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Democratic leaders and OWS crackdowns

November 19, 2011

In ‘Here’s What Attempted Co-option of OWS Looks Like‘ Glenn Greenwald slammed the disingenuous and immoral ‘Occupy Congress’ effort to siphon the energy, labor, mass appeal, and success of the growing Occupy mobilization into electoral and presidential support. I want to make it clear that I support actual SEIU custodial workers—last week I signed a pledge saying I would respect and help mobilize for their strike at Harvard and not cross picket lines, though a settlement with the University has since been reached—even as I join in the outcry against their hierarchical, co-opting leadership. I’m quoting at length because of the urgency and research (for anyone having slept through the last three years) behind this:

Having SEIU officials — fresh off endorsing the Obama re-election campaign — shape, fund, dictate and decree an anti-GOP, pro-Obama march is about as antithetical as one can imagine to what the Occupy movement has been. And pretending that the ongoing protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already. The strength and genius of OWS has been its steadfast refusal to (a) fall into the trap that ensnared the Tea Party of being exploited as a partisan tool and (b) integrate itself into the very political institutions which it’s scorning and protesting.

I disagree with the prevailing wisdom that OWS should begin formulating specific legislative demands and working to elect specific candidates. I have no doubt that many OWS protesters will ultimately vote and even work for certain candidates — and that makes sense — but the U.S. desperately needs a citizen movement devoted to working outside of political and legal institutions and that is designed to be a place of dissent against it. Integrating it into that system is a way of narrowing its appeal and, worse, sapping it of its unique attributes and fear-generating potency.

Beyond that, and more important, does SEIU think that people will just ignore these key political facts? How does anyone think these protesters will be convinced that it’s exclusively the GOP — and not the Democratic Party and the Obama WH — who “protect the rich” when: Wall Street funded the Democrats far more than the GOP in the 2008 election; the Democrats’ key money man, Charles Schumer, is one of the most devoted Wall Street servants in the country; Obama empowered in key positions Wall Street servants such as Tim GeithnerLarry SummersBill DaleyRahm Emanuel, and an endless roster of former Goldman officials; JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been dubbed “Obama’s favorite banker” after Obama publicly defended his post-bailout $17 million bonus; the President named the CEO of GE to head his jobs panel; the DCCC and DSCC exist to ensure the nomination of corporatist candidates and Blue Dogs whose political worldview is servitude to the lobbyist class; the Democratic President, after vocally urging an Age of Austerity, tried very hard to usher in cuts to Social Security and an increase in the age for Medicare eligibility; and the Obama administration has not only ensured virtually no accountability for the rampant Wall Street fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis, but is actively pressuring New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others to agree to a woefully inadequate settlement to forever shield banks from the consequences of their pervasive mortgage fraud.

On a more local level it’s imperative to ask where the majority of the onslaught against Occupy mobilizations have originated. A few weeks ago I documented [see tweets above, beginning bottom-up] the electoral leadership of nine of the most damning cities—I included billionaire New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg because up until the post-9/11 elections he was a lifelong Democrat, and he frequently diffuses the rhetoric of the Democratic party in a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to feign support for civil liberties and civil rights—and all nine were Democratic mayors. This includes the first female Asian mayor of Oakland and the black mayor of Atlanta: machine-party politics from the President on down have sucked dry whatever initial semi-biographical potential for people-over-profits.

It’s imperative to document these narrow and growing attempts at appropriation of hard-won battles. While the majority of Occupy mobilizations are poised to create novel, alter-models of self-organization, there is still a subset of people, however well-intentioned, who believe that reliance on the old systems of electoral politics can enact justice. Whatever the outcome of the next election and subsequent local and municipal elections the Occupy movement (if it is indeed to become a full movement, like the feminist and civil rights movements) must hold sway over its own power rather than be swayed.

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