- When deciding whether or not demands make sense, it is worth bearing in mind that demands are made of people, or of institutions. Undemocratic institutions are not designed to listen to democratic demands. This is why you never hear of an IMF delegation arriving in a country and saying that in addition to sorting out sovereign debt payments, they are also going to make sure that the people of the country have sufficient say in the economic decisions that determine their everyday lives. Institutions that are supposed to be democratic but are not will probably be only too happy to hear people making demands, because it is through the act of hearing people’s demands that they maintain the illusion that they are democratic. So every year there is a stream of different groups making their pre-budget submissions to the Minister for Finance, and the main effect of this is to endow the Minister for Finance with a democratic sensibility that he does not possess. Therefore: if a demand is to be made, of whom is it to be made? And once it has been established that a demand is to be made, and the person(s) or institution(s) of whom it is to be made have been identified, is there any point in issuing a demand when you do not think there is any chance of it being met? That is, on what grounds should a democratic assembly issue a demand for show? This is what I think any time I hear people criticise Occupy wherever for not having clear demands.
- The issue of the participation of political parties in assemblies and marches is contentious. The initial statement from Occupy Dame Street was a request for people to leave their political party at the door. But most people see politics through the prism of political parties. So it might be a good idea, at some stage, to articulate just what the problem is with political parties. Are they hierarchical organisations thronged with power-hungry bureaucrats whose specific intention it is to crush democratic deliberation and co-opt the multitude into the logic of the State? If they are, it might be a good idea to say so. In fact it might be a good idea to say more things full stop. At a less contentious level, it might also be worth pointing out that voting in a new government comprising different parties changed nothing, despite claims of a ‘democratic revolution’ after the last election. The government is still doing the bidding of the IMF and passing off pragmatic decisions taken by technocrats as victories for the people won through the doggedness of their representatives. It might also be worth pointing out that the current government is lying through its teeth day in day out about what economic recovery actually means (hint: profits) and why they are cutting social provision and forcing down wages (hint: profits). Even if you put your faith in representative democracy, which is what the new President Michael D. Higgins claims to do, there can be no such thing as a representative government composed of liars. So why not start accuse the government of lying?
- Whilst I recognise the immense difficulties encountered in maintaining an occupation, it still seems a bit odd that for a collective that purports to be part of the 99% (i.e. most people) and therefore opposed to the rule of the 1% (i.e. the owning class), there has not been any sort of naming of those people who make up the 1%, and the institutions that serve them. For instance, if you look at last week’s Irish Independent, which is owned by two extremely wealthy and influential men, there are a series of photographs of extremely wealthy and influential man Michael O’Leary stripped down to swimming togs whilst several female Ryanair cabin crew stand in their underwear. According to the report, Ryanair hopes to raise up to €100,000 for charity from the photos, which will be printed in a calendar. Ryanair reported pre-tax profits of €440m. The contribution of 0.02% of its profits to its chosen charity would have had precisely the same effect on its designated recipients. But it would not have allowed O’Leary to give his hammer-of-the-PC-leftie-dungaree-wearing-feminist-union men persona yet another outing, whilst dignifying him with a beatific glow for doing a lot of work for charidee. This sort of thing is abhorrent, and there are lots of easy targets. For instance: John Bruton the former Taoiseach, is the chairman of the IFSC, Ireland’s Own Tax Haven. Tax havens do not receive a great degree of attention in Ireland, for obvious reasons. However, popular movements in other countries (for instanc e Spain) care a great deal about the harmful effects of tax havens. Well, if the chairman of the tax haven in Ireland is a former Taoiseach whom Wikileaks cables describe (approvingly, one might add) as having spent most of the 1980s advocating Thatcherite economic steps, that says a lot about the interests that dominate the country. Basically I am saying that Occupy wherever should think about naming names.