Tag Archives: Occupy Movement

Update: OCCUPY SPRING

The OCCUPY MOVEMENT was scattered last Fall, chilled by the weather, and bludgeoned by local police. The POWERs think that it is a spent force. But every source within the Movement says that it will be back this Spring and it will not come back alone.

The following organizations have endorsed OCCUPY SPRING 2012 and are urging their members to participate and support the Movement:

Jobs With Justice, United Auto Workers,National Peoples Action,National Domestic Workers Alliance, MoveOn.org, New Organizing Institute,Movement Strategy Center, The Other 98%, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Rebuild the Dream, Color of Change, UNITE-HERE,Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, PICO National Network, New Bottom Line, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, SNCC Legacy Project, United Steel Workers, Working Families Party,Communications Workers of America, United States Student Association,Rainforest Action Network, American Federation of Teachers, Leadership Center for the Common Good, UNITY, National Guestworker Alliance,350.org, The Ruckus Society, Citizen Engagement Lab, smart Meme Strategy& Training Project, Right to the City Alliance, Pushback Network,Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Progressive Democrats of America, Change to Win, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future, Public Campaign Action Fund, Fuse Washington,Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Citizen Action of New York, Engage, United Electrical Workers Union, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Alliance for a Just Society, The Partnership for Working Families, United Students Against Sweatshops, Presente.org, GetEqual, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees,Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Corporate Accountability International, American Federation of Government Employees, Training for Change, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), Student Labor Action Project, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Green for All, DC Jobs with Justice, Midwest Academy, The Coffee Party, International Forum on Globalization, UFCW International Union, Sunflower Community Action,Illinois People’s Action, Lakeview Action Coalition, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Resource Generation, Highlander Research and Education Center, Take Action Minnesota, Energy Action Coalition.

If OCCUPY returns it will surely be apparent by Memorial Day weekend.

Advertisements

99% Spring — Real or Con?

The DISSENTING DEMOCRAT has referenced the 99% Spring project favorably and was surprised to receive this negative review. We’re not sure but “The Insider’s” take on what might be a con job is worth reading.

THE INSIDER  4/12/2012 COUNTERPUNCH

In an earlier installment, I noted that eight key smoking guns point to the fact that the much-ballyhooed “99-Percent Spring,” taking place from April 9-15, is merely a front group for MoveOn.org and the Democratic Party. More specifically, it is a front for the Obama Administration and the Party’s 2012 electoral efforts.

The article has proven contentious in many circles, and was analyzed in many lefty publications, including Salon.com, TheHuffingtonPost, The Nation, TaylorMarsh.com, and Dissent Magazine, to name several. Those articles wrestled with the ongoing battle occurring between genuine, mostly volunteer grassroots Occupy activists and well-paid full-time Democratic Party-allied “activists.” ‘

In the main, the articles dug into the whether or not The 99 Spring was playing a constructive, supportive role of the real on-the-ground Occupy movements in cities nationwide and worldwide, or on the contrary, if The 99 Spring’s raison d’etre is simply to co-opt the Occupy movement and steal it as its own, while pooling those efforts into the Democratic Party’s electoral efforts in 2012.

These liberal commentators shared similar observations:

●      “All parties seem mindful of the dreaded accusations of co-option, but rarely does such an annexation occur overnight,” explained The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny on April 6.

●      “It seems to me that the 99 Percent Spring does indeed complement large sections of Occupy efforts – the sorts of actions, accessible to media narratives, that directly protest institutions like Bank of America, ALEC or rulings like Citizens United,” posited Salon.com’s Natasha Lennard.

●      The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim wrote, “It’s a reflection of how the Occupy movement has forced some institutional liberal groups to radicalize — or at least appear to — to meet the new fervent climate, as stubborn unemployment and yawning inequality push activism outside the confines of traditional electoral politics.

The so-called “independent media” and news shows, such asAlterNet, TruthOut, The Nation on multiple occasions, BillMoyers’ newshow, The Thom Hartmann Show on two occasions, and The Nation Washington Editor Chris Hayes’ show “Up with ChrisHayes,” have also offered shameless plugs and interviews for The 99 Spring’s organizers, and have been likely been “in on the take,” so to speak and in varying degrees, of this well-coordinated effort.

Co-Option 101

Above and beyond softball coverage of the prospective “movement,” though, is a fundamental misunderstanding, among all factions, of the type of co-option MoveOn.org and Friends have already achieved and continue to achieve, of the Occupy movement.

There are a number of ways to derail or co-opt social justice movements.

Government agents and/or corporate agents can go right in, infiltrate it with informants and agent provocateurs, and behave in such a way so as to delegitimize the movement in the public sphere. This is generally done by intelligence agencies and police forces, such as the FBI, CIA and NYPD, both at home and abroad.

Governments, corporations and foundations can also seduce the leadership of movements with money and power, and get organizations to work in ways palatable to them.

