Posted 10 months ago on Nov. 10, 2013, 2:47 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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In those turbulent days that began the 20th century, masses of people, led by liberals, socialists, and anarchists and joined even by a contingent of the ten percent, were challenging the privilege, greed and rampant inequality of the Gilded Age. They took to the streets as the Occupy protesters did. But they also took to the ballot box, armed with a political program of concrete demands for radical reform. They were not scornful of leadership as the Occupy protesters were, nor unwilling to draft a blueprint for change. Like the Occupy protesters, they mourned the power of the wealthy and the corporations and the lack of democracy. They had no Citizens United to challenge, but an even greater battle for influence; remember that women could not even vote then.
From the Uprising to Political Action
In August 1912, many of them came together to form the Progressive Party and to present a program they called A Contract with the People, calling for:
A National Health Service.
Social insurance to provide for the elderly, the unemployed and the disabled.
A federalsecurities commission.
Relief for small farmers.
Compensation for workplace injuries.
The vote for women.
Direct election of senators.
Recall, referendum and initiative.
Strict limits on political campaign contributions.
The issues that animated the original occupiers were much the same as those that challenge us today. Almost all of them were won in the quarter century following the founding of the Progressive Party, many in next few years, others in the early days of the New Deal. They reduced the gap between rich and poor, vastly increased the size of the middle class, and offered "bread, and roses, too."
But in the past three decades many of these important gains that came at the cost of the original occupiers' blood and tears, have been eroded by the forces of greed that carry out the bidding of the 1%. Occupy has risen up against the new priorities of dog eat dog. But unlike its predecessors of a century ago, today's Occupy seems to me inchoate and without clear plans or focused vision. In the past three decades, our modern Nine-Tenths have lost both bread and roses. They have been quick to notice the loss of bread, although sadly unable to prevent it. But they seem to have forgotten the roses, whose watering seems most urgent.
The philosopher George Santayana once observed that failing to remember the past dooms us to repeat it. But the reverse is also true; sometimes it's important to remember history so we can repeat it. This is surely one of those times.
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