Four Old Ideas for the Future of the Occupation Movement

by Dax-Devlon Ross

For the last two weeks I’ve been thinking about directions the Occupy Movement can go in that would allow more to become involved and keep the movement thriving as winter sets in. While we may not have clear demands from them, we know Occupiers want an alternative world. We also know that in any revolutionary movement you need people to play different roles. Everyone can’t be a soldier on the street. Some people have to keep their job and lay low and even appear to be indifferent so they can support the movement in ways that are vital to its endgame. For example, two weekends ago I was walking down Broadway and 105th when I noticed a sign outside a small restaurant I’d never even noticed before. They were offering an “Occupy Wall Street” salad. I went in, had a fantastic meal and spoke with the owner. It turned out he was closing the restaurant daily in order to drive food to the Occupiers. “They’re fighting for me,” he said to me. “The least I can do is show my appreciation and support.”

While the news coverage of the Occupation is becoming prickly and impatient, the conversation is spreading. As it spreads those who may not be cut out for street protests are going to be looking for ways to show their support. What’s already possible is the systematic divestment of capital from the markets and industries that are causing the most harm. These are just a few ideas that, while not new, could be resuscitated and given new life in the Occupy Movement.

1. Occupy Credit Unions

Two weeks ago several protestors were arrested after trying to close their Citibank accounts. Others have been arrested for attempting to close their Bank of America accounts. The call has been for people to put their money into local banks and credit unions. While laudable in the short term, a more effective structural solution would be to form an Occupy Credit Union with affiliates in as many communities as there are movement. It would operate based on the principles and ideals of the movement and offer an alternative savings, credit and lending entity to counter the big banks and the plutocrats who run them. The credit union wouldn’t be publicly traded and it wouldn’t exist for profit. It would be owned by the “customers” who receive shares in the company upon joining. The money invested in the union would be used to finance low interest home loans, low interest/interest free school loans, loans for small businesses and businesses with a demonstrated commitment to the values of the OWS movement. The money invested could be used to acquire and repurpose companies that have both economic and social potential.

Two Great links for more information on credit unions:

10 Steps to starting a credit union

5 Reasons why credit unions are better than banks

2. The Occupy Seal of Approval 

In the same way products are marketed to consumers as “organic” or “fair trade,” the Occupy Seal could offer the movement a way to vet products that are manufactured and produced in a manner consistent with the values and principles of the movement. That means everything from the quality of the production to the quality of the care workers are given to the quality of the investments the company is making to support and grow employee pension plans. The Occupy Seal would be holistic and would help consumers elect where to spend their money and with whom. It would also challenge producers, manufacturers, job providers and investment companies  to either get on board or face a diminishing return on their products and services or the diminished perception of their products and services in the eyes of a wide, connected and highly influential swath of the population. It would also invite a broad spectrum of supporters to learn about and participate in the movement in the way they comfortable.

3. Occupy Investment Clubs

The people meeting and organizing in the movement are developing lifelong bonds. They are learning about each other’s passions and discovering others who share their vision of the world. The Occupy Investment Club could be a hub for investment groups of varying sizes and interests that pool their financial resources for common investment and social advancement. These clubs could operate independently as general partnerships, limited liability companies or limited liability partnerships. The Occupy Investment Club would be a registered trademark that, again, vets, monitors and even regulates the various investment groups under the larger umbrella.

4. The Occupy Exchange Place 

Craigslist offers a great model for what this virtual exchange hub could look. It’s as much global as it is local. People can exchange services, goods, housing, information, etc. It would be centralized and operated in manner consistent with the Occupy message and movement, meaning the clutter, spam, and junk that has diminished the Craigslist brand in recent years would be screened out. It would allow for the development of a broad bartering community that literally uses its own form of “currency” to get things done. This bartering community would demand mutual adherence to the highest ethical standards and police itself in order to ensure quality control. Most importantly, this would exist a functional alternative to the commercial exchange place that only values money and those who have lots of it.

These are just four very rough ideas for the Occupy Movement to consider. What ties them together is the fact that they already exist in some way shape or form. Meaning we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Meaning just because America seems to suck more than ever right now, its suckage isn’t absolute. Meaning as the movement strives to create a new world based on new ideas of democracy and economy and community and even humanity, it shouldn’t lose sight of the incredible inroads its disgruntled ancestors have already made. Civil rights may seem antiquated and reformist. Unions may be too reactionary and self-serving. Progressives and liberals may have sold you out. But at one point they were all revolutionary ideas that transformed our society.