In this case, the co-option of the Occupy Movement has occurred in a classic fashion developed by MoveOn.org and its network of liberal foundation funded, Democratic Party allies. All claim to be “responsible progressives working for fundamental social change,” yet the reality is far more mendacious.MoveOn.org directed networks, such as The 99 Spring, excel at the creation of dog and pony shows, pageantry, and theatrical performances to co-opt the imagery, language, and ideas of a movement, including the very idea of direct action itself.

In this case, it’s the Occupy movement, showing the servile mainstream media, as well as the so-called “left” media (with which it shares the same funding streams) that The 99 Spring is the organized, more professional, and more responsible heir to the Occupy movement, with a suave spokesman, too: Van Jones, head of theRebuild the Dream “movement.”

For a group like MoveOn.org, the existence of an on-the-ground social justice movement, after all, is perfect — it relies on movements of this sort to co-opt for its own purposes: electing Democrats.

This all fits and coalesces nicely into what was discussed in Matt Bai’s 2007 best-selling book “The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics,” when in November 2006 –Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York — after the 2006 elections, told an exclusive group of 100Democracy Alliance millionaire funders the following about how to win elections in 2008 (and by extension, co-opt social movements):

“You seize the biggest idea you can, the biggest idea you can understand. And this is what moves elections. Now it’s 2006 and we’re all rejoicing. Why? Because of Iraq. A GIFT. A gift to the Democrats. A lot of whom voted for the war anyway. If Iraq is not an issue, then what issues do we have to talk about?”

Clearly, “the gift” this time around for the block for MoveOn.org and Friends is the Occupy movement and the concept (as opposed to the actualization) of economic justice.Thus, The 99 Spring is a sly way to list-build, and by extension, fund-raise, always at the forefront of the mind of Democratic Party fundraisers, who share a close, revolving-door relationship with MoveOn.org.

 Giving Angry Citizens “Somewhere Else to Go”

Many playing the co-option game have argued that MoveOn.org is not even the central player here, and is just offering its technology and email blast capability to move The 99 Spring forward and “make it bloom.”

“In case it hasn’t been made clear enough, MoveOn is not part of the Democratic Party, nor part of the DNC. It has 7 million members, many of whom have been very involved in their local Occupy groups,” Laura Dawn, MoveOn.org Cultural Director,told Salon.

MoveOn.org, in its email blasts, has gone so far as to overtly (and disingenuously) defend itself, writing, “MoveOn.org Civic Action is hosting the online event registration process but is not responsible for the content or programming of the trainings or for the planning or organization of any specific actions. The 99% Spring is a collaborative effort between many organizations to train over 100,000 Americans in the basics of nonviolent direct action—not an electoral campaign.”

These statements could not be more cynical, given the revelations in Bai’s “The Argument,” in which he explained (emphases mine) “Until MoveOn, wealthy liberals had been trained to give their cash to the Democratic Party and its candidates….In creating MoveOn, (Wesley) Boyd (MoveOn.org’s Founder) suddenly gave thousands of…people who had become estranged from politics during the Clinton era somewhere else to go.”

Boyd was simply being honest: MoveOn.org is a clever front for the Democratic Party, known by critical citizens as Wall Street’s favorite party, alongside the Republican Party. It truly does give enraged citizens “somewhere else to go.” In this case it’s The 99 Spring.

A close observation of the situation, shows this is quite clearly an electoral campaign, particularly since, in American politics, it is never not “campaign season,” but rather, it is a permanent electoral campaign.

The best example of how well-coordinated this whole scheme is can be seen through the lens of the new legislative push by the Obama Administration/Democratic Party/MoveOn.org for “tax fairness,” via the “Buffett Rule.”

 The Smoking Gun: The 99 Spring’s Pushes Buffett Rule for “Tax Fairness”

In an April 9 email sent out to The 99 Spring Trainers, Joy Cushman and Liz Butler (whose biographical details are explained in part one) gave a few “final reminders before your event.” The final one reminder:

“After your training, plan a Tax Day protest. The 99% movement is mobilizing to demand that the 1% pay their fair share in taxes on Tax Day, April 17. This is a great opportunity to take action following your training. Progressive groups are organizing hundreds of marches, rallies, and protests at big, tax-dodging corporations and in our communities to highlight the disparity in the tax code for the 99% compared to the 1%. Click here to host or sign up for a Tax the  1% protest  near you.”

If one proceeds to click on the link, he or she is taken to a page that reads, “The tax code is rigged for the 1%. Not only do corporations like Bank of America get away with dodging taxes, the millionaire CEOs of these unpatriotic companies get a fat tax refund each year thanks to the Bush tax cuts. But we’ve had enough, and the 99% is fighting back to make millionaires and corporations pay their fair share.”

