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PORTSIDELABOR  November 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDELABOR November 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Two Articles on Occupy Strategy

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Fri, 18 Nov 2011 19:43:38 -0500

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Two Articles on Occupy Strategy


Occupy Wall Street, not the ballot box

By: Mike Tudoreanu

November 17, 2011

http://dailycollegian.com/2011/11/17/occupy-wall-street-not-the-ballot-box/

Ever since the Occupy movement started, there have been
people saying we should take our concerns to the ballot
box. There have been people saying that it is
uncivilized and disruptive to start encampments in
cities across the nation when we can have our concerns
met by voting progressive candidates into office. Their
argument is that we should enact change through the
proper channels, and anyone who refuses to do that is
just being a nuisance. As a proud member of the 99
percent, I wish to give my reply to such arguments:

We already tried doing what you suggest. It didn't
work.

In 2008, the Democratic Party scored its greatest
electoral victory in over 30 years. A supposedly
liberal president got elected to the White House, while
the Democrats swept through the U.S. House of
Representatives and won a super-majority in the Senate.
If your strategy for change is to vote for liberal
candidates, you could not possibly dream of a better
outcome than in 2008. I remember people eagerly
speculating what the new liberal era might hold. Would
Barack Obama be a new Franklin Roosevelt? Would there
be a new New Deal, with bold new infrastructure
programs - perhaps high-speed rail - to create jobs and
revive the economy? Would the government bailout
working families and stop foreclosures? Would they
repeal George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich? Would
there be universal health care? Would there be a carbon
tax or a cap-and-trade scheme to fight climate change?
Would the Employee Free Choice Act be passed to defend
unions? Would Obama close Guantanamo, stop throwing
people in prison without charges or end the wars?

As it turns out, the answer was none of the above. Not
a single one. The Democrats spent two years in control
of every branch of government, and could not pass even
one of the policies demanded by the people who
campaigned for them and voted them into office. The
best they could do was to pass a pathetic excuse for
health care reform, which made things only slightly
better and was actually more conservative than the
health care reforms once proposed by Richard Nixon. To
defend this amazing record of inaction, the Democrats
kept blaming the Republicans for being "the party of
no" and continually trying to obstruct their
legislation. I'm sorry, but if you can't get your
legislation passed even when you control all branches
of government by wide margins, then you have got to be
the most incompetent political party in the history of
this planet. So why should we once again pin our hopes
and dreams on people who basically admit they are
useless?

The Occupy movement arose precisely because mainstream
politics failed the working people of this country.
There are only two political parties to vote for: one
of them is insane, the other is useless, and they are
both receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from
corporations and banks. Trying to enact change through
the ballot box has clearly become little more than a
waste of time. Nearly all politicians rely on lavish
donations from the top 1 percent to get into office, so
they will naturally do the bidding of the 1 percent
once they get there. It may be possible to elect one or
two congressmen or senators without relying on
corporate sponsors - that does happen every now and
then - but what can a few good people do inside a
government where everyone else has been bought and paid
for? And how long could they stick to their principles
when Wall Street starts making them offers they can't
refuse? Also, let's not forget that the media is
dominated by a few corporations owned by the 1 percent.
Any elected politicians who really threatened the
interests of the rich would have all major TV stations,
newspapers and high-traffic websites turn against them.

That is why we cannot win from within the political
system. So we have no choice but to go outside it. When
the rules of the game are stacked against you, you have
got to change the game. The Occupy movement does not
and must not get involved in electoral politics,
because campaigning for candidates who promise hope and
change is a waste of time and energy. As Bush so
eloquently put it, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me
twice, shame on ... well, you can't get fooled again."

But, one might ask, what else is there to do other than
trying to get candidates elected? There is plenty to
do. Corrupt politicians will not listen to the people
when we give them what little money we have or campaign
for them, but they will listen when they fear what
might happen if they don't. They will listen when
workers across an entire city or state go on a general
strike. They will listen when tens of thousands of
people march peacefully in the streets in defiance of
orders to go home. They will listen when those same
people occupy parks and keep coming back in spite of
police brutality.

