This small book is a very quick read. It is a pamphlet sized book featuring 5 speeches and interviews with --and a short essay by--Noam Chomsky about the Occupy movement. It features Chomsky exhorting folks about how to build on the foundations laid by Occupy to build a far more just, equitable and democratic society than we Americans currently have. It is a very short book and the arguments are sometimes repetitive but it is very thought provoking and intelligent (as Chomsky's works always are).
According to Chomsky the Occupy movement is the first substantial resistance nationwide to the neoliberal economic policies that have been oppressing us since the 70's. Since the 70's incomes have declined or stagnated for a large majority of Americans. While working Americans enjoyed a substantial benefit from the economic growth of the 50's and 60's, the benefits of economic growth since the 70's, have, according to Chomsky, been heavily concentrated in the top one tenth of one percent of the wealthiest Americans. Manufacturers have left for greater profits overseas and the economy has become increasingly reliant on the financial industry. Corporate profits are booming thanks to "greater worker insecurity"--as Chomsky quotes Alan Greenspan as saying in 1997--which means that workers are too beaten down to demand a greater share of the national wealth by striking for higher wages and benefits. Americans have been forced to keep their head above water by taking on a huge amount of debt and working longer hours. Meanwhile an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble kept the economy afloat during the Bush years as the tech bubble sustained the Clinton economy before it. Deregulation, purchased by the campaign contributions and lobbying of the financial industry, allowed the rich to achieve never before seen levels of wealth as they speculated in toxic financial instruments and real estate. But the housing bubble popped in 2008 and the wealth of tens of millions of Americans was destroyed. Now, social spending is being slashed while the US government spends as much on its military budget as every other country in the world combined.
According to Chomsky, the Occupy movement has provided an alternative model to our corporate dominated society. In the Occupy movement, policies are discussed, debated and formulated in general assemblies. In Occupy, politics does not consist of corporate bribery of politicians or listening to speeches and commercials where politicians pretend to care about ordinary Americans. Rather, it consists of ordinary people formulating policy themselves. In a just society, workers should control economic enterprises for their own benefit. In a just society, according to Chomsky, control of General Motors would have been placed under the control of its workforce and communities affected by GM's operations. Under the democratic control of workers and communities, GM plants could possibly have been reconstituted to produce more energy efficient technologies and transportation, for example high speed rail. The United States is far behind other countries in its development of high speed rail. But Chomsky notes that the Obama administration did not want to reconstitute the bankrupt auto industry for the purpose of allowing American workers to produce high speed rail (with stimulus money) but instead went searching in Europe for firms to do so. The Obama administration wants to protect corporate profits but not promote the utilization of America's resources for the needs of its ordinary people.
The Occupy movement, with its model of cooperative living and solidarity, presents a potentially powerful model for ordinary Americans. The Occupy movement can possibly mobilize many more people by allowing ordinary Americans to control its direction and shape the movement to their everyday concerns. Polling data shows widespread sympathy with the beliefs of Occupy. Chomsky suggests that ordinary people can be mobilized to the Occupy movement by causes as diverse as putting in a new traffic light in a town or abolishing corporate personhood and money in politics. According to Chomsky, movements by communities and workers to take over workplaces are another possible cause to be exploited by Occupy. Chomsky cites the example of community members and US Steel workers attempting to buy a company factory threatened with closure in Youngstown Ohio in the late 70's and transform it into a worker run complex. They didn't succeed but the movement spawned the creation of hundreds of worker owned enterprises in Ohio. Chomsky says that a similar movement within the last few years took place at a plant in suburban Boston. United Electrical Worker members tried to organize the purchase of this plant to transform it into a worker owned facility--when it was on the verge of being shut down--but the company refused to sell. This effort in Massachusetts ended before the Occupy movement arose but Chomsky suggests that Occupy might have created a more favorable outcome for the cause. This movement of worker owned enterprises in places like Ohio is something that I have never heard about before and I wish Chomsky would have elaborated a little more about it.
Chomsky heavily stresses the lessons in the life and historical work of his old comrade Howard Zinn that people trying to build on the successes of Occupy can learn from.
The last chapter is a short Q & A provided by the National Lawyers Guild to help Occupy protestors understand the basics of dealing with the police.