That page invites the reader to sign up to host a “Tax the 1% protest,” which is a link that takes the viewer to another page titled the “Tax the  1%  Protest Guide,” which comes equipped with what is assuredly pre-packaged, pre-approved talking points. These populist talking points are tested by higher-ups at Media Matters for America’s “Message Matters” project, who work in concert with Democratic Party operatives. Media Matters, along with the Center for American Progress (CAP), are the “nerve centers” of the Democratic Party-allied, liberal foundation funded non-profit world.

Also included: pre-made protest day signs designed by MoveOn.org, sign-insheets, a media advisory, and most importantly in this instance, a media guide. The media guide heavily emphasizes adhering to the pre-packaged, well-tested talking points. And why the sign in sheets? To build up lists for the fundraising database for the 2012 elections.

On the Guide, variations of the term “fair” are used four times, while one premade sign reads, “Make the 1%  Pay Their Fair Share.” Lo and behold and completely coincidentally (NOT!), while MoveOn.org and Friends are pushing citizens toward “protests for tax fairness,” Obama and the Democratic Party are also pressing forward with the “Buffett Rule” this week, which purportedly promotes “tax fairness.” The Buffett Rule is named after the third richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, who also happens to be a major campaign contributor to Obama.

The Media Matters website, proving my point about the pre-packaged and pre-tested talking points, now features a “Message Matters” page dedicated exclusively to the Buffett Rule, where the term “fair”  is used five times. Media Matters runs its own shadowy Super PAC, called the American Bridge  21st Century, which is run by the Founder of Media Matters, David Brock, who left Media Matters in 2010 to run the Super PAC.

Topping it off: the Obama for President website now features a Buffett Rule “tax fairness” hub, with a portion of a sub-section of the thub reading “Tax Fairness: The Choice in November.”

 Not coordinated or convinced yet? Oh, there’s more.

Obama Promotes Tax Fairness for the 99% While Fundraising From the 1%

Most say if one talks the talk he or she should also walk the walk. Alas, these rules are not in play for Obama apologists and sycophants.

On April 10, the Obama Administration published a report titled, “The Buffett Rule: A BasicPrinciple of Tax Fairness,” with the term “fair” used eight times in the press release and another ten times in the report itself.

 That same day, Obama sojourned to five campaign events in Florida.

The first one took place at the private residence of Hansel and Paula Tookes in Palm Beach County, at a luncheon with a going rate of $10,000/plate. Hansel Tookes is the former President of Raytheon International Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Aircraft, and Executive Vice President of Raytheon Company, all three of military-industrial complex infamy. Prior to that, Tookes worked at a United Technologies Corporation’s subsidiary, Pratt and Whitney, as president of its Large Military Engines Group. Paula Tookes has already given Obama $6,000 so far in the 2012 election cycle. To this crowd of “one-percenters,” Obama did not use a single variation of the term “fair.”

A second event unfolded in front of a student-heavy crowd Florida Atlantic University, and focused on the economy, aka, the Buffett Plan and “tax fairness,” where variations of the word “fair” were used six times by Obama and Buffett’s name used on three occasions. A third one was held in Hollywood, Florida, with a cost $500-$5,000 per plate, where Buffett’s name was dropped once and variations of the term “fair” used three times.

Another event took place in Miami, Florida. At that event “roughly 60 people…each paid $15,000 for a dinner at the seaside home of lawyer Jeremy Alters,” according to CNN. Though a transcript of the speech is unavailable, UPI reported that Obama stated at the event, “What we’ve been fighting for is for everyone to have a fair shot and for everyone to do their fair share by playing by the same sets of rules.

Bloomberg described Alters’ Golden Beach neighborhood as “an enclave of mansions on the oceanfront in northeast Miami-Dade County where the average listing price for homes on sale there has run well above $2 million.”

Atlers, according to his biography appearing on the Alters Law Firm website, “served on John Kerry’s National Finance Committee for his 2004 Presidential run, and was one of President Barack Obama’s initial National Finance Committee members. [He] has actively been involved in raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.” According to Public Citizen, Atlers helped Obama bundle over $200,000 for his 2008 campaign, roughly a quarter of the money he raised for the entire campaign cycle.

Another meet-and-greet fundraiser charged “$2,500 to attend and featured senior campaign and DNC officials briefing approximately 50 supporters on the administration’s efforts on behalf of the LGBT community.” No speech was given at this event.

In total, the Obama campaign raised over $1.75 million for the day while, in the most cynical manner possible, making the rounds promoting The 99 Spring/Media Matters for America/Democratic Party “tax fairness” proposal. This amounts to over 66 U.S. Media Annual Wages, all in several hours work.

The Washington Times summed up the day’s events best, headlining an article titled, “Obama attacks inequality while soliciting big-money donors.”

In the meantime, 978 trainershavesignedtoteach the masses a “nonviolent direct action” tutorial that amounts to nothing more than a well-coordinated charade, with tens of thousands of well-meaning citizens being duped, once again, by cynical Democratic Party operatives using massive economic inequality as a “gift.”

Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice….

We’ve seen this tale play out before.

