Eliot Spitzer talks capitalism with one of the 99 percent
New York Magazine,21 October 2011
Last week, New York’s Mattathias Schwartz invited Occupy Wall Street protester Manissa Maharawal, a CUNY graduate student in anthropology, to discuss the movement and its impact over coffee with former New York governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer. An extended transcript of their conversation is below.
MM: Oh, okay. So we’re in the same system. As I was saying, one of the reasons this movement has been without demands is because without demands we can shift. The moment you have a list of demands, you have politicians take all of those demands and explain to you why they aren’t going to work.
ES: But in order to turn this into something other than a visceral cry of despair, you need to figure out how to confront the actual problems and issues. You need to think about all of this more rigorously. If you’re down in Zuccotti Park six months from now, having made it through a cold winter, I’m not sure whether you would deem that success. Trust me, the media won’t be paying as much attention six months from now if it’s just the same couple hundred people, right?
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MM: What people are saying is that we’re tired of trusting all you guys, over there, to deal with all of it. I’m all for Pelosi and Obama and Spitzer taking this up. But Occupy Wall Street is also about a fundamental disconnect from the political process. This question of how I, Manissa, a 28-year-old graduate student, can effect change, instead of just ceding that power. Do you see what I’m saying?
ES: I’ve been involved at different points in time, and I understand exactly what you’re saying. I still think that the best way that you’re going to succeed, we’re all going to succeed, is by electing people who reflect what we believe in. The key is finding those candidates.
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MM: This movement does not necessarily have a historical precedent. The movements in Spain in Greece are thinking about the same questions we are. Questions like, How do we create communities that aren’t based on capital and valuing things in terms of money? How do you create those sorts of communities? That’s what is exciting about being in a space like Zuccotti Park: It’s a place where you have the chance to radically reimagine the world.
ES: Look, some people tried to dismiss this movement early on because it doesn’t have specific demands. I said that was irrelevant. The point now is to be speaking with passion about dissatisfaction and setting an agenda for the conversation. But eventually, to succeed, you do need to have some sense of how you change things. Otherwise you’re going around in a circle.
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ES: But in order to turn this into something other than a visceral cry of despair, you need to figure out how to confront the actual problems and issues. You need to think about all of this more rigorously. If you’re down in Zuccotti Park six months from now, having made it through a cold winter, I’m not sure whether you would deem that success. Trust me, the media won’t be paying as much attention six months from now if it’s just the same couple hundred people, right? I’ve been defending these protests and being supportive and saying that this is great. But saying all those things doesn’t preclude you from recognizing that, just as with a chess game, there’s got to be a next move.
Phi Beta Iota: Mr. Spitzer is correct. There needs to be a next move. Both of the parties now controlling political power in the USA are salivating in anticipation of Occupy launching a “candidate” that can be chewed up and spit out. They are NOT thinking about an asymmetric move, such as the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 and a General Strike–that is head and shoulders above where their minds and morals are.