You Are Not A Loan: Is a debt strike the future of Occupy?
from In These Times:
You Are Not A Loan
Is a debt strike the future of Occupy?
BY Rebecca Burns
Though the Occupy camps have disbanded, many organizers believe they’ve found the next big tent under which the year-old movement can regroup: debt. At the one-year anniversary celebration of Occupy Wall Street, members of the group Strike Debt distributed 5,000 free copies of a “Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual.”
Debt, Occupiers argue, is a new way of understanding what sets the 99% apart from the 1%. With wages remain- ing stagnant as the cost of living has increased, workers increasingly finance their day-to-day lives on a deficit. An estimated 75 percent of households now carry some amount of debt. And the problem goes even deeper: Creditors ranging from seedy sub-prime lenders to the International Monetary Fund have the power to compel cities, states and entire nations to forgo basic necessities in order to fulfill their promissory notes.
Could this new offshoot of Occupy reignite the movement? In These Times organized a dialogue about the prospect of a modern-day debtors’ revolt—and how the creditors might fight back. Participating were Pam Brown, an organizer with Strike Debt; Jodi Dean, professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute; and Peter Rugh, an organizer with the Occupy Wall Street Environmental Solidarity working group.
Most Occupiers have been reluctant to organize the movement around any one overarching issue. What’s the potential benefit of focusing on debt?
Jodi: The issue of debt is typically embedded in the austerity agenda. Debt, whether our nearly unfathomable national debt or debilitating personal debt, supposedly signifies a will too weak to sacrifice present pleasures for future benefits. And in a country so punitive that weakness of any sort invites cruelty and condemnation, debt has given Republicans—and Democrats tripping over themselves in their race to the Right—an opportunity to inflict pain on “the 47 percent” by cutting much-needed benefits and services. So Strike Debt’s move to claim debt as a cause for the Left is a welcome change. ..............(more)