In an interview, activist and author John Stauber — who founded the Center for Media and Democracy in 1993 and ran it until 2009 — laid it out: “Democratic donors and unions have — since the 2000 Nader/Gore/Bush election — flowed millions of election year dollars into non-profit organizations and liberal media to rally progressives and create an echo chamber that can impact politics in favor of Democrats.”

“Clearly this is precisely what’s at play for the 99% Spring effort led by MoveOn.org, Van Jones and other trusted Democratic Party collaborators. 99% Spring’s activities will surely be carefully and quietly coordinated behind the scenes to have a maximum positive impact in defeating Republicans and re-electing President Obama,” he continued. “These groups will claim independence from the 2012 Democratic campaign agenda, but the fact is that funding will flow to them simply to create buzz and the appearance of a movement that dovetails perfectly with Obama’s campaign rhetoric. For months we have seen Democratic advertising money flowing to loyal media collaborators such as on AlterNet, The Nation, Mother Jones, and others.”

He closed by saying, “Come December this big liberal election year slush fund will dry up, but until then the progressives who play this game will have plenty of cash for staffing, online media, and protest events aimed at Republicans. The feeding trough is overflowing for those who play this game every four years.”

And who suffers? First and foremost, the 99-percent The 99 Spring claims to speak for, while professional liberal foundation-funded, Democratic Party allied activists, think-tankers, “journalists” and operatives feed at the trough of this delicious and corrupt election year gravy train.

A Shakespearean tragedy, to say the least.

The Insider is the pseudonym of an activist who works inside the Liberal Foundation-Funded Democratic Party-Allied Belly of the Beast.

Occupy May Day

By Jeremy Brecher
Distributed by Portside

[Based on a talk by Jeremy Brecher to Occupy
University, Zuccotti Park.]

Last December, Occupy Los Angeles proposed a General
Strike on May 1 “for migrant rights, jobs for all, a
moratorium on foreclosures, and peace – and to
recognize housing, education and health care as human
rights.”  The idea has spread through the Occupy
movement.  Occupy Wall Street in New York recently
expressed solidarity with the proposal and called for
“a day without the 99%, general strike, and more!” with
“no work, no school, no housework, no shopping, take
the streets!”  Reactions are ranging from enthusiastic
support to outraged skepticism.  What form might such
an action take, and what if anything might it achieve?

General Strikes and Mass Strikes

One thing is for sure: Such a May Day action is
unlikely to be very much like the general strikes that
have cropped up occasionally in US labor history in
cities like Seattle, Oakland, and Stamford, Ct., or the
ones that are a staple of political protest in Europe.
These are typically conducted by unions whose action is
called for and coordinated by central labor councils or
national labor federations.  But barely twelve percent
of American workers are even members of unions, and
American unions and their leaders risk management
reprisals and even criminal charges for simply
endorsing such a strike.

Most Occupy May Day advocates understand that a
conventional general strike is not in the cards.  What
they are advocating instead is a day in which members
of the “99%” take whatever actions they can to withdraw
from participation in the normal workings of the
economic system — by not working if that is an option,
but also by not shopping, not banking, and not engaging
in other “normal” everyday activities, and by joining
demonstrations, marches, disruptions, occupations, and
other mass actions.

This is the pattern that was followed by the Oakland
General Strike last November.  Those who wanted to and
could – a small minority – didn’t go to work.  There
was mass participation in rallies, marches,
educational, and artistic events and a free lunch for
all.  At the end of the day a march, combined with some
walkouts, closed the Port of Oakland.     The mostly
peaceful “general strike,” in contrast to later violent
Oakland confrontations, won wide participation and
support.

To understand what the significance of such an event
might be, it helps to look at what Rosa Luxemburg
called periods of “mass strike.”  These were not single
events, but rather whole periods of intensified class
conflict in which working people began to see and act
on their common interests through a great variety of
activities, including strikes, general strikes,
occupations, and militant confrontations.

Such periods of mass strike have occurred repeatedly in
US labor history.  For example:

. In 1877, in the midst of deep depression and a
near-obliteration of trade unions, workers shut down
the country’s dominant industry, the railroads, shut
down most factories in dozens of cities, battled police
and state militias, and only were suppressed when the
US Army and other armed forces killed more than a
hundred participants and onlookers.

. In the two years from 1884 to 1886, workers
swelled the Knights of Labor ten-fold from 70,000
members to 700,000 members.  In 1886, more than
half-a-million workers in scores of cities joined a May
1st strike for the eight-hour day. The movement was
broken by a reign of terror that followed a police
attack that is usually but perversely referred to as
the “Haymarket Riot.”  May Day became a global labor
holiday in honor of the “Haymarket Martyrs” who were
tried by a judge so prejudiced against them that their
execution has often been referred to as “judicial
murder.”

. In 1937, hundreds of thousands of workers
occupied their factories and other workplaces in
“sitdown strikes” and housewives, students, and many
other people applied the same tactic to address their
own grievances.

