We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, 1787)
The Nature of OWS
There is such a sad feeling in this country now that our government seems to have completely failed us. Justice. Domestic Tranquility. Common Defense. General Welfare. Blessings of Liberty. All seemingly gone or vanishing. It’s been coming for a long time. 2008 is our generation’s 1929.
And for nearly three years, the proposed remedy to the meltdown in the economy has been less of everything……less service, less education, less support, less building, for the 99 percent and less regulations and less taxes for the 1 Percent and the rest of the Top 5 Percent.
Occupy Wall Street has changed the conversation. Until now Big Money associated with the Conservative Right and Represented by the GOP has controlled the conversation and Democrats have fallen in line with much of the media accepting their script. It was deficits 24/7. Those to the Left, the Populists, the Progressives moaned, groaned, complained and argued. But to little effect.
And then the Occupy Movement emerged: a true populist group, not prepackaged, not co-opted, not sponsored, not bought and paid for. It was authentic, angry, disorganized and messy.
But what became clear was that the Occupiers were connecting with and activating a lot of people, inspiring them to snap out of their apathy and to demand change. If all they accomplished is to reestablish a sensibility amongst most Americans that we need serious changes in the way the wealthy and their corporations control our nation and its economy; and that we need to reverse the real class warfare that has transferred huge amounts of power and wealth from the middle and lower classes to those who were already wealthy and powerful, then we will have a voting public pushing candidates to either follow them or be swept aside. Then substantial, fundamental change will really come.
Who speaks for the Movement? No one and every one. There is a unique character to the OWS movement. Born out of social networking, it has a unique sense of “we” and “us”. The Occupiers sincerely don’t want and would distrust anyone who became the voice or face of OWS because they see it as communal. For them “official representation” is seen as a form of disrespect for the primary character of the movement. Furthermore, putting the movement into a few hands makes them the target for smears, attacks and easy labeling which in turn reflects on the Movement.
So what do they want? What does the Occupy Movement stand for? The core idea is pretty evident: The injustice of the rich and powerful 1% rigging the system against the 99%. It is important that the rest of the messeage be as succinct and clear; and be limited in scope and realistic. The Movement needs to define A) What is Wrong, B) What Needs to be Done, C) How Do We Do It?
So far the Common Ground that has emerged is that the great economic and social injustice has been perpetrated on and then hidden from us. This reality is being made known and taken to heart. With knowledge comes resolve to remedy the injustice. The remeedy will require Legislative, Judicial and Executive Action.
If Occupy hopes to effect those changes it wants, the Occupiers must depend on the system that we have. Sidestepping it will accomplish nothing but worn shoe-leather, nights in jail, and soggy rain-soaked sloganeers. They have to work with what we have. Political involvement is imperative by the movement at large in the coming months.
The most effective and expeditions way to do this is to identify leaders in government and in business who share the Movement’s core values and push them forward as leaders for the 99 Percent who share the Movement’s goals.
Among the most important specific goals are:
A) Insist that Every Government Effort be Shaped and Promoted as Work for the Majority
B) Get the Big and Secretive Money out of the Electoral Process beginning with efforts to expand disclosure and transparency in funding and to overturn Citizens United.
C) Restore an Appropriate Level of Taxation for the Wealthy and the Big Corporations.
D) Rebuild the industrial, manufacturing, commercial base focusing on small and midsize business and jobs
All of this needs to be accessible in a Declaration of Principles and Aims that will be the common reference point for those of, with, and for the Occupy Movement.
Occupy started as a social networking movement, and that remains central to its identity. Occupations take place in the “Real” and “Virtual” worlds. Keeping both alive is essential to the Movement. Twitter feeds, blogs, websites, satellite and network presence will remain linked to folks living in tents, gathering in assemblies, making speeches and homemade signs, marching and chanting. The sites are the Ethernet, the World Wide Web, city parks, banks, corporate headquarters, centers of political power, small towns and large cities. What is now needed is a blueprint as to next steps. Some thoughts:
1) Within the Next 10 Days. Hold a “Moving On” Rally to close the Movements “First Season” in every city/town where an Occupy Event has taken place, large or small. Feature The Declaration, strong grass roots speakers, creative signs, singing/chanting, a march to a symbolic place and then a closing in a gesture of solidarity. Negotiate with city governments to avoid confrontation. If necessary shrink the size of the encampment to a manageable level.
2) Maintain an encampment in the Big Cities where possible: Washington, New York, Atlanta, Los Angelos, Seattle (and any others where a local group is willing to organize). Rotate Occupiers as needed. Have big gathering days (one night/day a week or on key dates). The rest can be smaller and symbolic. Make a national call for sleeping bags, blankets, tarps, heavy clothing, etc. to see the people through the cold with collection centers; for money donations; get a Credit Union to manage the funds donated
3) Call for a National March/Occupation In Washington in Mid-June. Schools will be out. The weather will be cooperative. Time it to match the Congressional Calendar to be sure the House and Senate will be in Session (and when they announce the date tie it to that Calendar so that any change by the members hoping to avoid the Occupation will be labeled as the cowardice it would be).
– While encouraging everyone who can to get to DC, encourage smaller in-solidarity-with occupations as part of the whole plan.
– Set up meetings with individual members of Congress and the President.
– The pivotal moment in the Occupation should be at the Capitol with a formal presentation of the Declaration to representatives of the national government. It will be interesting who shows up and who doesn’t. Presence or absence will make a statement.
– Make a special effort to get the MSM pulled into the event. Involve them from the first. Plan for maximum coverage: think visually. Keep to your announced and widely disseminated schedule. Have designated spokespersons available at organizing centers with prepared materials ready for distribution.
– Use the assembly model to plan out the next six months focusing on the national elections aiming to turn the Movement into Occupy the Election.
Tactics: A Code for Common Occupation
To be effective those who respond to the call to occupy will need to know what to do and what not to do.
– Remember everyone is watching. Supporters watch to be inspired. Opponents watch to find proof of fraud, ignoble behavior, or sinister motives.
– No drugs and very moderate alcohol use.
– In signs, posters, slogans and chants be clever without being gross.
– Follow the leaders: agree to abide by the decisions made in the assemblies
– Movement leaders (with help) must teach and insist upon the ways of non-violence in word and deed in what they do as they encamp and march, and in how they react to the behavior of others (the crowds, the provocateurs, the anarchists, the police). Violence on their part will feed into the right wing’s image of the Movement and give officials and the police excuses to crack down.
– Think defensively. Backpacks with heavy cloth soaked in water, swimmer goggles and bike helmets will provide nonthreatening protection to those caught up in a tear gas, flash bang grenades, pepper spray and batons assaults.
– Keeping to the Encampments at Night. No night movement. No night demonstrations. That is where/when the trouble happens. That is when it is easiest for things to get out of control and for over-reaction on both sides to escalate. That is when provocateurs on both sides can work their deviltry cloaked by darkness and confusion.
– Consider using some of the donated cash to hire a reputable security firm to provide protection, protect the encampment areas from thieves and vandals, assist organizers in keeping order, and in liaison work with the police.
A Word About Authorship: This piece is the result of the work of a small group of “vets” of the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements working on-line, and done in cooperation with the Occupy Organizing Committees in Two Cities. Members of the PlanetPOV community contributed a number of ideas to the work. With thanks to AdLib, Adonai, Chernynkaya, Emerald1943, Foodchain, KillgoreTrout, Sabreen60, and SueinCalifornia