There has been a lot of speculation in the media about the future of Occupy Wall Street, and all of it seems to be pushing the movement toward adopting one unified demand. Many leftist commentaries have said that coalescing around a single issue is the only way that OWS can remain unified and enact real change, while the right just seems to be complaining that they donâ€™t have something more specific to attack. However, I believe that adopting a single demand wonâ€™t create the unity the left is looking for; it would only dilute the movement and increase attacks from the right.
Additionally, a unifying demand is unnecessary. Unity is ALREADY very present in the general assemblies. The common ground of the occupy movement is the structure of the GA itself. A non-hierarchical forum where anyone can express their opinion is something that is very much opposed to the corrupt capitalist political system. It is an example of a true commitment to freedom and equality that has not been forced into the non-free channels of dilution found in liberal democracy. The existence of the GA constitutes both a demand for an egalitarian form of politics as well as proof that this form of politics is possible.
Any commitment to centralization around a leader or "concrete demands" would destroy this very important common ground. It would allow the movement to be fit into a very convenient box within the liberal-democratic totality. It would allow the movement to be written off as just more of "the usual" protests that are a form of normal resistance to the current state of affairs. This must not be allowed to occur. I believe that the mediaâ€™s anger at the lack of a leader to discredit or a demand to attack is a testament to the strength of OWS.
We should not ask the capitalist establishment to allow us to change the social order by enacting a few "reasonable" reforms. We must enact this new social order until it is reformism that is seen as impossible and an emancipatory politics based in the logic of the general assemblies emerges as the only true possibility. Reasonable and concrete demands on the system are always doomed to either fail or re-entrench that which they sought to solve. The powers-that-be will appear as if they enact reforms while simultaneously ensuring that nothing really changes. It is only through impossible demands that contest the impossibility of alternatives to capitalism that real change can occur. I believe that the general assemblies THEMSELVES constitute such a demand. The worst thing that the OWS movement could do would be to dilute the potential of the GA by defining themselves based on the words of a leader or a proposed reform.