The purpose of the Occupy movement is to deliver a
simple message to the 1 percent and their paid
spokesmen in government. That message is this: You rule
because we allow you to rule. Your government, your
corporations and your banks exist because we give our
consent for them to exist. If you will not listen to
us, we will withdraw that consent.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian contributor. He can be
reached at [log in to unmask]



Applying the Successful Strategy of the Civil Rights
Movement to a National "We are the 99%" Movement

A TDS Strategy Memo:
The Civil Rights Movement's success was based on a
coordinated three-prong strategy of civil disobedience,
grass-roots organizing and mass boycotts. To achieve similar
victories, a national "We are the 99%" movement must adopt
and apply that same approach.

by Andrew Levison
A TDS Strategy Memo

The Democratic Strategist
November 17, 2011

http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/

In the coming days the Occupy Wall Street movement faces an
extremely complex and difficult series of decisions about
its strategy and tactics. It cannot simply repeat the
initial tactic of occupying public spaces that it has
employed up to now but it has not yet developed any clear
alternative strategy for the future.

In debating their next steps the protesters - and the
massive numbers of Americans who support them - will turn
again and again to the history and example of the civil
rights movement for guidance. Martin Luther King's closest
advisors including Jessie Jackson and Andrew Young have
noted the clear historical parallels that exist between the
two protest movements and both activists and observers will
urgently seek to find lessons in the struggles of the past.

The discussion, however, will be hindered by the profoundly
oversimplified vision that many people today have of how the
victories of the civil rights movement were actually
achieved. Most Americans have little more than a series of
impressionistic images of the civil rights movement - police
dogs and fire hoses unleashed against the demonstrators in
Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, dramatic marches attacked by
police in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and, across the south, sit-
ins and freedom rides that rocked the region in the early
years of the decade. In this vision, dramatic confrontations
with the authorities appear to have been, in effect, the
movement's entire "strategy."

But, in fact, behind every major campaign of the civil
rights movement there was actually a very organized and
coherent three-pronged strategy. To seriously seek guidance
for the present in the struggles of the past, it is
absolutely indispensable to understand the basic socio-
political strategy that the movement employed.

The civil rights movement's three-pronged strategy combined:
1. Civil disobedience 2. Grass-roots organizing and voter
registration 3. Boycotts and economic withdrawal

In every single major campaign of the civil rights movement
- Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma - these three elements of
the overall strategy were employed in a coherent, mutually
supporting and reinforcing way. In contrast, no part of this
coordinated approach was ever successful in isolation.

Seen in this light, there are indeed reasonable comparisons
between the civil rights movement and the initial phase of
Occupy Wall Street. OWS represents a modern application of
civil disobedience, the first component of the civil rights
movement's three-pronged strategy. The essence of civil
disobedience (also called "nonviolent direct action") is the
use of dramatic protests that disrupt normal activities and
usually violate the law. They are designed to call attention
to the existence of injustice and win public sympathy
through the demonstrators willingness to risk danger and
injury and to go to jail for their cause.

In the early phase of the civil rights movement the most
extensive applications of civil disobedience were the
freedom rides and the sit-in's, actions that directly
violated the morally unjust laws enforcing segregation. As
the movement's objectives turned to social and economic
issues in the latter part of the 60's, the targets of civil
disobedience became more abstract and symbolic, culminating
in the establishment of a tent city on the national mall
during the Poor People's Campaign.

But civil disobedience was only tip of the iceberg of the
civil rights movements' struggle against segregation. Behind
the dramatic actions that captured the headlines was a
massive grass-roots organizing effort across the South that
involved thousands of passionate young organizers. For every
one sit-in demonstrator there were a hundred grass-roots
civil rights activists who spent months and years traveling
around the South to conduct "freedom schools" in church
basements, restaurants, barber shops and meeting halls,
gatherings that were held in even the smallest towns and
rural areas. These freedom schools patiently built support
for voter registration efforts and laid the foundations for
later political campaigns by African- American candidates.
King and his lieutenants were always absolutely clear in
saying that the only long-range solution to segregation lay
in Black Americans winning effective political
representation.

Today it is the "We Are Ohio" movement and the Wisconsin
recall campaigns, rather than Occupy Wall Street, that
represent the modern equivalents of the civil rights
movement's grass-roots organizing campaigns. During these
recent campaigns against laws designed to eliminate the
right to union representation hundreds of thousands of
petitions were signed and thousands of volunteers engaged in
door to door canvassing, literature distribution, the
manning of tables in shopping centers and the operation of
phone banks - the hard, grueling, unsung work that is
indispensable for successful grass-roots campaigns. The one-
on-one, face-to-face organizing techniques of the Ohio and
Wisconsin movements actually displayed substantial
similarities with the techniques of traditional trade union
organizing as well as with the civil rights movement.

