Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where is our Port Huron Statement?

I have had a number of spirited conversations in recent weeks over the Occupy movement.  While I think the movement has been unfairly criticized for lacking focus or specific suggestions for change (it's not even two months old!), I do believe that we need to start thinking about this direction.  For years, I have watched individuals and agencies all fighting for their individual causes, and found the lack of a unifying progressive agenda in this country frustrating.

So whenever this topic arises regarding Occupy, I can't help but think of the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) completed on June 15, 1962.  Whatever one thinks about the 60's and how the movement eventually went astray, I still find this Statement a compelling articulation of the liberal, progressive mind of America.

Now that I find myself in Midland, Michigan - home of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy - I yearn even more strongly for a voice of fairness, compassion, and reason.  What is stopping us from gathering together our best minds and our most passionate leaders to take the New York General Assembly statement to the next level of clearly explaining our vision for a future America?  What is stopping us from creating a plan of action for the next decade?

The beauty of such a statement today is that the Port Huron document was the reflection of only one generation.  The Occupy movement could  bring together literally every demographic in this nation.  And today, the technology certainly exists to bring together people of every socioeconomic group without a concern over travel expenses and lost wages.  We could even use the New York General Assembly Statement as an outline to frame the document that could eventually be distributed and ratified by General Assemblies in countless cities.

I want a Declaration of Independence for 21st century America - independence from the corruption of the democratic ideal, from the perversion of capitalist economy that our corporate complex has created.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about a much simpler and shorter statement, such as FDR's "Economic Bill of Rights", which remains far from attainment almost 68 years after he articulated it? http://www.fdrheritage.org/bill_of_rights.htm

Bill Baar said...

You better sort out where you think S
SDS went wrong then, because it went wrong very very badly before you were about the perversion of capitalism. The perversions of Socialism far outweigh it.

Jeff Liebmann said...

Two valid comments. FDR's vision is one I wou.d also love to hold up. But, I imagine that it would also be criticized for lacking any real answers to our current sitation. But, it would be a step toward articulating what we want.

Bill, the caution must certainly be there. But, despite the similarities, I believe that the situations are also substantially different. So, I certainly wouldn't ignore the past, nor would I be paralyzed by the fear that its mistakes would be repeated.

Bill Baar said...

@Jeff... and that's a good part of the disaster of #Occupy. The times are different, radically different, and the lefts coming up with stale Marxism that was already outdated in 68.

Jeff Liebmann said...

@Bill - Perhaps. But I think at this point most Americans are ready to consider stale Marxism over perverted capitalism. I would caution everyone to not look at this as an either/or argument. No one is calling for the corporations to be razed to the ground. But, clearly the message is that capitalism in its current unchecked form is a runaway train destroying the livelihoods of the 99%. The way to avoid past failures is to begin true nonpartisan conversations and find middle ground based on our mutual interest and mutually held social principles.

Bill Baar said...

I was a dues paying Socialist Party member so have some experience trying to make the case to voters and union workers in the depths of the 70s recession.

It didn't sell then (I recall the dismay when Reagan elected), and I don't see any evidence Socialism of any sort will sell now.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

Well, Bill, I guess I've always seen it as an image problem. Most Americans have a negative attitude toward "socialism" (although I doubt most could give a reasonable explanation of its tenets. And yet, our society already abounds with programs with socialist elements. And many countries that we would not necessarily label as "socialist" have perfectly happy citizens living with "socialist" programs.

For me, the key to the Occupy movement is to educate people to move past simplistic labels and to embrace complex systems that cannot be summarized in jingoistic terms. Big labels may facilitate teaching, but in the end only make easier "us-them" thinking that inevitably gets us into trouble.

Bill Baar said...

The polling data says Americans have gone right. Galston today in TNR http://www.tnr.com/article/the-vital-center/97177/obama-reelection-strategy

A city like Chicago, with a large immigrant population, is filled with thousands of people with first hand experience of Socialism / Communism. My Church has a member from the German Democratic Republic who grew there and served in the DDR's Army. My boss at a job while in College had met Trotsky.

So maybe in the boonies people are unfamiliar with Marxism, but certainly not my experience.

As a foot note, I name my blog after Pfarrer Streccius who was a long lost line of my relatives. Turns out the last Pfarrer Streccius married Karl and Jenny Marx. My nephew just found that out while on a visit to Germany.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Jeff's thought that at this point most Americans are ready to consider stale Marxism over perverted capitalism. There is absolutely no evidence (zero, zilch, nada!) to support such a thought, either in public opinion polls or in the 2010 and 2011 election results.

For our own sake, but even more importantly for the sake of our children and grandchildren, I hope that a better solution can be found to our social and economic problems than either clinging to a perverted capitalism or switching to a stale Marxism.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

@anonymous - And as I always emphasize, either/or answers to these complex questions are insufficient. Of course Americans are not willing to elect a resurrected Trotsky in 2012. But are they willing to examine sensible elements of other socio-political philosophies and to decide that the current corrupt capitalist-democractic system need to be overhauled? Of course they are. I hear it at every rally, at every gathering of people facing foreclosures, layoffs, and crushing debt. I don't need a poll to tell me that the 99% are seeking answers outside the current structure.

We must, however, stop relying on tired, trite labels to glorify or demonize different approaches to running our society.

R W Rawles said...

#1:I disagree with the sentiment of this discussion, if I get it right, that excessiveness/overreach on the part of SDS and assorted socialists killed the Progressive movement in that generation. (I lived through that, too, Bill.) What killed the movement was the decapitation of national political leadership by two assassinations. We ought to ponder that history as we witness the crop of clowns currently posing as GOP presidential candidates: in the end, the only way the Reich Wing can shorten BHO's presidency to a single term is through bullets, not ballots. Be very afraid.

R W Rawles said...

#2: What is needed is more focus on policies, not broad statements of politics. We need to find the wedge issues that resonate with broad section of the American people. Gross & indecent income disparity between the 1% and the 99% is a good example. That's not socialism - that's common sense.

What appeals to me on the same level is ending this fiction of personhood for corporations. Unlike real people or embryos (in the case of Mississippi), corporations have been deemed to big to fail. They are not people.

Therefore, I support the Move To Amend the Constitution!

Jeancantoo said...

All I can say is get writing!

Anonymous said...

Jeff, when will you post something new? It has been more than two weeks since your most recent new post on November 1st.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

Crazy busy...I'll be posting later today after the big Occupy Midland demonstration!