a goal. If a demonstration like this lacks concrete objectives, then its purpose will be limited at best and nonexistent at worst. At this time, all the protest really appears to stand for is a general dislike of Wall Street. But what does that mean?
And that's where I think he's wrong. The occupiers may have started off with only vague objectives, but some tangible, progressive goals are starting to emerge -- and they don't in any way require the bankers to care.
The Wall Street protests are growing -- and some of the people getting involved have a very clear agenda. The most dramatic evidence is the growing role of organized labor in the actions. The nurses marched Oct. 5 -- and they have a very specific platform, well thought-out, that calls for a financial transactions tax. AFSCMA, CWA and the city's transit workers joined the march, too. And the head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, is now on board. And while Trumka made it clear that labor isn't going to try to dominate the spontaneous protests,
The labor leader was specific as he summarized his demands: make Wall Street invest in creating jobs for Americans, stop foreclosures and write down problem mortgages. Paying for government programs would come from a “very tiny” tax on speculation, he said.
I'm not seeing any kind of political turf war here -- the original Occupy Wall Street folks seem happy to have labor on the team. And once you get tens of thousands of labor activists in the streets -- and using the media and the growing groundswell of support for the protests to push a Congressional agenda -- then something potentially powerful is happening.