There is a very short-sighted article making the rounds called “A Tale of Two Protests: What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From SlutWalk” by Nora Willis Aronowitz. It essentially pits the SlutWalk style of mobilization against the Occupy Wall Street encampment.
SlutWalk doesn’t need defenders like this.
After critiquing Occupy Wall Street’s (lack of) clear demands, what does Aronowitz put forward as a better approach? Democratic Party liberal reformism: “Why not promote the Move Your Money Project? Why not send the message to middle America to stop voting for candidates who will sell the people out to big business?” Umm, no thanks.
Perhaps Aronowitz’s most bizarre assertion is that “Occupy Wall Street’s ‘set up camp and stay there’ approach is anachronistic. It may have worked at a time when the economy was good, but it isn’t feasible anymore. ” Oh really? So what about all those millions of long-term unemployed folks with no job prospects?
It is no slam on SlutWalk to see the significance of Occupy Wall Street’s attempt to import the international phenomenon that has swept Europe and the Middle East. There is no need to pose one form of struggle against the other. As the events of the last week have shown, both can be very successful at mobilizing people, including many who’ve never attended a protest or engaged in radical political action before.
Both of these movements have problems.
Many people, including supporters of Occupy Wall Street, have expressed frustration with the movement’s lack of clear demands, cohesive strategy or effective decision-making mechanisms. There are also potentially dangerous flirtations with right-wing demagogues like Ron Paul and the Larouchites. These are issues that will be fought out and decided in the course of the struggle. It’s worth noting that in just a few days, the whip of the NYPD’s reactionary assault has begun to sharpen this movement’s response to the capitalist state and spurred its growth, locally and nationally.
SlutWalk is not a pristine example either. Women of color, and particularly African American women, have made cogent critiques of the language of SlutWalk and the obstacles it puts in the way of their communities’ participation. Unfortunately, so far SlutWalk’s leadership has not taken up the challenge offered by these nationally oppressed women and has responded defensively. There is nothing inherently anti-capitalist in SlutWalk’s program, although the majority of women coming out to the marches undoubtedly are against the system.
Both of these burgeoning movements are in serious need to increase their diversity and inclusion of people of color, immigrants, workers and the poor. Which is not to say that these movements are exclusively white. I was impressed by the relative diversity of Saturday’s SlutWalk in New York, and there is a core of dedicated people of color activists involved with Occupy Wall Street as well.
More to the point, both of these movements are new. Both have tapped in to a real need and desire to resist, especially among youth. It would be a very big mistake to stand aside and dismiss either of these movements because of their (very real) faults. For revolutionaries, our task is to be in solidarity with these movements, to participate and bring our all-around perspective to them.
Longtime activists can both learn and teach within these movements — in fact, they MUST do both. That means we have to be there, and we have to mean it. That means we have to engage with all the aspects of these new movements. There’s never a good time to be a fence-sitter; but this may just be the worst time.
It all comes back to the refrain of that old labor song: WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?