. In 1970, in the midst of national upheavals
around the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, and
a widespread youth revolt, postal workers, teamsters,
and others took part in an unprecedented wave of
wildcat strikes, while miners held a month-long
political strike in West Virginia to successfully
demand justice for victims of black lung disease.

Such periods of mass strike present what Rosa Luxemburg
called “A perpetually moving and changing sea of
phenomena.” Each is unique in its events and its
unfolding.  But they are all marked by an expanding
challenge to established authority, a widening
solidarity among different groups of working people,
and a growing assertion by workers of control over
their own activity.

In periods of mass strike working people become
increasingly aware of themselves as a group with a
common situation, common problems, and common
opponents.  They organize themselves in a great variety
of ways.  They become aware of their capacity to act
collectively.  They become aware of their potential
power.  And they opt to act collectively.

However much it may chagrin organizers and radicals, it
is not possible to call or instigate a mass strike.  It
is something that must gestate in workplaces and
communities (now including virtual communities).  But
it is possible to nurture and influence the emergence
of mass strikes through discussion and above all
through exemplary action.  Provoking discussion and
showing the possibilities of collective action is what
Occupy Wall Street has done so well.  That is what its
May Day action can potentially do.

What Occupy May Day Could Achieve

The Occupy May Day event is first of all a great chance
for 99% to show itself, see itself, and express itself
– to represent itself to itself and to others.  The
kinds of plans that are being made by OWS in New York,
with a wide variety of ways in which people are being
invited to participate, can encourage multiple levels
of sympathy, response, connection, and mobilization
among the 99%.  The result can be a percolation of the
ideas OWS has been promoting through workplaces,
communities, and other milieus.

May Day can provide a teachable moment.  It is an
opportunity for millions of people to contemplate the
power that arises from collectively withdrawing
cooperation and consent.  It can propagate the idea of
self-organization, for example through general
assemblies.  If it truly draws together a wide range of
working people, ranging from the most impoverished to
professionals, from urban to suburban to rural, and
including African Americans, Latinos, whites, and
immigrants, it can embody the ability of the 99% to act
as a group.  It can demonstrate the idea of solidarity,
for example by the movement as a whole supporting the
needs of some particular groups.  And because May Day
is a global working class holiday which will be
celebrated all over the world, it can reveal a rarely
seen vision of a global working class of which we are
as individuals and as members of diverse groups are
part.

Given these possibilities, what would constitute
success for May Day?  Here are some examples of
desirable outcomes:

.  Reveal that there is a 99% movement that is far
wider than the subset of its members who can confront
the police and sleep in downtown parks.

.  Encourage a large number of people who have not
done so before to identify with and participate in some
way with the “99% movement.”

.  Project core issues of the 99% — like the list
above from Occupy LA -into the pubic arena.

.  Raise issues that are crucial for the future of
the 99% — notably the climate crisis and the
destruction of the Earth’s environment – that have not
yet been recognized as part of the Occupy critique of
financial institutions and corporate capitalism.

.  Evoke self-organization in workplaces, for
example general assemblies among workmates, on the job
if possible, in the parking lot or another venue if
not.

.  Create a self-awareness of the global 99% —
possible because May Day is celebrated globally.

Unions and May Day

American unions are bound by laws specifically designed
to prevent them from taking part in strikes about
issues outside their own workplace, such as sympathetic
strikes and political strikes.  In most cases they are
also banned from participating in strikes while they
have a contract.  Unions that violate these
prohibitions are subject to crushing fines and loss of
bargaining rights.  Their leaders can be packed off to
jail.  While unions have at times struck anyway, they
are unlikely to do so for something like the May Day
general strike until the level of class conflict has
risen so high that workers are willing to face such
consequences.

Historically, American unions have also opposed their
members’ participation in strikes union officials have
not authorized because they wished to exercise a
monopoly of authority over their members’ collective
action.  In labor movement parlance, such unauthorized
actions were condemned as “dual unionism.”  US unions
have often disciplined and sometimes supported the
firing and blacklisting of workers who struck without
official authorization.  As a result, unions have often
deterred their members from participating in mass
strike actions even when the rank and file wanted to.

The Occupy movement, however, should not be seen as a
competitor to existing unions.  It is not about
relations between a group of workers and their
employer.  It does not engage or wish to engage in
collective bargaining.  Although it supports the right
of workers to organize themselves, it is not a union.
It focuses on broader social issues.  It is a class
movement of the 99%, not a labor or trade union
movement.

Unions in New York and elsewhere are eager to
participate in coalition actions with the Occupy
movement – and they are planning to do so on May Day.
But to ask them to instruct their members to strike may
be to ask them to commit institutional suicide.

