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An Uprising With Plenty of Potential
James B. Stewart, New York Times
… critics and supporters alike suggest that the influence of the movement could last decades, and that it might even evolve into a more potent force. “A lot of people brush off Occupy Wall Street as incoherent and inconsequential,” Michael Prell told me. “I disagree.”
Mr. Prell is a strategist for the Tea Party Patriots, a grass-roots organization that advocates Tea Party goals of fiscal responsibility, free markets and constitutionally limited government.
… Sidney Tarrow, a visiting professor at the Cornell Law School, an expert in social movements and author of “Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics,” agreed that the movement could emerge as a more potent national force once the encampments were no longer an issue. This week’s evictions “could be the foundation for a national social movement,” he said. The 1964 Sproul Hall sit-in at Berkeley “created a communal basis for a future social movement. They hadn’t met until they were carried out by police. That’s a powerful solidarity-creating experience. We may well see networks of activists growing up because of this. People in the same encampments, and people in different encampments, are now in constant contact and can share experiences. They’ll build a community. That’s why occupation of space is important.”
(18 November 2011)
Here’s what attempted co-option of OWS looks like
Glenn Greenwald, Salon
… 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.
… what happens with fundamentally corrupted political systems is that even well-intentioned candidates — or discrete pieces of legislation that are good in the abstract — become infected and degraded when inserted into that system; if you believe that the wealthiest class anti-democratically controls political institutions (an indisputably true premise), then it makes little sense to expect specific new bills or even individual candidates inserted into that system to bring about much change.
(19 November 2011)
Lobbying Firm’s Memo Spells Out Plan to Undermine Occupy Wall Street (video)
Jonathan Larsen and Ken Olshansky, Up with Chris Hayes, MSNBC
A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”
The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association.
CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.
According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, “This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.”
… The CLGC memo raises another issue that it says should be of concern to the financial industry — that OWS might find common cause with the Tea Party. “Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism,” the memo says. “…This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”
The memo outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters so that Wall Street companies will be prepared to conduct a media campaign in response to OWS.
(19 November 2011)
Related: How Wall Street Rally Views the Protesters
Should the Occupiers Stay or Go?
Rick Salutin, Toronto Star
The Occupy movements have largely become dramas revolving around the excellent question posed by The Clash: Should I stay or should I go? It’s become a story about a place. Some, like London (Ontario) are gone. Others, like London (England) are on notice. Occupy Wall St. is gone but it’s back, in a different form. We’ll know about Occupy Toronto, apparently, tomorrow. But it’s possible that this is the wrong question. Let me offer another view based on a recent visit to Madrid.
The 15-M movement began there last May 15. It wasn’t an occupation. It was a protest held in Puerta del Sol square over the economic crisis that became an overnight occupation. Then it was dismantled by authorities, then it turned into a see-saw conflict over whether they would stay or go. A month later, when they finally went, it was by choice. One veteran of 15-M (there are no leaders) said: “It was a strategic move that led to the survival of the movement.” Almost happenstantially they had evolved another preference: to fan out into districts of the city (and elsewhere in Spain) and conduct regular meetings with local residents. These then forwarded proposals to a weekly “assembly” held in the square.
If you wander around Occupy sites, like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, as I did this week, you often see signs saying, Join Us. It’s hard to imagine many of the people who pass by and warily eye the huddled tents, doing so. The Madrid option in a way is the opposite. It’s: Join Them. Go into your neighborhood, try and talk with your neighbors, different as they may be from you. Listen to them as they talk to you and each other.
This is different from a campaign to simply carry the Occupy message (99 per cent versus 1 per cent, etc.) out to “the people.” Some organizers of the Occupy movements, wrote the New York Times, are heading in that direction: “trying to broaden their influence . . . by deepening their involvement in community groups.” The media critic Danny Schecter took a similar tack, urging the movement to use “ads in newspapers, PSAs and even political infomercials on cable TV” in order “to penetrate deeper into small towns, the suburbs . . .” etc.
But there’s a difference between trying to make a point (Schecter and the organizers quoted by the Times) and trying to engender a social phenomenon (15-M). It’s the difference between trying to win an argument, and focusing on the process of discussion itself, in the hope that something transformative might emerge. “We are going to create a new social category,” says one 15-M participant, the aim of which is not to convince people to vote a certain way or embrace particular views: “It is simply a widening of the political landscape.”
(18 November 2011)