Opinion » Ted Rall

Revolution Vs. Reform

The rift within Occupy

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Editors and readers expect pundits to weigh in on the eviction of Occupy Wall Street. People ask: Does this mean the beginning of the end for the Occupy movement? No.

Now, let's discuss a major rift within the movement: Reformists vs. revolutionaries.

Revolutionaries want to overthrow the government, get rid of existing economic, political and social relations and create new ones. Reformists want changes, too, however they are OK with the basic structure of the system. You can see the split whenever Occupiers discuss actions and demands.

Reformists say: Let's move our accounts from banks to credit unions. Demand that Congress pass a constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood.

If revolutionaries get their way, there won't be a Congress. No one will need to boycott banks or choose which merchants are least malevolent. Capitalism won't exist.

Revolution frightens the reformists. They worry about chaos, violence and dislocation. They're right to be concerned. Bad as things are now, these might look like the good old days after buildings begin burning.

Revolutionaries point to previous reform movements. Sure, progressives win victories during times of unrest, but they don't stick.

As soon as the demonstrators go home right-wingers roll back the results of those hard-won battles while liberals stand aside. If you want radical change to last, revolutionaries argue, you have to change everything.

We have the chance. 2012 is shaping up to be our Year of Revolution. Reformers see the system as in need of repair. For revolutionaries, whether the system can be fixed is beside the point. The system is the problem.

I think the United States is both unreformable and irredeemable. Many members of Occupy agree, but at least as many believe there are aspects of this dying country worth saving. Occupation ideology centers around two loci: economic unfairness and corporate influence.

Economic injustice manifests itself in numerous forms. Occupiers focus on income inequality. The richest 1 percent collect 90 percent of national income.

This is the culmination of a 40-year trend. The tipping point was when the government did nothing to help distressed homeowners. Instead, George W. Bush and Barack Obama doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to the same banks that were pushing fraudulent mortgages, illegally refusing to refinance and forging fake foreclosure documents.

I can imagine reform coming out of the existing duopoly. It's not going to happen. But I can imagine it. Theoretically.

The odds of meaningful change are so long that only a psycho would bet on it. The traditional rift between liberals and conservatives has skewed too far. Reform is impossible.

Beyond that, I can't see how reform could last. With the pressure turned off, corporate media would renew its systematic campaign of pro-business propaganda. The corporate chieftains would get back into power.

Does anyone seriously think this system will fix these problems? Amending the Constitution won't do the trick. Electing better officials isn't enough.

Yes, the system is broken. But that's not the main point. The system is irredeemable. Nothing short of revolution will do.

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