07 January 2013

A Charter for the 99%

In the mail today arrived the current issue of Dissent, which contains a very short piece by Todd Gitlin, whose provocative assessments of Occupy I've mentioned here before. Unfortunately, Dissent has imposed a firewall for most of the essays in their print edition. Fortunately, Gitlin has posted this slightly less elaborated version of the essay at the magazine's blog. The thrust of his argument is the same. As you'll see, he draws a link between Occupy and one possible future it might assume and the Chartists of early 19th C England. This is fortuitous from my perspective not just because in a good portion of the thesis (oh those many years ago) I was preoccupied with Chartism, but also because there are other historical precedents. One is Charter 77, initiated by Václav Havel, in response to the persecution of the Plastic People of the Universe by Communist authorities in Czechoslovakia. I drew a parallel between that episode and the response to OWS on the part of progressives in the US here some time ago. A second precedent is Charter '08 which was circulated in China demanding democratic political reforms and which I mentioned here several times. His efforts at circulating Charter '08 are among the 'offenses' that brought Liu Xiaobo the ire of the Chinese authorities and praise from those who bestow the Nobel Peace Prize. That is ample political precedent. There surely are other relevant episodes. You should read Gitlin's essay.

My two cents? Any such campaign should include a demand that the right to vote be written in to the Constitution and that the now nearly moribund first amendment right to free assembly be rehabilitated.

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