Occupy Madison, don’t just demand a solution

A personal commentary by the editor

Woody Allen once said that half of success is showing up. The Occupy Madison movement has shown up, and for every person on site, there are hundreds more who are there in spirit. We in Wisconsin know all too well what corporate interests and their political puppets are willing to do to the working class. Thank you for your energy and commitment.

On the other hand, showing up is only half of success. What are we going to do? Speaking truth to power is always the right thing to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an effective thing to do. Recall­ing Walker is a good step, but it only returns us to where we were before he was elected, which wasn’t actually that enviable a place to be, however good it looks compared to today.

We can make demands, and Occupy Madison has put out a preliminary list, including overhauling the economic system, ending the wars, ending racism and sexism, and so on. These are admirable goals, but they aren’t going to be achieved through symbolic actions like sleeping in the park.

Nor are they going to be achieved by appealing to corporate-sponsored politicians to put stronger restrictions on corporations. When the foxes guard the henhouse, there’s not much point in insisting they do a better job at it, or in throwing out the old foxes and bringing in new ones.

Our primary focus should be on channelling this solidarity into building our own solutions. The amount of wealth that the top 1% owns could never be earned through productive labor. The 99% created that wealth, and Wall Street took it from us! As Big Bill Haywood put it, “If one man [sic] has a dollar he didn’t work for, some other man worked for a dollar he didn’t get.” So, while it would be great to see the 1% return some of what they’ve taken, it’s far more important to make sure they can’t take it from us in the first place. There’s plenty of wealth to go around, as long as it really does go around, and not go away.

There are three main ways to make the wealth go around, and you can do any or all of them, right now. The first is to buy from locally-owned small businesses. Chain stores are the face of Wall Street in our community, but local businesses are part of the community. The second is to buy from a business you’re a member of. When you put your money in a credit union or buy your food at a cooperative grocery store, you’re not just a patron, you’re a co-owner, and you have input into how it operates.

The third way is even more powerful than the first two: own your own business, and run it democratically with your co-workers, in a worker cooperative. Instead of demanding accountability from business, you can be the one providing it. Instead of demanding democracy, you can spend your time practicing it. Instead of demanding an equitable workplace or environmental sustainability, you can set the example. MadWorC will help you get started. Write us atmadworc@gmail.com.

Don’t just demand a solution. Be a solution.

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