One approach to this dilemma may be for unions to say
they will abide by the law and not order their members
to strike, but that as human beings and as people
living under the US Constitution their members are not
slaves and cannot be compelled to work against their
will.   Where union members want to participate in May
Day by not going to work, unions can say, we did not
tell them to strike, but we do not have the right to
force anyone to work against their will.  A historical
precedent:  When Illinois miners repeatedly went on
extended wildcat strikes and Mineworker leader
Alexander Howat was commanded to order them back to
work, he would simply reply that since he had not
ordered the strikers out, he could not order them back.

Organized labor has to change, and activities like
Occupy’s May Day can contribute to that change.  But
they can do so at this point not by making impossible
demands on union leaders but by inspiration, example,
solidarity, and providing alternative experiences for
union members.

Global Mass Strike

We are today in the midst of an unrecognized global
mass strike – witness the mass upheavals reported in
the news almost daily from countries around the world.
Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street represent the first
stirrings of American workers to join this global
movement.  May Day 2012 will be a global event, and it
presents an opportunity to create a new self-awareness
of the global 99% and its ability to act collectively.

While the Occupy movement has focused on the issues of
economic injustice, it is increasingly addressing
another issue that is central to the well being of the
99% — indeed of all people – nationally and globally.
In January a resolution passed by consensus at the
Occupy Wall Street General Assembly stated, “We are at
a dangerous tipping point in history.  The destruction
of our planet and climate change are almost at a point
of no return.”

While climate denialism is still rife in the US, the
rest of the world recognizes the existential threat of
catastrophic climate change and the necessity of
converting the world’s economy to a climate-safe basis.
The labor movement in the rest of the world is
committed to the economic transformation necessary to
save the Earth’s climate.  That transformation can be
the core of an emerging global program to create a
secure economic and environmental future for all by
putting the world’s people to work transforming the
world’s economy to a low-pollution, climate-friendly,
sustainable basis.

May Day has been an international labor holiday for
more than a century.  But for millennia it has been a
day for the celebration of nature.  This May Day can be
an opportunity to draw the two together to represent
the common global interest in creating work for all
reconstructing the global economy to protect rather
than destroy the Earth.

Eugene Victor Debs & the Original “Occupy” Movement

Joanne Boyer  

founder of WisdomVoices www.WisdomVoices.com

How different are the times we live in from those of past
generations?  Are the challenges we face today of the 99
percent vs. the 1 percent or the overtaking of government
rule by millionaires and billionaires that much different
than other times in our nation’s history?

I know for me it seems that we are at a precipice unlike any
I remember.  And yet for the past year or so I find myself
being drawn back to a time nearly 100 years ago that has an
eerily similar look and feel to what we are experiencing
today. I know for me, this was one of my least favorite
periods in American history. Who wanted to study Robber
Barons and abuse of the working class when we were living
through the hey day of a vibrant middle class with union
wages and a public education system geared to support and
educate all of us? Surely, this was ancient history and we
would never be doomed to repeat the mistakes of that time.

Perhaps it was the Wisconsin demonstrations that started
after the Koch brothers-funded election of Scott Walker and
his radical anti-everything legislation pushed hundreds of
thousands to the streets.  Was it just me, or did you not
hear the spirit of Robert M. (Fighting Bob) LaFollette in
the voices and speeches of those fighting for worker rights
and human rights in Wisconsin? Few spoke more passionately
for moving corporate control out of politics than the
Progressive Movement’s Fighting Bob.

Wisconsin struck the first chord in a people’s movement that
ultimately led to Occupy Wall Street  last fall.  We now
await spring of 2012 and what many of us hope will be
revitalized demonstrations that will hearken back to the man
I’d like to call the original occupier – Eugene V. Debs. We
are delighted to feature him as our March Progressive
Profile. http://wisdomvoices.com/the-original-occupier/

Debs and LaFollette were both stalwarts of the American
Progressive Movement and are both featured in my book Wisdom
of Progressive Voices. The courage demonstrated in the fight
against the corporate control of their time is being
resurrected by a new generation struggling to keep our
democracy from turning into an oligarchy.

In his book Democracy’s Prisoner:  Eugene V. Debs, The Great
War, and The Right To Dissent, Ernest Freeberg describes the
time of Debs’ incarceration for speaking out against the
U.S. involvement in World War I as that of a conservative
reaction in which people were governed more out of fear than
out of hope.  Debs was 62 when he was sentenced to 10 years
in a federal prison for violating the Espionage and Sedition
Acts of 1917-18; laws passed by Congress to promote the war
by banning anti-war speeches.  As Debs awaited his appeal to
the Supreme Court, Freeberg notes:

“…Debs did not expect that his appeal would
provide either liberty or justice.  The real fight
for free speech he believed would not be won in
lawyers’ briefs, but on street corners, public
squares, and factory floors.  This was ultimately a
battle, not for individual liberties as defined by
the courts, but for control of the entire democratic
process, at the ballot box and in the workplace.”

