Occupy Wall Street: where is it leading and what comes next?

As the Occupy Wall Street movement now enters its fourth week, there are many asking if the protests are being hijacked, and given what has happened in the case of some other recent uprisings, these are certainly valid concerns.

Undoubtedly the most egregious example of how the Arab Spring has been derailed is the developing situation in Egypt. The old Mubarak regime having been ousted, but only to be replaced by a “military committee” that now shows no more interest in stepping aside than Mubarak did:

Egypt’s ruling military generals have unveiled plans that could see them retain power for another 18 months, increasing fears that the country’s democratic transition process is under threat.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took control of Egypt after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February, and initially promised to return to their barracks within six months. But since then the “roadmap” to an elected, civilian government has been beset by delays and controversies, fuelling speculation that the army could be buying time in an attempt to shoehorn one of their own senior commanders into the presidency.1

Of course, in Egypt, Mubarak himself sent in the cavalry, which is the final act of many a despot, and such overt repression is unlikely to be deployed to stem the tide of protests in either Europe or America. Instead, perhaps the most immediate threat facing the protest movements within our western democracies is that they will be steered off-course or else completely usurped by the very interest groups they are seeking to overthrow.

A wonderful example of how effective this tactic can be is the so-called Tea Party. And contrary to what many, and especially those of the left, have come to believe, the Tea Party certainly began as a genuine grassroots movement, and with genuinely ambitious demands to restore the constitution and “End the Fed”. Unfortunately, however, the Tea Party movement quickly fell under the influence of the billionaire Koch Brothers, with their ultra-“free market” agenda and with ties to such groups as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. The rest as they say is history –

So what about the people now gathering in New York and in many other cities across America – how can they avoid being duped in a similar fashion? Here is some analysis offered by independent researcher and writer Andrew Gavin Marshall:

For the Occupy Movement to build up and become a true force for change, it must avoid and reject the organizational and financial ‘contributions’ of institutions: be they political parties, non-profits, or philanthropic foundations. The efforts are subtle, but effective: they seek to organize, professionalize, and institutionalize a movement, push forward the issues they desire, which render the movement useless for true liberation, as these are among the very institutions the movement should be geared against.

This [movement] is not simply about “Wall Street,” this is about POWER. Those who have power, and those who don’t. When those who have power offer a hand in your struggle, their other hand holds a dagger. Remain grassroots, remain decentralized, remain outside and away from party politics, remain away from financial dependence. Freedom is not merely in the aim, it’s in the action.2

Marshall also made similar points on Russia Today:

The danger that any movement faces becoming professionalised and institutionalised is real enough, and has clearly happened in the case of countless NGOs. Basically, it’s always wise to assume that he who pays the piper calls the tune:

In order to survive as a movement, money will become a necessity. Do not turn to the non-profits and philanthropic foundations for support. The philanthropies, which fund and created the non-profits and NGOs, were themselves created to engage in ‘social engineering’: to ‘manufacture consent’ among the governed, and create consensus among the governors. The philanthropies (particularly those of Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller) fund social movements and protest organizations so as to steer them into directions which are safe for the elites. The philanthropies are themselves run by the elite, founded by bankers and industrialists striving to preserve their place at the top of the social structure in the midst of potentially revolutionary upheaval. As the president of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the foundation does is to make the world safe for capitalism.”

Click here to read Andrew Marshall’s original article.

Such under-the-counter assaults are more or less inevitable, and almost certainly happening. The Soros funded MoveOn.org (see my earlier post), for instance, have officially joined in the OWS protest on Wednesday [Oct 5th], although it seems that they are also trying to steal a piece of the action with their own “Rebuild the Dream” campaign. Given their staunch support for Obama’s first presidential campaign, we must suspect that such involvement is intended to simply reignite support for his re-election. And if that happens, of course, then the moment will have passed; a moment that may never come again.

There is also the risk of infiltration of another kind. From anarchists, other radicals or agent provocateurs. Any use of violence by the protesters will inevitably discredit the cause of a movement, making it appear to outsiders as no more than the gathering of a bunch of troublemakers. Peaceful dissent and disobedience is the only certain way ahead, as the powers-that-be know only too well.

Importantly, Wednesday also saw the OWS movement boosted by the arrival of a number of key trade unions including the Transport Workers Union (TWU Local 100), the United Federation of Teachers and United Auto Workers. This is hugely significant, bringing structure and sheer numbers to an already rapidly expanding mass movement. But the arrival of such comparatively powerful institutions brings dangers too, with the leadership of those unions potentially able to co-opt the movement in another way. As union activist and journalist Mike Elk said on Russia Today, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens:

One of the many banners at the Wall Street occupation read “The People are TOO BIG TO FAIL”, but unfortunately history refutes that opinion. And without agreed strategies and a programme for reforms, it’s not easy to see how the people are yet in any position to win at all. There is, therefore, an urgent need for concrete demands from OWS – preferably ones that fall under the popular umbrella: that Wall Street must pay for the crisis it created, with the bailouts stopped and an end to austerity; that the Federal Reserve should be audited and the credit rating agencies subjected to criminal investigation; that the wars must end; and that the anti-constitutional Patriot and Homeland Security Acts be repealed. It’s not difficult to decide on these broader issues, but there also needs to be some flesh on the bones. What are the finer details of the programme? Then, and so long as the movement can remain true and vigilant to its popular cause, it will undoubtedly continue to grow, until, sooner or later, it must indeed prevail.

But who the hell am I to tell the Americans what they need to do. So far I’m just delighted that so many are suddenly standing up for themselves, whilst also wondering when the folks back home in Blighty will join in the fight to save our own sorry skins.

1 From an article entitled, “Egypt’s ruling generals accused of buying time to stay in power” written by Jack Shenker, published in the Guardian on October 6, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/06/egypt-military-accused-buying-time

2 Taken from “Against the Institution: A warning for Occupy Wall Street” written by Andrew Gavin Marshall, posted on October 3, 2011. http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/10/03/against-the-institution-a-warning-for-occupy-wall-street/

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