In short, comparisons between the movements of today and the
civil rights movement cannot be limited to Occupy Wall
Street. The "We Are Ohio" and Wisconsin recall campaigns
have an equally valid claim to kinship with the earlier
struggles of the civil rights era.

The third prong of the civil rights movement's strategy was
boycott and economic withdrawal. In the Montgomery campaign
the bus system was boycotted, in Birmingham, it was all
downtown merchants. In view of King and his associates it
was economic withdrawal that was actually the most powerful
single weapon in the nonviolent arsenal. It was the bus
boycott that won King's first victory in Montgomery and the
boycott of downtown stores that ultimately forced the
business and political establishment of Birmingham to
negotiate.

King himself referred to boycotts as "campaigns of economic
withdrawal" and described them as "nonviolence at peak of
its power". Here is how he expressed it in 1967:1

   In the past six months simply by refusing to
   purchase products from companies which do not hire
   Negroes in meaningful numbers and in all job
   categories, the Ministers of Chicago under SCLC's
   Operation Breadbasket have increased the income of
   the Negro community by more than two million dollars
   annually. In Atlanta the Negroes' earning power has
   been increased by more than twenty million dollars
   annually over the past three years...This is
   nonviolence at its peak of power.

The modern application of this strategy can now be seen in
the "Move Your Money" and related campaigns that call on
people to withdraw funds from the major banks and reinvest
them in credit unions and other more socially conscious
institutions. There are a variety of estimates2 from credit
unions and independent sources that suggest the campaign has
already had a significant and measurable effect, but it is
also clear that this is still the very earliest trial run
for future economic withdrawal campaigns with potentially
powerful consequences.

Beyond the current campaign aimed at the largest banks, the
tactic of economic withdrawal can be applied to a wide
variety of firms and issues. Such campaigns will all be
united by a simple underlying concept: working people should
not spend or invest their money with firms and institutions
that use those same funds to bankroll conservative
candidates, laws and policies that undermine those same
workers' economic security, standard of living and hopes for
the future.

Consumer product companies are particularly vulnerable to
campaigns of economic withdrawal because the damage to their
reputation and image can in many cases be more devastating
than the direct economic damage itself. The quite effective
campaign by People of Color to pressure the advertisers of
Glen Beck's TV show in 2009 demonstrated the significant
leverage consumer boycott campaigns can bring to bear in the
internet age.

There are already a variety of informal linkages developing
between the three social movements above -- the "Occupy Wall
Street", "We are Ohio/Wisconsin recall" and "Move Your
Money" campaigns. Organizations including MoveOn.org, Van
Jones' American Dream Movement and the AFL-CIO/Working
America federations have played a significant "behind the
scenes" role in supporting the OWS, "We are Ohio" and Move
Your Money" actions and also in popularizing and promoting
the broader "We are the 99%" political movement and
perspective around the country.

But the critical historical lesson that can be drawn from
the civil rights movement is the vital need for the three
prongs of the movements' strategy - civil disobedience,
grass- roots organizing/political mobilization and
boycott/economic withdrawal - to be employed in a
coordinated way as part of a single integrated approach. The
movement's key victories in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma
all depended on this coordination.

There is currently no single leader with the immense stature
of a Martin Luther King or grass-roots organizations like
SCLC and SNCC to provide such coordination for a national
"We Are the 99%" social movement. In the modern internet-
connected world, however, more diversified and decentralized
forms of organization are more likely to develop and are
more likely to be effective as well.

But for a "We Are the 99%" movement to achieve substantial
victories, coordination must be achieved. Neither Occupy
Wall Street nor the Ohio and Wisconsin campaigns nor
campaigns of economic withdrawal like "Move Your Money" can,
in isolation, produce transformational victories of the
scope and significance of the victories of the civil rights
movement.

In coordination, on the other hand, these three tactics are
immensely powerful. It was the combination of these three
approaches, employed in a coherent overall strategy, that
broke the back of the system of Southern segregation within
a single decade and that same three-pronged strategy can
profoundly transform America once again today.

1.
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1426

2. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/11/1035479/-Ten-stories-of-people-moving-their-money,-despite-bankefforts-to-stopthem?detail=hide

[Andrew Levison was for many years a research assistant to
Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young and other participants
in the civil rights movement. The analysis presented here
was first formulated at a 1971 conference of The Institute
for Nonviolent Social Change that included many of the
leaders of the major campaigns of the civil rights
movement.]

===

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