Our March profile provides a brief look at the man known as
the champion of the working class for his work in
organizing, for fighting for social justice and for serving
jail time because he dared to speak out against a war he
said was being fought for profit and not to save democracy.
I greatly enjoyed my trip to the public library to check out
books and read more on this great American hero. I urge
everyone to rediscover the joys of the public library –
whether via kindle or checking out a book – before the
public library faces the challenge of privatization.

A look back can help us see where we are today. It also
offers hope that the challenges we face will eventually lead
to a brighter future. Can anyone doubt Debs’ spirit and
fervor lives in the Occupy Movement of today? As he told the
judge before sentencing for his violation of the Sedition
Act of 1918:

“I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity.
The people are awakening. In due time they will and
must come to their own.”

* * * * * * *

“I can see them (the working class) dwarfed,
diseased, stunted, their little lives broken and
their hopes blasted because in the high noon of our
20th century civilization, money is still so much
more important than human life.”

-Eugene V. Debs

The spring of 2012 offers the hope of a new Occupy Movement
ready to sweep the country. Occupy Wall Street captivated
the nation last fall and was the main instrument for turning
our national political conversation to the real crisis at
hand: The 99 percent vs. the 1 percent. Our country stands
on the brink of losing its democratic foundation.  Oligarchy
(defined as a form of government in which the ruling power
belongs to a few persons) seems possible. Consider the
Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the crack down on
the Occupy Movement by the local, state and federal
government, and voter suppression laws and electronic voting
machine fraud that threaten the ability of “We the People”
to cast our votes and have them counted properly.

As we await the start of what promises to be a new people’s
movement to reclaim our country, we offer you a brief look
at the life and words of one of our country’s original
“occupiers.”

Eugene Victor Debs, born in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1855,
is a study in citizen heroism, and his life demonstrates the
important role the average person plays in mobilizing a
movement. His life paralleled another tumultuous time in our
history, when the robber barons of the 19th century
industrial revolution created a society of have and have-
nots.  Debs’ first job at age 14 (no child labor laws yet to
be enacted) was that of railroad worker. He quickly learned
the worker’s plight first hand, which led him to become a
railroad union organizer. He led a successful strike against
the Great Northern Railroad in 1894. Two months later, he
was jailed for his role in a strike against the Chicago
Pullman Palace Car Company. In prison he honed his
understanding that labor issues were really the issues of
society and it is where he began to embrace socialism.

“I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for
one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass
a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions
of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure
barely enough for a wretched existence,” Debs told a federal
court before sentencing after being convicted for violating
the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917-18, laws passed by
Congress to promote World War I by banning anti-war speech.

Less than 100 years ago, it was possible for the federal
government to arrest, put on trial and incarcerate
individuals who spoke out against President Woodrow Wilson
and the country’s entry into the Great War. Debs, who had
long vocalized his support of the working class, took his
anti-war message to the people in Canton, Ohio, in June 1918
knowing full well he could be arrested.  It was against this
backdrop when the people seemed to be governed more by fear
than hope that Debs told a picnic gathering on a hot
summer’s afternoon:

“They have always taught you that it is your
patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves
slaughtered at command…And here let me state a
fact – and it cannot be repeated too often:  the
working class who fight the battles, the working
class who make the sacrifices, the working class who
shed the blood, the working class who furnish the
corpses, the working class have never yet had a
voice in declaring war.”

Journalists who covered that Canton speech were instrumental
in leading the charge for Debs’ arrest and prosecution for
violation of federal law. At his trail, Debs charged the
government was persecuting him not for undermining the
draft, but because he dared to challenge the plutocrats who
ran the country and were reaping large profits from the war.
Debs contended the country was not fighting a noble war to
save democracy but rather, the country had joined European
nations in a greedy struggle over profits.

In his trial, Debs described the Espionage Act as “a
despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with the democratic
principles and with the spirit of free institutions” and
later said he believed the law to be unjust but that it was
only one small expression of a much greater injustice which
lay at the foundation of the entire social system.  He told
the judge that 5 percent of Americans owned two thirds of
the nation’s wealth, while nearly 65 percent who made up the
working class owned only 5 percent.

“I can see them (the working class) dwarfed,
diseased, stunted, their little lives broken and
their hopes blasted because in the high noon of our
20th century civilization, money is still so much
more important than human life.”

Debs ran for president in 1920 while in a federal prison for
violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917-18, which
prohibited speeches against U.S. involvement in World War I.

Debs was convicted in Ohio; he lost his appeal to the
Supreme Court; and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison,
serving time at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. He ran
for president of the United States in 1920 on the Socialist
Party ticket while behind bars.  He garnered over 900,000
votes, but finished well behind the eventual winner
Republican Warren G. Harding. Harding commuted Debs’
sentence on Christmas Day 1921.

Debs’ health suffered greatly while in prison, yet he took
up his speech making where he left off before his arrest. He
continued to criticize Wilson and claimed the war had been
fought for profit, not democracy. “60,000 American boys had
died only to produce 30,000 new millionaires,” he declared.

