OWS rejects take over efforts of DNC, White House

Here’s what attempted co-option of OWS looks like
By Glenn Greenwald
ARTICLE SOURCE: Salon.com

The 2012 election is almost a full year away and nobody knows who is running against President Obama, but that didn't stop Mary Kay Henry, the D.C.-based National President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), from announcing last week that her organization endorses President Obama for re-election. That's not surprising - while many unions have exhibited political independence, SEIU officials have long been among Obama's closest and most loyal allies in Washington — but what was notable here was how brazenly Henry exploited the language of the Occupy movement to justify her endorsement of the Democratic Party leader: "We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent . . . .Our economy and democracy have been taken over by the wealthiest one percent."

But now SEIU's effort to convert and degrade the Occupy movement into what SEIU's national leadership is — a loyal arm of the DNC and the Obama White House — has become even more overt, as Greg Sargent reports today:

One of the enduring questions about Occupy Wall Street has been this: Can the energy unleashed by the movement be leveraged behind a concrete political agenda and push for change that will constitute a meaningful challenge to the inequality and excessive Wall Street influence highlighted by the protests?

A coalition of labor and progressive groups is about to unveil its answer to that question. Get ready for "Occupy Congress."

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.

As I noted several weeks ago, WH-aligned groups such as the Center for American Progress have made explicitly clear that they are going to try to convert OWS into a vote-producing arm for the Obama 2012 campaign, and that’s what "Occupy Congress" is designed to achieve. I believed then and — having spent the last few weeks talking with many OWS protesters around the country — believe even more so now that these efforts will inevitably fail: those who have animated the Occupy movement are not motivated by partisan allegiance or an overarching desire to devote themselves to one of the two parties. In fact, one of the original Occupy groups — as opposed to partisan organizations swooping in to exploit it — has announced its own D.C. occupation to, in part, "demonstrate the failure of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to represent the views of the majority of people."

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. Even if you believe the U.S. has some sort of vibrant democracy — rather than a democracy-immune oligarchy — not all change needs to come exclusively from voting and electoral politics. Citizen movements can change the political culture in ways other than working within that pre-established electoral system; indeed, when that system becomes fundamentally corrupted, working outside of it is the only means of effectuating real change.



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