Beyond the attack on Occupy

Posted: 31 October 2011 in Uncategorized
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The attacks on the Occupy Wall Street movement know no bounds.

Actually, on a positive note, the crescendo of attacks signifies the success of the movement. Still, when the criticisms are unfounded, they need to be contested.

The latest example comes from Bill Keller, who argues that the Indian protest movement led by Hazare has moved beyond OWS. Keller applauds the fact that the Indian movement has a leader (as against OWS which he sees as “consensus-oriented and resolutely leaderless”), is explicit about its demands (better than OWS, which comprises a variety of “vague,” “idealistic” causes), uses Indian democracy “shrewdly” (in contrast to OWS, which is “scornful of both parties and generally disdainful of electoral politics”), and perhaps most importantly is not anticapitalist (while OWS has a “strong undercurrent of anticapitalism”).

Now, each of Keller’s contentions can be—and should be—disputed. But let me focus on one of them for the time being:

An attempt to spark an Indian offshoot of Occupy Wall Street — a Facebook campaign branded with pictures of Che Guevara — went pretty much nowhere. Capitalism is one thing most Indians believe in.

The fact is, there is no basis for Keller’s sweeping generalization concerning Indians’ belief in capitalism. Had he actually consulted some real facts—such as the most recent poll by Globescan (which I cited back in April)—he wouldn’t be able to make that statement, about Indians or Americans.

Only 59 percent of both Americans and Indians agree (either strongly or somewhat) with the statement that capitalism—a “free market economy”—is the best system.

That may be news for Keller but it’s not for a large number of people in India and, as we’ve seen with the OWS movement, now in the United States. He may want Indian protestors and Occupiers to restrict themselves to the “unglamorous business of government,” thereby leaving capitalism in place. But protest movements and the facts about what people believe are more stubborn than the wishful thinking of facile political pundits.

Keller’s problem is not to go beyond Occupy. It’s to catch up with it.

  1. […] Beyond the attack on Occupy […]

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