Debs’ was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1924 on the
basis of arguing that the Great War was fought mainly in the
interest of capitalism. He died on October 20, 1926, at the
age of 70.  The Eugene V. Debs Foundation in Terre Haute is
dedicated to “keeping alive the spirit of progressivism,
humanitarianism and social criticism epitomized by Debs.” He
remains one of the greatest historical voices for the
working class and the 99 percent. From a speech nearly 100
years ago, he said:

“Political parties are responsive to the interests
of those who finance them. This is the infallible
test of their character and applied to the
Republican, Democratic and Progressive parties,
these parties stand forth as the several political
expressions of the several divisions of the
capitalist class. The funds of all these parties are
furnished by the capitalist class for the reason,
and only for the reason, that they represent the
interests of that class.”

Occupy Movement to Commemorate July 4

Excerpt from an Associated Press dispatch on February 22

A group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement plans to elect 876 “delegates” from around the country and hold a national “general assembly” in Philadelphia over the Fourth ofJuly as part of ongoing protests over corporate excess and economic inequality.

The group, dubbed the 99% Declaration Working Group, said Wednesdaydelegates would be selected during a secure online election in early Junefrom all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S.territories.

In a nod to their First Amendment rights, delegates will meet inPhiladelphia to draft and ratify a “petition for a redress ofgrievances,” convening during the week of July 2 and holding a newsconference in front of Independence Hall on the Fourth of July.

Any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is 18 years of age orolder may run as a nonpartisan candidate for delegate, according toMichael S. Pollok, an attorney who advised Occupy Wall Street protestersarrested on the Brooklyn Bridge last year and co-founded the workinggroup.

“We feel it’s appropriate to go back to what our founding fathers did andhave another petition congress,” Pollok said in an interview with TheAssociated Press. “We feel that following the footsteps of our foundingfathers is the right way to go.”

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the ContinentalCongress in Philadelphia and cited King George III’s failure to redressthe grievances listed in colonial petitions as a reason to declareindependence.

One man and one woman will be elected from each of the 435 congressional voting districts, according to Pollok, and they will meet in Philadelphiato deliberate, draft and ratify a “redress of grievances.” One delegatewill also be elected to represent each of the U.S. territories.

Organizers won’t take a position on what grievances should be included,Pollok said, but they will likely include issues like getting money outof politics, dealing with the foreclosure crisis and helping students handle loan debt.

Details of the conference are still being worked out, Pollok said, butorganizers have paid for a venue in Philadelphia. Pollok would notidentify the venue, but said it was “a major state-of-the art facility.”Pollok said the group planned to pay for the conference through donations.

Once the petition is completed, Pollok said, the protesters will deliver copies to the White House, members of Congress and the Supreme Court.They will demand that Congress takes action in the first 100 days oftaking office next year. If sufficient action isn’t taken, Pollok said, the delegates will go back to their districts and try to recruit theirown candidates for office.

Occupy to Return in the Spring

Since Occupy Wall Street seeminglywent into hibernation (we note seemingly because the movementkeeps popping up despite what some national outlets are reporting), TheBlaze has brought you plenty of analysis theorizing that the spring couldbe an even bigger time for the movement. Now, it looks like thosetheories have been confirmed: the unions and other leftists haveannounced a “99% spring.”

“We are at a crossroads as a country,”a letter on the sitededicated to the new movement says. “We have a choice to make.Greater wealth for a few or opportunity for many. Tax breaks for therichest or a fair shot for the rest of us. A government that can bebought by the highest bidder, or a democracy that is truly of the people,by the people, and for the people.”

It continues: “The choice is in our hands. This spring, we will act onthat choice and rise up in the tradition of our forefathers andforemothers. We will not be complicit with the suffering in our familiesfor another year. We will prepare ourselves for sustained non-violentdirect action.”

That “preparation” looks like a week-long training session from April9-15. But not just any training session, this training session will beheld across the country and will reportedly feature meetings in “placesof worship:”

From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, inhomes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together inthe work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to: Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible,what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and Get into action on our own campaigns to win change. “This spring we rise!” the website declares. “We will reshape ourcountry with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will takenon-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi toforge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at atime.”

FROM NEWS RELEASE

The Rich Bitch

Paul Krugman commenting on the propensity of the 1% to become hysterical about the Occupy Movement

Excerpt from New York Times (October 9, 2011)
“The Panic of the Plutocrats”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/opinion/panic-of-the-plutocrats.html?_r=1

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall
Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down,
how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not
John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people
who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes
that, far from delivering clear benefits to the
American people, helped push us into a crisis whose
aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of
millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were
bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached.
They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit
federal guarantees – basically, they’re still in a game
of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they
benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have
people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower
rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny – and
therefore, as they see it, there must be no close
scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter
how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven
from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and
moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she
must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of
Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the
protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices
heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s
oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the
sources of their wealth.