While the 99% have occupied Wall Street, Wall Street has occupied the Democratic Party.
The Occupation movement is currently struggling with the same challenges of any grass-roots, populous movement. Well-meaning activists that have been pursuing these and associated goals (in the case of ‘Occupy’ this would be a myriad of labor, economic justice, and social justice non-profits and PACs) for years have jumped in and implemented valuable resource supply chains as well as policy and process facilitation methods. The problem is, it tends to turn the grass-roots movement into a vehicle for their preconceived agenda, or simply a prop to help support their platform, while employing methods that were unsuccessful prior to the occupation movements inception.
The Democrat party wants to have its cake and eat it too. While protecting Wall Street banksters from any real accountability for their crimes, and allowing them to continue ravaging the national and global economy to maintain their vulgar personal salaries and bonuses, they’re doing everything they can to claim the anti-Wall Street movement of the 99% as their own. Obama, his administration, and the Democrat Party as a whole, have done nothing to address the issues and concerns voiced by the Occupation Movement yet they ask for a great deal of support in return, and go to great lengths to portray the Occupation protests as a Progressive movement. This has done nothing but foster a deep resentment among many occupiers who are already tired of an unresponsive system that takes much and offers little in return.
Representatives from labor have made overtures with the Occupy Movement to both assist in developing the movement and ensure its sustainability while trying to infect their own rank and file with the energy and commitment to action that permeates the movement. Operatives for the Democrat party and various Political Action Committees, on the other hand, often move throughout the movement keeping their political connections and agendas a secret while they seek to manipulate the movement into a left-wing, or progressive, ‘TEA party’ in order to exploit the political capital of a movement that enjoys overwhelming public support.
While Occupiers are upset that the SEIU has already endorsed Barack Obama for a second term as President before there has been any effort by his administration to address the issues and demands presented by the Occupation Movement, there is far more resentment towards the Democrat operatives that are trying to usurp the movement on behalf of an establishment Party that has become the political arm of Goldman Sachs,Wall Street, and the global financial elite.
Unions are forced to maintain their pensions through investment in Wall Street. It’s unfortunate, but true. While it would be wonderful to see them pull the workers money out, the ones that would be impacted the most would be the retirees, and those approaching retirement, that rely on those pensions that they paid into all their lives for their continued survival. This puts Labor in a difficult position, but not quite as difficult as living in a park during the winter. The rank and file must become educated, agitated, mobilized, and radicalized enough to make these choices for themselves. Their union leadership cannot do it for them. The rank and file is the union. They must become engaged. They must occupy their unions and start leading the leadership.
Politicians, on the other hand, are in a position to enact reforms to election financing, special interest bribery, and lobbyist influence, as well as impose regulations on Wall Street, banks, and corporations, that would protect all of us, unions included, from the continuous bloodletting of the 99%.
Within the Occupation Movement there is currently an internal struggle to wrest control of the policy, process, and implementation from those with compromised agendas and establish a truly democratic system that would allow the movement to discover its own voice, articulate its own goals, and execute its own strategies and actions. This is not to the exclusion of professional activists. They are often brilliant and committed people with a wealth of experience and networks that will be key to the sustainability of the movement and the eventual fruition of our goals.
The experience, organizing skills, networks, and resources of the labor movement are of vital importance to the Occupation Movement. In return, the commitment to radical action, and willingness to drop everything and engage in the struggle for the emancipation of the 99%, is required by a labor movement that has suffered a massive decline since Ronald Reagan’s assault on Air Traffic controllers in the 80′s seemed to not only break its back, but its spirit as well.
Wall Street and the banks, corporations and the media outlets they own, as well as all the other institutions of the 1%, want this movement dead, and they’re willing to go to any lengths necessary in order to make that happen.
The Democrats are trying to usurp the movement for short term gain in an election year and simultaneously manipulate it on behalf of their ‘Big Finance’ benefactors so that it can be domesticated as a post-election pet, neutered, and put on a leash. This would, whether purposefully intended or not, bring about the very death sought by Wall Street, the banksters, and the 1% they service. The Republicans did this to the TEA party. The Occupation Movement is not going to allow the same to happen to them.
Currently, the labor movement seems to be looking to the Occupation Movement to see what they can use, and rightfully so. Labor has been fighting these battles for a long time. But, despite their expertise and resources, they are currently lacking the fire, the populous rage, and the overwhelming public support of the Occupation Movement. We need to figure this relationship out.
The Occupation won’t be usurped, and, if the rank and file and labor movement want to truly support the struggle, that support will have to go beyond simply providing tarps, generators, and other much appreciated supports, and start supporting the Occupation Movement with the painful choices of cutting all ties with certain financial institutions, and political parties, and stop endorsing the politicians that the Movement is protesting against… then shake off its lethargy and apathy, allow itself to be infected with the energy of the Occupation Movement, and join us in the streets rather than simply asking us to march along on yet another union march trying to capitalize on our momentum.
Despite my harsh language for the Democrats, the progressive political activists connected with the Occupation Movement are as much potential friends as labor, there is just a lot more work for them to do in order to establish a positive relationship. As individuals they are, for the most part, committed and admirable people. They just happen to work for an institution, an establishment, that has been corrupted. Their heads and hearts may be in the right place, but until the Party they work for cuts its ties with the enemies of the 99% they are part of the problem, not the solution.
Regardless of these challenges the Occupation Movement will continue to grow. We had 165 tents, and over 200 full time occupiers in DC’s McPherson Square alone at last count. While the weather is going to be a challenge as daunting as trying to maintain the integrity of the Occupation Movement, these are challenges we are determined to overcome. On the coldest of nights when wet snow is falling, and blankets are scarce, and heaters are non-existent – or in the midst of vociferous debates over anything from personality clashes to the core values and mission statement of the Occupation Movement, no one ever says they are going to pack up their tent and go home.
We’re here and we’re going to stay. While everyone from the Progressives to the Far-Right are trying to find a way to take a chunk for themselves, we are galvanizing as a community and a movement. When our friends decide to join with us rather than secretly occupy the Occupation in order to use us, or exploit us, they too may enjoy the same promise of success.
Editor’s Note: photographs and illustration by Liam Fox.
Republished with updates. Original post, November 20, 2011